Saturday, May 30, 2020

Books reprinting scanned comic books

This is a follow-up to my last post about the unofficial Ludwig collection. I figured I'd show some examples of other reprint collections using scanned comics, where things are done properly. These kinds of collections are also called facsimile editions.

Walt Disney's Comics and Stories Archives / Four Color Adventures
 



First up are two books published by Boom! in 2011. As both books are numbered "vol.1" I guess more books were planned, but unfortunately these two were the only ones we got. As the titles suggest they reprint old comics from the Walt Disney Comics and Stories and Four Color/One-shots series from Dell – starting from the very beginning.

 

Example from inside

One thing I found a bit odd was the one book was printed on matte paper while the other one with glossy paper. Maybe they were experimenting to see what turned out best? I think I prefer the one with matte paper, but both were fine in my opinion. Pages with comics and text stories are printed in full paper size, while covers and ads with a border.

Covers and ads included, but not in full page size

Contrast adjustment and editing is done to make everything outside the actual panels look completely white, and minor restoration is probably done too (but not too much). The WDC&S #1 that was used as a source for this book was actually auctioned off soon after. And if my memory is correct it was far from mint condition. But the result turned out great I think.

A huge thumbs up for both books are the bonus articles with background information about the series.

Golden Age Comics / The Classics Collection

 



These two hardcover books from Disney Editions have the same content and are using the same source material. They are also collecting comics from Dell's Four Color series, but not in a complete manner as the two books from Boom!. Games, ads, copyright text and such are edited out, and the Dumbo comic book inside is only partly reprinted. Also, it's just a few selected comic books from the series and not printed chronologically.
 


One of the books have the comic pages printed a lot larger than the original comics making you really notice the details in the original four-color printing technique.

Norwegian weekly reprints

 



In 1998 the Norwegian publisher of Disney comics started reprinting the weekly Donald Duck comic chronologically from the beginning, and in hardcover format. As I'm writing this the series is still being published with all weeklies from 1948 to 1978 being published in (so far) 165 books!

 


You can buy the hardcover books in a regular book store, but they are mostly sold through a subscription service. When getting to the 70's it's a lot cheaper to get the original comics in good condition than to buy the hardcover books, but it seems enough people are still buying it to keep the series going.

 



Some of the early books doesn't have the best scanning in my opinion, but it gets better. All books also have a text in the beginning with different topics talking about Disney comics (some of these are more interesting than the actual comics being collected!). Another great thing about this collection is that a lot of libraries in Norway are buying the series making the early Norwegian Disney comics widely available.

The Carl Barks' Big Book of Barney Bear





The Barney Bear book from YOE Books/IDW is not collecting Disney comics, but Barks' stories with Barney Bear & Benny Burro. We don't get any complete comic books in this book, but all stories are scanned from old comics.


Most of it looks great, but there are some muddy pages in-between too. I like the thick matte paper used in this book a lot!

Comics about Cartoonists





Another book from YOE Books/IDW is Comics about Cartoonists where they are also using scans from old comics. Inside we have The Amazing Story of Walt Disney, originally printed in True Comics #72 (1948)






The Toon Treasury of Classic Children's Comics



Slowly turning back to actual Disney comics, we have The Toon Treasury of Classic Children's Comics with a story by Carl Barks inside, scanned from Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #145.




Donald Duck im Mickey Mouse Weekly von William Ward



And I'll end with this book that I've talked about before on here. It's created by fans but in a professional way, collecting the William Ward serials from the British Mickey Mouse Weekly. I really love this book!






Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Unofficial "Adventures of Professor Ludwig" collection


In the beginning of March we had someone thinking that the old Ludwig Von Drake comics from Dell was in public domain. And for very limited time (about half a day) a book collecting the comics was available as a print-on-demand book on Amazon. The publisher apparently use to search up old American comics where the copyright has not been renewed, and then make a compilation of scans from the old comics and put them up for sale as a print-on-demand service through Amazon. When done professionally this could be an interesting project, but in the case of the Ludwig book I'm afraid I couldn't have recommended anyone supporting this even if it turned out to be a legal project. I'll do some arguments for that down below.

The whole thing started with an announcement on Facebook on the 5th of March for a release the next day.



 

The next day we got a teaser telling the book was live, but no actual link for where to purchase the book was posted.




But it was easy enough to search up on Amazon.




Later that day when the news spread to the online Disney fan community, it didn't take long to confirm that the copyright actually was renewed for the comics! Ludwig's last name was just written as VonDrake rather than Von Drake in the copyright catalog. This can be confirmed by doing a simple search in the public copyright catalog.





