As part of our celebration of the 100th AE format book, I solicited questions from the forum members. What would people like to know about my experiences with Artist’s Edition format books, this site, or anything that fell between. These are the questions followed by my candid answers.
What was behind your decision to move from collecting original art to AE format books?
Two things. First, I had a family with three children and was the sole income. Art prices were skyrocketing and I realized I couldn’t afford to collect with any level of commitment. Plus, the art was all in portfolios in my closet and I rarely looked at them. At that time, we needed a new van and the increased art prices spurned me to put the bulk of my collection up for auction, keeping a few items that were special to me and the paintings that were already framed and on my walls.
Secondly, from my appreciation for original art, I realized I enjoyed the inked art more than the printed coloured version. AE format books were coming out on a regular schedule and for the price of an entire book of scanned original art, I couldn’t buy a single page or silver age art.
Has collecting AEs (or original art for that matter) changed your relationship with “normal” books?
I’m fortunate enough to have a home library. We live in the country and when we moved in decided one bedroom would be a home office and library. It was an immediate struggle for space and the office portion shrank to a tiny desk surrounded by bookshelves. But no matter what I did the flood of books continued. So I eliminated all my fiction books in favour of a Kindle e-reader and am in the process of eliminating any comic smaller than an Absolute in favour of digital versions I can read on my iPad Pro 12.9″ tablet.
A change in habit and focus was required. Why was I buying these books? I work every day on being a reader and not a collector.
At this point, books now need to earn their space in my library. I now only buy print copies of AE format books and newspaper strip collections: AE format books because they won’t work digitally and newspaper strip collections because they’re rarely done digitally.
Since you weren’t collecting all the AEs as they came out, what were the best/worst ways you found back issues?
It wasn’t until 2016 that I committed to getting every AE format book and reviewing them. From 2010 when Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer Artist’s Edition came out, I bought AE format books that appealed to me.
At some point this decade I looked around and realized I have over 400 books I hadn’t read, and basically, I’d always have a backlog. I’m a list-based person and compile a list of books every month from the solicitations that I want. I altered my strategy and started dividing the list into must-have preorder items and items I’d get later. As I move to digital the later list has moved to that format.
My buying strategy follows that train of thought. I’m lucky to live in Southern Ontario and close to Toronto, Hamilton, and London. I follow the local shops on Facebook or email and watch for sales. Who doesn’t like a bargain? Most comic shops have a Free Comic Book Day sale and a Boxing Day sale so I watch for those especially. Books are not required for survival so I don’t need them, and because of my backlog, I wait to buy most of them at a significant discount now. It requires patience and the loss of a “collector” mentality.
Artist’s Edition format books are not big movers at comic stores. When you find one that stocks them, and that’s a rarity, they languish on the shelves and are ripe for the picking during sales events.
If you live in the United States then following websites for sales, retail sites, and eBay, is a solid route. Media mail makes it worthwhile, and it’s shipping that kills this strategy in other countries.
The worst way to acquire back issues is paying over cover because you “need” it. Patience is always rewarded.
Is there anything you would have done differently or sooner (either collecting or running the index)?
I don’t feel I missed out on anything by following the meandering path I’m on. I was lucky enough to get the hard-to-find AE format books when they were released and all the rest at a significant discount.
Comic Book Daily never had a true focus outside of its main column Undervalued Spotlight. We tried many different things but none stuck. As my interests in AE format books increased, I started the Index page and the reviews. It built organically and allowed me to get a rhythm and format I was comfortable with. Last year it seemed like the time to break away to a new site. I still get over 25% of my hits as redirects from Comic Book Daily, so starting from an established site has been a great benefit.
I am interested in how the scanning and printing have changed over these years. Has it improved?
Interestingly, no. A high bar was set by Scott Dunbier and the books have maintained that level of excellence. As other publishers came on, they adopted the IDW model.
When scans come from various sources, not every page is perfect. More than anything the greatest variable is scan quality.
Which are your top 5 AEs and why (for whatever reason: volume itself, the story behind obtaining it, nostalgia)?
Top five are all about material and their amazing original art. Sadly, there are no great adventures or astounding finds in my buying history. It was pre-order what I was excited to read, stumble upon missing volumes at sales, and now pre-order everything.
As well there is little nostalgia, as my nostalgia books haven’t been done in AE format. I’m waiting on Paul Smith, John Bolton, Frank Bellamy, Alex Raymond and Jorge Zaffino. Look at that, I managed to work my top five want list in.
Top five: the two Will Eisner Spirit volumes, Frank Miller’s Ronin, Dave Steven’s Rocketeer, David Mazzucchelli’s Daredevil.
Eisner’s early work, at twice-up, blows me away every time I look at it. Stunning. Miller on Miller with Ronin and his growth in technique shine through on every page of the Gallery Edition. Stevens was an amazing artist and even though I have every edition of The Rocketeer published there is nothing better than that first Artist’s Edition. And then there’s Mazzucchelli, who quite simply presented an amazing piece of work.
What are your top 5 and what are your bottom 5? Maybe as a neutral arbiter, you’d rather not go down that path, but it would be interesting to hear your highlights and lowlights.
My top five are in the question above, so let’s look at my bottom five. I’ll keep my criteria based solely on production and finished product, I have favourite and not so favourite material, but that’s a well-known choice before purchasing. After committing to buying all AE format books many purchases were of material I didn’t enjoy or wasn’t fond of, but there’s always the appreciation of the art at original size and the surprises you run across.
Bottom five: the three Red Sonja Art Editions and the two Hermes Press volumes.
Dynamite seemed to suffer from scan issues and available material. I liked the unified design but so many scans were blurry, and the available material seemed to be less and less as they progressed. Plus, the price stayed the same as the page count fell. Since then, I’ve really enjoyed the later Dynamite volumes.
Hermes Press; where to begin. The lack of printing anything at original size is the first misstep, even when their solicitations say they are. Also, not a fan of their paper stock. Ghita was an improvement over Garfield, but that wasn’t a big leap.
Have you kept track of solicited/announced/rumoured books that have disappeared?
I have. I did a post called AE MIA that tracked a bunch and will do a follow-up post shortly as part of the 100th AE celebration.