Jiminy Christmas! | DC Clearing Archives Again

I've looked at the ever waning list of upcoming Archives and even questioned in this column if the line was being discontinued. It seems a strategy is becoming clear: low demand reprints will appear in Archive Editions and high profile material will appear in Omnibus editions.

DC is having another fire sale through Diamond on their DC Archive Editions line.  It’s the same list of books they tried clearing out last year; remarkably none of them sold out.  This means lots of comic shops and online retailers will have DC Archives available for deep discounts in the next few weeks.  Last time around I picked up about thirty and drastically expanded my collection of DC silver age reprints.

I’ve looked at the ever waning list of upcoming Archives and even questioned in this column if the line was being discontinued.  It seems a strategy is becoming clear: low demand reprints will appear in Archive Editions and high-profile material will appear in Omnibus editions.

The last two Archive Editions to be announced were Sugar And Spike Volume 1 and Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane Volume 1: both collecting 1950s material that will have a limited appeal.  Counter that against Jack Kirby Omnibus Volume 1 and Steve Ditko Omnibus Volume 1, big name creators that should get a decent audience buying.  Companies are in business to make a profit so it’s nice to see DC pursuing limited appear material; unfortunately DC Archive Editions fans pay for it.

I was at my local comic shop yesterday chatting with one of the owners: he doesn’t stock DC Archives or Marvel Masterworks as they’re too expensive and have a very limited clientele.  In fact he sold off all his stock at $20 a piece just to get them moving; yes, I bought most of them.  This is a diverse and well-managed store in a high traffic area: I can’t imagine these books moving much volume in most shops.

Finding old material, scanning it, restoring it and packaging it is a time-consuming affair.  Many times every panel needs some touch up, inks and or colours.  DC charges $60 for a standard comic sized hardcover on average 250 pages.  That’s a lot of money but to be fair Marvel is doing the same work and charging the same for their Masterworks line.  Others like Titan, IDW and Fantagraphics are getting into the field and pricing far lower.

In fact there’s a boom on for reprint material and DC seems to be targeting it with their Omnibus line.  For $50-$75 they’re presenting the contents of two DC Archive Editions volumes at a larger size, significantly undercutting their own books.  At this point the restoration work has been done so to repackage the material is easy and profitable.  It would be interesting to know why restored silver age material is suddenly significantly cheaper: better technology, more original material available, increased sales volumes?

Any way you look at it collected edition readers and collectors have material available at low prices, for now at least.

Scott VanderPloeg
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.

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K. Mizzle
13 years ago

It’s sad to think of a future without Marvel Masterworks or DC Archive Editions.  I remember being in awe the first time the local store owner’s son let me look at the first printing of the Spider-Man Vol. 1 Masterworks, when I was a child, in 1991.  Those first edition style dustjackets (now limited edition) were so ornate!
What a fantastic design and presentation!  I also like the DC Archive Edition dustjackets, as well, but not as much.
I completely understand the publishers’ and dealers’ side of this issue, however.  I only wish that the Marvel Omnibus and DC Absolute Edition formats had as great covers as MM/DC Archives.  That is to say, ones that don’t make me embarrassed to have them on my bookshelf.
I also wish they didn’t make them separate product lines, but that they had either released “King Size” Masterworks/Archives or made the individual volumes cheaper.  That wish ties in with my issues with the covers for the new lines.
I hope they keep these long-running reprint series going, even if it is in limited quantities and at higher cost to us (in the primary and secondary market).