IDW started the Artist's Edition line.

An Artist’s Edition By Any Other Name

After Scott Dunbier created the “Absolute” format at DC, he brought the “Artist’s Edition” format to IDW.

These amazing and already-legendary books are shot directly from the original art in full color, warts and all, and are reprinted at full size.  The logistics and the mechanics that go into making a book like this well justify the higher price tag the books command, which is generally between $100 and $150 for six issues’ worth of comics. (See my review of the “David Mazzuchelli Daredevil: Born Again Artist’s Edition” for an example.)

Publishers love higher price tags, which can often mean better profit margins, though I’m sure they’re not as high as originally projected.  The amount of editorial work that has to go into one of these books is intense.


Unintended Consequences (Though Predictable)

So, of course, everyone ripped it off.  Er, I mean, they interpreted the format for their own line and carefully stepped around the name to sound more individualistic.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?

Dynamite has an “Art Edition” for books like Frank Thorne’s Red Sonja.  I appreciate this subtle rebranding because it saves me five keystrokes every time I reference it.

Image has published single issues of comics such as “The Walking Dead” #1 at this larger size, under their banner of “Giant-Sized Artist’s Proof Edition.”  This is sometimes referred to as an “Artist Proof” edition, which I guess means that no artist can ruin it?  Or that it’s slightly alcohol-fueled?  They look more like coloring books, just because they’re so relatively thin.

Titan went with “The Original Art Edition” for the Archie Goodwin/Walter Simonson “Alien: An Illustrated Story” reprint.

Graphitti worked with DC to publish “Gallery Editions” of such books as Frank Miller’s “Ronin” and “The Dark Knight Returns.” (The latter debuted at NYCC, I believe, and everyone who saw it was in awe.)

Marvel misses the point with their “Adamantium Edition” line. It’s just a supersized reprinting, from the original color files, and 700+ pages long.  This is more Marvel’s attempt to one-up DC’s “Absolute” editions… They’re out of print now, but check Amazon to see which third parties are selling the X-Men editions or the original Wolverine book.

Just when you thought they were running out of fancy brand names that sound close to “Artist’s Edition” without being “Artist’s Edition,” Dark Horse jumped into the fray.  Not once, but twice!

Dark Horse has a “Curator’s Edition” for books like “Sin City: The Hard Good-Bye”, and a “Gallery Edition” for the Frank Miller/Walter Simonson “Robocop vs. Terminator”, and Stan Sakai’s “Usagi Yojimbo.”  

Is that it? Am I missing any other publishers doing the same thing?  Let me know in the comments below and I’ll add them in!

Lesson learned?  “Edition” connotes  “expensive” and “upscale.”  (Apple taught us that already, too…)

This coming Wednesday, November 9th, Dark Horse releases “Usagi Yojimbo: The Artist and Other Stories” in its Gallery Edition format.  It will be the second such volume dedicated to Stan Sakai’s work.  I’ll be reviewing it the day it is released.  Stay tuned this coming Wednesday for that…

[Disclosure: All of those links above will take you to Amazon if you wish to buy one of those books. This website will get a couple percent to keep it funded, and it won’t cost you a cent extra.  Thanks for your support!]



  • Colin Taylor November 5, 2016 at 3:51 am

    IDW kinda imitated itself with their hardcover RIO collection. Don’t think it was full size but it was printed from the original art and at £45 (and with the exchange rate these days!) or less when I picked it up for over 200 pages was quite the deal.

    Rebellion also did an artists edition of the first Zenith ‘phase’ in an Apex Edition (see what they did there) its good value at £65 but even better when they did a clearout when moving warehouses and I managed to pick it up for only £32.50. One of those all time great deals you are so glad you picked up. I don’t think Steve Yeowell is quite at his artist peak in Phase , you need Phase 3 for that, but its bloomin’ great stuff.

  • The Most Fundamentally Flawed Usagi Yojimbo Review Ever - Pipeline Comics November 7, 2016 at 5:46 am

    […] I broke down the list of all the companies inspired by IDW’s “Artist’s Edition” format and their attempts to bend over backwards not to rip off the name […]

  • Scott VanderPloeg December 1, 2016 at 10:43 am

    Fantagraphics has two Studio Editions in the works for release next year, Hal Foster and Jaime Hernandez. Genesis West has an Original Art Archives of Barry Windsor-Smith’s Red Nails published in 2013. Hermes Press is to release an Archival Edition of Frank Thorne’s Ghita at some point. I maintain a list of all published and upcoming books in the Artist’s Edition format at

  • This Holiday Season, Give Bigger (Comics) - Pipeline Comics December 1, 2016 at 10:57 am

    […] The Artist’s Edition format has proven to be so popular that other publishers have since copied it, so you have similar books called Gallery Editions and Curator’s Collections and Artist’s Proof Editions and Original Art Editions.  (I put together such a list last month.) […]


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