Almost one year ago, I gushed over the first issue of Wednesday Comics, and my affection has not waned. Wednesday Comics ran for 12 consecutive weeks, with each full-size, fold-out newspaper featuring top-tier talent who ran the gamut of household names to let-me-consult-my-DC-encyclopedia-on-that-one. It felt like a nostalgic farewell to an era that never really was and never would be again. Due to its size, readers wondered if it could (or would) be collected, and this month, DC happily unveiled the solution: go big.
The Wednesday Comics collected edition is bigger than anything on my comics shelves. It towers over my Absolute Editions, makes Seth’s George Sprott look a little less rotund, and it even looms over The Acme Novelty Library by Chris Ware. It is a spectacle, and almost fulfills Cosmo Kramer’s dream of a coffee table book that could double as a coffee table.
In the single issues, the stories were serialized: each week, the 15 separate narratives would advance by one chapter. But in the hardcover, the stories are wisely collected individually, allowing for a few visual treats that were lost in the weekly format. In a recent interview with USA Today, Neil Gaiman talked about his Metamorpho story (don’t worry, I was unfamiliar with the character, too):
"I built all of my spreads into the storyline. When I started out, I simply assumed that this would be collected at some point. You want something that's going to be fun in that collection format…I suspect certain readers didn't understand what we were doing from week to week. All I can do is profusely apologize to these readers and direct them to go pick up a copy of the collection to understand why I did it that way."
And he’s right. While his story was one of the most surprising (and goofy), and complemented nicely by Mike Allred’s 1960s-tinged artwork, it’s not until the two-page spreads are officially paired that some of the greater images can be truly appreciated. When Metamorpho and company arrive at a ruined temple, the full scene actually carries over onto the opposing page, while the characters literally walk from page 68 to 69 (above). The “periodic table” pages (below) were hailed early on, but now that they are side-by-side, the achievement looks even more complex and well-designed. Allred clearly elevated his abilities to fit the scope of the project.
Originally, a few fans complained that the colors looked a bit dark in the initial issues, especially in "Superman" by John Arcudi and Lee Bermejo, and in "Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth" by Dave Gibbons and Ryan Sook. The good news is that it seems like the colors are now slightly brighter, and both of those segments are crisp, clear, and less claustrophobic—and Gibbons writes his like something out of Prince Valiant's fever dream, while Sook’s depiction of tiger-headed warriors with automatic weapons is go-for-broke glorious. The only disappointment is Kyle Baker’s "Hawkman," which now looks unfortunately washed-out. The finer points are lost, and the computer assisted art is a little obvious.
As a bonus, the already hefty collection includes two new, single-page stories featuring Plastic Man and The Creeper, as well as a sketchbook section with brief commentary. Save some for the sequel (please)! The attention to detail, free-wheeling vibe, and the labor and love that so obviously went into this project and package makes it one of the best collections so far in 2010.
( Images courtesy DC Comics and USA Today)