In perhaps the biggest surprise announcement of WonderCon, IDW Publishing revealed that it will publish Artist’s Edition books of several classic Marvel Comics stories, beginning with Walter Simonson’s “The Mighty Thor.” The Artist’s Edition format, in which original comics pages are reproduced at full-size, without coloring or other alterations, debuted last year with “Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer: Artist’s Edition,” and proved a popular and critical success for IDW. “Walter Simonson’s The Mighty Thor: The Artist’s Edition” will collect issues #337-340 and 360-362, two arcs featuring Beta Ray Bill that Simonson wrote, pencilled and inked. CBR News spoke with editor Scott Dunbier, who oversees this and other IDW premiere lines, about the project and what else might be coming up in this format.
Dunbier told CBR that he’d long been interested in the Artist’s Edition concept. “It’s something that I wanted to do for a long time, a beautiful art book that would collect stories in a purely natural form, without any coloring, without any cleanup, actually photographing the work so you can see it in its base element, as original art,” he said.
“[‘Rocketeer: The Artist’s Edition’] was an expensive undertaking, but luckily people responded to it. And I thought they would, because people really do appreciate beautiful books and beautiful art, and you can’t get much more beautiful than Dave Stevens,” Dunbier continued. “But after we did the Artist’s Edition, I started thinking about different types of things that are available. I had a few ideas, but I kept coming back to Marvel. Marvel obviously has an incredible publishing history. Some of the greatest artists ever to work in comics worked at Marvel. Leading up to San Diego Comic-Con last year, I approached some people at Marvel. I sent them copies of the Stevens Artist’s Edition book when we had advance copies, and I’ve got to say they were pretty blown away by it. It was a pretty refreshing attitude they came into this with. They looked at this book and said, ‘Wow, this is something that we would want to have on our bookshelves. It took several months, but we talked back and forth and eventually we struck a deal. The first book will be ‘Walter Simonson’s The Mighty Thor: Artist’s Edition.’ That’ll be coming out at San Diego Comic-Con. I couldn’t be more excited about it. That will be the first of the Marvel Artist’s Editions we’ll be doing.”
As to what makes Simonson’s art ideal for the format, Dunbier said “there are a number of different factors,” including practical matters of accessibility. “One of the most basic things, obviously to do an Artist Edition you have to have access to the original art. Walter is one of those artists who does not enjoy parting with his work, and so he has a very large percentage of what he’s done over the years still in his possession. So I was able to just go over to his house and scan the work,” Dunbier told CBR. “But as far as what makes his work in particular suited to an Artist’s Edition, you look at his work and it’s the raw vitality, the raw energy, of a Walter Simonson page. It bursts off the paper. You look at it and it’s glorious to behold.
“He would laugh at that, by the way. He’d say, ‘Oh, go on!'” Dunbier laughed.
Dunbier noted that Artist’s Editions differ from other art-focused books or publications reprinting original art because they collect complete stories. “With ‘Rocketeer,’ we were missing a grand total of two pages, that we did print from black and white stats, but the pages were there — we were missing two originals in that case,” the editor said. “In the case of Walter’s ‘Thor,’ we had every single page of the seven issues that we’re collecting.”
For aspiring artists hoping to learn from Simonson’s, Stevens’, and other artists’ raw art, Dunbier said, a book such as this “really is invaluable.” “You can go to comic book shows and see who’s hanging out around original art tables, it’s always fans but also a lot of pencillers, inkers, people who want to learn from a great artist. Looking at this book, or the Dave Stevens book since it’s already out, you can see every brush stroke. You can see every bit of whiteout and blue pencil. You get the feeling of really being able to piece together what an artist was thinking. It’s there for you to discover if you can read it properly. And nothing beats looking at great art by a great artist.”
Asked who might be the subject of future Marvel Artist’s Edition volumes, Dunbier laughed, “I’m not going to tell you.” He did offer that “we actually have a fair number of Artist’s Editions that we’re working on, at San Diego we’ll probably announce a couple more at least. I’m always trying to think of new Artist Editions to do.”
“Walter Simonson’s The Mighty Thor: The Artist’s Edition” will be released this summer from IDW Publishing.