Some Thoughts on David Mazzucchelli’s Daredevil: Born Again Artist’s Edition

Last month IDW released David Mazzucchelli's Daredevil: Born Again Artist's Edition (that's a mouthful, let's call it DMD). It contains color reproductions of the original artwork for Daredevil issues 227-233 (1986), comprising the entire "Born Again" storyline created in collaboration with Frank Miller. Very simply, the story follows Matt Murdoch/Daredevil as his life is dismantled by his nemesis, The Kingpin. He loses faith in himself and the world, then regains it. Miller conceived the story and then he and Mazzucchelli collaborated very closely, as described by the artist in his unexpectedly candid and moving introduction:

This is why we chose not to separate the credits into writer and artist; because although technically I did no scripting and Frank did no drawing, I was contributing ideas for plot, characterization, and storytelling (such as the succession of title pages charting Matt's descent), while Frank was describing the contents of each panel in his scripts.

Mazzucchelli's introduction is also a brief but incisive character study of both himself and Miller, describing not just their working relationship but also, more unusually, their relative positions within the comics business at the time -- Mazzucchelli the newcomer and Miller the older hitmaker.

The gentle, informative tone of the introduction continues by virtue of the material assembled around the ink on board originals. Mazzucchelli wisely asked to include  a handful of vellum overlays to show how certain production effects were indicated or achieved -- in effect to demonstrate the "incompleteness" of the art-on-board. There are also both pencil layouts and color images of the actual printed comics. It's a tacit acknowledgement that the drawn pages being (let's face it) fetishized in the book are one piece of the finished comic book puzzle. That what we're looking at when we look at comic book art is necessarily incomplete. So we're really viewing a very peculiar mode of drawing -- one that anticipates and leaves out, and one that is made to be altered. What brings the visceral intrigue, of course, are those drawings as they are. These pages are energetic, beautiful and more concerned with mark making and expressive drawing-qua-drawing than I anticipated.

So here are some thoughts on the project, the artifacts, and the drawings.

1.  While this is a book made more for looking than for reading, I couldn't stop reading it. It's Miller's finest application of his hard boiled noir obsession to comic book heroes. There's an emotional intelligence here that immerses us in the particular world being depicted, so that the characters around Daredevil, particularly the writer Ben Urich, assume primary importance. Urich is intimidated, his wife is nearly killed, and finally he himself kills, all in harrowing detail, and all because of the ripples from his subject's actions. Yes, the Catholic redemption of Daredevil is important, but nothing is more (to use Mazzucchelli's phrase in his introduction) gut-wrenching than watching the smashed up lives of the minor characters.

2. This is helped tremendously by Mazzucchelli's restraint. Again and again throughout his career Mazzucchelli has adhered to a show not tell, and even then, show only what's necessary approach. Here, even as a young man, he avoids obvious histrionics and melodrama. And given the subject it would've been very easy to indulge. But he doesn't.

3. However, Mazzucchelli was very physical on these pages -- there are glimpses of the Baselitz-cum-Panter approach he would employ in Rubber Blanket, but mostly I was struck by how much he treated these surfaces -- the long-outdated techniques he had to employ on board in order to achieve illusory printed effects. Look at this page and think of the deduction necessary to get from concept to drawing to screen application to color. That’s a lot of knowledge in one page.

4. As the artist acknowledges in his introduction, these pages were done by a young man. And it's fascinating to observe the artist training on the job. In comic book form the differences are mostly covered up by the coloring. But looking at the original drawings shows an artist learning and experimenting as he goes. The artist who did this fine but relatively conservative cinematic sequence...

...is very different than the artist who uses nervous linework, abstracted figures and subtle body language to achieve this sequence:

5. Mazzucchelli crafted some of the best down-and-dirty action sequences of in comics, employing a kind of Toth-ian clarity in combination with urgent linework and tone. The viewer always knows where the fight is going, who is doing what, and the brutality of it is, if anything, accentuated, because everyone looks human and breakable.

6. This brings us to Mazzucchelli the image maker. It's fairly unusual for an artist, particularly one working where Mazzucchelli worked, to be able to construct iconic, powerful images within a page. Already effective in color, I found these even more startling as unadorned drawings.

Here is Ben Urich in deep fear, all expressionist lines, a stand-in for the reader's reaction. It's a radical departure from realism, and one Mazzucchelli takes just enough times throughout the book to make each of those moments important punctation marks in the narrative.

And this is still the the best depiction of post-1980 superheroes. The Avengers as majestic (and somewhat malevolent) enforcers. There's no Kirby-esque dynamism here -- just level images of imposing government authority.

