No doubt most of you have read an article at some point in the past 10 years stating "Comics books aren't just for kids anymore." Sadly, there is normally a "Biff! Boom! Pow!" in front of the sentence, pretty much undermining the point that the writer is trying to make (Remember, in many daily newspapers, reporters don't write the headlines).
This has generally meant more grown-up storylines in the major super-hero comics and, more importantly, many series clearly designed for an adult audience. Maus, Persopolis, From Hell, V For Vendetta, Black Hole and Blankets are just a few that I can think off the top of my head. Which is good. I believe either Neil Gaiman or Warren Ellis made the analogy of how imagine that the only type of fiction you could read was nurse romance fiction. And while you might be a big fan of that genre, wouldn't it drive you nuts if that was all you could read?
Pretty much the same with comic books. I love super-heroes, but if it was all I read, I think I would have given up on comic books years ago.
I'm not saying the industry has completely grown-up. The media campaign around the new Batwoman struck me as a bit....icky. Not that I care about the character's sexuality. It's being described as a "lipstick lesbian" and marketing it before the character has barely made an appearance. She doesn't even have a series scheduled. It felt more like a "here's some wanking material for you, fanboys" rather than a "we're trying to diversify our characters" which I think is a worthwhile idea.
But here's the other thing about comic books these days. As I've grown older, the average age of the comic book reader has stayed pretty close to my age. I was seven when I started and I'm 36 now. When I was seven I had to beg, borrow and steal (I didn't mom and dad, honestly) to get money for comics. And this was when comics were 35 cents (the first comic I bought had "Still only 30 cents!" on the cover). In terms of the industry, that's pretty much all the produced were single comics. Since most of their readers were under 10 and had to beg for pennies, trying to get money for expensive collections likely wasn't going to fly.
As I've gotten older, obviously the amount of disposable income has increased. Granted, comics go for about $3 each and my days of collecting more than 30 titles a month (I was up to about 40 at one point in the early 90s when I was heavily flushed with cash) are over and done with.
But I do have the income to buy the very nice and expensive items that comic book companies come out with. The exclusive hard covers with top notch paper, oversize pages and are, in geek speak, "very pretty."
I already own several of these, including Absolute Authority (Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch) and Absolute Planetary (Warren Ellis and John Cassidy). They are very nice books, and I have no problems with the $50 each I paid for them. I don't do it often, but certainly the seven year old in me, the one that wasn't allowed to go to The Escape Hatch (this was before it became a porn store and burned down) and buy all those back issues I wanted, relishes being able to do this kind of thing.
But now there is a new pretty coming up - Absolute Sandman, Volume 1 - which collects teh first 20 issues, or about three trade paperbacks. There will be four over all, and they will reprint the 75 issues run (and probably collect a few odds and ends as well) and I will absolutely be buying these. I have all the original issues, but never bothered buy the various trade paperbacks over the years. No idea why. Probably didn't see the need since I already had the originals.
But I will be buying the four of these. Why? Because there were numerous little errors in the original run. Colour schemes that were off, typos, dropped word balloons, etc. Also, most of the series was printed on cheap paper. Want to get an idea of how much of a difference it will make? Take a look at these two pages. The first is from the original comic.
The one below is corrected and will run in the new hardcover on much better paper.
Just a little bit of a difference. It's almost going to be like reading a new series. Throw in some sketches, some of Gaiman's scripts (I love reading comic book scripts. I find them very educational) and other goodies, and I will definitely be getting this.
I know some of the people who come here like Gaiman and enjoy Sandman. I should warn that this is going to be an exceptionally expensive little addition to my collection. Amazon has it listed, at a discount, of $87.78. So yeah, not a cheap little addition to your collection. And really, it's probably only people like me that will enjoy this. Most fans of Gaiman's writing can get away with the regular trade paperbacks.
But for me, it's way too pretty to resist. Thankfully, it comes out at Christmas. Ohhhh, Cathy...