CBD’s 52Qs | #7: “Which Company Is Currently Putting Out the Best Quality Books?”

Last updated on November 23rd, 2011 at 06:05 pm

Every week CBD’s Editor in Chief Pete DeCourcy asks the question and the crew (and special guests) give their answers, we’ll be doing this for 52 weeks. Tip of the hat goes to the gang at Scans_Daily for the inspiration.

Today’s Question: “Which Company Is Currently Putting Out the Best Quality Books?”

David Diep (News Editor, Part time Comic Shoppe Employee, All Time Sexual Dynamo)

Are we counting imprints as separate entities? If so, I would definitely have to say that Vertigo is publishing the best books out there right now. They are definitely pushing for quality over quantity with books like the Unwritten, DMZ, Fables, Hellblazer and the like. A significant % of their books are top-shelf material compared to their bigger daddy and uncle company; DC and Marvel which put out a lot of good books for sure, but they also publish a significant amount of crap. But if we’re putting imprints under the line of their parent companies; I would have to say that Marvel is putting out the best stuff even if the good stuff is only a small % of their total output. I refer to the Avengers line of titles, the stuff by Jonathan Hickman except for Shield which I find boring and pretentious setup and the on and off Spider-Man. DC’s good line-up pretty much consists of only their Green Lantern core titles. Every other series is very hit and miss; especially their Batman stuff. Tony Daniel and Neal Adams are artists not writers, so stop giving them stuff to write. Things like that are what help Marvel edge out DC. I know Image has Walking Dead and Invincible…but that’s all it has, only Robert Kirkman’s stuff seems to really be worth a damn.

Kevin Boyd (Director of the illustrious Joe Shuster Awards Committee)

If we are going by Quality in terms of packaging design I would say that IDW, Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly are all putting out the most original, best-designed books on the market. Fantagraphics loses points for shipping books with dust jackets without shrink wrap, but come to think of it the best designed material is all repackaged comic strips and art books. IDW gains points for the orginal design work done with material like The Rocketeer Artists Edition, the Complete Rocketeer and the Parker books – but in each of those examples I would have to credit editor Scott Dunbier and his designers for making these great packages — the rest of the company churns out multiple itinerations of GI Joe, Transformers, Angel and Star Trek books which are pretty standard design comics and trade paperbacks. So I guess when it comes to the best designed books I would have to go with Drawn & Quarterly for making each release a work of art in it’s own right. Yay Canada! Some other Canadian companies producing great packaging are more Montreal-based publishers – the Joe Shuster Award-winning company La Pasteque and up-and-coming publisher Conundrum Press.

As for Quality of material between the covers, that’s a more difficult decision. I’m not overly impressed by the offerings from Marvel and DC and all of their respective imprints these days. When it comes down to it, it ends up being more about WHO is doing the books as opposed to what the books are about so every publisher has it’s pros and it’s cons. As someone said, Johns, Morrison, Lemire and Willingham at DC, Bendis, Brubaker and Millar at Marvel, Kirkman at Image (along with a few indie books like Chew and Skullkickers). Dark Horse has Powell, Mignola, Arcudi and Davis…. I guess when I look at it like that the company that least disappoints me month after month is probably Dark Horse as The Goon, Hellboy and BPRD are all consistently great books.

Anthony Falcone (Writer of Whosoever Holds This Hammer)

I feel that I speak for all of us when I say that Jim Balent’s Broadsword Comics puts out top quality stuff month after month.

And now for my serious answer. I would have to say that no one is putting out consistent great quality month after month. I would agree with Kevin that Dark Horse gets the de facto gold star due to it being the least disappointing of the bunch.

Overall quality in comic books has its peak and valleys, and right now we are in a valley. Sure there is some great stuff out there, but mostly companies are not delivering a solid product across the board.

Fans have noticed this and sales of issues are slumping as well (I know that the economy has something to do with it as well, but normally escapism entertainment weathers a recession well) and in August no title sold more than 100,000 copies. Note to companies: stop with these ridiculous cross-overs and make your flagship titles quality again. Readers want to read and buy good stuff, but you need to give them a chance.

