On History: Clever Reprint Policy

By | Tuesday, April 29, 2014 Leave a Comment
You probably know a bit about EC Comics and that, despite having some phenomenal talent creating their books, they were essentially kicked out of the comic book making business in the wake of the whole Seduction of the Innocent/Senate Hearings on Juvenile Delinquincy hoohah. But because so many of them were so well-done -- and cut short in their prime -- they were fondly remembered and well-respected for decades afterwards.

In the latter days of the 20th century, Russ Cochran got the rights to reprint all of those old EC stories. He was even able to get access to many (if not all) of the original art files and shoot new negatives from them, so he was able to work with the cleanest, best set of source material possible. Beginning in the late 1970s, he published large hardbound black and white collections in slipcases. Quite handsome volumes.

Later, as a general interest in EC was renewed, he went on to reprint titles as individual pamphlet issues, with reworked coloring to closely match how they were originally released. And a few years after that came Archive editions, similar to the Marvel Masterworks or DC Archives.

I recently came across some trade paperback versions that I hadn't seen before. Same concept as any other TPB program you've seen: 5-6 issues, reprinted on slightly cheaper paper than what you'd find in an Archives edition. Once I got home, I pulled them out of the bags they were in and noticed a couple oddities.

First, the interior pages were mostly newsprint, but the cover reproductions were on a higher quality, glossy paper. Second, the letters pages that were included were from the reprint series, not the original books. (This is plainly obvious by the fact that several of the letters included email and website addresses.) I thought it was very strange to have reprints of reprints, given the time and attention that had been paid to previous versions.

I was soon enlightened on these books' origins, though, thanks to Ken Eppstein. There's a surprisingly simple explanation that accounts for both oddities, and shows a bit of clever thinking.

The books weren't actually reprinted; they were the actual comics Cochran had put out earlier, bound into sets with a new cardboard cover wrapped around them. He had taken the individual issues from his back stock that were no longer selling, collated them into sets, and bound them as a single TPB. Rather than having to hunt down a dozen or two individual issues, a reader just grab the few TPBs and be done. It gives an entirely new lease on existing material, without the extravangant expense of reprinting whole collections.

I picked up mine cheap in the last hours of C2E2 when dealers started using some fire sale tactics, but even if you pay the ten bucks apiece directly to Cochran, you're getting a great deal on some fantastic pieces of comics history.
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