The Sandman: Overture – J.H. Williams III Gallery Edition

J.H. Williams III shows off his artistic range and skills in the pages of the new Gallery Edition of THE SANDMAN: OVERTURE, written by Neil Gaiman. Williams’ original art for the entire book has been meticulously scanned at high resolution for its presentation in this large-format, Smythe-sewn hardcover edition. The numerous double-page spreads are displayed as never before with minimal gutter interference, thanks to the lie-flat feature of these books. Though Williams’ art will be shown without lettering, this book will also include scaled-down reproductions of the final lettered and colored pages for those who wish to read the story.

Graphitti Designs’ Gallery Editions replicate the look, feel and attitude of the original artwork. Every page is reproduced at full board size on heavy paper stock to provide fans and collectors with museum-quality reproductions that are unobtainable from any other source.

Williams’ original art for this book is a joy to behold. Numerous art styles and techniques ranging from pen and ink to gray tonal washes to full-color paintings are on display for the first time in all their varied glory.

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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.

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Graphitti Designs has consistently produced some of the finest AE format books, and this volume has elevated the format. Not only are we provided with the complete original art for all six issues of Sandman: Overture including covers but we’re also treated to the full coloured and lettered published story. A detailed introduction by Williams opens the book and a short gallery of covers and promotional art along with a one-page biography of the creative teams closes it.

This works because of the use of two different paper stocks: matte 160gsm acid-free paper stock for the original art and glossy Kimari-coated 157gsm paper stock for the published pages. At four to a page the coloured story allows the reader to flip back and forth comparing original art to published work and read.

Williams says in his introduction “Overture was not lettered by hand on its boards, and rather than reproducing the artwork with the digital lettering placed over it (which would defeat the purpose of a Graphitti Designs Gallery Edition), we decided instead to include all of the finished pages as a separate section”. I found that interesting since at least two Graphitti Designs gallery editions have included digital lettering atop original art scans.

All scans are clear and crisp with no softness or blur. The artwork fills the pages vertically with left and right margins. Blacks show no gradients. A variety of mediums employed, all scanned and presented well. Perhaps because of the varied mediums, there are no pencil marks, corrections or pentimento. From a raw art perspective, these pages are very clean. Is that the scans or the art? The only notes are the tidy title and issue numbers along the top of each page.

Williams commented via Twitter: “One of the reasons you don’t see pencil marks in the final art is because I don’t really pencil. It’s mostly straight to inks or paint“.

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Beatman took his established Gallery Edition layout and added Williams’ art to great effect. The green from the cover is used throughout as the primary colour source, enhanced by blacks and tans. This is the first time we don’t get the vertical line of DC logos; perhaps because it’s a Vertigo work?

Production is superb. Sewn binding of mixed paper types. Most pages lay flat after smoothing the center, except where the signatures meet. There is some gutter loss on the side of the foldouts where the page was glued. A table of contents with page numbers is included but no page numbers appear in the book, although the margins allowed for them. The book comes shrink wrapped in a cardboard case bearing a colour sticker that provides a partial cover image, title, price and UPC.

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For those who wondered if this is just a rehash of what was contained in The Absolute Sandman: Overture in its “Artist’s Edition” section. While the art is presented mostly the same there is a glaring difference (see what I did there?) between the smaller glossy pages of the Absolute and the original art sized matte paper of the Gallery Edition. I may have been a bit too harsh on the Absolute in my review, as it does present the original art fairly well, but not in the Artist’s Edition format. The pages looked so clean I thought they had been digitally corrected, but Williams’ artboards are ready for print.

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A variant cover edition and a limited signed edition are available only at the Graphitti Designs site.

Lastly, here is Neil Gaiman doing an unboxing video.