7. It takes looking at dozens of pages in sequence to pick up on all the long-gone artifacts that litter each page. They highlight the oddity of this particular kind of comic book art -- it's pure functionality. I mean, these are drawings not on a blank piece of board but on official comic book art board, complete with slots for "Book", issue # "page #". There are text edits on the page, production notes, wite-out, miscellaneous dirt, and most pages were cut at the corners when removed from the photostat machine. Basically each page is a glorious mess.

8. Finally, there is a publishing story in these Artist's Edition books: Marvel is allowing outside editors and publishers to work with its back catalog. Granted, it's a limited edition and a very particular kind of project, but it's a good sign. It's easy to forget that Marvel is sitting on some incredible cartooning (Aside from the probably too-hot-to-handle Kirby and Ditko, think of Wolverton and Everett; Gil Kane is on the way.) that could use far better treatment than the current "Masterworks" series allows. Obviously this is mitigated by the availability of original art, the vagaries of the marketplace, and a million other factors, but I've found this series heartening, and, in terms of concept and scholarly value, DMD is the best volume yet.


67 Responses to Some Thoughts on David Mazzucchelli’s Daredevil: Born Again Artist’s Edition

  1. D. Peace says:

    Thanks for this article. This was easily one of the best comics of the 80’s and I’m tempted to pick up this edition in particular for Mazzucchelli’s commentary and IDW’s excellent treatment of archival material. Yes, it was Miller’s purest noir while still writing for Marvel and Mazzucchelli’s expressive, humanist character work and clean, effective storytelling are masterful. Good observation on his subtlety and knowing when to pull back. Like jazz, it’s the notes you don’t play. And, yes, even developing from page to page.

    Observation no. 5 was striking because it’s disappointing the sheer number of artists working in action-adventure comics who are uninterested or unable to convey the visceral details of a fight scene in a way that’s both hard-hitting and also grounded enough in real physics that it still feels human. Fight scenes this excellently choreographed feel strictly old-school, it’s a lost art.

    Great piece.

  2. James says:

    As much as I admire Mazzuchelli’s work on these issues, I am perfectly happy to save my money and have just the original printed comics…the artwork was done for reduction and color reproduction and is most complete in that form. Pages like the one with the zipatoned submerged car seen above lose a lot when seen in the present edition; in this instance the zips have shrunken over time, so they no longer hit the borders….it is sloppy looking and doesn’t really reflect what the art was intended to look like.

  3. Frank Santoro says:

    thanks for sharing.

  4. Daniel C. Parmenter says:

    Intended as this is for the reader who is interested in the processes behind pre-digital comic book making, some of the “wear and tear” is actually a feature, not a bug (IMO). From that perspective, even the slightly shrunken zip-a-tone screens and missing cover logo (visible only as a rubber cement ghost) have a charm of their own. As far as that particular page goes, I’ll admit I’m a sucker for the corflu-on-zip-a-tone thing as an effect. In the printed comics page, one might not even notice the technique, but in an edition like this, it’s the equivalent of seeing the matte painting from a beloved old movie or something.

  5. James says:

    I suppose it may be of interest to those who don’t know what actual original art was about—for instance last time I used zipatone, the editor asked me what program I used to get that effect. Still, these boutique editions seem a little fetishistic. I’m all for it when it is used to finally do something properly, maybe to print something in full color that was done in color but printed in B&W, or for something that got substandard printing the first time round. Or for printing old d&S strips from proofs, etc. But life-size, whiteout-encrusted comic book art, marred with editors’ scribblings? Not so much.

  6. Knut Robert Knutsen says:

    The term “fetishistic” ignores the reality of what this type of edition is about. It’s about reproducing the original art of “Great Masters” in a way that is of interest to people who collect and enjoy artists’ original art.

    This includes artists, who have a craftsman’s interest in the work of other artists. There is often nothing more instructive than looking at that original art to glean the methodology and tools employed. It gives an insight into work process that it is possible to learn from.

    For critics, it is like looking at the marked-up early draft manuscript of a great writer. Again, it gives insight into the work process and can reveal ways to re-examine the work that can prove fruitful. And it gives insight into the relative significance of other contributions as well (like the coloring).

    Yes, for some it may just be about “collecting” with no real appreciation of the art, and that niche might uncharitably be dismissed as “fetishistic”. But there are legitimate, positive and meaningful reasons for producing such editions. There is information about craftsmanship in these editions that the ordinary comic book editions (even Absolute Editions) cannot convey, for which they are inadequate.

    Sure, people can buy the best regular edition if they want, in fact I would hope that people who buy Artist’s Editions also buy copies of the printed comics. But they serve different purposes. The regular Born Again paperback can’t give us what the DMD AE does and Vice Versa. It’s absurd to dismiss the validity of the DMD AE because it’s not a regular comic edition and because that’s what one prefers.

