Is the DC Comics Absolute Edition Program Dead?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Alternate title: "Has DC's Absolute Program Jumped the Shark?"

With yesterday's January 2013 solicitations, DC Comics announced Absolute Blackest Night, a 360-page, $99.99 hardcover in DC's Absolute size, collecting DC Universe #0, Blackest Night #0, Blackest Night #1-8, and Untold Tales of the Blackest Night #1.

DC Universe contains a few Blackest Night pages never collected, and Untold is a special published after Blackest Night; otherwise, Blackest Night #0-8 all appeared in the Blackest Night hardcover and trade paperback.

If you're excited about Absolute Blackest Night, good on you and go get it -- everyone should be able to find whatever comics they want in whatever form they want. However, criticism is already rising that Absolute Blackest Night essentially collects just the same as the original collections.

Many fans had been hoping for some sort of larger collection that interweaved the Blackest Night, Green Lantern, and Green Lantern Corps series. The three can be read on their own, but Blackest Night and Green Lantern specifically make for a more complete reading experience than just Blackest Night by itself. Of course, an 800-plus-page full Blackest Night collection would be too unwieldy for the Absolute format.

It is not too large for DC's Omnibus format, however, which has recently produced such volumes as the Infinite Crisis Omnibus, the 52 Omnibus, and the Invisibles Omnibus, all more than a thousand pages long.

At one point, the Absolute brand was the gold standard of DC Comics collections. The Absolute Batman: Hush, for instance, was the first whole collection of the Hush series, released after the two-volume hardcover and paperback sets. Absolute DC: The New Frontier is the only combined version of the Darwyn Cooke story. The Absolute Crisis on Infinite Earths and JLA/Avengers collections each included a second book with copious extra materials.

Compare this to the recent Absolute releases. Absolute Green Lantern: Rebirth included no previously-uncollected stories, and extras reported to be somewhat slim. Absolute Sinestro Corps War included just the main story and not the extra tie-ins, to the chagrin of many fans. Absolute Identity Crisis contained almost the same material as the hardcover.

It would seem that what fans want from an "Absolute Blackest Night" is really a "Blackest Night Omnibus," doing more than just re-collecting the same thing in an oversized format. We theorized before that the Omnibus format might have killed DC's Archives format; is Omnibus also replacing the Absolutes?

Our questions:

* Is there a market for an Absolute Blackest Night edition, three years and one continuity after the original series ended?

* Has readership interest shifted from Absolute editions (oversized, artful reproductions of stories themselves) to Omnibus editions (thick volumes collecting all parts of a story plus tie-ins)?

* Has the era of the Absolute edition ended, or what stories would you reasonably still want published as an Absolute? As an Omnibus?

UPDATE: Two months after this post, DC Comics cancelled and resolicited the Absolute Blackest Night collection to include most of the related Green Lantern issues. Whether DC's Absolute program is dead or not -- whether anyone actually wants an Absolute Blackest Night at all -- is still debatable, but this change to the book at least succeeds in producing something that the reader can't get from the original books, a pseudo-combined edition of Blackest Night. A victory, to be sure, and congratulations to everyone who spoke up about this.  More discussion at the post about the resolicitation.
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36 comments:

  1. I prefer omnibus editions.

    if this were an omnibus with stories in the right order, I'd get it. otherwise, no. I think there's some pandering to Geoff Johns going on. - steve

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  2. I think there are by and large two reasons why an Absolute edition is published these days. 1. it features absolutely stunning art that best benefits from the giant edition (ie. New Frontier, Planetary, the forth-coming Top Ten Absolute). 2. The creator(s) involved are at the top of the food chain of the company (pretty much everything written by Geoff Johns). Jim Lee probably straddles those two for his Absolutes (I'm not a fan buy a lot of other people are). Regardless, I'm happy to keep grabbing the ones with stunning art, I've already pre-ordered the Top Ten edition despite owning the four TPB collections within, simply because the art deserves the biggest presentation possible. I do wonder if the Absolute line would be best served by transforming more into a series of Artist's Editions like IDW's.

