Collecting Comics #2 – Not Getting the Whole Story Here

Last time, I talked about my newfound love of hardcovers.  This time, I’d like to discuss a problem I have, and one I suspect I share with many others.

I want the whole story.  I follow comics to find out what happens to the characters.  Do I enjoy looking at great art? Yes.  Do I enjoy a well-written, self-contained work? Yes.  But I also like a good series, that will let me invest in a character over a longer period of time.  Comics are supposedly ideal for this.  But they aren’t.  At least, not unless you are not only there at the time a book is originally published and also know and buy every book the company publishes every month.  The latter I will leave for another post, but for now, let’s concentrate on the former.

Except for more recent books, there is possibly, depending on the length of the series and the subject matter/cast of the book, a zero percent chance that an entire run of a book will be collected in a series of comprehensive trades, hardcovers, omniboo, or collections.  By “run”, I mean the entire length of a book’s life, from start to finish, also including crossover issues where applicable, first issue to last issue, every issue of the book.

I want to be able to buy every issue of Fantastic Four in collected form.  Not just the Lee/Kirby era, not just the Byrne era, not just the Waid/Weiringo era, not just the Hickman era we currently enjoy.  The whole shebang.  I want every last issue, and I want it in print, on my bookshelf.  I want the same for Avengers, the same for Alpha Flight, the same for Star Trek, the same for everything.  Is this wishful thinking?  Of course, but wouldn’t it be nice if I could have it?  If you could have it?  If, of course, you could afford it?

What I would like to see, and I originally read the idea in a column elsewhere online, I’m not sure where, would be a print-on-demand service for comics.  I would like for each company to offer every book they have, available in any configuration you desire, made to order in softcover or hardcover as you prefer, so you could truly collect whatever you want.  If you want to collect every appearance of Firestar, for example, you could do so.  If you want a comprehensive, chronological Unabridged Wolverine collection, then God help you if you have the time to sort out the continuity clashes and timeline snafus, but you could do that too.  If you prefer to collect by creator, and decide you want every Rob Liefeld book ever, you could do that.  Or Kirby.  Or Byrne.  Or, again, God help you, everything Stan Lee ever wrote, you could do that.

But that’s way in the future.  What I want to see in the present day is much more simple…

Take a book, such as Avengers.  Why can’t there be a comprehensive Avengers collection, containing every issue of every incarnation of the title, in chronological (well, publication chronological order, mostly) order?  Why can’t it be in one format?  Why must there be various Essentials, Premiere Hardcovers, Oversized Hardcovers, Omniboo, Masterworks, and plain old simple trades, all of them swirling in my head, demanding attention, and not a single blasted one of them in any way comprehensive?  Now, you may argue that the Masterworks and/or Essentials are comprehensive.  Bull.  There is no way that Marvel, or DC, if we were discussing Justice League of America or whatever, would ever do that.  The Masterworks generally concentrate on the silver age “legend-building” material of the early years of the title.  The Essentials, while they cover more ground in a cheaper and less colorful (but also nice enough) format, will never reach the “Leather Jacket Avengers” of the ’90s, let alone the modern Bendis material.  There will always be huge swathes of a book’s history that will remain un-reprinted.  And that is a shame.  Because, like Paul Harvey, I want “the rest of the story”.  I want the whole she-bang.  I want it on my shelf, in a uniform format that is generally pleasant to look at.

And I want it for all titles, the ones I love and the ones I don’t like or care for.  I even want it for titles I’ve never heard of before.  Because the fans of those books deserve to have them, to treasure for years after their less sturdy floppies fall apart.

Oh, and I want it now.  Naturally.

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