Saturday, 23 November 2013

IS FIRST ALWAYS BEST?


Look at the outline around Sue Storm in panel 5 - as it should be

Like most bibliophiles and collectors, the allure of a first edition is a
strong one for me, but, increasingly, it's one I'm finding easier to resist.
Why? Well, the first edition of EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS' TARZAN
had the ape-man battle a tiger, but when it was brought to E.R.B.'s and
his publisher's attention that tigers were indigenous to India and not
Africa, subsequent printings changed 'Tony' into 'Leo'.

Also, the 1974 first printing of ORIGINS OF MARVEL COMICS
presented the DOCTOR STRANGE section completely out of sequence,
thereby confusing readers no end, and it wasn't until the second printing that
the book attained the completely coherent form intended from the start. And
the 1987 first edition of FF MARVEL MASTERWORKS printed page 3
of issue #5 after page 5. Which brings us rather nicely to the MARVEL
OMNIBUS editions.

Now look at the clumsy 'restoration' in the 1987 FF Marvel Masterworks

THE FANTASTIC FOUR OMNIBUS Volume 1 has now been issued
three times, but the third version is the only one worth having, and even
that could stand some slight improvement. 'Twas only with the third attempt
(categorised as the 'first printing' of the 'second edition') that superior proofs
for issues 2-9 were utilised, finally validating the claim that the book has (in
the main) been printed from the 'highest-quality sources available'. (Pity they
still manage to screw-up the re-presentation of Stan's introduction to his '74
Origins book by rendering 'yours truly' in one sentence as 'you truly'. How-
ever, it was worse in the first edition, where they omitted a line of text.)

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN OMNIBUS Volume 1 is another
book whose 'second edition, first printing' is superior to its predecessor
Not only is it thinner and lighter (while maintaining the same page count),
the 'reconstructed' page by MICHAEL KELLEHER of the first Annual's
splash-page has been replaced by the original STEVE DITKO one. ('Though
you'd really need to look hard to be able to spot the difference.) Why this page
was ever re-created to begin with is a mystery, as the original had been used in
an earlier edition of Marvel Masterworks. They must have misplaced it, I
guess. (Unfortunately, they haven't yet located a superior set of proofs
for ASM #1, which is still sourced from inferior retouched ones.)
 
The splash-page from ASM Annual #1, as drawn by Steve Ditko

So, yesterday, I travelled into my local FORBIDDEN PLANET
and bought the above-mentioned latest Omnibus edtion of STAN LEE's
and STEVE DITKO's Spidey stories. Being a slimmer volume, I can now
fit 14 Omnibus books on my shelf - as opposed to only 13 - so I might well
consider updating some of my other Omnibus treasuries as and when they're
published. Once 'pon a time, I wouldn't have been able to bear parting with
earlier releases, especially first printings, but I now find that the prospect
doesn't perturb me as much as it once would have. In fact, one of my pals
has already made an offer on my two, now surplus, books and I've
accepted it. (He should have worn a mask - the robber).

So, my advice to all of you would be to consider a book on its merits,
rather than its publishing history (unless its worth a fortune, obviously), as
later editions can often be better than earlier ones in terms of reproduction of
comic strips and artwork, etc. There are exceptions of course, as sometimes
the plates of some book illustrations can be noticably less sharp in contrast
to their original printings. I recently purchased a 1983 U.S. edition of THE
WIND IN THE WILLOWS and the colour illustrations were extremely
washed-out in comparison to U.K. printings.

The splash-page from ASM Annual #1, as re-created by Michael Kelleher

Fact is, recent softcover Masterworks are far more 'archival' in nature
than their hardback original editions. It all depends on what you're looking
for, of course. If you buy such books merely to read and familiarise yourself
with the characters' history, I don't suppose it much matters to you if the re-
production quality is less than 100% perfect. However, the historians and
archivists amongst us probably prefer reprint volumes to be as close
to the original comicbook releases as possible.

If that's the case, don't be afraid to divest yourself of earlier, inferior
editions and replace them with brand-spanking new (and superior) vol-
umes. Always check first 'though - sometimes there's no discernible
difference until a good while down the line.   

4 comments:

John Pitt said...

This is why we need people like you to inform us which is the best edition to get! It needs someone to sort through ALL the masterworks to prevent us from buying the wrong one.

Kid said...

The best Masterworks available at the moment, JP, are the more recent softcover editions. In the main, they offer the most faithful reproductions of Marvel strips so far - as do the more recent Omnibus volumes. There are a few pages on occasion that could be better, but you'd need to have seen the original comics in most cases to spot the difference.

If there's any particular Masterworks or Omnibus books you're thinking of buying, just give me the details and I'll try and keep you right.

John Pitt said...

Cheers, Kid, will do, priority for me is the missing comics , for example, in Spidey's case. I would want AF#15, Annuals, Spectacular mags, Marvel S-H's 14, secondly ,the art as close to the original.

Kid said...

One to consider buying, JP, if you don't already have it, is the 2009 softercover Spider-Man Masterworks Vol 1. It not only contains the best presentation of AF #15 since 1962, it also contains high-quality scans of the original Steve Ditko art for it, sans cover.

Unfortunately, ASM #1 isn't of the same high-quality, but, so far, there's no relatively recent mag or book in print that has a better reproduction of it.

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