Wednesday Comics – Good Content, But Cheap Newsprint
I’m of two minds with the much celebrated Wednesday Comics. The actual comics, I like quite a bit. The el cheapo newsprint it was printed on, I dislike so much, I’m having second thoughts about picking up the… series? (It isn’t really a book, per se.)
I walked into my local comics shop on a rainy day in Chicago and a frown crossed my face almost instantly. Wednesday Comics was displayed right as I walked in and the paper looked grey. It looked like one of the alternative weekly newspapers you find inside the door, except with a bit more red on the cover. That is to say, it looked eminently disposable. Like something I’d pay $2 for, not $3.99. I opened it up. The color looked very dull, compared to the vibrant images I’d seen in the numerous previews online. I bought it anyway, but I sure did think twice before my wallet came out.
When I got back from the shop, I showed it to a friend who will buy a couple graphic novels each year, but doesn’t read monthly comics. He laughed out loud that something looking like Wednesday Comics cost $4. I did discover if I shined a direct light on it, the paper whitened a bit and the color popped a bit more. It was especially obvious with the sunrise on the Kamandi strip. So I ended up contorting while I was reading it, trying to keep the pages in a fairly direct line to a lamp.
I went to the USA Today website, pulled up the Superman strip and held the print edition up next to the screen. The Internet version of the strip was on a white background, the colors seems brighter and it popped more. Away from the lamp, the print version was grey and a bit dull.
I can appreciate, to a point, the desire to put this on old school newsprint. It doesn’t look like it was colored with newsprint in mind, except perhaps the Adam Strange strip which has a fairly muted palette. This was all the more jarring having seen so many previews based on the original art files. Ironically, a common warning from publishers is that scanned comics aren’t going to look as good as the printed versions because the scan might not be good or color corrected. In this case, the (official) online is clearly cleaner than the print job.
And to top it off, while my friend was laughing that I paid $4 for what he deemed a skinny version of the Chicago Reader, he wanted to know how long before the newsprint turned yellow and started to rot.
If this was on a whiter paper stock, perhaps mando, I’d have much less to complain about. Still, the coloring doesn’t work as often as it does and you wonder if all the colorists were completely aware what paper they were coloring for.
Yes, the package is the equivalent of 60 pages plus cover for $4, but this is cheap paper. It also inadvertently makes a case for Joey Q’s argument that modern color looks funny on newsprint (“Did I mention that if we dropped to newsprint we would have to forget about computer coloring and good printing as it would be a complete waste?”).
Now, as to the actual content, this is some of the most interesting work I’ve seen out of DC in a while. It’s interesting to see how various creators treat the format. Dave Gibbons and Ryan Sook look like they’ve used Prince Valiant as a template for Kamandi. Adam and Joe Kubert’s 9-panel grid on Sgt. Rock could be a “normal” comic book page that was enlarged. Ben Caldwell probably packs 6 or 7 “normal” comic book pages worth of material into his Wonder Woman page. The Flash page by Karl Kerschl, Brenden Fletcher, Rob Leigh, and Dave McCaig is split into two Sunday-format strips from the 70s/80s school: one three-tier Flash strip and one two-tier Iris West.
The amount of story varies a bit, too. Wonder Woman had the most story going on, but Walt Simonson and Brian Stelfreeze get a chapter’s worth of set-up in. Also surprisingly effective is the rare Dan DiDio excursion into writing. His Metal Men with Jose Louis Garcia-Lopez strikes a nice balance between a comic book page and the tiered structure of comic strips. Lining up the headshots of the Metal Men in the title panel above their human disguises in the second story panel is a very efficient way to introduce things and bring you up to speed on the personalities. It covers just a hair more territory than set-up. Still, most of the material for week one is story set-up. It will be a couple more weeks before you know where most of the stories are going.
This reminds me, more than anything else, of a more avant-garde version of Action Comics Weekly. Yes, that Action Comics Weekly. The last weekly anthology from DC also featured Superman, Green Lantern and Deadman. It had an espionage strip in the Secret Six (possibly my favorite from the run). An adventure strip with Blackhawk. Action’s weekly incarnation mixed it up a little.
The art styles in Wednesday Comics are a lot more varied. They go heavier in the science fiction territory, lighter in espionage and probably about the same for superheroes. The names are a little bigger. The tone is a little more varied. But I really see a relation between the books.
If the same material was serialized in a more traditional format, I’d still be interested. I’m ready for Paul Pope Adam Strange, Kyle Baker Hawkman and Dave Gibbons/Ryan Sook Kamandi spin-offs right now, actually.
As for the package as a whole, I’m really torn. I like the material, but I don’t much care for the presentation. I’d be much more comfortable getting the compiled material on a grade of paper that better accommodates the modern coloring on most of the strips. I expect it will look like a fatter version of the Fantagraphics Prince Valiant reprints.
Now if someone (Dan & Paul, I’m looking at you) could get Wednesday Comics editor/concept man Mark Chiarello on a regular product development schedule, that would be a good thing.