    The most central point here is that to a lot of comics artists dedicated to studying and improving their craft, a book such as this is immensely valuable and deeply appreciated.

  7. Scott says:

    Are you guys ever not nasty to dissenting opinions?

  8. I think it’s even more beautiful this way.

  9. Mazzuchelli’s (almost) entire run on Daredevil is worth a look. Granted, his earlier issues are inked by someone else, and the Denny O’Neil stories (while never outright poor) are not exactly spectacular. The issue with Daredevil fighting it out with the Vulture has some really amazing artwork. Just as good as the “Born Again” storyline a few issues later.

  10. Daniel C. Parmenter says:

    Well said. Editions such as this can be compared to some of the amazing raw audio from Beatles or Beach Boys studio sessions that have emerged over the years. In these recordings you can hear the individual tracks of multi-track recordings before they were mixed/mastered, including mistakes and/or interjections from the engineer or producer (the equivalent of those editorial notes that we see on original comics pages).

  11. Fetishistic or not, it’s amazing to see Mazzucchelli’s best work preserved in this fashion at this size with this level of attention to detail (I’m impressed with the other IDW A.E. volumes as well). It is truly rare, especially in this day of information overload and access, to be granted a comprehensive look behind the veil, into an artist’s intimate processes; to see what he saw at his desk, watch his approach develop, when he was creating a piece of work as beautiful, cherished and important as Born Again. I believe this to be Mazzucchelli’s masterpiece of comic book art. This book is a gift. It’s so nearly perfect I can’t believe it actually exists.

  12. Andrew Farago says:

    I don’t know how many times I’ve read these issues since I first discovered them in the early 1990s, but it was often enough that I’ve got entire passages and sequences memorized.

    That being said, seeing it like this felt like I was reading those comics for the first time. “Born Again” is even more appropriate as a title for this edition than it was before.

  13. sarah horrocks says:

    My main complaint against these artist edition books is that the price point is kind of a built in class distinction, yeah? I would love to see any of these artist editions, but I can barely afford normal comics. So when I see them, it’s like “oh hey, there’s something cool that I’ll never be able to afford”–the irony is that I think for the most part the medium is sort of anti-that. Or it has been for a lot of it’s history. Comics have historically been about access. These editions are very much the opposite of that. I know there’s not much of an alternative probably–but I do think these books are definitely a bourgeois luxury item.

  14. Chuck Gower says:

    I love seeing the original artwork. It’s just beautiful to see and it gives such a reminder of the human element to the creation of a mainstream masterpiece.

  15. Knut Robert Knutsen says:

    Class distinction, possibly, but arguably so is owning a car, ones own home or having a college degree.

    The price of the entire Artist’s Edition is actually far less than the regular sales price of any one of the pages reproduced. In that respect these editions democratize access to the original art.

    With luck I might go to a convention and pick up some great original art pieces by underrated artists for maybe 20 dollars each. For the price of one of these volumes I could maybe, with some luck, commission an A4-size sketch (half the page size of these volumes) by a name artist.

    One has to look at what the books are for, in order to drag class into it. These volumes are a first-class substitutes for objects that in their originals are valued at somewhere between 200 and 1000 times the price of the AE volumes. And when you get to the Wally Wood and upcoming Will Eisner volumes you can multiply that another ten times.

    It makes extremely costly art objects available in first rate reproductions to a wider audience at a fraction of the price. That doesn’t rarify them, it democratizes them.

  16. AJA says:

    Was that nasty?

  17. Ryan Holmberg says:

    Are these sorts of reproductions really designed as substitutes for art collectors who cannot afford the originals? Is that the motivation of the publisher? Is that who is buying this book?

    I accept that there is aesthetic pleasure to be derived from these sorts of editions, as well as lessons concerning process. But to call “democratizing” a project that is presumably motivated by money seems really naive. Comics are generally too expensive for the average person. Fan obsession overrides what in most other situations would be avoided as a waste of money. The people who buy this book, I assume, are primarily if not wholly fans of the original Daredevil comic book series who must-have the next edition, the next associated piece of merch, the icing on their Mazzucchelli and Miller collection cake.

    This sort of edition might look like an art catalog from a certain perspective, but I think it is more the book-form of “bag and board” habits in the USA — bag-and-board being the representative expression of the present over-valuation of the comic book as a collectible item. From a quick search online, this book seems to be selling over $100! Most lavish hardbound art catalogs sell for well under that. Making art available to the masses? I think it’s the other way around: it’s designed to capitalize on the desires and liberal spending habits of a peculiar mass market.

    There are many not-so-pretty and probably borderline pathological aspects to comics fandom and collecting. I am not against people who indulge those desires. But to prettify that world with appeals to “Art” — “great masters,” “beauty,” art collecting, aesthetic appreciation of craftsmanship — leaves comics writing looking half blind.

