Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wednesday Comics Hardcover by Various

There's a scene in Seinfeld where Kramer goes on a book tour to promote his coffee table book, which, coincidentally, is about coffee tables and also has pop-out legs so it can double as a coffee table. That's kind of the way I feel about DC Comics' Wednesday Comics hardcover. This is a gargantuan book - at 11"x18" it's unlikely you've seen a graphic novel like this before. And while it doesn't have pop-out legs, I'm sure you could probably use it as a lap desk comfortably.

The good thing about this particular size is that, while it does make for some unwieldy reading, it also perfectly simulates the original publishing format of this material. Wednesday Comics was a weekly experimental format tried by DC in the summer of 2009 to emulate the style of Sunday color comic strips. Each of the twelve issues was published on newspaper-sized newsprint and featured a selection of stories by top comics creative talent. I raved about it when it first started right here on GuysLitWire, so take a look at that early preview if you want more details about the original format.

While the newsprint version of Wednesday Comics definitely harkened back to an old style of print media, the hardcover screams the merits of high tech publishing. The colors and bold lines of the original were striking, but they are now rendered with amazing clarity on high-quality paper. And, while it was nice to read weekly installments of each of the anthology stories, it's better still to read them all in one sitting to get the full effect intended by the writers and artists (and fortunately DC decided to publish each story in its entirety before moving to the next one, rather than emulating the original anthology format).

Speaking of which, don't expect amazing, earth-shattering stories here. It's clear from the get-go that this is a project aimed at emphasizing the artwork, and it does that very, very well. Most of the stories are fun, quickly-digested bits of trifle with maybe a cliffhanger or two thrown in for good measure. The exceptions to this are Neil Gaiman and Michael Allred's bizarrely-Clutch Cargo take on Metamorpho, the Element Man and the almost-obscenely perfect Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth story by Dave Gibbons and Ryan Sook. Most of the others are exciting eye candy - not that there's anything wrong with that. Just give a quick glance at Kyle Baker's Hawkman story and you'll marvel at just how good an artist the man actually is.

At its best, the Wednesday Comics hardback is an explosively eye-catching art book, filled with some of the best the comics industry has to offer. At its worst, well.... for a fan or even a rabid, comics-reading kid, I just don't see a downside. I just wish I could still pick up great stuff like this for a quarter at my local Red & White.

1 comment :

Justin Colussy-Estes said...

I don't know; I thought the standouts were the Kamandi (wow, wasn't that awesome! Kamandi as a Prince Valiant-like Sunday comics strip), Paul Pope's Adam Strange, the Wonder Woman pages, and possibly the Kyle Baker Hawkman strips. Each of these seem to take on the assignment as a way to inject something fresh about the characters, not just through the art.

I'm not saying these were the most successful--the Wonder Woman pages certainly had some structural flaws--but they weren't just telling another tale featuring those characters. They were the ones that, after reading the story, I was sad weren't published regularly.