Don Rosa in Review – The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck Artist’s Edition Volume 1

Cover Life and Times Artist's2

When I reorganized my room to accommodate two new bookshelves, I had to be economical with my use of space. Sure, there are my trade paperbacks, but there’s also my computer, some storage, actual books, a Nintendo Switch with an enticing Shantae: Half-Genie Hero for me to finish, a desk and a bed… mini-house fetishists would be proud. But the thing I’m most proud of, in terms of ingenuity, is my reading area. I’ve specially dedicated the space to reading, to keep me free of distractions. A fold-up stadium chair, a repurposed cushion, blank space on my shelves for what I’m reading at the time, even a makeshift table for my netbook, a place to store whatever I’m eating… and giving my cat a place to sleep.

Don’t you even start judging me.

The thing is, as proud as I am of this reading area, there is exactly one book in my collection which alters the look and feel of the space to something less ingenious and more in the realm of ridiculous. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you The Don Rosa Artist’s Edition – The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck Volume 1.

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Showing Off The Shelves – February was WEIRD

Last month was weird. Since my last Showing Off The Shelves, things avalanched. I mean, they avalanched personally, but so did my collection. Three different jobs landed in my lap, all of which can lead to a lot more. My initial acceptance letter to one of them, (before I re-drafted it) was “Wow, I’m happy to do that, but how the fuck did I trick you into saying yes?”

I’m going to start this post off by giving a special thanks to The Nostalgia Zone, the comic book store I frequent most (this is not the mob store I have mentioned in other posts, if you go in there to ask a question the owner won’t say “Who’s asking?”). Thanks to them, I was able to find some remarkable deals. Some of them were things I’d been looking for already, some of them on the edge of my radar, and one big ticket item that I never thought I’d get my hands on.

As it happens, they were having a sale on Groundhog Day. I know I said Don Rosa in Review was in hibernation, but while I won’t be digging into the story in that article, I will discuss what I found: The Don Rosa Artist’s Edition.

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How To Collect JLA (It’s complicated)

Justice League, historically, has had problems with its collections. The new Justice League International Omnibus printed some pages in the wrong order, for example, and outright omitted some dialogue. This was corrected in the second printing, but I’m glad I cancelled my pre-order anyway. Justice League America (yes, that’s really what the title is, distinct from Justice League of America) is collected in a way that is so convoluted it would require a separate article to explain. Fortunately, I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about collecting what many, myself included, believe to be the best version of the Justice League: JLA.

JLA #1

JLA, which is not the same comic as Justice League of America, is the 1997 incarnation of Justice League. The book ran for 125 issues with numerous writers and artists, but Grant Morrison and Howard Porter’s run in particular is legendary. Epic in scope and scale, it used iconography to inform their characterization and keep the characters relatable in a way that is similar to the DC Animated Universe. It’s elegant and streamlined, never truly requiring the insistent continuity that can make team books a more difficult read. If something does change within a character’s solo title, you see it, but it isn’t a plot point. Superman is still Superman, even when he’s Superman Blue, and that’s all that matters.

In Morrison and Porter’s run, the art is gorgeous, highly stylized, and a treat for the eyes. But I don’t want to make JLA sound like it’s entirely their effort, because JLA includes iconic stories like Tower of Babel, later (loosely) adapted as the animated movie Justice League: Doom, the Dream Team arc, beautiful pencils from Bryan Hitch and Mike S. Miller, even the reunion of Chris Claremont and John Byrne – a feat that I can only assume required a contractual guarantee that they would never have to be in the same room.

The JLA collections doesn’t have the same problems that other Justice League titles do, but understanding why there are different editions of the same comic and what those differences are took me at least a week. But I eventually figured it out, and I want to share the fruits of my labor so that no one ever has to deal with this nonsense again.

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Wonder Woman Rebirth and Deluxe Editions

Wonder Woman Rebirth

As promised in my Showing off the Shelves article, whenever I work on something over on K. Tilden Frost’s blog that fits mine too, I’ll make sure to cross-post it here. Fortunately, co-writing, similar tastes and interests means that should be happening quite a lot. So check out this piece on how to get the right version of Greg Rucka’s second tenure on Wonder Woman with Wonder Woman Rebirth: Wait for the Deluxe Editions.

