Artisan Edition versus Artist’s Edition

In 2015 IDW released Wally Wood’s EC Comics Artisan Edition, repackaging the long sold out Artist’s Edition in a smaller affordable package. Adding a third “AE” to their original artbook line.

There are three main differences between an Artisan Edition and an Artist’s Edition: size, binding, and cover material. An Artisan Edition is an 8″ x 12″ softcover book with a glued binding. An Artist’s Edition is a 12″ x 17″ or 15″ x 22″ hardcover book with a sewn binding. Plus there’s the whole reason for the Artist’s Edition line in the first place: presenting original art at its full size.

Here are the official IDW definitions for the two formats.

While appearing to be in black and white, each page was scanned in color to mimic as closely as possible the experience of viewing the actual original art—for instance, corrections and blue pencils. Each page is printed the same size as drawn, and the paper selected is as close as possible to the original art board.

Introducing a new format within the Artist’s Edition brand—the Artisan Edition! Softcover format, 8 x 12 inches, but still collecting complete stories that are all painstakingly scanned from the original art. An Artisan edition is done to the same exacting quality standards as IDW’s award-winning Artist’s Edition series, just at a smaller (and more manageable!) size.

The Artisan Edition format took the work already done for the Artist’s Edition, scanning and design, and put it in a mass-market format. Artist’s Editions are only available through comic shops while pretty much every bookseller can carry Artisan Editions, primarily Amazon. Cost, size and exclusivity all limit the Artist’s Edition format.

It should be noted IDW has also used the Artisan Edition line for smaller books containing original art, just to confuse things. These have so far differentiated themselves by being hardcover: Jack Kirby Pencils and Inks and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

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I was always curious about these softcover Artisan Editions but never scratched the itch for the simple reason that I had the Artist’s Editions. I was recently in my local comic shop perusing their scratch and dent shelf and found a David Mazzucchelli’s Daredevil: Born Again Artisan Edition with some paper loss along the edges. It was dirt cheap so I bought it and went through it completely. Then I pulled out my Artist’s Edition and compared the two.

The material is identical, right down to the vellum overlays. It is the same book at a smaller size. Even the paper stock is the same. The book is printed from the same scans as its full-size brethren. The only difference I could find was there are no endpapers, just plain white inside covers. And the title change of course.

Since it’s the same scans at a reduced size, you get all the same correction fluid, paste-ups, Zip-A-Tone, etc. Only at a reduced size. It makes for a much easier reading experience. The details are smaller but still clear and legible.

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I didn’t flatten the Artisan Edition for the photos since it’s a glued binding. There are decent margins so no concerns of gutter loss. While a hardcover is always preferred this is a thick paper stock cover with French flaps.

It’s a solid strategy for IDW to release their most popular Artist’s Editions at a reduced size and price into the general book market. Especially since they’ve only done so with volumes long since sold out in their original format.