Is There A Ceiling To Reprint Prices?

May 2013 solicitations came out a few weeks ago and one that caught my eye was Tarzan: The Sunday Comics Vol 1: 1931-1933 by Hal Foster. Here’s the blurb from Dark Horse.

Tarzan The Sunday Comics 1931-1933 coverBeautifully restored and printed at giant size, this first volume in Dark Horse’s comprehensive collections of Hal Foster’s Tarzan Sundays reprints over one hundred strips on high-quality paper and in eye-popping color, replicating their appearance when they were brand new! Featuring historical essays on Tarzan and Foster, this astonishing volume is a must for every collector! Collecting every Tarzan Sunday strip from September 1931 through September 1933! From Hal Foster, creator of Prince Valiant! Introduction by Mark Evanier!

  • Dark Horse: July 31, 2013
  • Format: FC, 120 Pages; HC, 15″ x 20″
  • Price: $125.00
  • Age range: 12
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-61655-117-9

Without question this will be a beautiful book, capturing an otherwise neglected period in Hal Foster’s career. At 15 x 20 inches they’re printing them at or almost the size the strips originally ran in the newspapers.

Two options for the source material: either scanned newspapers or printer proofs. Proofs look much better and give a cleaner product, but they’re not always available. Scanning original newspapers require someone to go over them and do a lot of corrections, if only to combat the yellowing of eight year old pulp.

My concern is to what level is the material being worked, updated and “beautified” to meet this very high price tag. While it might not be fair I’ve purchased a few Dark Horse reprint hardcovers, such as Nexus, and the reprint quality was poor. Others like the Manara Library are clear and very well done. Brain Boy lies somewhere in the middle.

Little Nemo In Slumberland So Many Splendid SundaysReally though, that eye-popping price is what has me concerned. $125 for 120 pages of material is a lot to swallow. At first it struck me as a new high, but Sunday Press Books and their Little Nemo hardcovers are 128 pages, 16 x 21 inches for $125. Not too hard to see where Dark Horse found their price model. Yet Sunday Press is a very small publisher with a few employees doing all the work of scanning, correcting and publishing.

Fantagraphics and their Prince Valiant line is the best bargain right now: 112 pages, 10.25 x 14 inches, $35. All from printer proofs with high quality print and binding.

I noticed a Dark Horse price hike with the Manara volumes: $60 each instead of the usual $50 for that size and type of material. Yes it’s a little larger than a standard comic, but the last few have been completely black and white. Of course supply and demand dictate but they must be selling, and I admit to buying four so far.

In the end I’m just whining about paying that much. I already know I’ll be buying this first volume to see what it’s like, and Amazon is offering it as a preorder for $68.68 so that helps the sting, but just a little.

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Scott VanderPloeg
Scott works in I.T. but lives to eat and read. His other ramblings can be found at AE Index and eBabble. Art collection at Comic Art Fans.
Articles: 1230

6 Comments

  1. Good point: thanks for mentioning it. IDW sells their Artist Editions through their website for $100-$150. The 12×17″ ones average 150 pages and $100, the Wood volume was 144 pages, 15×22″ for $125 so it’s the best comparison. Plus they collect and reprint the original artwork. A better deal than the Tarzan presented above.

    It’s worth noting these are printed in colour and show the blue lines, notes and yellowing of age that the original artwork carries. I don’t have a legitimate reason to think these are much harder to put together and therefore somewhat justify the cost.

  2. I will be getting the Tarzan book, as I love Foster’s work. At first look I was going to pass because they announced a much smaller size at a ridiculous price, but I agree Scott — one has to wonder about why the cost is so high considering how affordable those amazing Fantagraphics Prince Valiant collections are.

    There seems to be a general confusion out there as to how to price these hardcover collections. Sometimes the high prices are justified by the cost of the restoration involved (such as Artist’s Editions), other times it’s just to be consistent with other volumes in the series (Vol.1 was $50 therefore Vol. 12 must be $50).

    The Marvel Masterworks, Dark Horse Archive and DC Archive prices are currently ridiculous for new volumes, but dirt cheap for older ones as those publishers offer them at reduced prices a few times a year. With these publishers scanning older comics for eventual digital reproductions, why are the paper consumers penalized for supporting print editions?

  3. Personally, I wouldn’t go over $50 for any reprint book under 200 pages,unless it reprinted some very desirable and hard to find copy. I might buy this book, but it would have to be less than $50.

  4. I have the 1993 NBM/Flying Buttress Classics Library version of this specific book (ERB’s Tarzan in Color Vol. 1: 1931-1933) and the price point for the softcover was $24.95 and it is roughly the same size as the Fantagraphics Prince Valiant hardcovers. There was a hardcover edition as well, probably $10-20 more expensive.

    While the new one probably won’t have the same articles and introduction by Bill Blackbeard that the old version had, they do seem to be generating new content for the Dark Horse Edition. Ultimately it will be interesting to compare the quality of the reproductions.

  5. I love Tarzan, but I agree that price is way too high. I recently bought some used copies of Batman The Sunday Classics as well as the Superman volume. The were printed in colour and seemed to be full size, at least to me. When these books came out the were around $20 each or so. What is so different about the Tarzan books to warrant that high price? I can see if it was an Artist’s Proof edition similar to the Joe Kubert edition a while back, but strictly as a reprint? I won’t be buying it unless I find it used for twenty dollars or less.

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