Forsooth, yon readers of Newsarama! A strange disturbance hath ripp’d the cosmos asunder! This July, there be a new compilation of the classic 1980s Thor run by Walter, Son of Simon…but not from Marvel!
Yes, IDW, who doth chronicle the battles of the Warriors of Cybertron and yon 30 Days of Night, art publishing Walter Simonson’s The Mighty Thor: Artist’s Edition, a black-and-white oversized compilation filled with enough artistic power to stop Surter himself in his tracks! But what is this strange volume, and how did it come to be? For answers, we did speaketh to yon editor Scott Dunbier, who did putteth it together. Much geeking on great artists did ensue. Read on!
Newsarama: Scott, let’s talk about the Artist’s Edition of Thor to start. It has confused and terrified a number of fans, as it is a book with a Marvel character being published by a company that’s not Marvel! What’s up with that?
Scott Dunbier: We noticed that. It’s exciting, it’s fun. We knew we’d be turning a few heads – cats and dogs living together, right?
Nrama: How did this come about? Marvel’s recently done an omnibus of Walt’s work
Dunbier: Which is a terrific book, by the way. I think a case can be made that it’s the best run on Thor ever – tremendous work by a great creator at the top of his game.
Nrama: But your edition is like – what, the black-and-white Carl Barks Library of the 1980s?
Dunbier: I wouldn’t compare it to that or similar books like the EC Library. Those books are great, and they’re oversized and printed in black and white, but this is something different.
This is the second Artist’s Edition; the first was the Rocketeer by Dave Stevens, which came out last year. It’s a book that is scanned from the original art in color, so when you see the printed pages, it appears to be in black and white, but it’s really in color.
You can see all the little nooks and crannies. You can see the whiteout. You can see the corrections. You feel like you have the actual page in front of you. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to print a book that really shows you what great original art looks like up close and personal.
Nrama: So this is the same size as the original art?
Dunbier: Right, the same size. Comic book pages from that era were 10 by 15 inches, approximately, so these books – the Dave Stevens book and the Thor book – are 12 by 17 inches, so you can have, for the most part, the full paper as well as the art. You’ve gotta have the full art board printed too, so you can see all the little scribbles and notes in there.
We’ve had some complaints from people that they don’t have big enough bookshelves for the Artist’s Editions…unfortunately, I don’t have any real response to that other than, “Sorry, not my problem!” (laughs)
Nrama: Will there be any extras, such as essays?
Dunbier: No, we wanted the art to speak for itself. It’ll be very similar to the Rocketeer book in style and content. You had asked about how this came to be – I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank the folks at Marvel for making this possible.
When we got the advance copies for the Dave Stevens book, I sent copies to a number of people, and at the top of the list were the folks at Marvel. I put a note saying that I’d be interested in discussing a number of possible artistic candidates, and amazingly enough, they were interested in talking about it! We had some nice chats, and a very productive meeting at San Diego, and a year later, we’re on the cusp of releasing this book.
Nrama: Any plans for other Marvel Artist’s Editions?
Dunbier: Yes. We have three others planned right now.
Nrama: Aaaannnnnd I’m sure you’re going to have a lot of people guessing what they are…
Dunbier: Yeah, I’ll be curious to see what your readers’ guesses are. One thing they should remember is that to do something like this, you need the original art—you can’t just use old black and white photocopies. It’s just not possible to do every series on your wish-list, not while maintaining the high bar we’ve established.
Nrama: What’s that process like? I’d imagine you’d have to go to a number of collectors…
Dunbier: For the Rocketeer book, most of the pages were in the hands of the family. Dave Stevens had sold or given away a number of pages, most of which we were able to track down. There are only two pages in that not shot from the original artwork.
For the Simonson book, it was much easier, because Walter keeps all of his artwork. So the seven issues that will be reprinted in the Artist’s Edition, he had every page of original art!
Nrama: I know there’s a lot of Marvel books fans would love to see Artist’s Editions of, like Michael Golden on The Micronauts or Paul Gulacy on Master of Kung-Fu, but there’s licensing issues that keep them from being reprinted…
Dunbier: And the original artwork is scattered to collectors around the four corners of the world. We’re going to be announcing at San Diego, possibly earlier, some other Artist’s Editions we’re doing. Besides the Marvel ones, there’re some other books, and some older material as well.
Anything before 1966 was done twice-up, as opposed to one-and-a-half times up, which means the original art was about 12 by 18 inches, so any Artist’s Edition from that era would be a 15-by-22 inch book—how about that for insane?
Nrama: (going mad with nostalgia) Good lord, Steranko Nick Fury at that size, or Ditko on Dr. Strange, or Nick Cardy or Gene Colan or Jim Starlin or…
Dunbier: There’s tons of stuff! You can dream about hundreds of different great projects that would be beautiful in this format. It’s just literally the ability to track down the original art for it that makes it possible, which is why these books will be so rare, and so special.
Nrama: And it sounds like there’s going to be a mix of Marvel and creator-owned books…
Dunbier: We have some licensed books, and some creator-owned stuff too.
Nrama: I get the sense that these editions are a real passion project for you.
Dunbier: Oh yeah. Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve been an original art collector. When I was a kid, I collected sketches by Jack Kirby, Alex Toth…anyone I could find whom I liked. Artists were always so gracious; I’d be a 14-year-old kid calling them out of the blue, and they’d go, “What’s your address?” and mail me a sketch.
When I got older, I started going to conventions and buying original art, and I was actually an art dealer before I became an editor. Original art is definitely a passion of mine.
Nrama: Any highlights of your collection?
Dunbier: One of my favorites is a Captain America sketch by Jack Kirby that he did when I was about 16, of Cap waving and saying “Hi, Scott!” That’s definitely a sentimental piece for me, something I’ll always treasure.
Stay tune’d to yon Newsarama for more chronicles of Dunbier’s forthcoming productions from IDW! And be thee warned -- Walter Simonson’s The Mighty Thor: Artist’s Editions shall strike with the force of Mjolnir itself this July! Also, there art some Thor movie or something in cinemas this weekend. You might find that interesting.