I don’t really recall the exact moment, where I was or what I was doing, when I saw my first Absolute edition. I don’t even know what title it was. It may have been the Watchmen, or maybe Kingdom Come, or maybe Dark Knight.. But no matter what it was, I still remember the bewildered awe I felt as I pulled the oversized hardcover out of it’s slip case and marveled at the concept. Big, hefty, beautiful hardcovers with the best stories and excellent production. I’ve never dropped $75 so quickly as when I purchased my first one. The format has given me a reason to care about DC Comics even more than the limited amount I do currently.
Now that the format has been around for a few years, we’ve seen a trend emerge of fans waiting with baited breath for the announcement for the next Absolute edition. Heck, it almost deserves a dedicated segment on Collected Comics Library (an excellent podcast by the way). With that said, I gave these Absolutes a thought and came up with some interesting observations as well as defined what I think should guide the Absolute Editions.
Before I ponder what stories should get the Absolute treatment, let me share with you what I think the criteria for an Absolute edition should be:
- A Self Contained Story – This is key. I know, they’re publishing the Absolute Sandman series in multiple volumes, but if you ask me, that’s an exception. Many will moan, saying Absolute Preacher should be released, but I don’t think so. Condensing that many trades into a series of Absolutes is ridiculous. I see the reasoning for the Sandman collections, but I think we overestimate Preacher‘s staying power. I don’t think they’d sell. This is what the Omnibus editions from DC is for, like the recent Starman Omnibus, and how they will handle Y: The Last Man. But the story has to be long enough to warrant a thick book. A 3 or 4 issue mini series falls just short of deserving the treatment in my mind. And the longest run collected should be 12 issues. Anything beyond that is just too darn heavy.
- Amazing Creative Team - Absolute Editions live and die by their creative teams. I could be wrong, but I don’t think we’ve seen one yet with an inconsistent art team on it (Sandman, again, excepted). No fill ins or guest artists. Just one writer, one artist or one writer/artist.
- Legendary Story - The collection needs to matter. Sure we could collect the Robin mini series from the 1990s in an Absolute Edition, but does that story really matter? Not in the same way Watchmen or Kingdom Come does.
So with the rules set, I checked to see the rest of the Absolute Editions for this year:
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier – August 12, 2008
Ronin (Frank Miller) – September 30, 2008
Absolute Sandman Volume 4 – November 18., 2008
And I checked what was due for early 2009, and found Absoulte Superman For Tomorrow scheduled for 2009, collecting Brian Azzarello and Jim Lee’s run on Superman from a few years ago, and that addressed one of my observations before I could make it. Aside from Kingdom Come (which could be argued against), there are no Superman stories in Absolute format. Which begs the question, are their any Superman stories worth the Absolute treatment? Death of Superman? Too long. Superman For All Seasons by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale? Too short. The Man of Steel by John Byrne? Maybe. I certainly wouldn’t have selected the Azzarello/Lee run, that made absolutely no sense whatsoever in issues, much less oversized. But it’s Jim Lee, so I suppose it will sell.
And so that leads us to my list of Top 5 Stories That Should Get the Absolute Treatment:
1. Astro City Volume 1: Life in the Big City - Written by Kurt Busiek, Art by Brent Anderson, Covers by Alex Ross.
Can you believe they haven’t done this yet? It’s a no brainer. Originally a 6 issue series, it’s the perfect length. The combination of Alex Ross’ covers and Brent Anderson’s interiors makes for some fine art and I’m sure there are tons of “Extras” to go along with it. And it may be Busiek’s masterpiece, his best work ever. But it’s attached to Wildstorm, and creator owned to boot, and not in the DC Universe of heroes, so that’s probably why it will never happen.
2. Identity Crisis - Written by Brad Meltzer, art by Rags Morales.
They *must* be planning on Absoluting this series. Coming in at 7 issues, it’s also a perfect fit for size. A collection of the classic DC Heroes and Meltzer’s complicated, deeply personal murder mystery is perfect for this treatment, additionally because it’s probably the best work to come out of the DiDio years at DC.
3. Superman/Batman - Written by Jeph Loeb, art by Ed McGuiness
Probably taking the first volume of Loeb’s run on this title, “Public Enemies,” this one would not only check the “Give Superman an Absolute” but also would give us oversized Ed McGuiness art, which is good enough for me!
4. The Spirit - Written and Drawn by Darwyn Cooke
This one is a no-brainer, with 12 issues delivered by the great Darwyn Cooke, this would be a must have for any Spirit fan, as well as any Cooke fan. If they’re not planning on releasing this an Absolute, then they’re nuts.
5. JLA: Year One – Written by Mark Waid & Brian Augustyn and Art by Barry Kitson
I know that there seems to be a lot of team books and JLA based books in Absolute Editions, but it’s really only Kingdom Come. This 12 issue series would be ideal to tell the origin of the Justice League and Barry Kitson’s art oversized would be a sight. Plus this gives a classic, DC Heroes feel to the line of Absolutes.
I came up with this list of 5 stories that deserve the Absolute treatment after posing the question to myself and fellows at my local comic store, “Are there any stories left to get Absolute editions?” This sparked a huge debate with recommendations like Suicide Squad, WildC.A.T.S, DEMO and even Gen13. I have to give DC credit, that by limiting the number of these produced, they make them special and worth speculating over. But I’m telling you, at some point they’re going to run out of stories that deserve the treatment, so 4 a year is probably a good idea. We wouldn’t want to ruin a good thing.