Let’s make sure we’re on the same page. Some of DC’s most popular titles come out twice a month. In order to create visual consistency, Rucka’s Wonder Woman has alternating artists between issues and two interwoven plots: one for odd numbered issues, one for even numbered issues. In its original, single issue form, this created an incredible, critically acclaimed story. But when it came time to put it in trade, DC decided to fix what wasn’t broken, breaking it in the process.

Rare books have no value

I own a lot of trade paperbacks. There are a number of reasons I buy trades rather than collect single-issues – space, price, knowing everything’s (probably) in order, bonus features – but there is a major drawback of this format that is completely unnecessary. That drawback is, of course, the dreaded rare book.

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Whatever you think the rarest book in this picture is, you are almost certainly wrong.

With the advent of the internet there are very few things you can’t find, so I’m not talking about this as a matter of treasure hunting or calling every store in your state – although I have done that to find a few books – or about limited editions specifically (I have no love for these, they punish fans who weren’t in to the series when they came out, and lead to the exact problem this article is about) What I mean by rare book is one where a volume containing 5-8 issues goes for $40 to $80 when the cover price is $20, or the third volume of an otherwise inexpensive series going for $150 to $300. This is ridiculous for a number of reasons, but the one we’re talking about today leads to one of my biggest pet peeves in comics: this is not new reader friendly.

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We are our own worst gatekeepers: Showing off the Shelves

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It’s beautiful, isn’t it?

I have an odd relationship with my trade paperback collection. It often grows faster than I can read, I have no illusions about that. There are numerous great deals out there if you know where to look, and after years of collecting I know where to look. It spans from 1924 to 2017, though the New Year means that I technically have nothing current. Yet. But for a long time, I have been bothered by my inability to feel comfortable as a collector and reader in relation to other fans. To use a term I hate, I felt as though I was not connected with the zeitgeist, that the works I loved were not in step with the material so many adore.

But I have fifteen trades in the mail this month, covering a wide range of times and styles. Spanning from Mickey Mouse’s newspaper strips from the 50s, the creator-owned Sirens from George Perez, 90s comics with Superboy and Robin, X-Men Classic, the first run of Michelinie and Layton’s Iron Man, New Teen Titans, the 1989 printing of Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Knights of the Dinner Table, all the way to DuckTales… and it occurred to me as I wrote this that I can’t be the only person reading these. Maybe the people who are reading them aren’t talking about it as much, maybe they’re in circles I don’t travel in, I don’t know. But if I’m to review things I love, I have to be comfortable with what I love – and what I do not. There is a presumption of inexperience in not appreciating a nebulous canon, a strange form of elitism perpetuated to allow for ‘true fans’ – gatekeepers even amongst ourselves, when what I care about is opening the medium up to as many people as possible.

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Comics, Barriers to Entry, and Ultimate Spider-Man

D - Omnibus (Barnes and Noble)

News of Brian Michael Bendis signing an exclusive contract with DC had me thinking about Ultimate Spider-Man, arguably the best thing he’s ever written. The voice of the series is singular and unique, and the consistency of Peter Parker’s characterization and writing makes him a lot more like Jack Knight than the original Spider-Man. As part of a separate continuity (which I would explain to a layman as ‘Like how the movies aren’t the same as the comics’) known as the Ultimate Universe, it’s also incredibly accessible to new readers. So when I was at a used book store talking to a guy who wanted to start reading comics, I recommended a copy of Volume 1 – Power and Responsibility without hesitation.

And my appreciation is precisely why it is so frustrating to deal with the way that Marvel has collected this series. Not just for me, but for the potential millions of readers for whom picking up the title is a horrific amount of work. That might seem dramatic, but one sentence alone can illustrate where prospective (and experienced) fans can and will get stuck:

There are eight Volume 1s of Ultimate Spider-Man.

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