This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Reprint Comics.
Today, almost twenty years ago to the day I purchased my first comic from a newsagents in a smallish town in Devon, England. It was a transformative moment for me, and ignited what has turned out to be a lifelong love of sequential art that has expanded over the years from that first comic to numerous different characters, publishers, genres and styles. Over the years I came to understand that comic books, graphic novels and their ilk could be so much more than the spandex clad entertainment that I took it to be at first – even those earlier stories that I read as a youngling will sometimes have an additional layer to them.
But I’m getting ahead of myself and veering into a different direction.
The comic that I picked up twenty years ago was Wolverine Unleashed #8, and if you’ve been reading some of the Retro Reviews I’ve been doing lately then that name may be familiar to you. If you haven’t been, then essentially Wolverine Unleashed was a British reprint comic that would collect three original issues, or an issue sized chunk of a graphic novel, every month. wolverine Unleashed #8 collected Wolverine Vol. II #43, Wolverine Vol. I #4 (the original miniseries) and the second part to Wolverine: Bloodlust which was a great introduction for young me into Wolverine comics because it exposed me to three different stories at once. As an aside, I realize now that two of those stories were the finales in the reprinted form ( Bloodlust had been divided into two parts, and Wolverine Vol. I was a four part miniseries) but this fact clearly never bothered me at the time. Without this reprint comic being in the newsagents I had wandered into then it’s debatable whether being exposed to comics at a later date would have ignited the same level of interest in me.
And that’s why I wanted to talk about reprint comics today.
When I talk about reprint comics, I’m not talking about graphic novels or trade paperback collections, but comics that reprint a single issue. They’re not as prevalent as they once were, especially not in North America, but when I was a lad until I discovered my first comic shop all I was able to lay my hands on were reprint comics.
Yes, I know that reprint comics don’t always have the collectability of the original comic, but there are some that have can hold a bit of value, granted these are few and far between (and usually about fifty years old), but that’s not why you pick up a reprint comic, really, is it? If you’re picking up a reprint comic it’s because you just want to read the stories, or you don’t know it’s a reprint an you think you’re getting a deal (but that’s neither here nor there), and the price of said reprint is far more accessible to you than the individual comics – maybe even the reprint itself is easier to find than the original. That was certainly the case for me, some twenty odd years ago, and for many others in the UK at the time because it just wasn’t as easy to find the originals as it was the Marvel UK reprint magazines (the aforementioned Wolverine Unleashed, Spectacular Spider-Man, Essential X-Men and Marvel Heroes are just four that come to mind off the top of my head), and so they’ll always have a soft spot in my heart.
So why are they Underrated?
Because so many of us just plain don’t give them the credit the deserve as the gateway into the larger comics world.