I’m still working out a process for creating videos, so forgive the rough spots, but here is an unboxing video of the latest Artist’s Edition from IDW Publishing: “Marvel Covers: The Modern Era Artist’s Edition,” reprinting original art boards of covers and pin-ups from the last 30 years, from the likes of Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Walter Simonson, Sam Kieth, John Cassaday, and many more amazing artists whose names you well know.
After this, go back and read about the eight cool things I found inside the book.
My Warped Definition of “Modern”
(Added 21 April 2017)
What does “Modern Era” mean for you? For this book, it’s basically everything after 1985 or so. I bought the book mostly for the promises of covers from the early 90s and a few from the late 80s, so that’s my skewed perspective. It almost felt like including any cover from 2016 was cheating. They felt too “new” for a book that called itself “Modern,” which makes no sense. That’s on me, though.
We know by now what an Artist’s Edition book is going to have. From a technical standpoint, this book has everything you’d expect of it: Beautiful art, interesting and faithful reproductions, great design, and sturdy packaging to hold it all together.
With a book of covers like this, though, there’s a trickier bit going on. The selection of covers to put in the book is what makes it or breaks it.
The Art of Choosing Covers
(Added 21 April 2017)
If there’s one thing this volume proves to me, it’s that there’s a limited library of material from which to pull.
J. Scott Campbell has a lot` of pages in the book, all of which are strong. When I talked to Campbell at NYCC last year, he mentioned that Artist’s Edition editor Scott Dunbier had told him a while back to scan all his material at high DPI in full color. What we see in this book is proof of that, but has also led to books like Campbell’s “Lineology.”
Other artists deserving of being in the book are in there, but seem to get short shrift. Dale Keown only has one cover. Alan Davis has three. I hate to be picky here, but they’re not his best. They’re great, but they’re not any of his iconic ones. The included “Excalibur” cover is one I had forgotten had even existed, coming from near the end of his run.
Jim Lee has the biggest collection of pages in this book, including the full four-part “X-Men” #1 cover, but a lot of the included covers aren’t his best X-Men stuff. How cool would the Wolverine/Captain America/Black Widow cover have been?
Other Artist’s Edition artists get big sections, like Sam Kieth, Walter Simonson, and Mike Mignola.
I know that the choice of what goes into this book is limited by, in many cases, what is physically possible to pull together. And I think IDW goes to great lengths to get it all.
This isn’t the case of a publisher dipping into their own archives and bringing stuff up for reprint. This is Scott Dunbier and friends scouring private collections, friends, and artists to put all this stuff together. Some of it is in private collections and nobody knows whose anymore. Or, to be honest, it’s none of our business who owns what pages.
So, yes, I can nit-pick this book to death. Get rid of Jim Lee’s Alpha Flight covers and put in a more interesting “Punisher” one. Give me less McFarlane “Hulk” and more McSpidey or more “Mavel Tales” with the mutants on them, or how about his “Quasar” cover? Obscure, but cool. Give me more Dale Keown “Hulk” covers or Alan Davis “Excalibur” covers.
And then there’s this moment where I want to shut myself up and be excited for the material that is in this book. There’s a lot of amazing stuff in here, including most notably those Sam Kieth “Marvel Comics Presents” covers, the McSpidey #1 cover, the “X-Men” #1 covers, some of those John Romita Jr. “Amazing Spider-Man” covers, the Rob Liefeld “X-Force” #1 cover, and more.
The holes I’m finding just provide grist for the mill for Volume 2, of course.
Let’s hope we can meet back here sometime next year to pick that one apart, too.
The Original Script
The following is the original script, including an off-topic paragraph or two that I cut out.
I love doing these comparisons, so let’s do one right now.
This is your standard average modern day sized comic. 10 and a quarter inches by 6 and a half inches.
Next, we have a European album size, like this Asterix book.
It gives you an extra inch and a quarter at the top and a couple inches on the side.
(11 and a half by 8 and three quarters)
We can go even bigger, over to IDW, with their new release, “The Cerebus Cover Art Treasury.” That’s another inch taller and half an inch wider.
(12.25 by 9 and a quarter)
You’d think that would be big enough, but IDW has Scott Dunbier, and you know how he gets…
From early in the Artist’s Edition line, here’s the first volume of John Romita’s “Amazing Spider-Man.” That gives you another five inches in height and three inches in width.
It’s not quite twice as wide and twice as tall, as you can see.
(17 by 12 inches .)