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  3. I bought a few Absolutes early on, but I rarely look at them as they're too unweildy. Much like the Omnibus editions, tbh! Too heavy and not a fun reading experience IMO. I'd rather they issued colections in the OHC format, slightly bigger, not too thick. That'll do me.

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  4. I feel the primary appeal of the Absolute editions is the large-format artwork -- they're longer than omnibuses -- which allows stories like All-Star Superman, Promethea, The Dark Knight Returns, Hush, and Crisis on Infinite Earths to really shine. Absolute Hush is a pretty thin book even though it combines two volumes, but it's gorgeous.

    So, I'd definitely take The Invisibles omnibus to an "Absolute Invisibles" (for most of the series, the artwork isn't a main draw), but I'd prefer the upcoming "Absolute Final Crisis" (minus a few of those fill-in pages...) to a Final Crisis omnibus. Especially given that many of the assorted FC tie-ins aren't exactly vital to the story, or even all that good.

    But yeah, when it comes to Blackest Night, I think DC's missed the point. It's not the best looking book, and the tie-ins were just as important as the event itself.

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  5. Also: Absolute Crisis on Infinite Earths is one of the best books I have in my collection, period. They knocked it out of the park with the packaging, plus the second hardcover. It feels like the expensive book that it is. More "Absolute" editions should follow that format.

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  6. No Absolute has surpassed the standards set by Crisis on Infinite Earths and Sandman as regards content and extras. I don't know what people feel, but the Sandman offers almost twenty issues per Absolute, plus uncollected stories, artwork galleries, script pages, statue and bust commentaries....I seriously don't think it gets better than this. COIE,I'm told, has a second book.....for the US$100 price, I think that's a pretty fair deal.

    I don't know. I understand that Absolutes are meant for the wonderful art, but somehow, I just see Absolutes of mediocre stories (sorry, Geoff Johns and Blackest Night fans) with fairly less extras. But there are stories out there which actually need the Absolute Format. However, that is something which I'm not sure would happen soon. A few of my choices would be:
    Starman - I know how weird this would sound just when an Omnibus format has been completed, but Harris art here is too powerful....and the text pieces here and there make for such a complete epic. I'd love if Robinson and Smith's The Golden Age follows suit.
    Superman: Secret Identity - With Immonen doing everything here, I don't think I need recommend it highly enough
    Batwoman - Though I think we'll see this down the line
    Enigma - Fegredo's art is too brilliant. I think Peter Milligan's Shade The Changing man would benefit from an Absolute Edition as well
    100 Bullets - Risso packs in so much detail in 100 Bullets that an Absolute Edition would be wonderful.

    But then, if all of the above do happen, the market would be flooded with Absolutes

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  7. I'm a new comic reader, only a year old at this point. I took to reading trades heavily because I wanted to "catch-up". Now I just prefer the trade format.

    Because there's so many stories I want to read, I tend to spend my money on what will get me the most chapters/stories. Omnibus editions look attractive to me since I can see the savings on a cost-per-trade basis. This means I can usually buy more. I typically buy in large spurts, spending 70 - 100 dollars at a time trying to squeeze the most trades out of that dollar figure.

    If I buy an Absolute edition, it'd be because I found it on discount and I've read it before. An omnibus I will buy first time out.

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  8. I prefer Omnibus editions over Absolute, but I think what I really like is just the IDEA of Omnibus editions. Because the cost for both formats is just too prohibitive. I bought the GL Rebirth Absolute because I didn't have that particular story in collected form. But for all the other GL stuff (Sinestro Corps, Blackest Night), I already have the single issues and hardcovers...I just can't justify picking up a third or fourth format. The same is true for other series of interest to me that might lend themselves to Omnibus or Absolute collections...however it gets collected, I probably have all the single issues and/or regular collections.
    And DC has a history of screwing up with binding issues and missing pages, so that just nails the coffin tighter...

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  9. I don't know if the program is dead, but it just seems they are collecting a lot of stories that don't deserve the absolute treatment (imo of course) I'm not saying Geoff Johns GL stuff isn't great, I own all the trades and love em, but when I think of stories that deserve absolute editions I think of the game changers like Dark Knight, Watchmen, Crisis and all the usual suspects. For series like GL say, or Morrisons Batman- this is where I think the omnibus editions are necessary, and I can think of plenty of series that deserve to be collected (some for the first time) that were great, critically acclaimed runs that would benefit from a omnibus rather then just spotlighting a particular story arc or too. (Byrne's Superman, Perez AND Ruckas Wonder Woman runs, Waid's Flash etc etc the list is long....

