I explain the Cerebus Bi-Weekly image eventually.

§ July 27th, 2020 § Filed under cerebus, publishing § 14 Comments

Okay, so about a week ago we were talking about comic book reprints. Specifically, sustained reprintings of entire series or runs, which was brought up because of the forthcoming “Walkin’ Dead in Living Color” series that’s about to be unleashed on us on a biweekly basis. Did I mention last time that it was going to be biweekly? Yup, boy howdy it’s biweekly, a thing that seems…less supportable in the modern marketplace unless it sells for under $3.99 a pop, so I am reconsidering my opinion on whether it’ll be around the full eight years to complete the series.

And I just logged into the Diamond retailer site to check…the first issue (with its multiple covers, natch) is indeed $3.99. Well, gotta pay for them fancy colors, I guess.

Matthew notes

“Kirkman already did a Walking Dead reprint project with The Walking Dead Weekly in 2011. It reprinted the first 52 issues of the series weekly for a year after the TV show premiered.”

I…completely forgot about that. I mean, we carried them all at my previous place of employment, but I don’t think I’ve had a single copy of it turn up in any collections or whatever since I’ve opened up my own store. Like Matthew says later in his comment, print runs seemed to be well under 4,000 copies each in the latter portion of the run, so I suppose it doesn’t surprise me that I haven’t seen them around much. I seem to recall them selling relatively well…not huge numbers, but pretty close to sell-outs and moved reasonably well as back issues.

I suspect the main reason for the low numbers was the availability of the trade paperbacks, which would likely be the preferred method of catching up on a series that suddenly rose to prominence in the public eye and may have started to attract readers who weren’t normally comic book consumers. I mean, yes, sure, there are always a few folks who are driven to comic shops by something they saw on TV or in movies who want the “authentic comic book experience,” which means buying a stapled monthly off the new arrivals rack, but most folks interested in catching up would probably prefer the bigger chunks they can pull off the bookshelf instead of trying to piece it together issue by issue, either through the weekly reprints or the certainly now pricier back numbers of the originals.

Which is why they’re emphasizing the fact that this new color Strolling Fred series is not…well, here, let me pull the direct quote from the solicitation:

“This deluxe, definitive presentation of the story in full color will NOT be collected any time soon, so these single issues will be the only way to experience this.”

And I imagine this will last until sales start plummeting because people coming late to the color series will not be able to find the early issues, which will be long out of print, or they will find them but at greatly inflated prices. Unless there’s a plan in place to keep everything in print for the duration, which, c’mon, let’s not kid ourselves.

What the series does have going for it, aside from, you know, the novelty of color, is backmatter. Series notes, commentary, abandoned plotlines, etc., which will be of interest to the Stalking Ted completist. And, of course, would be a way to get those fencesitters who aren’t necessarily enthused about color, but may be attracted to the idea of learning more about the series, so, you know, completists, like I said.

What this reminds me of a little is Cerebus Bi-Weekly. Now, I own every volume of Swords of Cerebus, reprinting the first 25 issues of Cerebus, and including extra commentary by Dave Sim as well as new cover art and a short story original to the collection (or originally printed outside the series, like the “Silverspoon” strips from the Comics Buyers’ Guide). When I got into Cerebus in the mid-1980s, around issue 70 or so, I started buying the back issues, but decided the Swords books were good enough for the earliest installments, and focused on buying 26 on, to wherever I started picked them up new off the rack.

(Okay, fine, I went to the Grand Comics Database to try to figure it out…issues 74 and 75, the Jaka issues, were the first I’d read, thanks to pal Rob, and I think it was around 79 to 81 when I started buying them new. But I, as they say, digress.)

So anyway, I had the stories, with extras besides, from those early issues. I didn’t need to buy the Cerebus Bi-Weekly series, reprinting each of the first 25 issues in order…but what they had that the Swords of Cerebus volumes didn’t were the letters pages, and editorials, and extra features, and whathaveyou. It was a full reprint of the contents of the original, and since part of the appeal of Cerebus was the occasionally rolicking letters page, and just he whole package in general, it was nice to get a replica of that experience. And thus, I ended up buying all 26 issues of the series (with #26 reprinting some of the material that appeared in Swords of Cerebus, as well as several “Single Pages,” a feature that ran in Cerebus Bi-Weekly that presented work from various cartoonists).

In short (like anything I do on this site is ever short) I double-dipped on stories I already had because I wanted to get my mitts on the extra material. (Note I didn’t buy the follow-up High Society reprints, as I already had the original issues…but apparently the reprints also included sketchbook pages, which in retrospect I would have been interested in seeing. Ah well.) Perhaps the extra material in The Technicolor Dead will grab folks the same way.

Like I mentioned, I’ll be picking it up only because I didn’t the first time ’round, and it’ll be interesting to see if they follow through on doing the entire series (and by the time it’s done, I’ll be 60 years old or purt’near — ack). Also, the solicitation says this is the “definitive” version, meaning they intended it to be color from the start, so I’m buying it the right way, not like all you suckers who bought it in black and white. Hey, don’t get mad at me, I’m just reporting the truth!

Okay, more on the Marvel reprint stuff next time, for anyone I didn’t manage to just alienate right now.

14 Responses to “I explain the Cerebus Bi-Weekly image eventually.”

  • From #67 in the end of 1970 to #93 in 1975, _-Men comics were all reprints (of issues 12 through 45). The milestone that stopped this? The fabled Giant-size X-Men #1, natch.

    I mention this because those reprints were my introduction to the X-men and formed my version of the “real” group forever.

