Emanata: Eight Comics That Demand to Be Reprinted

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There have been rumors floating around for a few weeks that Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman’s long-out-of-print Marvelman/Miracleman comics are either closer to republication than they’ve been in a while, or further away. (Arguably, the recent kerfuffle over the “Medieval Spawn” case is just the latest set of aftershocks from the Marvelman quake.) Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell’s Zenith, another much-desired series, may be coming back soon too. But there are plenty of other out-of-print comics that deserve to be made available again, whether a reprint is realistically possible or not. Here are eight I’d line up to buy, in no particular order.

1. Master of Kung Fu. A reprint of this ’70s-’80s series is not likely to happen any time soon: Marvel owns the rights to most of the characters, but no longer has the right to publish stories involving Fu Manchu, who turns up all over the place. That’s a real pity, because most of the original Master of Kung Fu series ranged from “trashy fun” to “really beautifully crafted trashy fun”–check out, for instance, this gorgeous spread from the period when Paul Gulacy was drawing the series. (And, while you’re at it, read the fascinating Sean Witzke piece, about the film/comics relationship, in which it appears.)

2. The complete Doonesbury. There’s a big old 40th-anniversary Doonesbury retrospective coming out at the end of October–but what Garry Trudeau’s strip really needs is a complete, nicely designed, unabridged series of books collecting its entire run. Yes, there was a CD-ROM, The Bundled Doonesbury, back in 1997. That’s still missing a third of the strip’s history, and it’s not nearly as useful as print books would be.

3. The Anal-Retentive Cerebus. Or whatever title you like for a collection of all the Cerebus material that didn’t make it into the sixteen paperbacks that collect most of Dave Sim and Gerhard’s 300-issue series. There is rather a lot of it. Some of it is gorgeous (like the full-color stories Sim and Gerhard did for Epic Illustrated); some of it is pretty significant to the overall plot (especially the Gene Day collaboration “What Happened Between Issues Twenty and Twenty-One”); some of it is just a lot of fun (like the collaborations with Terry Austin and Will Eisner that ran in Cerebus Jam). Meanwhile, instead of keeping this stuff in print, Sim has published two volumes of his correspondence from 2004 and a new edition of his 1997 self-publishing guide. Not the same.

(More on Techland: Emanata: Ten Series That Should Run Forever)

4. Sugar & Spike. I have rattled on about the glories of this delightful little-kid series before; subsequently, the estimable Jeet and Bob Heer let me know that there are enormous piles of Sheldon Mayer-drawn Sugar & Spike stories that were never printed in America–hundreds of pages’ worth. If the contemporary comics market can make a collection of John Stanley’s Thirteen Going On Eighteen possible, it can support Sugar & Spike too, right?

5. Big Numbers. Alan Moore and Bill Sienkiewicz’s coulda-been magnum opus about an English town bracing itself for American development lasted two issues in 1990, although it was planned for twelve; at least two more were written and drawn, and last year somebody pieced together what would have been the third issue. I think everyone involved now acknowledges that it’s never going to be finished. So why not piece together what there is–the extant material and Moore’s legendary notes for the rest of the project–and get it back in print? Even in its super-unfinished state, it’s better than at least 95% of other comics I’ve ever seen.

6. The Five-Year Gap Legion. In 1989, Keith Giffen and Tom and Mary Bierbaum relaunched Legion of Super-Heroes with an extended, very smart and eccentric, beautifully executed science-fiction ensemble drama set five years after the end of the previous series. Apparently, DC isn’t particularly crazy about it–it’s the only incarnation of Legion that’s been entirely excised from current continuity. But every time I mention it around other people who were reading superhero comics back then, I get a chorus of “OH MAN those five-year-gap Legions were seriously the best thing ever, I keep trying to spread the gospel of them but nobody wants to look at an old pile of Baxter-paper monthlies.”

(More on Techland: A Brief, Selective Timeline of 3 1/2 Or So Legions of Super-Heroes)

7. Crockett Johnson’s Barnaby. A newspaper strip that ran from 1942 to 1952, by the guy who is probably better known for Harold and the Purple Crayon at this point. It appears to have been out of print for well over twenty years, I keep hearing about how great the damn thing is, and I’ve never actually been able to read it.

8. The complete RAW magazine, vol. 1. Yes, this would probably be the most impossible thing on the list, rights-wise, but Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly’s grand, oversized magazine was arguably the single most important publication in the history of American art-comics. I’d say it was like a meteor hitting the comics and design worlds, except meteor impacts don’t usually construct cathedrals. And, aside from individual artists’ books that include RAW materials, the closest thing to a collection is the Read Yourself RAW book that came out 23 years ago.

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