I love comics, in all their forms. Each and every month I read dozens of single issues just as I have for almost 30 years. I also read trade paperbacks with aplomb. But in recent years, I’ve 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 2010. 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) Strange Tales HC by Various Creators (Marvel)
Marvel puts out a ton of collected editions each year, and it wouldn't be surprising to find any number of their Omnibus editions on this list. Yet, it's this hardcover collection of stories about Marvel characters by some of comics' best indie creators that gets the nod. This beautiful hardcover edition is 192 pages and an oversized 7.5 x 11.2 inches, and features a cover by the incomparable Chip Kidd.
14) BodyWorld by Dash Shaw (Pantheon Books)
Shaw is an experimental master and follows up his award-winning Bottomless Bellybutton with this journey into a futuristic planned community and what happens when a botanist discovers a mind-altering plant that gives people the ability to read others' thoughts. Shaw's works play with form as an integral part of the experience, and he opts for a 6.1 x 9.5 inch volume that reads in landscape orientation.
13) 40: A Doonesbury Retrospective by Gary Trudeau (Andrews McMeel)
The classic comic strip gets an amazing repackaging to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the work. Unlike some other comic strip collections, this slipcased hardcover edition used some restraint and didn't reprint everything that appeared in the newspapers. At 696 pages and a hefty 14.2 x 10.2 inch format, this book pays proper homage to one of America's greatest cultural strips.
12) Archie Marries… by Michael Uslan, Stan Goldberg and Bob Smith (Abrams Comicarts)
Archie is one of those perennial comics that manages to outsell many of its more heralded peers by virtue of being widely available in traditional retail outlets. In 2010 the creators took a journey into the future and gave us a What If look at Archie's futures married to both Betty & Veronica. This hardcover collection features a die cut slipcase that can display either the Veronica or Betty nuptials depending on how you choose to sleeve it. At 208 pages, it collects the seven issues in an oversized 11.4 x 7.9 inch format.
11) Blacksad HC by Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido (Dark Horse)
Blacksad is considered one of Europe's modern classics, combining 50s era noir with visually stunning anthropomorphic characters. For years American readers had to pay hefty premiums for the original, non-English graphic novels. Dark Horse answered the call with this 184-page hardcover that collects the first three graphic novels, translated into English.
10) Wednesday Comics HC by Various Creators (DC)
Long-time DC creative director Mark Chiarello put together a dream project in 2009 that brought some of the industry's best creators together to create a set of serialized tales that appeared in oversized newsprint comics. While the project was a critical success, the ability to re-read or preserve folded newspaper was a hurdle for some. In 2010, DC answered the call with a massive 18 x 11.5 inch hardcover tome collecting the entirety of the series. It's a sight to behold.
9) Duncan the Wonder Dog by Adam Hines (AdHouse Books)
The only softcover book on the list, Duncan still warrants a place at the table for its size (400 pages at 11 x 8.5 inches) and because its limited print run. AdHouse gave Adam Hines an opportunity to put out his exceptional work in a form befitting Hines' passion. What if animals could talk? What would that mean for our society? In Duncan, we find out.
8) Return of the Dapper Men by Jim McCann and Janet Lee (Archaia Books)
This cover doesn't do this work justice, as comics newcomer Janet Lee used wood cutouts to create 3-dimensional art pieces that were then turned into the pages of this illustrious, adventuresome OGN written by Jim McCann. At 128 pages, this work clocks in at 11.1 x 9.7 inches and every page will capture your attention for minutes on end.
7) Afrodisiac “Deluxe” Limited Edition by Brian Maruca and Jim Rugg (AdHouse Books)
Quite simply my favorite comic book of 2010. Jim Rugg channels every ounce of his love for 70s era Marvel comics, 'zines and blaxploitation films into a diverse, visual tour de force. Afrodisiac isn't the largest book (96 pages at a fairly standard 9 x 6.1 inches) but the care the creators put in every aspect of this work makes it an easy edition. For those who covet truly rare collected works, you can try to track down one of the 100 copies of the Deluxe Limited Edition (pictured above).
Planetary took a LONG time to finish, but if there was ever a comic worth waiting for, it was Warren Ellis and John Cassaday's look superhero lore through the eyes of archeologists. Considered by many to be one of the best comic works of our generation, DC offered a new printing of the original Absolute (collecting Issues 1-12) and treated us Volume 2 for the first time. As with all DC Absolutes, both works are an oversized 12.8 x 8.6 inches in a hardcover slipcase.
4) Absolute All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (DC)
DC had a fantastic year and followed up its Planetary Absolutes with an Absolute version of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's All-Star Superman. One of the most decorated superhero comics of the last decade, All-Star Superman gets treated to a slipcased oversized edition that showcases Frank Quitely's intensely detailed and fluid interiors. This edition collects all 12 issues in 320 glorious pages.
3) The Incal Classic Collection by Alexandro Jodorowsky and Moebius (Humanoids)
If you haven't already tracked down a copy of this slipcased book you are probably going to have a hard time doing so unless you want to spend more than retail. Humanoids, which has been bringing some of Europe's most esteemed works over to the U.S. in English translated versions, collects the entire run of Jodorowsky's science fiction, surreal detective romp. Moebius is one of the greatest living artists in the medium, and his work astounds in this high gloss, oversized (13.1 x 9.7 inches) form.
2) 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking by Paul Levitz (Taschen)
This book snuck up on me, which is pretty hard to do considering its size — 18.4 by 13 inches, 700 pages, and weighing in at 15.9 pounds! Taschen gave Paul Levitz the keys to the kingdom and he oversaw the creation of what most are heralding as the greatest homage to DC Comics rich history yet.
1) Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition by Stan Sakai (Fantagraphics)
Usagi Yojimbo is one of the longest running comic book series in print, and Stan Sakai continues to churn out the tales of his samurai rabbit with regularity. In spite of the very accessible nature of Sakai's story-telling, many have felt daunted about jumping into Usagi given its expansive history. Fantagraphics has treated us with a 1,160-page, two volume slipcase collection that reprints the first seven trade paperbacks worth of content, as well as 50 covers and lots of never-before-seen backmatter.
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.