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  10. Re: Joe D's comment, an omnibus of Grant Morrison's Batman run should definitely happen and would have made a lot more sense than Absolute Batman & Robin. (Do we really want to see Philip Tan's work blown up to such an epic scale?) Then again, I wouldn't be at all surprised if they printed one once Inc. Vol 2 is over.

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  11. They've become horribly overpriced for the content, no matter how large the size is for them. DC keeps putting out Absolutes of material that frankly doesn't deserve the format. Does anyone think in 10 years the Johns' Absolutes will be in anything but bargain bins?

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    1. I'd take them for free, but I see no reason to upgrade from the hardcovers. no, they don't deserve the format. - steve

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  12. Most Absolute Editions just don't seem worth it to me on the scale of Content vs Price. I love my Sandman and Watchmen Absolutes, but when it comes to Identity Crisis or Blackest Night, I'll stick with the TBP that's ~$12 on Amazon.

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  13. Absolute Blackest Night feels like a huge wasted opportunity to me. Sure, it will be cool if they find a way to include the Ragman sequence from Untold Tales in the middle of the main series as originally intended, and the two-page sequence from DC Universe: Zero is another nice touch (I wish they'd include some pages from that book in Absolute Final Crisis, too), not to mention Reis' art should look great oversized.

    However, it won't address the weak spot of the previous Blackest Night collections, which is the lack of a version that collects all relevant tie-ins in proper reading order. If they can collect 20 issues plus lots of extras in each Absolute Sandman volume, I don't see why they couldn't include at least Green Lantern #43-52 and The Atom and Hawkman #46 along with the main mini and extras.

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  14. Also picking up on what Joe D said, I think the real issue is that DC has diluted the Absolute brand by releasing books in Absolute format that don't "deserve" it, these most recent ones being the prime example. Absolute isn't necessarily an event any more.

    I hate to say a story doesn't deserve Absolute treatment -- I don't want to cut off the canon by suggesting there's no "new classics" out there. Dark Knight Returns, and Batman: Long Halloween and Dark Victory, are all self-contained stories that seem "right" for the Absolute format. Green Lantern: Rebirth probably did deserve Absolute treatment even as there was already a full hardcover and paperback, because it was a ground-breaking story.

    But the difficulty with the Absolute Sinestro Corps War and Blackest Night is that if Absolute is supposed to be the "definitive" collection of a story, SCW and BN can't be told in the definitive manner in Absolute format. Absolute therefore no longer becomes definitive, and instead it's just "hardcover-plus" -- same as if you bought the hardcover, just bigger.

    It's the same with Absolute Identity Crisis, which might've been a sweet Absolute collected with a second book that reprinted some of the stories that inspired the miniseries. But there's not much to get excited about when it's "simply" a bigger book, five years later -- and the problem is now we're cynical where Absolutes are concerned.

    Gosh I'd buy the heck out of a Byrne Superman Omnibus.

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  15. I really prefer john Byrne's take on Superman it feels definitive to me. he thought the origin and power limitations through. the redefined relationship with Batman was excellent. the new take on Lex Luthor was inspired. really not much to complain about, in my opinion. -steve

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  16. Personally, I find the Absolute Editions to be vastly over-priced. They're just too damn expensive to even TRY to own. The only way I'd ever buy one is if I got it super cheap on E-bay and that's it. Not to mention they can't fit on my bookshelves.
    I much prefer the Omnibus editions (or best yet, the Showcase Presents if they exist). I'm all about cheap for the most amount of issues since I wanna read them, not just have pretty editions that sit there. I have the complete set of 4th World Omnibuses and the Starman set and I have tons of Showcase/Essentials. I have no Archives (once again, too expensive by in large). I just don't have the money to spend on over-priced big comics that have a couple of extra features I'll probably look at once and never look at again (if that).

