Book of the Month

Book of the Month – Wally Wood’s EC Stories Artist’s Edition

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Wally Woods Artists Edition_HC_Red


Size: 144 pages
Price: 125.00

I like to joke, and so do my co-workers, that the bigger the book, the better. You offer me a choice between a single issue or a trade paperback versus a giant book and I’ll take your oversized hardcover collections, your giant omnibuses, and your novelty display tomes. And I’ll take them every time.

But friends, I was not prepared for Wally Wood’s EC Stories Artist’s Edition from IDW Publishing.

Let’s rewind more a moment and start back at the beginning. When IDW first announced its line of Artist’s Edition books with Dave Steven’s The Rocketeer I was pretty interested for a number of reasons. First, I’m a big fan of The Rocketeer. Second, I think that Dave Stevens is an unappreciated genius. And third, this was going to be a chance to see high quality reprints of Dave Stevens’ original pages in their original size, something I would probably never otherwise get to see in my lifetime. In 2010 at San Diego Comic-Con we attended a press event held by IDW and Scott Dunbier—the editor behind these books—gave us a sneak peek at the Dave Stevens volume. When we opened up the book all three of our jaws hit the floor. The Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer Artist’s Edition was a masterfully put together and loving tribute. It was an art book for comic book art. I hadn’t planned on buying it, but after seeing the books for myself there was no way I couldn’t. That book went on to win the Eisner Award for Best Archival Project and Best Design.

In the intervening years there have been Walter Simonson’s The Mighty Thor Artist’s Edition and John Romita’s The Amazing Spider-Man Artist’s Edition. I’ve bought them all and I’ve loved them all, but nothing could prepare me for Wally Wood’s EC Stories Artist’s Edition.

Original art in the late 1940s and early 1950s was larger than it is now and because these editions reprint at the original size, Wally Wood’s EC Stories Artist’s Edition measures in at 15” x 22”. That’s right—this thing is almost two feet tall. When I opened the box it was delivered in I nearly doubled over in laughter. I had ordered the Romita edition at the same time as this Wood edition and so they shipped together. Previously I thought that the other Artist’ Editions were massive, but at 12” x 17” they are a full four inches shorter. The difference was pretty staggering when you put them together.

I give you all of these details because what IDW Publishing is doing with these Artist’s Editions aren’t just reprinting comic books, they are reprinting experiences. They are recreating moments in time. The pages themselves are high quality color scans so you can see the blue lines, you can see the purple “Silver Printed” stamps, you can see where mistakes were whited out and fixed, you can see the doodles and the notes in the margins. You don’t purchase Wally Wood’s EC Stories Artist’s Edition because you really want to read the stories—though you can certainly do that because in a time before digital production the books were all hand lettered on the pages themselves—you purchase it because you want to appreciate the work of a comic book legend, as close to as that work was originally presented without actually owning the pages themselves. It’s very easy to open up this book and let it envelope you and transport you to another time and place. When I open up Wally Wood’s EC Stories Artist’s Edition I like to pretend that I’m back in the EC offices in New York City in 1948. I can almost hear the din of the general hustle and bustle of a publishing office and maybe Al Feldstein, Harvey Kurtzman, and I are just now looking over the new pages from this Wood kid.

And, oh boy, Wally Wood. That’s really what this all is about, isn’t it? These books are great glimpses into the past but they would be nothing without the art on the pages and Wally Wood is a comic book legend, a literal Hall of Famer. Two things stand right out when you look at these pages. The first is that Wally Wood is a master storyteller in that old school comic book style. There are no splashy layouts or innovative page designs. He just tells the story, straight ahead and with a sense of confidence and mastery you don’t often see these days. The other thing that leaps out, and it’s something Wood is famous for, is his use of shadows. There’s a lot of ink on these pages. He does so much with negative space to create not only mood and tension but also time and place that you can clearly see the influence of Wally Wood’s work in people like Frank Miller. This is especially the case in the second part of the book that features war stories.

And that’s another great thing about this collection–it showcases a time in comics when superheroes were not the dominant force in American comic books. Before Dr. Wertham and before the Comics Code Authority effectively put EC Comics out of business you had sci-fi comics and war comics and comics featuring medieval knights and jungle adventures. All of that is on display here, wonderfully illustrated by a legitimate comic book master.

Now, originally these Artist’s Editions were intended to be printed once and never reprinted. They are produced in conjunction with either the artists, or their families and estates, and the deal is said to be to create special one time only editions. But the response to Wally Wood’s EC Stories Artist’s Edition was so overwhelming that it caught IDW Publishing off-guard and the book, and its overprint, sold out almost immediately. So just recently IDW Publishing announced that they were taking an unprecedented step and issuing a second printing of this book, which you can pre-order now ahead of its release in the summertime.

