The Book Of Ballads, The Original Art Edition

Twenty-two years ago, superstar artist Charles Vess teamed up with an all-star ensemble of ground-breaking and award winning writers including Neil Gaiman (Sandman), Jane Yolen (Lost Girls), Sharyn McCrumb (The Ballad of Frankie Silver), and Jeff Smith (Bone) to produce THE BOOK OF BALLADS – which reimagined the greatest English, Irish, and Scottish folktales in sequential art.

This September, Titan Comics will produce a special, oversized hardcover art edition presenting Charles Vess’ original work in a glorious 10 x 15 dimension so fans can enjoy the legendary collection from a modern master in an all-new way. In addition to this oversized page treatment, Charles Vess’ original thumbnails and story notes are also included in this unique and unmissable art edition.

From Neil Gaiman’s retelling of “The False Knight on the Road”, to Jeff Smith’s “The Galtee Farmer”, and Jane Yolen’s “King Henry” – Charles Vess’ The Book of Ballads brought new visions of the classic folktales from the brightest New York Times bestsellers, award winners, and masters of science fiction and fantasy together with stunning art from Charles Vess. With this new THE BOOK OF BALLADS ART EDITION, get ready to experience the stories anew!

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As with all AE format material (Artist’s Editions, Artifact Editions, Gallery Editions, Art Editions, Studio Editions, etc), this is a collection of classic comic material and I’ll be reviewing the book and not the story. For a complete list of all current and announced editions, with review links, please visit our Index. Also, see What is an Artist’s Edition and our Artist Index.

After a five year hiatus we are treated to a second Original Art Edition from Titan, this time a wonderful collection of Charles Vess doing what he does best.

The introduction by Vess provides a comprehensive history of the work and its path to this edition. From there we get a table of contents, thirteen stories of original art, an extras section and to close it all out short biographies of the artist and writers. The extras section includes scripts, thumbnails, alternate art, all with notes. Vess changes up his style so many times throughout the stories it’s a true delight to admire every page.

Scans are clean and clear, except for the pages with text from Alison Gross, which are slightly blurry and have a grey colour that doesn’t look right. Blacks are fairly consistent with no gradients, but we get an endless array of cross hatching. Pages have aged well, showing off white to light tan. Correction fluid used throughout, on word balloons, borders and panel images. The latter stories have their text pasted into the word balloons. No notes in the margins but each story has hand numbered pages.

Design by Donna Askem is minimal, with no colour. Spot illustrations used on indices and title pages have been cleaned up to lineart and don’t fit with this volume of original art. Title page lists stories and page numbers but page numbers aren’t used as the scans are full size with no margins. No chapter dividers but each story has a nice splash with title.

Production is excellent: sewn binding of heavy matte paper stock. Every page lays flat once the center is smoothed. The book comes shrink wrapped, with no cardboard case. This is one of the smaller Artist’s Edition format books at 10″ x 15″, and also one of the cheapest. The UPC and price on the back of the book is a sticker and lists U.S., Canadian and UK pricing.

There’s nothing in the solicitation or introduction about whether the art is printed at full size, but similar art from Vess on auction sites is also 10″ x 15″.