    What makes comics interesting, to me, is all the messiness it contains, as fantasy, as commerce, as consumer object, both in the works themselves and in the business and social worlds around it. Scrubbed clean of that and put on a pedestal, comics look really boring — and false.

  18. And they’re much cheaper than books of similar size, with similar reproduction quality and page count, would be in any other field. If this were a monograph on a “gallery artist,” you wouldn’t be able to get it for less than $300 or so.

  19. Oh, Dear Lord … I bought the Wally Wood Artist’s Edition (the 1st I cd afford) and flew with it in my suitcase to show my 90-year-old father back East how beautiful the artwork was, how expansive and grand the images were. I’ll absolutely purchase the Gil Kane and Will Eisner editions (and wish I cd afford to drop the dough on Mr. Romita’s).

    This is the size at which the images were drawn. They are just beautiful. Maybe I was spoiled by having Marvel produce the oversize Jack Kirby Thor Editions when I was still a child, but it’s amazing to see the artwork at anything near original size (and, oh for a world where a Kirby Marvel run of these was possible).

    Buy the dern things or don’t, but as for me, for 100 – 125 bucks I get to see a *run* of artwork that shows the patina of the artist’s workings, and that is a glorious thing to hold.

  20. Kim Thompson says:

    I think there is some overthinking and needless handwringing going on here. To produce something at a reasonable price that enough people really want to buy and enjoy doesn’t seem to me to carry any particular taint of greed or class warfare. Good for IDW for doing this smartly and well. I see plenty of high-end collectible artifacts in European comics in particularly I would like to have but which fail my own cost-vs.-enjoyment standard. (I could easily spend a month’s salary on just Hergé stuff tomorrow.) I don’t think the fact that I can’t afford a four-foot Tintin moon rocket model means its mere existence is an affront to me, or that I harbor dark suspicions about the mental imbalance of those who do purchase it.

    That original comic-book art often has a certain kind of beauty that is quite different from the beauty of the printed version is undeniable. (Invoking the word “fetishistic” here seems needlessly judgmental.) I think every great cartoonist should have his or her own Artist’s Edition, except maybe Jaime Hernandez because his work is so annoyingly perfect that his originals just look like blown-up photostats.

  21. Knut Robert Knutsen says:

    Why this need to treat these books as if they are a fetish? Or as if they’re the equivalent of a trumped up gimmick cover during the 1990s collector’s craze that would sell for 100 dollers with 1000 copies left over in a box under the table.

    The issue is not just affordability but rarity. Dave Stevens – produced very little sequential comics work, most of it the Rocketeer. Walter Simonson – never sells his work, and Aragones rarely does either. Mazzuchelli – the scans came from his own files. And even if you can get some Romita, some Wood, getting the kind of prime pieces reprinted in these books? Hardly.

    The primary market really isn’t the wealthy compulsive collector. It’s artists and original art collectors, people who, precisely, appreciate the aesthetics and craftsmanship of the art in these books.

    And when I said “democratizing” it was in response to the allegations of “class distinction”.

    Believe it or not, but there are lots of artists and fans on very tight budgets who would gladly give 100 dollars for just one page of original art by these guys. Even if it meant that the rest of the month they lived on rice and pasta. They couldn’t’ve because none of these guys’ art comes even close to that low a price, but they would’ve.

    I would’ve and I’m by no means well off. I’ve had to slash my comics budget almost completely to afford these suckers. But DC and Marvel have been very helpful in that by no longer publishing anything new worth buying.

    Look, I realize that some people obviously are blind to how these pages in this type of reproduction can be experienced as masterpieces, great aesthetic experiences or craftsmanship to study and admire “in the raw”. But there are those of us who do. And it has nothing to do with “fetishizing” the deluxe format or a “class distinction” of saying “my books more expensive than yours” or any of that claptrap.

    It’s about the art.

  22. N Savory says:

    To own the next best thing to the original art (which I could never afford) was too much of an opportunity to pass up.
    So I pre-ordered it something like 4 or 5 months in advance at the Forbidden Planet Uk website.
    It was at 40% off the cover price. The money wasn’t taken from my account until it was in stock, so I had time to save up to the release date.
    I could never afford to just walk into a shop and buy it at cover price as I am far from wealthy, but I wanted it.
    It’s a beauty.
    It has what my old art teacher called ‘Marks of the Process’. Lovely.

  23. ryanholmberg says:

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with these books or the fact that people buy them. I get that original comics artwork can be appreciated as art: it’s really not a radical idea. I think it is great these sorts of books exist, and those who do buy them should feel fortunate that the market is large enough to warrant publication. I agree that “class” is hard to measure here: just because someone has an extra 100 USD to drop on this book doesn’t necessarily put them in a different social or economic category.