Yes, it’s a giant book, and yes it’s expensive. But it’s also a must have for anyone who takes a serious interest in the history of comic books and appreciates the work of a legend like Wally Wood.

Conor Kilpatrick
Seriously, the thing comes up to my knee.
conor@ifanboy.com

Comments

  1. filippod filippod (@filippodee) says:

    Do want. Shall sell a kidney.

  2. lifesend lifesend says:

    Conor, I’m curious how you, and others who may have this wonderful book, actually read this? I have to seat it up on my sofa and bring a chair up to read it, which isn’t very comfortable. But it’s so worth it. I bought it for the art, but the stories are pretty good, too, at least the ones I’ve read.

  3. Neb Neb says:

    An unexpected Book of the Month, but a solid pick in the end. Nice review. Those books sound really cool, but I just don’t think they’re my cup of tea when you factor in the cost and the fact that they’re more art driven than story driven. This would be the type of thing I would love to look through once or twice, but maybe not necessarily own. Really glad to see books like this sell out and get lots of support because diversity in the market is a good thing.

  4. Simmons Simmons says:

    I got some EC reprints at a garage sale, and was extremely pleased with the level of story telling. That classic style is parodied a lot today, but man is it not good story telling, lots of words and carefully laid out panels.

  5. Wally Wood is one of my favorite artists and it makes me really happy to see him getting some love. Hopefully hearing about this will convice some folks to check out some of his EC work.

  6. Me Wantee!

    Seriously these Artist Edition books by IDW has been a great idea for the company. This just looks fantastic and I would love to own it.

  7. Jikorijo Jikorijo says:

    I think I’ll put this on my Amazon wishlist.

  8. Hornhead Hornhead says:

    I cannot describe how excited I am for the Daredevil: Born Again Artist’s Edition thats coming out soon.

  9. MadMartigan MadMartigan says:

    I got mine last month. Seriously, this thing is freakin awesome. I’ve been collecting these also, and it’s officially making my library look off balance.

  10. mickmac59 mickmac59 says:

    I agree with every word, Conor. This is going to look so nice sitting next to my John Romita Sr edition. :)

  11. abstractgeek says:

    This is a fantastic book, the best of all the artists editions so far. even the publication design is great. I especially love how Wood uses duotone board, both as whole pages and in spots where he cut it out and pasted it to other pages. This also reinforced how artists like Wood ( and Dave Stevens) look better in black and white. I think the Simonson and Romita books were great, but their work is very well suited to color. The richness of the blacks, and the beautiful feathering, duotone and shadowing i think are harmed by color. Wood is a master of the brush, and this is an amazing showcase for it. In addition, the previous artists editions all published work i had already read, so i never bothered to try to read them, only poured over the art, but for many of these stories, this was my first exposure, and despite it’s size, it’s still pretty readable. As much as love love Mazuchelli, this one will be hard to top.

    Im glas there is more EC work coming in this format. I really want to see Byrne and Perez artists editions. there is plenty of their original art out there. A dealer at c2e2 had nearly a complete Byrne FF issue for sale.

  12. icn1983 icn1983 says:

    Wally Wood might be my favorite comic book artist of all time. Great pick.

  13. MrGlass MrGlass says:

    I’ve picked up all these artist edition books and they are amazing! Great pick conor. The one I really can’t wait to see is the next one out, the Will Eisner Spirit book.

  14. CaeuZokul CaeuZokul says:

    Just got it from In Stock Trades!

    THANKS, iFanboy!

    • CaeuZokul CaeuZokul says:

      Correction here.

      As I write this, Wally Wood’s book is on its way to me directly from IDW. Thank you, IDW.
      This is the kind of book you pass down to your Comics/Creative kin. …After you’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.

      It’s ABSOLUTE PROMETHEA Book Two on its way to me from In Stock Trades. Thank you, InStockTrades. All in all, a good time to be an iFanboy.

      Crap! ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed’ might intercept these before me! What do I say??

      …And in other news: 22 INCHES TALL!!!?

    • CaeuZokul CaeuZokul says:

      Update: Got ABSO-PRO vol II without a hitch. Now waiting for Wally Wood…

  15. Firevine Firevine says:

    Oh shit, Mars is Heaven? Thanks, Conor, I’m going to be out $125 now. I love that story. I listen to old X Minus One shows from time to time, and I really enjoyed that one.

  16. player1 player1 says:

    I really need to own this epic tome.