CCI: TwoMorrows Publishing Plans "Ultimate Comics Reference"

What started with a photocopied newsletter is now making comics history - make that an "ultimate, all-encompassing history."

John Morrow, one of the two Morrows behind the comics-journalism publishing house TwoMorrows Publishing (the other is wife Pam), was on hand at Comic-Con International in San Diego Thursday to announce a slew of new projects. The highlight: The "American Comic Book Chronicles," a multi-volume history series that will be published over the next few years.

Growing out of a discussion at last year's Comic-Con, "American Comic Book Chronicles" will feature at least one volume documenting each decade since the modern comic book debuted in the 1930s. Two particularly busy decades of comic-book history - the 1940s and 1960s - are planned as two-volume releases. Each book will be full color and run around 300 pages, and will be written by a who's who of comics historians, including Roy Thomas, Bill Schelly, John Wells and Jim Beard. The books will be released as they are completed, not sequentially. The first book, dealing with the 1980s, will be written by Keith Dallas, who will also act as editor for the entire series.

Dallas hopes the first installment will be ready in time for next year's Comic-Con, though he says he and Morrow are in agreement that "these books need to be 'done right' instead of 'done quickly.'" Or, as Morrow puts it: "The goal is to be the ultimate comics reference."

While the "American Comic Book Chronicles" was the big announcement from the publisher, it was far from the only news. Morrow ran through a slide show showcasing new and upcoming book releases, including "Grailpages," "The Comic Book Podcast Companion," "All-Star Companion Vol. IV" (the last installment of this Roy Thomas series), "Age of TV Heroes" (pending approval from Warner Bros.), "Marvel Comics in the 1960s," and a new, updated edition of their "Captain Action" book. The publisher's "Modern Masters" series also continues to go strong; the latest edition features Chris Sprouse, with Mark Buckingham, Darwyn Cooke, Guy Davis and Jeff Smith all scheduled for future editions. Other upcoming books include Sal Buscema and Carmine Infantino career retrospectives, and volumes meant to help fans see oft-maligned artists Don Heck and Vince Colletta in a new light.

On the magazine front, "Brick Journal," a magazine for Lego enthusiasts, has proven to be the company's strongest seller, and will soon increase its frequency to bi-monthly. "Back Issue" is the bestseller among the company's comic-related magazine offerings, and future plans include issues dedicated to monsters, military and family. "Alter Ego" and "Draw!" also continue as usual. Not all of TwoMorrow's magazines are quite so lucky, with Danny Fingeroth's "Write Now!" and Bob McLeod's "Rough Stuff" coming to an end (both creators will continue to do work for TwoMorrow's other publications).

The final magazine on the publisher's roster is one Morrow refers to as "my baby": The Jack Kirby Collector. According to the company's website, Morrow and wife Pam originally started TwoMorrows as an advertising firm in the late 1980s. In 1994, when Jack Kirby died, Morrow felt moved to release a simple, photocopied newsletter about the King. Thus the Jack Kirby Collector was born - and the publication caught on quickly.

"Things snowballed from there," writes Morrow on the website. He says publishing now makes up about 70 percent of TwoMorrows total business.

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