Another year has come and gone, and while Father Time stops for no one, the great news is neither do comic publishers. As I said this time last year, I love comics, in all their forms and have for almost 30 years. But in recent years, I’ve particularly fallen in love with high end collected editions. I’m talking about those volumes that are as appealing for their form as they are for the content within.
This list is a celebration of some of my favorite collected editions of 2011. This isn’t based on content alone (although I adored the vast majority of the work included in these volumes), but is a celebration of both the content AND the form. Whether you display these books proudly on your coffee table, or have them sitting on a prominent position on your book shelves, these books are far too beautiful to simply file away.
15-Tie ) Thor by Walter Simonson Omnibus by Walter Simonson (Marvel Comics)
15-Tie ) Fantastic Four by John Byrne Omnibus by John Byrne & Others (Marvel Comics)
Marvel has been releasing Omnibus editions for years, and 2011 was no exception. Each is massive and comprehensive to the subject matter at hand, but these two – in particular – stood out this year because they represent some of the best work Marvel was putting out at a time when many of us (including yours truly and the iFanboy founders) were first becoming comic book addicts. Buying these two collections will give you more than 2,300 pages of some of the best modern superhero storytelling in our lifetimes.
13 ) Infinite Kung Fu by Kagan McLeod (Top Shelf Productions)
The only soft cover collection to make the list, Infinite Kung Fu deserves the recognition because of the scope of the work. At 464 pages, this represents the sum total of Kagan McLeod’s sequential work telling tales of martial arts masters, magical foes and high adventure. This is the kind of work that will not only blow your mind and make you smile, but will serve as a key reference years from now when McLeod is a household name.
12 ) Forming Volume 1 by Jesse Moynihan (AdHouse Books)
AdHouse has found another gem in Jesse Moynihan’s Forming, which gives new meaning to the concept of EPIC storytelling. Moynihan takes us on a journey through the concept of creation and the cycle of life, while weaving just about every known God and belief system into one massive pantheon. At 112 pages, this isn’t the meatiest book, but the art and layout (12.1 x 9.2 inches) combined with the stunning paper stock make this book a must have.
11 ) Mr. Murder is Dead by Victor Quinaz and Brent Schoonover (Archaia Entertainment)
One of the best OGNs of the year, Mr. Murder is Dead is a love letter to the classic pulp detective strips of old, and artist Brent Schoonover evokes the stylings of the time to perfection. The magic of this work is that the book is structured to look like those old Sunday strips, but the maturity and modern storytelling are all there; this story pulls no punches. If you’re a fan of crime fiction, particularly the classic stuff, this book is a can’t miss. It’s wonderfully packaged by Archaia and measures in at 8.8 x 11.3 inches, and 112 pages.
10 ) Spy vs. Spy by Prohias Omnibus by Antonio Prohias (DC Comics)
MAD Magazine’s classic tales of White Spy versus Black Spy (and sometimes versus Grey Spy) have been a fixture in the magazine and the pop culture lexicon for more than 50 years. Although there have been dozens of collections over the years, this is the first time EVERY SINGLE Antonio Prohias strip has been collected in one volume. The book also provides ample back matter on Prohias’ life and journey into becoming a cartooning legend. At 368 pages, this hardcover is worth every penny, and then some.
9 ) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection Vol. 1 by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird (IDW Publishing)
What started as a parody of Frank Miller’s Daredevil evolved into the trailblazer for what came to be known as the Black & White Revolution. IDW has put together a wonderful hardcover package that collected the first seven issues of the legendary indie comic, as well as a Raphael one shot. Whether you read these comics off the rack or not, this collection serves as a nostalgic look at what the turtles were before they became a global brand with cartoons, video games, movie and toy lines.
8 ) Madman Atomica! by Mike Allred (Image Comics)
Fans of DC’s Absolutes or Marvel’s Omnibus editions will love this oversized, massive collection of Mike Allred’s creator owned gem, Madman. Atomica! measures 11.7 x 7.7 inches, and is 900 pages (and almost 7 pounds!) and collects Madman Atomic Comics #1-18, The Atomics #1-16 and a number of other one shots. Allred’s clean, vibrant illustrations are juxtaposed perfectly against the wild and wacky creativeness of the Madman universe.
7 ) The Metabarons Ultimate Collection by Alexandro Jodorowsky and Juan Gimenez (Humanoids)
Last year Humanoids made the list with the incomparable, oversized collection of The Incal. The publisher makes the list again this year with another beautiful collection of Jodorowsky’s work. The Metabarons – a dynastic group of warriors (set in a wild, psychedelic science fiction setting) – first appeared in the aforementioned Incal, but are fully explored here in 544 pages (oversized at 13.1 x 9.7 inches). This marks the first time the entirety of the Metabarons has been collected in one volume, and it’s worth your attention.
