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(This article was originally published on 01 December 2016. It has had a couple of minor updates for the new holiday season. The message remains the same. It’s just that some of the examples are now out of print.)
Christmas is only a month away. And you picked the family member who likes comics in the Secret Santa. What is the best comic book Christmas gift to get for the collector who has everything?
Gift cards work. There’s no shame in that. Let them decide. They know better. You have plenty of choices there.
But nobody likes being the relative who shows up on Christmas with an envelope.
Instead, be that really cool relative who shows up at the door with the big, heavy, wrapped box. Get something bigger.
You’re in luck. They make some gloriously big comic books these days. They’re a little pricey, but this is your favorite niece or nephew or brother-in-law you’re probably shopping for, right? What price love?
Let’s break down your options from “big” to “ludicrous”:
A lot of ongoing series reprint their books in oversized hardcover packages. Image Comics has a lot of these, in particular. They call them Deluxe Editions. That includes books like “Saga,” “Chew,” “The Manhattan Projects,” “Spawn,” “Invincible,” and “The Walking Dead”. All of Rick Remender’s books are available in this format. They collect 12 issues at a time in a nice slightly oversized hardcover that makes the art pop out even more.
Sadly, Marvel and DC pretty much gave up on this format a few years back.
For 12 issues’ worth of comics inside of a hardcover binding, the price tag usually comes in around $40. Some series will give you 16 – 18 issues in the same package for $50, sometimes even at a slightly larger page size. See “Black Science” by Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera, or “Fade Out” from Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.
Marvel Comics has their Omnibus format. These are the same physical dimensions for the page size as the books I just talked about, but contain a lot more comics, up to 40 at a go. Some classic comic runs have been collected this way, including Jim Lee’s run on “The X-Men” and Todd McFarlane’s run on “The Amazing Spider-Man.”
These are doorstoppers of books, though, and they come at a cost — $99.99. But, that’s an awful lot of comics in one book.
DC likewise has an Omnibus set of books with basically the same dimensions, but most of them are collecting older series, often in thicker packages for a $99.99 – $125.00 price point.
The first objection to a book like this usually is that you might start losing the art in the binding as you get closer to the middle of the book. I haven’t seen that problem with Marvel. They do a good job in compensating for that somehow. The biggest problem is just the glare off the glossy pages, but that’s hardly unique to this format.
DC Comics started their “Absolute” line in 2003. Picture all the books I just showed you, but another inch or so bigger in both width and height. These generally collect 12 issues of a comics run, usually as complete stories. You have your “Watchmen” volume and your “JLA/Avengers” story, all the way to books like “Top 10” and “DC: New Frontier.“
The books have dustjackets and a ribbon bookmark sewn in. They’re wrapped up nicely in their own slipcases, too. They look great on your bookshelf, but you might want to put them on the bottom shelf so the whole thing doesn’t collapse if you collect a lot of them.
Cover price on these ranges in the $75 – $125 area. Most are on the lower end of that.
Scott Dunbier, the same editor who created the Absolute line at DC, went on to create a new format at IDW Publishing. It’s the “Artist’s Edition” line, and it’s the ultimate gift for the artist in your family, the comic fan who loves to look at original art but could never afford it at $200 or $300 a page to start, or the process junkie who just likes to see how things get made.
“Artist’s Edition” books collect roughly six issues’ worth of stories in each volume, but are shot from the original art in full color. The book is essentially black and white, but you also get to see all the notes in the margins, the corrective fluid in the inks, the coffee stains in the corners, the production markers on the page, the remaining blue lines or pencil marks. Everything. It’s like having a book of high-quality photographs of the original art, with nothing hidden.
Even better, the book is published at the same size as the original art, which starts in the 14″ x 17″ range and can go all the way up to 15″ x 22″.
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.)
Prices on these books range, but you’re generally looking at about $100 to $150 each. But, again, if you were going to buy a single page of original art from any of these books — if it was even available — you’d likely be paying a lot more.
You’ll want to lay these books flat when you’re not reading them. They’re so heavy that standing them up on your bookcase is sure to put extra stress on the spine. Unless they’re packed tightly together, I’d bet on stacking the books on their backs on a shelf.
Ludicrous (In a Good Way)
In the great Arms Race of Comic Reproduction, Marvel Comics decided to one-up everyone. They came up with the Adamantium Collection. Physically, it’s closest to the page size of an Artist’s Edition, at 13 x 20 inches. But here’s the catch: these books are 700 pages long. They’re three and a half inches thick. They weigh almost 20 pounds.
Needless to say, you’re not reading one of these on the subway. You need the kitchen table to carry this one. Or one of those heavy wood tables like they have at the Apple Store. You might also want to reinforce the floor of the room you’re reading this in.
These are straight reprints of the story. They’re much bigger, but still fully colored and lettered, just as they were when initially published. Just bigger. Much bigger. Did I mention “bigger” yet?
There’s a slight cheat at work here — there’s an inch wide border on the edges of the pages with a design element on them. The book is in a slightly wider format than the original art pages, so that space was carefully planned.
I don’t own any of the current Adamantium Collections. They’re nice-looking books, but I could never pull the trigger for that price. If I could, I’d probably go with the Wolverine volume. The X-Men selection is just a bit too random for me, coming from a run that had so many great moments that could fit into a 720 page book. And I’m not that big a Deadpool fan…
That said, picture one of them towering an inch above the Artist’s Edition book in this picture, plus a couple of inches on the width. That’s pretty big.
Go Shopping (Locally, Preferably)
If you aren’t sure which comic book Christmas gift is perfect for your loved one, ask someone at your local neighborhood comics shop. You can find one in your area with ComicShopLocator.com.
If there’s no comic shop in your area or if they can’t order what you want in time, then go online and check out Amazon or Discount Comic Book Service, CheapGraphicNovel.com, MileHighComics.com, MidtownComics.com, etc.
This is wildly incomplete, but it gives you a general idea of what’s going on here and what the points of comparison are.
|Format||Publisher||Page Size||Number of Pages||Price||Examples|
|Deluxe Edition||Image||7.4″ x 11″ – 8″ x 12″||336 – 432||$35 – $50||“The Walking Dead,” “Invincible”|
|Absolute Edition||DC||8.8″ x 15.6″||450 – 600||$75 – $125||“Watchmen”, “Batman: Year One”|
|Artist’s Edition||IDW||12″ x 17″ – 15″ x 22″||144 – 216||$100 – $150||“Modern Marvel Covers”, “Daredevil: Born Again”, “Kamandi”|
|Adamantium Collection||Marvel||13″ x 20″||720||$200||“X-Men”, “Wolverine”, “Deadpool”|
Go big or go home. Treat that fantastic scamp of a niece or nephew or cousin or (especially) next-of-kin to the biggest comic book you can afford. These are wonderful packages.