Book of the Month
What did the
Size: 144 pages
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.
Seriously, the thing comes up to my knee.