It’s the art at the same size it was originally drawn, and you get all the inky detailed goodness.
And the Artist’s Edition books get bigger. The biggest one I own is this one.
“The Life and TImes of Scrooge McDuck,” volume 1. Presumably, there will be a volume 2 someday… It clocks in at a whopping 22 x 14 inches. So, no matter how you measure it, it’s twice as wide and twice as tall as a standard comic. Bigger, as a matter of fact.
And Don Rosa’s art has never looked bigger or cooler.
The Newest Artist’s Edition
But the reason I’m making this video is because this box just came in the mail today.
It’s smaller than the Scrooge book, but that’s OK.
This is the “Marvel Covers: The Modern Era Artist’s Edition.”
And if there’s something the kids on YouTube love lots, it’s a good unboxing video. I’m a people pleaser, so…
I’ll be using this to cut it open. Most of you likely have no idea what this it. It used to be on the back side of a computer I owned 15 or 20 years ago, protected some expansion slot or another. As you put cards in, you took these out. They are metal and their edges are fairly sharp. They work great for cutting all sorts of things.
So let’s get this puppy open now…
And here you have it. The box within the box that actually contains the book from IDW Publishing. Available now for just $100 plus $5 media mail and a smidgeon of patience.
First, let me cut more tape…
There we go. I went for the Todd McFarlane Spider-Man cover. There’s also a Sam Kieth Wolverine cover. It tempted me slightly, but my heart is still with McFarlane Spider-Man, so…
Back Cover; Jae Lee “Inhumans”.
Nice big bold lettering on the spine, that’s sadly mostly out of camera.
Now I just need to rip the plastic off this bad boy….
OK, here’s the book!
Inside the Book
Let’s flip through it.
John Cassady gets the opening.
There are a lot of covers in there, lots of artists. The pages are broken into sections by artist. You can see Jae Lee, Jim Lee’s big section, Rob Liefeld, Art Adams, Alan Davis, Sam Kieth. Look at all those Marvel Comics Presents covers. I’m pretty sure I bought all of those off the newsstand at the time.
Who could forget the classic New Fantastic Four book. Three issues by Art Adams, right after Walt Simonson’s run.
Then, lots of detailed Art Adams art. This one’s from 2016, so you know they MEAN MODERN cover. Rocket Racoon included.
Here’s the Jim Lee section. There’s some early Alpha Flight stuff.
Here’s the foldout from X-Men #1. It’s all here. As I remember this went up for sale at Sotheby’s and sold for a small fortune at the time. In today’s original art market, the original buyer could probably quadruple his money, at least, selling those pages.
You’re likely not going to see it in the video here, but there’s some visible yellow lines on the edge of the Magneto page, like something rolled over it or something. Some stress marks. Something. It’s not the Artist’s Edition’s fault. It’s the original art that’s in that shape.
Back sides of those pages get more Lee art, from Uncanny and Adjectively X-Men issues.
Rob Liefeld’s section…. Here’s an interesting note on this page. Liefeld and Williams? Liefeld and McFarlane? Yup, McFarlane inked this one. Scott Williams did not.
McFarlane was a really good inker over McFarlane in those New Mutants covers.
There’s “New Mutants” #100.
There’s a page Williams inked.
Then we get to the McFarlane selection. Some Hulks and Amazing Spider-Mans.
There’s classic Spider-Man #1, which Gareb Shamus owned at one point.
And more and more.
The End and Signatures
The book ends with the artists’ signatures. I haven’t taken the time yet to figure out if there’s a specific division between these three groups of artists, or if it’s just a design element and don’t think too much about it.
Is it just me or do we not see great artist signatures like this anymore? We have recognizable signatures today, but the ones that feel like little works of art, like Todd McFarlane’s or Rob Liefeld’s, Joe Quesada’s, Sam Kieth’s… In this writer-driven world now, it seems like showing up as an artist like that is undervalued. Shame.
Time for the Close-Up
Now, let me give you a couple close-ups of these pages, just for fun.
X-Men Classic #57 is the way I first read this classic “KItty’s Fairy Tale” story, as a reprint, with a Mike Mignola cover that sells it well. Though it needed more Bamfs
Here’s New Mutants #100 by Rob Liefeld in all its glory.
And, to wrap it all up, the iconic “Spider-Man” #1 cover by McFarlane.
So much detail in that webbing. Just look at this closeup.
Keep checking out PipelineComics.com for more reviews and commentary. I’ll be picking out some favorite pages and things I’ve learned from this book in the days ahead.