  • Thom H. says:

    My introduction to the original X-Men was Marvel Triple Action #45. Which also introduced me to Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. I have a soft spot for those characters to this day.

    Colorizing previously B&W comics makes me think of the latest incarnation of Age of Bronze. It’s digital-only in single issues now, printed only in trades. And it’s being colored — poorly — both going forward and retroactively.

    As you can tell, I’m not a fan of the color. I feel like the Trojan War is singularly suited to being a story told in black and white. Not to mention the flat colors distract from Eric Shanower’s amazing line work.

    I might be the only living fan of Age of Bronze at this point, but maybe someone else on the internet is thinking about it? Hello?

  • John Lancaster says:

    Re: Thom H – Nope, there’s two of us out here. Followed Shanower from his Oz work. Even met him a few times when the series was new – 20+? years ago now!. I don’t do digital, so I just wait out the collections. I do not like that coloring either. He’s too good of an artist to be ruined like that. I wonder if he realizes how damaging to the story that color is?

  • Michael Grabowski says:

    Other recent serial color reprints of original b&w comics were the From Hell Master Edition and the newish Usagi Yojimbo Color Classics. From Hell wrapped up early this year. Usagi has something close to 200 b&w issues, but perhaps a series with that kind of ongoing longevity already can attract enough newer readers to keep this re-presentation going.

  • Randal says:

    In 1988 Marvel did Tales of G.I. Joe…the series was only six years old at that point. I also remember them doing digest reprints, too. Conan Classics reprinted early Conan…that was in 1994. Roy Thomas’s commentary made it worthwhile, something he thankfully continued to do in the Dark Horse trade reprints.

  • Thom H. says:

    @John: Glad I’m not alone! I’m waiting for trades at this point, too, since I have the rest of the series in physical form. And Shanower must not understand how distracting the color is. At least I don’t think there’s any outside pressure for him to colorize his work. I’m glad he’s finishing the story, but ugh.

    I’m also a huge fan of From Hell, and while the color version didn’t look terrible I don’t think color added much to the story. As a quasi-historical story and a horror tale, I think it benefited quite a lot from its moody B&W atmosphere. Maybe some judicious color in the flash-forward scenes would have been interesting, a la Big Numbers.

    Are there readers who won’t pick up B&W work (like some people don’t watch B&W movies)?

  • John Lancaster says:

    @Thom H – If the coloring was more like what some of the early covers were, I think it would be better. I’m sure that’s more time consuming. I remember reading somewhere that it took the colorist 7 years to get A Thousand Ships story done. I’m not happy that these collections only appear to be coming in TPB, since my others are all HC. I was kind of indifferent to the choice for From Hell. I’ve got my originals and the big phone book. If it gets someone new to pick it up, who am I to argue – I just don’t need to see it.

    And yes, I learned in my years at the shop that there are definitely people that are averse to B&W comics for whatever their stupid reasons are, and they are the same people that won’t watch B&W movies and didn’t understand widescreen when it first hit home viewing.

  • John Lancaster says:

    And as a follow-up to that, I also found that most of those kind of customers (not all), weren’t really comic readers/collectors, they just liked Batman (or whatever). I’ve always been confused and dismayed when I’ve talked with customers that seem to have been buying comics for years and then they just dismiss certain projects because its B&W, or it has a different format, or it’s “not important” because it’s a mini series…or any number of weird excuses. It just turns into “I really like Punisher ‘casue he’s cool” – It’s not a love for the medium.

  • Thom H. says:

    I have a feeling a lot of the decisions around Age of Bronze are being done out of economic necessity. I just don’t think it has the fan base it needs to justify the cost of higher quality coloring or publication in hard cover, unfortunately.

    The long hiatus surely hasn’t helped, but I’m sure that happened because Shanower was making a lot more money on his Marvel Oz adaptations than on his indie work. As a collector, though, I agree that it’s irritating to have the format change in the middle of the run.

    Interesting about some people’s avoidance of B&W books. And funny to think that some folks had to really consider whether or not to buy Batman: Black & White.

    If you have time and/or interest in this question, Mike, do you see that same kind of aversion to B&W material at your shop? Do you think some people are finally going to board the Walking Dead train specifically because they’ve been waiting for it to be colorized? You mentioned it briefly in your last entry about this topic, but I’m wondering how prevalent that attitude is.

  • Chris V says:

    I ended up buying the first so many issues of Classic X-Men even though I had already collected the original issues as back-issues, because I needed to read the bonus Claremont or Nocenti short stories.
    Marvel found a way to get me to buy reprints of comics I already owned.

  • Hal Shipman says:

    I LOVED the ’70’s reprint series. In the days before trades, they were the best way to get old stories.

    Like Walaka, the X-Men reprint era was my entry to the team – starting with the Factor 3 storyline. The three I remember were Marvel’s Greatest (FF – my intro to Kirby), Triple Action (Avengers) and … I’m totally blanking on the name of the Spider-Man one.

    But the key was, to your Walking Dead observation, there was no other avenue to read the older stories.

  • Jon H says:

    Is that a Man-Thing eye on that Cerebus Bi-Weekly image?

  • Adam Farrar says:

    “I have a feeling a lot of the decisions around Age of Bronze are being done out of economic necessity. I just don’t think it has the fan base it needs to justify the cost of higher quality coloring or publication in hard cover, unfortunately.”

    To the point of B&W avoidance, I think the point of colorizing the work is to get over that hurdle in trying to reach a wider audience.

  • Thom H. says:

    @Adam: That totally makes sense. I’m not sure doing a bad job of the coloring is going to convince anyone to buy it, but let’s hope it brings in enough new fans to allow Shanower to finish the story.