For any fans out there who are dissatisfied with new books on the selves I would urge you to head into your local comic shop and ask the retailer what they recommend from their back issues or trade paperback sections. The funny thing about comic books is that there is already so much great stuff out there it would take a lifetime to read.

Also, Image sucks. And Kirkman ain’t so great. Battle Pope my ass McBain!

Scott VanderPloeg (writer of CBD’s Bound Together column; his ramblings can be found blogged at  eBabble. )


IDW is putting out the best quality books. Design is a key part of their process; IDW is an acronym for Idea and Design Works. They tailor the final product based on the project material: paper type, book layout, extras, format, size, stitching, dust jacket. Take a look at any IDW hardcover and really give it a good once over, ignoring page content and paying attention to its production. There’s something very satisfying reading a well crafted story in a well crafted package.

Four examples of varying material that benefit from their fit and finish: The Rocketeer Artist Edition, The Art Of Ditko, Parker: The Outfit, Rip Kirby.

Shelley Smarz (Comic Book Daily’s resident Comic Book Goddess)

I’d have to say Marvel.

In the last little while, Marvel’s consistently been putting out a stack of good books every month. (That’s not to say that they do, occasionally put out absolute crap, but for the most part, they have the best reads.) I’m really enjoying the Heroic Age event by Marvel (mostly due to Bendis) and I consistently enjoy Brubaker’s work on Captain America. At the same time, I’m suffering a bit of event fatigue which is exacerbated by the fact that Marvel can’t be content to just release/tell good stories but they have to make A UNIVERSE-CHANGING EVENT(!!!) out of every single storyline (there’s usually an event for the main Marvel Universe and the X-Universe once a year).

Andrew Ardizzi (Roving reporter for CBD and student of journalism at Humber. He writes for the Humber Et Cetera. You can find him at his blog Come Gather ’round People Wherever You Roam.)

Which company is currently putting out the best books? Eek. Good question.

Let’s start off by saying I love you all equally, dear comic book companies (:D). There are however too many books at Marvel or DC that have disappointed me, or are just flat out ridiculous. There are characters on both sides I love. Over at IDW, there isn’t much for me there. Other than Angel and Kill Shakespeare, there isn’t much, and Angel is moving back over to Dark Horse anyways. Finally, although Boom! has quite a few cool titles, I’ve not read enough of them to award my stamp of consistency. I’ve got a copy of Kill Audio in hardcover though, and it looks to be a potentially strange, hilarious read.

That leaves us with Dark Horse, a company I’ve not been disappointed by, whether we’re looking at Terminator, Serenity, or Buffy. It helps that I’m a fan of all three, but then add Star Wars and BPRD, and you have a fairly solid base. And with Angel coming back to the fold next year, the Dark Horse library is only going to get stronger. I’m never dissatisfied by their books, so I’ll go with Dark Horse.

Chris Howard (From Egesta Comics, one of the masterminds behind the fan favourite webcomic series Dressed For Success)

Which company is currently putting out the best quality books? Scholastic! Yup, a childrens book publisher. their Graphix imprint is still fairly new, but considering their flagship book is BONE, they leap ahead right there. The company that got Jeff to re-do BONE in colour, and are now publishing not only spin offs like Rose and the Tall Tales collection, but an all new BONE story.

Add to that Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet, Reina Telgemeier’s Smile and Baby Sitter’s Club adaptions and original works by Doug TenNapel and Holly Black.

The books are well made, SMILE has a hit of silver ink on the cover, the Amulet books are beautiful. and Scholastic is behind them. I went to Word on the Street a couple weeks ago and Scholastic’s comics were not only featured but selling briskly. And never forget the Scholastic Book club, bringing their material into schools via the monthly orders and library placement.

with the concern about getting new young readers interested in comics, Scholastic is leading the way. And BONE fer freaks sake!

Comic Book Daily, discussing the minutiae of comic book collecting. Thanks for stopping by; if you like what you read please take a moment and have a look around.

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