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  17. I agree with many others that the recent "Absolute" books didn't really "deserve" the Absolute treatment. I look on my shelf at my Absolutes -- All Star Superman, Long Halloween, Dark Victory, Justice, Kingdom Come, New Frontier, and Watchmen -- and those stories were really SOMETHING. And they were, furthermore, self-contained. I don't think that Absolute books should collect ongoing titles unless DC plans to collect ALL of the issues (such as they did with Sandman, as far as I know). What they're doing with GL and Blackest Night just don't make sense to me.

    I cannot believe that I'm going to live in a world in which the O'Neil/Adams GL/GA exists in an out-of-print HC and a newly-released paperback, but that is somehow not an Absolute book, but Geoff Johns's GL-centric lackluster take on The Walking Dead will soon be an Absolute book.

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  18. DC's Absolute may not be dead but it is just a ghost of what it once was & what it should be. W/out even taking into account the quality of recent Absolute stories, the real issue is the lack of extras that made the Absolute series "Absolute". If DC wants to release supersized artist editions of books so the art can be seen at that scale, then great. But they should make sure that the book isn't in print in any other formats & should wait quite a while before printing them as supersized artist editions. Ominbuses are my preferred collections for long stories that should have all the extra material included in one collection. They are much better values then separate trades or hardcovers, also they contain stories usually not reprinted elsewhere.

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  19. No, I don't think the Absolutes are dead, but the market is changing. I think IDW and other publishers have seen what DC and Marvel has done and now they are taking the premium editions in a different direction. Instead of the oversized collected books, we are starting to see the Limited books (TMNT) and the Artist's Editions. Marvel is even copying this format with the newly announce Wolverine: Adamantium Edition - a smaller Omnibus, but limited in quantity. I'm sure it wil sell well. The Scott Pilgrim books are also limited and by all accounts are very high quality.

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  20. I would rather see them reprint something like Absolute Authority than keep churning out inferior Absolutes just because they can. If it's supposed to be about showcasing larger artwork, how in the world is there not an Absolute Edition featuring the art of Dave McKean (Sandman covers withstanding)??? They could kill two birds with one stone and do an Absolute Grant Morrison's Batman vol 1-4 (5?) with the first volume being Arkham Asylum and Gothic. Just sayin'.

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  21. Whilst I do agree with the majority of the article, I think the imminent Absolute edition of Final Crisis proves that the concept can still work.

    As stated on this very blog some months ago, the Final Crisis version includes key Batman issues that were left out of the original hardcover release as well as some other bonus material. People (myself included) were crying out for the Batman stuff to be included and it shows that DC can continue to make Absolute books that are worth buying and contain more than just oversized pages. This of course means they have to put a little thought into them, something not in evidence with the most recent solicitations.

    Simply put, Absolute's can still be valid. They have been in the past. Unfortunately the Final Crisis edition seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

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  22. The Absolutes, I'm sure, will keep on truckin' for as long as people continue to buy them (and they will), but it's clear that the program's mission statement has changed. The line seems to have transformed itself, as Chris said, into DC's version of the "Limited Edition" and "Artist's Edition" type of books being released by other companies.

    And I don't see anything wrong with that. Does it matter if the books are called "Absolute," "Omnibus," or anything else? It's just branding. The Absolute Sandman volumes sitting on your shelves won't provide you with any less enjoyment, no matter how many "lesser" comic books are collected in oversized hardcovers bearing the "Absolute" name.

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  23. I agree with Paul that Absolute Final Crisis shows how the Absolute format can still work. Indeed Final Cris is exactly right for Absolute -- relatively short, self-contained series that's already been collected but could use a more-premium collection with a few more additions. Spot on. But then you get to Blackest Night -- not self-contained, and the Absolute doesn't add anything. Hence our problem (as I think Paul agrees).

    Chris, what do you think DC could release in this kind of limited format? Does a reader still buy the limited edition from their LCS, or how does this work?

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  24. I bought the Absolute New Frontier and All Star Superman gladly. Those stories were instant classics with gorgeous art. The ones offered right now? Not so much.