6 ) Dark Tower Omnibus by Stephen King, Peter David, Robin Furth, Jae Lee & Others (Marvel Comics)
Marvel has been faithfully adapting Stephen King’s expansive Dark Tower series in comic book form for years, and this may be the ultimate collection for fans of the work. You might know what to expect from a “Marvel Omnibus”, but King’s adaptations are treated a bit differently. Rather than one massive volume, we’re treated to a two volume, slip-cased edition that collects the first five volumes as well as hundreds of pages of bonus materials. The two volumes combine for 1,480 pages of one of the best novel adaptations ever presented in comic book form.
5 ) The Someday Funnies by Michel Choquette (Abrams ComicArts)
In 1970, Michel Choquette was tasked with commissioning The Someday Funnies for Rolling Stone – where visionary artists and creators of the time were given a chance to create comic strips reflective of the late 1960s and the cultural zeitgeist. Choquette ultimately commissioned more than 100 strips that never made their way into the magazine, and he never had the financial backing or publishing support to release the works. Abrams ComicArts has finally accomplished what most thought would never happen, and packaged 129 strips into this oversized (15.7 x 11.8), 216-page masterpiece. This collection is irreverent, inspired and the contributors range from the likes of Jack Kirby and Will Eisner to Tom Wolfe, Harlan Ellison and Federico Fellini.
4 ) Walter Simonson’s The Mighty Thor: Artist’s Edition (IDW Publishing)
When IDW released the Dave Stevens’ Artist’s Edition of The Rocketeer last year, it was hard to imagine how they could follow that up. But they found a suitable successor with Walter Simonson’s Thor work (which is also collected in the Omnibus found earlier on this list), specifically reprinting Issues 337-340 and 360-362 of the classic God of Thunder run from Marvel Comics. What makes this volume so special is that IDW scanned in the original penciled and inked pages and presents them here in full size (12” x 17”!!!), in black and white glory. Every blue line, pencil mark, blemish and correction is here to see, without any pretension. Unfortunately this book had a limited print run and is long since sold out, but volumes are readily available at select book retailers, as well as online in the secondary market.
3 ) Richard Stark’s Parker: The Martini Edition by Darwyn Cooke (IDW Publishing)
Darwyn Cooke began adapting Richard Stark’s Parker novels in 2008, with the release of The Hunter, and followed that up in 2010 with The Outfit. Each received massive acclaim, but now IDW has put together an even more enticing version. The Martini Edition collects the first two volumes, plus more than 60 new pages of material, in an oversized (13.8 x 9.1 inch) slipcased volume. Cooke’s one of the finest cartoonists working today, and this was a work I gladly double dipped (I already owned the individual volumes); and I’m betting many of you will, too.
2 ) BONE: 20th Anniversary Full Color Edition by Jeff Smith (Cartoon Books)
Jeff Smith’s tale of the brothers Bone and their fantastical journey has been repackaged and reprinted more times than imaginable, and his works have transcended the comic book marketplace and found their way deeply into the heart of American libraries. In celebration of the 20th Anniversary of Bone, Smith has released a full-color, oversized (9.6 x 7 inch) hardcover collection that weighs in at more than six pounds and 1,300 pages!
1 ) The MAD Fold-In Collection: 1964-2010 by Al Jaffee (Chronicle Books)
Al Jaffee is one of the legends of American comics, having started cartooning in the early 1940s and having been one of the original contributors to MAD Magazine. In 1964 (in his second stint at MAD), Jaffee created the “Fold In”, which took a full page cartoon and, when folded at the seams, presented an entirely new image (and textual caption). The Fold In has been a fixture with the magazine ever since, and Jaffee has handled those duties for more than 50 years. Chronicle Books presents more than 400 of Jaffee’s Fold Ins in this 842-page masterpiece. What sets this work apart, aside from the content itself, is that the editors smartly show each image in its open form on the left page, and then in the folded form on the right page – rather than making the reader desecrate the pages of this archival volume. A must have for MAD enthusiasts.
Jason is a mutant with the ability to squeeze 36 hours into every 24-hour day, which is why he was able to convince his wife he had time to join the iFanboy team on top of running his business, raising his three sons, and most importantly, co-hosting the 11 O’Clock Comics podcast with his buddies Vince B, Chris Neseman and David Price. If you are one of the twelve people on Earth who want to read about comics, the stock market and football in rapid fire succession, you can follow him on Twitter.