    But were it not for Daredevil’s popularity, the product would not exist. This book exists as a subset of comics fandom, not a subset of wider (non-comics) artistic appreciation. Of course were it not for the specific artist, there would be no push to market reproduction of the original drawings. But it’s not just the artist and it’s not “just about the art.”

    I am not saying that is bad or good. I am saying it is dishonest to reduce the dynamics of this book’s publication and consumption to pure aesthetic appreciation. It’s a simple point.

    Put this book in a museum gift shop, or any other place where there are book buyers and art appreciators that aren’t necessarily also comics fans. Let’s see how many copies sell on the power of draftsmanship and graphic design alone. And don’t blame an uppity “discrimination against comics” when people pass the book by.

  24. Knut Robert Knutsen says:

    “This book exists as a subset of comics fandom, not a subset of wider (non-comics) artistic appreciation.”

    But that argument goes both ways. Much of “fine” contemporary visual art exists for a small subset of the population, focused on recontextualizations, abstractions and performances.

    You put the giant, striking Wally Wood AE next to a equally deluxe formatted book of photos of freeze-dried and sectioned animal carcasses (which are now art, apparently), and ask a group of people representative of the populations as a whole to decide which one most conforms to their idea of what art should be and Wally Wood would win with a wide margin. The same could be true for most other contemporary art.

    I’m not saying that to invalidate contemporary art, I’m just saying that it’s disingenuous to dismiss AEs because you think they appeal to a very small subsection of the population. The “Avant Garde” of fine art doesn’t win any popularity contests either and are just as small a subsection of the population, if not smaller.

    You seem to be presuming that “art appreciators”, if exposed to these books, would just pass them by. Well, unless you’re limiting the definition of “art appreciators” unnecessarily, I’d stack the chances of these books up against any other contemporary art book out there. They might not compete with mainstays like Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Manet and Monet and Da Vinci and Caravaggio et al., but against what is now called art? You bet.

    A lot of Art is only fully appreciated by small subsections of the population, trained in the “art” of looking at it. Does this invalidate it as art and reduce it to a fetish?

  25. R. Fiore says:

    I don’t know if it’s a fetish, but I do know I jerked off to my copy.

  26. ryanholmberg says:

    I never used the word “fetish,” so that’s someone else’s bone to pick.

    You’re right. Contemporary art does exist for a small and more or less specific community. And that community is drawn to their idea of art for more than just-the-art, as your Damien Hirst example suggests. But it’s not a question of the community’s size. It’s a question of what attracts that community to specific kinds of art over others. So, I disagree: I don’t think most AEs stand a chance in the contemporary art book market, even those AEs that are dazzling displays of draftsmanship, and that is because, in a hierarchy of what attracts people to contemporary art, dazzling displays of technique rank kind of low.

    It’s also disingenuous to shift discussion to Wally Wood when the main topic all along has been Mazzucchelli’s Daredevil. Wood was a stupendous draftsman, and the detail and the pen work (at least in his EC related and early 60s Sci-Fi material) is truly impressive. If AEs ever need an advocate, in any market, Wood should be their man. And furthermore, in Wood’s case, I think, the main argument for him as a world-class artist is made on the same 50s and early 60s work and much less on what he did with the superhero. As for Mazzucchelli, I appreciate the use of space and the movement of bodies in his Daredevil work, and from the images in the article above I can see that this edition clarifies how deftly he handled ink. But without the armature of the story and the superhero, I wonder how truly exceptional one would find his draftsmanship. Maybe I am alone in thinking this, but it seems to me that what makes this work interesting is how it adapts and expands decades-old conventions. In appreciating Mazzucchelli’s Daredevil, I think a strong part is appreciating a genre’s traditions, and without a knowledge and a soft spot for that tradition, I think one is unlikely to fall for the draftsmanship and design itself. I think Wood makes a more forceful argument for itself on the merits of the artwork alone.

    I am not belittling the work, the book, or people’s love of either. I am just trying to better understand the attraction.

  27. Knut Robert Knutsen says:

    Wait. Are you talking about the (contemporary art) book-market or the contemporary (art book) market? Because I wasn’t talking about the (contemporary art) book-market but more book-market in general.

    If someone is predisposed to like Damien Hirst , I can agree that they’re as unlikely to pick up the Mazzuchelli Daredevil AE book as people predisposed to like Mazzuchelli’s Daredevil are to pick up a book about Damien Hirst.

    The question is, to take your example of non-comics readers: If you take a representative cross section of the public, not predisposed to (or perhaps even familiar with) either of these, and offer them a choice between the DMD AE book and a similarly deluxe artbook of Hirst’s work, are we so sure that the “Fine Art” would win?

