I just finished Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition and visited my local comic shop to see about volumes after that. The Fantagraphics hardcovers were oversized at 8×11″ and really brought out Stan Sakai’s art. The Dark Horse volumes are smaller than standard size, more like manga volumes at 6×9″, yet cost the same as a standard comic sized trade paperback. This raised the question for me: to what extent does size and format matter?
For the record I’m rounding sizes here to spare myself. I’ve previously covered my love of DC Absolutes and that same oversized hardcover format from other publishers, about 9×15″. At that size you can immerse yourself in the artwork and you have to move your eyes around the page to read but can focus on the really small details. Ultimately comic page size is about enjoying the art; the story is enjoyed at any size unless you can’t read the word balloons.
Currently most comic pages are produced on 12×18″ pages so publishers can size it anywhere down from there. The only book I’ve seen at full art page size is The Rocketeer Artist’s Edition from IDW: it’s stunning but pricey, heavy and awkward to read. Would I buy more books at that size: absolutely! No one ever said collecting made sense.
The problem for me is the relative age of the material: older and harder to get material is easier to buy than current work. Absolute Ronin was a great purchase, aside from the large artwork, because this was the first time it was collected in hardcover format and it was over twenty years old. Harder to purchase are things like Absolute Green Lantern Rebirth: a fairly new series that’s seen hardcover and softcover collections. For me the fresher the story in my mind the less I’m willing to pick it up in another format. Of course that same logic prevented my purchase of Absolute Authority and Absolute Danger Girl, for which I’m still kicking myself.
And that brings up the price/size/format ratio. Marvel has the Premiere hardcover format, 7×10.5 inches. That material is usually then released in softcover format at standard comic size, 6.5×10. The price difference is about $5: is the hardcover format and a slightly larger size worth it? In my mind it is, but I prefer hardcover books as they stay open when reading, are much sturdier so they hold up over the long haul and seem to have better overall fit and finish. Half and inch extra in both directions is hardly noticeable but it’s the perception when holding the two that makes the difference, and perception is reality.