What’s in a name: is Artist’s Edition the format standard?

It all started with the moniker “Artist’s Edition” with IDW’s Scott Dunbier and Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer Artist’s Edition. A book of scans of original art printed full size, showing “warts and all” from every page. That first volume was released in 2010, followed by Walter Simonson’s The Mighty Thor Artist’s Edition in 2011.

Then in 2012, the floodgates opened. Titan was the second publisher to join this AE format market and chose to call their volume a Fine Art Edition. IDW released five more Artist’s Editions. In 2013 Genesis West published an Original Art Archives. And IDW released nine Artist’s Editions.

In 2014 three more publishers joined the AE format market, and this time a funny thing happened. While Dynamite went with Art Edition, both Dark Horse and Graphitti Designs released Gallery Editions. Until that point, each publisher chose a unique name for their original-art-at-full-size books. I don’t know who came up with Gallery Edition, but Dark Horse was first to solicit with that name in February 2014.

IDW has dominated the field, expanding their line with Artifact Editions and Artisan Editions. Many other publishers have joined the field: 2000AD’s Apex Edition, Fantagraphics’ Studio Editions, FPG’s Artwork Edition, Hermes’ Archival Editions, Image’s Vault Editions, Kitchen Sink Books’ Curator’s Collections, and Wayne Alan Harold’s Fine Art Editions. Whew!

With so many publishers and book line titles, the market as a whole recognizes IDW and their Artist’s Edition as the standard. All these original-art-at-full-size books can be generically lumped under the Artist’s Edition category. It was what I went with when choosing a name for this site.

What's in a name: is Artist's Edition the format standard?

This brings us to an announcement by Dark Horse in August 2019 and their solicitations. Nexus: The Newspaper Strips Volume 1—The Coming of Gourmando Artist’s Edition is coming February 2020. Dark Horse for some reason is not using their Gallery Edition line title or trade dress, instead releasing this book as an Artist’s Edition. The solicitation is a bit nebulous with only this tidbit “At 12 inches by 17 inches, this full-color hardcover is reproduced in the lavish artist’s edition format“.

I contacted Dark Horse for commentary.

Scott VanderPloeg: I see this volume is being labelled Artist’s Edition, which has been used by IDW, with Dark Horse using the term Gallery Edition until this point. Is Dark Horse moving away from the term Gallery Edition? Will this volume consist of scans of the original art at their full size? I would love a chance to discuss this book with its editor if the opportunity presents. 

Dark Horse: Thanks for reaching out. I’ll need to double check with the editor to determine why the naming convention for this title is Artist’s Edition versus Gallery Edition. In general, Dark Horse isn’t moving away from the term Gallery Edition. Let me check with the editor about a potential conversation for you.

I then received this after several follow-ups.

Dark Horse: I think the editor is going to pass on this interview opportunity.

Of course, this is just a solicitation and anything can change before publication. Is there a significance to Dark Horse using artist’s edition in lower case on the cover and the solicitation text? It just seems poor form.