The words out of print are the bane to those of us who are interested in experiencing the best of comics. It almost seems like a no-brainer to keep something in print, because at a certain point, it’s just free money. It’s especially true when you talk about works from comic book royalty like Alan Moore, Frank Miller, and Garth Ennis. Below is a list of some of the most egregious missing volumes out there. Currently, you only have a few options when it comes to reading these books. You can either brave the wilds of eBay price gouging, find a kindly uninformed but well stocked comic shop, or propagate the dreaded piracy, and read them as no one intended on a computer screen, which will only result in eye strain and eventual carpal tunnel syndrome. It should be noted that the legendary Flex Mentallo by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely would easily be on this list, had it not been covered so well by Conor, earlier this year.
1. Give Me Liberty – Do the names Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons mean anything to you? It has been reported that this book is due to be included in an Omnibus, but as far as I can tell, it doesn’t exist yet, and you’re still gonna be waiting a while to get the stories by the two guys most connected with current film properties. Dave Gibbons has more heat on him than he ever has since Watchmen became the biggest movie never to exist yet, and of course Frank Miller is rolling the dice and putting his dignity on the line with The Spirit later this month. Give Me Liberty is the 4 issue mini series that introduced the world to Martha Washington way back in 1990. The story of a dystopian future Chicago created by two legendary superstars is currently unavailable at a comic shop near you, and that just seems like an awful shame, as well as a significant loss of revenue.
2. The Longbow Hunters – So Green Arrow has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance (almost literally) in the past few years. A new group of readers are getting to know Ollie Queen, where is Mike Grell’s seminal Green Arrow work, The Longbow Hunters? Originally a 3 issue prestige format mini-series, from what I understand, The Longbow Hunters is the Dark Knight Returns of Green Arrow stories. It’s a redesigned costume, a re-imagining of what Green Arrow is all about, and Grell got rid of the silly trick arrows to boot. We’re talking about a guy who wrote Green Arrow for a decade, and this the best of that run, and you can’t read it. To give you a touch of the flavor, rumor has it that Grell thought the name Green Arrow was inherently stupid, and therefore, other than issue #1 of The Longbow Hunters, Grell never referred to Ollie by his super-handle. But that’s about all I can tell you about this story, because I can’t read it, because it’s not available. What’s the hold up DC?
3. Starman volumes 3, A Wicked Inclination and 4, Times Past. I realized that the Starman Omnibus editions are going to be coming out at the rate of 1-2 per year, and eventually everyone will be able to enjoy James Robinson’s best work eventually, but why are the rest of the volumes still available if the Omnibus are meant to replace them? Again, it seems like DC is just turning down free money. People are jazzed up about Starman. They’re reading Superman and wanting more. At the very least, speed up the Omnibus release schedule. In the meantime, it’s taking longer for the reprints to come out than it took for the original issues to come out. And having read all the Starman trades, I can tell you that these aren’t volumes you can just skip. They’re integral to the overall story. That being said, Starman was put into trades quite oddly, as the volumes have no numbers indicating in what order they should be read, and even within the volumes things were re-ordered, supposedly to make it easier on readers. These were out at a time when trade paperback thinking was nascent, and I think DC overthought what would make trades sell. Apparently, putting the issues in order was too rough on the trade reading public in the late 90′s.
4. Hitman – This one hits me where it hurts. Hitman, the series Garth Ennis created to take place inside the DC Universe, in Gotham City of all places, which was written concurrently with the classic Preacher, has not been fully collected ever. Now, whether this is because no one bought the first trades, or if the content is objectionable, I don’t know, but I bought five books, loved the hell out of the story, and now I stand with my bits in the wind. Hitman is the story of a hitman named Tommy Monaghan who finds himself imbued with telepathy and x-ray vision, which he uses to become a better hired killed. Perhaps it didn’t fit well in Batman’s world, but man, was it fun. It was an all new take on the idea of what people would do with superpowers, and like so many of Ennis’ works, the main characters were really rough around the edges, but so likeable, you wish you could sit at a bar with them and buy them beers so they’d keep entertaining you. Ennis himself told me that Tommy Monaghan is the character of his who he liked the most. Yet issues 29-60 of this great series remain uncollected. That right there is the real crime.
5. Miracleman – Miracleman, or Marvelman as it was originally titled is the grandaddy of out of print comic books. Caught in a ridiculous maelstrom of rights conflicts and lawsuits, it seemed like we might be close to getting it sorted out a few years ago, but things seemed to have slowed. 24 issues were printed, and the 25th has never seen print. Trying to sort to sort out who actually owns the rights to Miracleman is a disaster, as many people claim to own a piece of Miracleman, and no one has sorted out who really does. Neil Gaiman took Todd McFarlane to court in 2002, and won, but that didn’t really fix anything. Read through the Wikipedia entry to see some of the disputes and conflicts to see why it’s so tangled up. You could also read Kimota! The Miracleman Companion, except that’s also out of print. Either way, Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman’s classic work is currently lost to us. In a nutshell, Miracleman is Alan Moore’s version of what might happen if Billy Batson’s Captain Marvel grew up and discovered the havoc created since his time as a youthful superhero, including what happened to his former kid sidekick Kid Marvelman. Of course, Alan Moore is known for deconstruction of superheroes, and this was his first real go at it. I remember in 2002, I was thrilled that we would get a gorgeous lush reproduction of this work, and can’t believe that now, at the end of 2008, we still seem no closer to getting it. Until it does get worked out, you’re hunting for expensive back issues and out of print trades, or alternate means.
BONUS! I thought this next book was out of print, and wrote this up, but it turns out it’s not, and you can order it from the publisher, Checker BPG directly. No point wasting a good recommendation.
Supreme: The Story of the Year – Supreme was a comic book published by none other than Rob Liefeld, and a character born in the pages of Youngblood. Alan Moore took over starting with issue 41, with the idea that he could throw out everything he didn’t want, and start clean. It’s not a deconstruction of superheroes as much as it is an homage to Silver Age comics and the Superman story. Moore wrote issues 41-56, and the 6 issue mini, The Return (which never properly ended) before Liefeld’s Awesome imprint collapsed. For this work, Alan Moore won the Eisner for best writer in 1997. So why then is it only that you look on Amazon, you’ll only find Supreme: The Return available? That collection contains issue 53-56, and the 6 issue mini of the same title. But the first 12 issues are not available, seemingly from anyone. From what I understand, the rights got a bit wonky after Awesome went away, and no one has secured the ability to get this book back on the shelves yet. But if you like Alan Moore and superheroes, trust me, you’re missing out, and you’re missing out big time. However, for some reason, you can read a lot of it here.