It’s the most wonderful time of the year – and if you love TPBs and hardcovers, this has been a wonderful year indeed. Fantagraphics alone has collected Pogo, the classic Disney comics by Carl Barks and Floyd Gottfredson, and has announced plans for the cult comic strip Barnaby by Harold and the Purple Crayon author Crockett Johnson. Marvel’s reprinting everything from the acclaimed 1980s series Strikeforce Morituri to the critically-derided 1990s event Avengers: The Crossing…we’re not sure why this exists either.
Even bigger, the long-in-limbo Flex Mentallo by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely will come out in hardcover next year, finally allowing fans to read it without paying exorbitant back-issue prices or resorting to other, less ethical means.
Which leads us to wonder: What’s next?
During a post-Thanksgiving traffic jam, this writer found himself thinking of a wide variety of classic comics he’s always wanted to read, or books he enjoyed in the past. And so, a list was compiled of books that deserve a reprint, as a little suggestion to the bigger publishers; a list so large that it spawned three parts.
Maybe it’s a long shot, but did you ever imagine you’d live in a world with collected editions of Dial H for Hero and Rocket Raccoon? Sit back and see what you think of these suggestions – and feel free to add to the list yourself.
For this first installment, we’ll take a look at a number of worthy comics that are out of print because the legal rights are tied up for one reason or another. These range from all-time classics to fan-favorite runs to a few buried gems.
Marvelman/Miracleman: The biggest “want” among comics fans is a collection and completion of Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman’s revisionist take on the 1950s Captain Marvel knock-off. Hugely influential on modern superhero comics, its combination of superheroic sense of wonder and realistic issues and violence set the tone for the darker take on heroes of the 1980s. We’d explain the complex legal issues tying up the book, but we’re not sure even we understand them.
Marvel has done some reprints of the original 1950s stories, but that’s not what most fans are looking for – and it remains to be seen if 2012 will be the year this mess gets resolved.The Micronauts: The fact that this 1970s hit was adapted from a toy line means the rights are tied up to the point that even back issues of other Marvel comics featuring the characters can’t be reprinted. A shame, because the book still holds up – especially the first 12 issues, a mega-epic SF story featuring mind-blowing art by Michael Golden.
An oversized, recolored reprint of the book would be welcome by many fans – especially if the profits went to help writer Bill Mantlo, who created the storyline for the characters, and has been in assisted living since being brain-damaged in an accident. While we’re at it, let’s also call for some reprints of Mantlo’s other great toy-based book, ROM.Spidey Super-Stories: Again, we’re not sure how the licensing works out for this 1970s young-readers series designed to tie into Spider-Man’s appearances on PBS’s The Electric Company. But they’re beloved enough that early issues actually fetch big prices at cons.
It’s worth at least a “Best of” compilation to allow readers to relive such bizarreness as the cosmic villain Thanos attacking Spidey in a helicopter...with his name on it.Marvel’s Planet of the Apes Stories: Currently, BOOM! Studios holds the license to the classic franchise, and is doing a great job – particularly on Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes, a 1970s-style story co-written and illustrated by Hulk artist Gabriel Hardman.
But it’d be great if BOOM! could get the rights to reprint the stories from Marvel’s 1970s Planet of the Apes magazine, which adapted all five original movies and featured some great new stories with art by the likes of Mike Ploog.
These tales captured the sense of dark satire that made the Apes a hit – and if Dark Horse can reprint Marvel’s Conan stories, here’s hoping Dr. Zaius and co. can make a comeback as well. Malibu reprinted a few of the movie adaptations in the early 1990s, but it’s unclear who holds the reprint rights at this time.Shang-Chi, Master of Kung-Fu: The character remains a fan favorite at Marvel, but his original series has the major hitch that the character was created as the son of pulp novel villain Fu Manchu – and the rights to that character are tied up with the estate of his creator, Sax Rohmer.
The book features killer writing and art by Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy – and plenty of fans who want to re-live Shang-Chi’s battles against his fiendish father.Ultraverse (Firearm/Prime): The Ultraverse was one of the rare bright spots in the 1990s superhero glut, and several of their books deserve a second look (others, we’ll admit, don’t deserve a first look). Key among them are the early issues of Prime, featuring wonderfully goopy art by Norm Breyfogle in a twisted variation on the Captain Marvel story.
Also well worth reprinting are the 18 issues of Firearm, a great complete story by James Robinson with art by Cully Hamner and others. Marvel acquired Malibu, the publisher, but issues with paying the creators for the characters mean they’ll remain in limbo for some time to come.Beavis and Butt-Head: MTV’s dimwitted duo have recently made a comeback, once again proving smart stupidity never goes out of fashion. One of the hits of their initial reign was their Marvel comic book, which actually launched as the company’s top-selling title just below the X-Men.
Though the overall run was mixed, every issue featured wonderfully detailed art by Rick Parker, along with B&B’s commentary on current Marvel comics (“PUNISHER KICKS ASS!” “When Punisher kicks ass, it stays kicked!” “Yeah, and it doesn’t kick back!”). And there were a few tales that stretched the boundaries of B&B’s universe, such as the one where they were abducted by bug aliens.
There were several reprints at the time, but perhaps now it is time to reprint the reprints…or follow MTV’s lead and bring the title back.Quantum and Woody: When Valiant Comics rebooted as Acclaim Comics, the undisputed critical hit of the run was Christopher Priest and M.D. Bright’s take on the World’s Worst Superhero Team, who had a teleporting goat, an arch-enemy who wasn’t, and were not a couple. Their book inspired a cult following, a goat “inaction” figure and an aborted quasi spin-off, Concrete Jungle. Still, they were not a couple. They were pretty insistent on that last point.
Killed with the rest of the Acclaim line, Quantum and Woody were revived due to fan demand…then promptly vanished again. Valiant is dropping big hints about a comeback next year, but will Quantum and Woody be among them? Will their missing issues be released, and their stories be reprinted? Will Priest be lured back to comics to tell new tales with Bright? And though times are more liberal now, will Woody still insist that they’re not a couple?Neil Gaiman’s Teknophage: Back before Hollywood actors made it fashionable, a line called Tekno Comix launched a number of books based on concepts by well-known authors that were then turned into comics by other writers and artists. One of the bright spots was this psychotic steampunk horror from a Neil Gaiman concept, turned into a comic by Rick Veitch and Bryan Talbot.
Set in an insane world of skyscrapers on tank treads where souls were a source of power, it was the saga of an evil telepathic Victorian tyrannosaur named Mr. Henry Phage, the rule of this wasteland. Sort of a corporate Darkseid, Phage was the villain in several Tekno books, but his Mature Readers tales in his own book were violent, hilarious, horrifying stories, like a Terry Gilliam film with an infinite budget.
The non-Veitch/Talbot issues were also strong stories by Paul Jenkins; they’re well worth reprinting, along with Mickey Spillaine’s Mike Danger (a fun tale of a PI zapped into the future written by Road to Perdition’s Max Allan Collins) and John Jakes’ Mulkon Empire (a demented SF saga from the creators of Omaha the Cat Dancer).
Next: A look at some specific runs from long-running books by great creators that deserve a new chance in print, and later: Great series that Marvel, DC and others deserve to collect.