A Look at Marvel’s Softcover Masterworks
Marvel’s David Gabriel and Cory Sedlmeier spoke with the Marvel Masterworks fansite about their collected editions plans for 2009, as Marvel kicks off its 70th anniversary plans. The biggest news is that the 20 year old Masterwork program will add softcover editions beginning in January.
Gabriel explained, “They will be issued one per month in the original running order of release. There will be a regular edition and a variant that resembles the marble hardcover variants. The first edition is listed in the January previews, and we’re just putting February together now.” The first Masterwork was Amazing Spider-Man volume one and will retail at $24.99.
These softcovers will be added to the 16 new volumes planned for 2009, which will push Marvel’s Masterworks library to 126 volumes. DC’s similar Archives library, in comparison, has only a handful of titles planned for 2009 and have reformatted the hardcovers as their Chronicles line.
Sedlmeier added, “As readers know, the softcover Masterworks will be mirroring the release order of the hardcover line begun all the way back in 1987. The approach taken back then was not to restore the original comics’ coloring, but to recolor the books in what was then a modern style. When the program was reignited with new editions in 2004, I felt historical accuracy was something readers valued above a bells-and-whistles reinterpretation.
“That approach is now law, so the softcovers will be seeing restoration to bring any material not restored to match the original comics’ coloring to up the level of quality and historical accuracy readers see in our new hardcovers each and every month.
“A lot has already been accomplished through the Omnibus line and the new printings the Masterworks hardcovers have seen over the course of 2007 and 2008, so there’s a lot less restoration work cut out for us than there would be if we were starting from scratch.”
The trade dress for the Masterworks evolved through the years from the original “marble” look to an interim design from Comicraft until the line was spruced up in 2002. Currently, the current trade dress is available as the standard format while the marble look is offered as an alternative at a higher price to cover manufacturing costs. The look of the softcover line will be a modification.
“The front cover features a bold, dominant type design (in silver as a nod to the hardcover Masterworks) against a black background, and to spice it up, the talented Dean White will be digitally painting the cover artwork over the original artists’ line art,” Sedlmeier revealed. “The variant/direct-market exclusive softcovers will feature the marble-style design that has been part of the Masterworks from the very beginning. There will be minor variations between the softcovers and hardcovers. Instead of having a separate marble color for every series, every variant will have the same marble color, and the foil stamping the hardcover variants have won’t be part of the softcovers. We have a great opportunity to attract even more readers with the softcovers, but we still felt that the hardcovers should retain a special distinction as the apex of Marvel collections.”
Marvel initially collected only its Silver Age offerings but has more recently begun lines dedicated to its Timely days and its 1950s incarnation as Atlas Comics. Both will be continuing. “The great advantage of the Golden Age is that many of the series like Daring Mystery, USA Comics, All-Winners, etc., are very compact—only two to four volumes each—so a focused line will allow us to complete each series relatively quickly. I certainly don’t intend to shy away from yet to be initiated series like, Young Allies, but I’d also like to tick off a few complete runs in short order.
“The Atlas Era is quite possibly my favorite period right now. There’s so many different genres and titles to choose from. I’m loving pre-Code horror. You can’t argue with big monster comics, and the ’50s heroes are a pleasure. Man, I can’t wait to get started on our next new Atlas Era genre. It’s going to be a pretty adventurous one.”“