    And is there really no “Fine Art” argument for AE editions? The recontextualization of raw “manuscript” art pages to reveal the process that creates the powerful illusions of comics and the inversion of the perception of comics as discardable and cheap pop culture? Nothing?

    Come on, I used the words “reveal” and “invert”. If I took a pantyless tabloid picture of Lindsay Lohan, replaced her face with that of Rupert Murdoch in Photoshop and blew it up on a big canvas, using those words, it would be Fine Art. Surely if I just use those words about the DMD AE, it will be, too? ;-)

  28. Knut Robert Knutsen says:

    “I don’t know if it’s a fetish, but I do know I jerked off to my copy.”

    Really? The Mazzuchelli AE, not the Dave Stevens Rocketeer AE or the Wally Wood AE?

    Oh. Right.

    Gotcha. Say no more. A wink is as good as a nod to a blind man.

  29. James says:

    My bad, I said “fetish.” Whoops, it’s just my personal preference not to squander my limited comics budget on these overdone versions of books I already bought once in a cheap form that I am perfectly satisfied with. But here’s a question— who benefits from these editions of faux-originals that act as a placebo for collectors who have money to burn, yet not quite enough to buy actual art from an artist? Do Miller or Mazzucchelli receive any compensation from this, or do any and all proceeds go to further fill the bloated pockets of Marvel/Disney?

  30. Kim Thompson says:

    “Not quite enough to buy…”? If anyone here thinks the ca. hundred bucks for an artist’s edition is anywhere near being in the same league as the cost of an original page by Wood, Mazzucchelli, Stevens, or for that matter Romita (and I suspect Simonson)…

    I would assume that in the case of Marvel cartoonists, the existing royalty system results in some payment to them. Especially since they’re providing new scans of their original art.

    Ryan Holmberg’s idea that the likely fact that these books would fail to sell in a general museum art store proves anything… well, yeah, but put a $150 Monet book in a comics shop and see how well that does.

  31. James says:

    I don’t assume anything in regard to Marvel, that’s why I asked.
    As I said, I admire the work here— this particular version is not for me, but if I had to have an AE book the Wood would be what I’d go for, since he put in tiny details that often are hard to see properly in the original printings. I’m more interested in books such as Fantagraphics’ upcoming Kurtzman edition—it would be great to have all of his best solo stories in one oversized edition and I don’t think they suffer a lot from the lack of color. Hopefully they won’t have a lot of editorial crap all over the margins though.

  32. Jose-Luis says:

    Ask your library to purchase a copy. Or maybe in a 8 months you can find it in the remainders section of a book store. Or… sell your boots!

  33. James says:

    I should just qualify that—-a lot of the E.C. work is very well colored by Marie Severin, However, she says in the book I just reviewed at HU that Kurtzman colored a lot of his own stories and in the case of his solo works reprinted in the upcoming book the color isn’t as prime of a concern—they can work well in B&W. With the Miller/Mazzucchelli work, though, the color is very well done and more essential, it seems to me…it is part of the storytelling, so a B&W edition will suffer from the lack.

  34. ryanholmberg says:

    There’s no question that original comics artwork or its reproduction in print can be appreciated as fine art. After all, it doesn’t take a leap of the imagination to regard well-done figurative drawings in the framework of an old school aesthetic appreciation of technical mastery and dynamic form. I personally might prefer the original book editions in the vast majority of cases, but that doesn’t mean I think the AEs are worthless. They just typically withdraw or subordinate those aspects of comics to which I am attracted: the feel of the page, the color, the momentum across multiple pages, the story, the fantasy.

    The “AE in the art museum shop” scenario that I offered: It was simply meant to highlight the fact that there is more than the superiority of the artistry itself at a technical level that motivates the publishing and buying of AEs, particularly something like this Daredevil book. I don’t think you can abstract the appeal of the art from the dynamics of comics fandom and get a balanced picture of what this book signifies as a commodity or what motivates people to buy it and swoon over it. I think this is a pretty obvious point.

    My comments have nothing to do with the superiority or popularity of Art vs. Comics.

  35. Knut Robert Knutsen says:

    Well, in the case of Mazzuchelli, Simonson and Aragones, they are the ones who provided art/scans for the books, and whatever the royalties arrangement I’m sure they’re quite satisfied with it or they wouldn’t have participated. Simonson even agreed to do an AE of Aliens: The Illustrated Story for Titan UK after his experience with the Thor volume.

    This goes especially for Aragones, as his is a creator-owned property.

    The Romita book was accompanied by special editions signed by Romita, and some even including a sketch, I believe. The only ones not blessed by the actual artist are the ones where the artist/s are dead. Even Kubert spoke up in support of his Tarzan volume before his death.

