Absolute Realisation

A short, insignificant realisation hit me today. Now, I love DC Absolute Editions. Given that I adore beautifully presented books, the idea of huge, slipcase-covered editions of comic books packed with all kinds of extras and unseen art – they’re books as artifacts, and I’ve frequently cooed and gaped over them simply because they’re so gorgeously designed. This has even been the case with comics that aren’t that good. The legendary DC crossover series Crisis on Infinite Earths is, truth be told, an unreadable mess in almost anyone’s book, and yet the gigantic Absolute Edition (with the Alex Ross slipcase art) was so lovely that it almost had me laying down an absurd amount of moolah. My wife got me Absolute Watchmen for my birthday in 2006- and while it wasn’t something I’d immediately put on my list as something I really, really wanted… I’m so glad I have it now. The art has the chance to breathe on pages that large, you can see so much detail, and the whole thing makes it feel like you’re reading it anew. It’s like the difference between VHS and DVD, and the fact that they only produce a small number of them each year only makes them more special. The most recent one I got was DC: The New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke, a wonderful retro-look at the birth of the Justice League, and it’s like watching a maginificent animated movie (they’ve actually made it into a DVD feature, due out in a couple of months- although simplifying it down will mean losing a lot of the detail that made it special).

What this revolves around is that they’re bringing out Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman in the Absolute format- an expensive commitment, considering that it’s four giant-sized volumes whose British RRP is £70 (although Amazon has them for cheaper). I got volume 1 for Christmas last year, and I currently have enough to get volume 2… and yet I’ve realised that I don’t desperately want to. It’d be lovely to have– and yet, I’ve already got most of The Sandman (save for one story arc) in normal-sized graphic novel format. There are sections of the story I love, and I’m glad I’ve got them– and yet I don’t love it quite enough to want to buy it all over again.

Now, if it was Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing we were talking about, there’d be nothing stopping me – but combined with this, I was actually a little disappointed with the first Sandman Absolute Edition. It’s been beautifully recoloured and the art remastered and it’s a great way of having those stories… but while the original graphic novels were beautifully designed (by Dave McKean) and had their own identity, the Absolute Sandman feels a little uniform and corporate. There isn’t even any new art on the slipcase, there’s one section where a double-page spread has been split across opposing pages, breaking the flow of the art, and many of the original covers have a rather ugly white border around them. They just don’t feel quite as special as some of the other Absolute editions- and for £70 a shot, they’d better feel special. It’s just the realisation that despite having the collectors urge, despite loving the smell of new books, and adoring the world of comic books… I’m actually happy with my original hardbacks. They may not be as beautifully coloured, but they’ve got their own identity, and they’re good enough for me. Maybe I’ll have another major windfall sometime, and maybe the Absolute Sandman volumes won’t go out of print for a while (unlike the Absolute version of Planetary, which now goes for an obscene amount of money…), but for now, I don’t mind. I’m not sure if that means I’m growing up or getting sensible. I guess it’ll just have to do for now…

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