Do you ever wish that you had a money tree of your own? Y’know, the sort of thing that would allow you to buy all the comics your heart desires. I know I would like having one, but like all of you, I have to pay for my comics with hard-earned cash.
And I have so many comics to read. See, I’m still new at this whole comic book thing. I have some vague understanding of some of the more iconic heroes, but my overall experience with the comics they come from is still lacking.
I’m a rather analytical and methodical man. I look at a problem and find a solution. So, given my problem, my lack of comic book experience, I set out to find the ideal solution.
The obvious path would be to acquire any comic that is appealing to me in its original form. You can’t beat the original prints of comics; I’ve no plan to say otherwise. Unfortunately, when I’m wanting to read character origin stories from the Silver Age, buying the original prints quickly becomes expensive (if only I could find a money tree!). I’d love to be a collector, but I’m not nearly wealthy enough or die-hard enough to start picking up original form comics of everything I like.
Another option would be digital distribution comics. Marvel in particular has a rock solid digital comic service with a great buffet-style subscription option that would get me a whole lot of reading material at a good price. But this isn’t entirely appealing to me, either. At the end of the day, I have no tangible copies of these comics. I’m enough of a collector to want actual books on my shelves, y’see. Luckily for me, I found an option that allows me to build a physical collection and keep my costs extremely low: over-sized reprint volumes.
Marvel’s Essential line and DC’s Showcase Presents line are roughly equivalent products. In both cases, you get 500 or so pages of reprinted comics from the Silver Age and Bronze Age (and even the occasional Modern/Copper Age collection) for around $15 USD retail. Sound too good to be true? It kind of is. In order to keep costs down, these volumes are printed in black and white on cheap paper. What this results in is what seems like a scripted coloring book. It’s a definite turn off for some people, and the books are pretty much guaranteed to be missing from serious collectors’ libraries. However, for people like me, people who want to see the history of comics and the origins of characters at a low price point, these product lines are wonderful. It’s true that something is lost in the absence of color, but the scripting and line work remains. That may not be enough for everyone, but it’s certainly enough for me as I finally experience the work of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for myself. Moreover, thanks to these product lines, my obsessive-compulsive need to build my collection from the very beginning can be satisfied. By sticking with these budget reproductions, I can amass a library of content on the cheap and save my pennies for selective purchases of favorite issues later.
I’m going to hazard a guess here and say that most of you are already aware of Marvel’s Essential and DC’s Showcase Presents lines. However, just in case you’ve chanced upon this article and didn’t know of these lines, I thought I would share my appreciation of them with you. They’re a great and inexpensive entry point into countless series for newcomers like me.
Au revoir, mes amis.