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  25. I agree that DC Absolutes have jumped the shark, offering only a larger trim size in most of the new books. Absolute Kingdom Come was the last one that tempted me at all, but since I have the Graphitti signed and number HC for several years ago, it was not tempting enough. My biggest question is: what else is left that would be worthy of a high end reprint, that would actually interest enough of the market to justify it?

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  26. batman year one... absolute edition. make it fucking happen

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  27. Well I pre-ordered the Death & Return of Superman Omnibus & that has material that is ages ago. I wanted the complete story w/o the stupid sticker on it. It just depends on the demand. I also own the COIE, Batman Long Halloween & Kingdom Come Omnibuses from DC w/ Hellboy Library Ed. & Captain America & Miller/Bendis Daredevil Omninbuses. To wrap it all up in addition I own Local & Blacksad HCs.

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  28. I bought Absolute Promethea Vol 1 and it has NO extras....nothing much. While I'd gladly spring for the oversized Williams III art I didn't find any other material that would make this a compelling read....and US$100 for 12 issues...why isn't this a 2 Absolute series and not a 3? 16 issues per absolute are cool..

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  29. Weirdly enough for DC I only collect TPBs and for Marvel only(mostly) Omnibus and OHC. Because I got into Marvel just recently so i'm focusing on that.
    The only Absolute I have is Sandman.

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  30. I would be more excited for an "ABSOLUTE BRIGHTEST DAY" over Blackest Night. So far, Brightest Day has only been collected in three separate trades, and the three-issue "Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for Swamp Thing" has never been collected in any format (I don't think).

    Outside of COIE, and pretty much everything by Alan Moore, how many Absolute editions collect material DC published before 2000? So much of DC's best material has yet to be collected in any form. John Ostrander's full run on "The Spectre" should be given the respect it deserves. And don't even get me started on THE ATLANTIS CHRONICLES.......

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  31. I might question an Absolute Brightest Day just the same as Absolute Blackest Night -- given the story is now a year or two old and mostly out of continuity, I'm not sure the appeal of an Absolute Brightest Day (beyond one's own individual love of big collected comics, which I *totally* get) aside from just putting it on the market and seeing what bites.

    Yes to Spectre collections. And Atlantis Chronicles. And Martian Manhunter. And Suicide Squad. And immediately-post-Crisis Flash. Not Absolutes, necessarily, but collections. The list goes on.

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  32. I can't help but notice that the solicit page for Absolute Blackest Night seems to have been removed from DC's website:

    http://www.dccomics.com/graphic-novels/absolute-blackest-night.

    Instead, it just says "Access Denied". Moreover, the listing on Amazon.com no longer has a release date specified.

    I will say that the comments previously left on the DC page were all pretty negative (mine included).

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  33. Yes, as a coda (and we discuss it more here), ultimately DC resolicited the Absolute Blackest Night to include a bunch of Green Lantern issues. I'm pleased with the content, though still unconvinced an audience exists for an Absolute Blackest Night at all. Still, congratulations to the fans all around for inspiring a change on this.

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  34. I only have three Absolute Editions: "DC: The New Frontier," "Ronin," and that Alex Ross collection (I think it's called "The World's Greatest Super-Heroes"). I like the format ("New Frontier" is, in my opinion, the gold standard for how to do a collected edition) but there just isn't enough stuff released in the format that I actually like. I don't have any Omnibus Editions.

    Of all the formats that DC releases, I find that I actually have many more Deluxe Editions than any other ("Batman: Year One," "The Killing Joke," "Batwoman: Elegy," "World's Finest," "Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil," "The Judas Coin," "Black Orchid," and "Uncle Sam" (and I have "Solo" on order). I kinda like this format. Easier to hold and read, and much cheaper (I just wish they would use sewn bindings more consistently).

    In my ideal world they would also release Deluxe Editions of "The Man of Steel," "Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters," "Hawkworld," Chaykin's "Blackhawk," "The Atlantis Chronicles," and that "Twilight" series that Chaykin did with Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez.

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  35. I think absolute editions and omnibus editions can co-exist. Omnibus are for when the reader wants a bulk and continuous run of a series. Absolute editions make sense when you take the most respected and excellent stories (like Kingdom Come or Batman Hush) and put it into a prestige format that can sit proudly on a book shelf.

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