    Whatever the deal, The artists, IDW and Marvel don’t seem reluctant to produce more, so whatever they get paid or don’t get paid they’re probably OK with it. Personally I would hope that Marvel would just say “Hey give us a dollar and you can make as many AEs as you want as long as they look this great and are this cool.” But we don’t know.

    Reportedly there are artists who have been approached who retain a lot of their original art, and have declined to participate, as is their right. Whether they did so because they felt compensation was inadequate or for other reasons, I don’t know.

  36. depends on the perspective perhaps. To purchase one page of original art of these pages would cost thousands. So looking at it that way, it’s kind of a bargain. Not so different from paying a not-so-cheap $50 for an old Masterpieces hardcover, but those individual old silver age issues cost more than the hardcover too.

  37. idleprimate says:

    it seems Ryan was responding to people saying this is primarily an art book, and appeals within the realm of art, whereas he suggested that the primary market was going to be people who like daredevil and or comics and comics artists. that is why he brought up the idea of how well it would sell as a straight up art book in a museum. you further make the point when you point out that monet might not sell well in a comic shop. your distinction shores up his point that it is a book for comic people, not art people. As much as artists make comics, the audience is comics fans not art fans

  38. idleprimate says:

    has this book been released? I am in Canada, and i don’t see it listed at online shops.

  39. Kit says:

    You couldn’t read all the way to the fourth word of the review?

  40. idleprimate says:

    i missed that, but thanks for the unnecessary snark just the same. you might want to loosen your tie just a little, it’s making you crotchedy.

    At any rate, I live in CANADA, and it isn’t listed on Chapters or Amazon.ca at all, not even as a pre-order. That is what prompted my question.

  41. Paul Slade says:

    It’s not listed on Amazon.uk either. Gosh here in London has copies on the shelves, which I took the opportunity to inspect earlier today. It is indeed a gorgeous publication, but it’s priced here at £100, equivalent to about $159 US at the current exchange rate. I don’t begrudge Gosh their profit – they have a fine store in central London to fund – but I’m not going to be buying it at that price either.

    Of the four IDW volumes Amazon.uk does have, Wally Wood’s is cheapest at £70 for a new copy, and the most expensive is Dave Stevens’ at £430.42 new. I just hope IDW’s Mazzucchelli print run was big enough to leave a few copies for the remainder stores Jose-Luis mentions above, but I’d say that’s looking pretty doubtful at the moment.

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  44. R. Haining says:

    The sad part to all of this is the disparity between the the DMD AE and the mainstream edition. Prior to the Artist Edition’s publication, Mr. Mazzucchelli has stated he recommends the original comic books over the subsequent reprints and the 1987 reprint over later ones. It’s as if the demo recordings of an artist were remastered and the actual albums were reproduced with little care or your choice was between a high quality draft manuscript edition of great novel or a cheap paperback edition.

  45. Grant says:

    I was so impressed with this review that I ordered a copy for myself. I just missed the signed edition by 24 hours. I got paid on a Friday and the last signed copy sold on Thursday. Still, I’m looking forward to it.

  46. Don Druid says:

    “next to a equally deluxe formatted book of photos of freeze-dried and sectioned animal carcasses (which are now art, apparently)”

    Apparently they are.

  47. Don Druid says:

    I have to agree that the diversion of this discussion into the purity of art is a very strange and reactionary place for this site to go.

  48. Grant says:

    I got it today and I must say that I’m extremely impressed. I have many DC Absolute editions. From Moore’s first two volumes (and accompanying scripts) of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, to Gaiman’s Absolute Sandman among others. And I feel that IDW (with an assist from Marvel) has surpassed the formidable Absolute editions with this masterpiece. It’s an illustrator’s dream and can serve as a tutorial for the budding wannabe comic book artist. My biggest regret was that I missed the earlier Artist’s editions of Dave Steven’s The Rocketeer and John Romita’s Amazing Spider-Man. Rest assured I will keep my eye out for future releases. Great work IDW, Marvel and above all Mr. Mazzucchelli! Bravo!

  49. R. Haining says:

    There are plans for a second printing of the Rocketeer, so you’ll have another opportunity to pick it up.

  50. Dominick Grace says:

    Are ther eany plans for a reprinting of the Rocketeer in plain ole graphic novel format without the horrid colouring that prevented me from buying the last version?

  51. Tony says:

    I highly doubt so. That color is done by “acclaimed” “award winning” “handpicked by Stevens himself prior to his death” Laura Martin so they’re probably not gonna go back to the original version anytime soon.

