Absolute Death. Absolute Sandman. Absolute Watchmen. Absolute Long Halloween. Absolute Kingdom Come.
As evident from the spellings, these aren’t new varieties of yesterday’s popular vodka (the smart set has moved on to drinking Cîroc, which is made from grapes). These are all comic books, and part of a relatively recent publishing trend in the industry. The phenomenon is interesting because it is inspired by the DVD business, yet far more powerful than the original.
The typical DVD has the movie, and loads of what are termed extras. Commentaries. Deleted scenes. Theatrical trailers. The works. I am not sure too many people watch all or even any of the bonus material, but it’s there.
Now, in many ways, the publishers of comic books aren’t new to making money from reissues. Most comics or graphic novels are published as weekly, or fortnightly, magazines. These are then collected and reissued as trade paperbacks. Sometimes, these trade paperbacks leave out stuff. More often than not, however, they have some (but not much) bonus material, the original script, say, or a scribble by the writer.
Comic books (or, actually, some comic books) have a fanatical following. Realizing this, publishers started issuing hard-bound collector’s editions. The first books to appear in this form—in large format, printed on fine art paper, specially recoloured, and leather-bound—were Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series.
Since then, there have been several other Absolute editions, as they are called. The Absolute edition of The Watchmen, for instance, contains the comic itself (in large format, recoloured), and some extra bits, including a note and sketches by author Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons on the making of the comic. The Absolute editions of The Sandman (five volumes in all, or is it four?) are far better produced and also have more interesting extra bits—the second volume, for instance, has stories, even the entire script of parts of the books.
The interesting thing is that, unlike the extras on DVDs, most people who buy Absolute editions do read them. That’s because good comic books can be reread, or re-reread (at least by fans, and this columnist is one). There’s something about the size and touch and feel of the Absolute editions that makes reading them (after, of course, having spent a small fortune on buying them) a worthwhile experience. It’s probably like watching a remastered HD version of an old Hollywood classic.
Thus far, Vertigo, an imprint of DC, has resisted the urge to overdose on Absolute editions, but only just. That probably explains why, contrary to my first reactions, the books have worked. Still, I don’t use the word “only” lightly. The Absolute editions of The Long Halloween and Kingdom Come—great comics in their own right—are sort of on the border. There are only so many comics one is willing to pay $100 (around Rs4,460) for.
R. Sukumar is editor, Mint.Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org