  52. Dominick Grace says:

    Tony says:
    Sep 6, 2012 at 2:39 PM
    I highly doubt so. That color is done by “acclaimed” “award winning” “handpicked by Stevens himself prior to his death” Laura Martin so they’re probably not gonna go back to the original version anytime soon.

    Too bad. Picked it up, flipped through it in the store, thought it looked pretty off.

  53. Dominick Grace says:

    I mean, I know that tastes inevitably vary on such matters, but to me, this:


    looks much more appealing than this:


  54. Grant says:

    Thanks! I’m on their notification list.

  55. Rick says:

    This was a really nice article. Mazzucchelli has always been a comic artist and storyteller of very high degree. Born Again. Batman Year One. Rubber Blankets. Asterios Polyp. Always interesting. Always engaging. This look at the “worts and all” of the original art is breathtaking and highly informative. It just makes me hungry for pencil pages to compare to the finish or even sketches that would have had to go into building these layouts. While Mazzucchelli continues to grow as an artist, he has much to teach about this American art form for those who choose to look closely.

  56. Alex Holden says:

    After reading this comment, I went back and looked at my copy of the 1987 edition and noticed that the sequences of issues 228, 230 and 233 are staggered in such a way that the two page spreads are paired differently. Just a heads up to anyone thinking about searching out the 87 reprint.

  57. R. Haining says:

    To clarify: In the comments section of the TCJ article, “David Mazzucchelli Disavows Forthcoming Batman Reprint,” the artist stated on March 6th that, “The first collected ‘Born Again’ from 1987 with all its flaws, is still superior to any subsequent one. I always recommend that people the original comic books-they look better and they’re still cheap.”

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  59. Oliver 1000 says:

    Can anyone explain why this:

    “and most pages were cut at the corners when removed from the photostat machine”



  60. patrick ford says:

    Tom Kraft:
    “Back in the day I maned the stat camera at a design firm. This is speculation based on my experience so it may or may not be accurate.

    When the art was created they might have ganged up the pages into a grid that was optimized to the size of the negative film. This could be a row of 4 pages on top of another row of 4 pages for example. Pages were placed on the stat bed and they may have used tape on the corners to keep them in place. Once shot, instead of lifting the tap (or holders) the simply cut the corners to rapidly remove the pages. Again this needs to be verified.

    Back in the 60s one of the reasons for reducing the page size from twice-up to 10×15 was so they could fit more pages together in one standard size negative, thus saving on the cost of the negatives.

  61. Oliver 1000 says:

    Thank you.

    So: Expediency? Don’t the printers still have to pick off the corner scraps/tape after cutting? Oh well, it’s all ancient history.

  62. This question of cropped corners on the original artwork from a certain period in comics history is one that’s plagued me for years. I’ve asked many, many people involved in comics, from artists to letterers, to editors, for info on this subject and have never gotten a definitive answer. Hard to believe that something so recent in our history has already been forgotten, but that may be the case. Plenty of people manning the stat cameras of that era are still with us, but even those I’ve talked to haven’t been able to explain it.

  63. Oliver 1000 says:

    Odd also that I can’t recall ever seeing panel gags, daily strips or any kind of illustration (pulp, etc.) originals treated that way…?

  64. Mike Hunter says:

    Back in the olden days, I worked with many different kinds of stat cameras. Patrick’s “they might have ganged up the pages into a grid that was optimized to the size of the negative film” rings true. I was still puzzled about the “Don’t the printers still have to pick off the corner scraps/tape after cutting?” factor, and how some of the pages were slashed irregularly at the top.

    The explanation that makes sense (if anyone cares at all) is that, rather than just being taped to each other, the individual pages were taped onto a piece of poster board — which would make the group easier to handle and position — then afterward cut apart into individual units. The poster board “base” being either reused or discarded.

  65. patrick ford says:

    Just to be clear I was quoting Tom Kraft.

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  67. Tony Marine says:

    Thanks for the intelligent analysis of this 80’s masterpiece! You make some excellent observations. It’s hard to believe a “young” guy like Mazzucchelli could be this good, though he was clearly aided by photo reference (which I have no qualms about). The comments on this post have devolved into the merits of reprinting this work in full size black and white. I’m all for it. They may seem expensive, but part of the reason is that IDW knows it’s a small niche market – there just aren’t a lot of buyers for this type of work. As a one time aspiring comic book artist myself, I love seeing these images close up. I am also one of the lucky few who owns some originals from the story! I can say that the reproductions are excellent and if you framed one on the wall, you’d have a hard time figuring out if it was an original or not. Thankfully, comic art is gaining more and more “serious” consideration as a fine art. Universities contain collections of originals and there are cartoon art museums around the world, as well as traveling shows. To be able to hold 200+ near-perfect reproductions in your hands for about $100 is worth it to me.

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