And when the people behind the project was made aware, we got another Facebook update, and the book was soon after made unavailable on Amazon.


Facebook post canceling the publication

Made unavailable on Amazon

I guess that could be the end of the story. But when I saw all the Facebook comments that day, I knew this book was going to be taken down quick. And even if the preview pages on Amazon didn't look very promising, I went ahead and bought the book while available. I thought it could be an interesting post on this blog. And after getting the book I wanted to make others aware of some facts so you can do a critical assessment of your own when seeing projects like this.
 

Unofficial reprint book (left), the 4 original comics the book collects (right)


I did some comparisons to the original comics, and here are also some of my thoughts on reprint projects in general.

Source material

The most important part for a project like this is to obtain good source material. If proofs can't be found it's perfectly ok to use scans from the old comics. But you should make some effort to find good clean copies to scan from and do it in a high resolution. The Luwig book fails completely in this part. They obviously didn't do any of the scanning themselves, or probably even tried to buy their own copies or contact other collectors (the original comics are not hard to find). The source is from a scanning done 15 years ago and made available online by the pirate scanning community. I got a copy of the original files, and they are in 200 DPI with lossy JPEG compression. And that is not good enough for 1:1 printing in my opinion.


Source file used in the book

The same image as printed in the book

Cleanup and restoration

Even if you scan mint condition comics some cleanup and adjustments needs to be done for printing. This can be mandatory things like color correction and straightening the scans. But any tears, or marks should be edited out too. Some reprint projects I've seen even correct offset color printing errors, but that might be a little bit overboard. But again this project fails. There's no editing done and they haven't even rotated the scans to be straight…

 

Image not rotated for the book

Well, actually some editing is done. The copyright text and ads are removed from the comics, like in this case where they cut into the actual comic panels!

 

Copyright text cut out (and part of the comic panels as well!)


Size

Personally I like reprints to be in the same size or larger than the original comics. The print in the book actually is slightly larger than the original, but it doesn't really benefit from that here with the low resolution scans.

 

Slightly larger print in the reprint book (left) compared to the original comic (right)


Layout and design

Anyone trying to sell something would want the product to look appealing, especially the cover design. But this is not really something I care too much about myself, I'm more interested in the content in books I buy. I think most of my other reprint-books have the scanned pages printed in full paper size. This book has white borders around, but I didn't really mind that (if the scans had been cleaned up and rotated).



Example of white borders outside the scanned pages


Completeness

In a reprint project I'd like things to be as complete as possible. In the case of the four Ludwig comics from Dell, they all exist in two different printings where one has comic pages replaced by more ads. The preferred version to include in a reprint book would of course be the ones with all the comic pages present. But that's not the case in this book. It actually reprints all four versions with extra ads, and there's a total of seven stories missing in the book. (one two-pager, the rest one-page/half-page comic stories)

In the example below the bottom half page had an advertisement in the ad-version of the comic (removed in the book), while the other version has an extra half page with comics.

 

Advertisements cut out in the book (left), original comic without ads (right)


The picture under is the back cover of issue one and two. Both exists in two versions, one with comics on the back page and one with ads (the comic page shown is missing in the book)

 

Back cover of Ludwig von Drake #1 (left) and #2 (right)

And this entire story is missing in the book too:



Printing

This is a critical part that I've seen professional publishers fail at a lot of times. Even if you use InDesign or MS Word or whatever program and everything looks perfect, you need to prepare a file for the printing company – often a pdf file. This is not as easy as it sounds and you need to be careful with compression, fonts that are used, color space, layers in the right order, linked media, page size etc. The Ludwig book is not a very complicated creation, and it looks like this part went well.

According to Kindle Direct Publishng (earlier CreateSpace) there's not a lot of different paper types to choose from when self-publishing on Amazon. There are more trim sizes to choose, but you are limited to the standards there and can't have the book cut exactly the size you want. It doesn't look like any of the standards are the exact same size as the golden age Dell comics. So you need to do some cutting, adding borders or scaling if you want to self-publish with scans of old comics.

As already said, this Ludwig book added white borders, and the paper is matte. I have seen reprint books with scanned comics using both matte and glossy paper, and I think I prefer matte. But both works fine, and there's nothing to complain about with the actual printing quality in the Ludwig book.

Pricing

I'm willing to spend some money on a quality reprint project, but in this case there's no way this book is worth $26.99 (even if full color print-on-demand books have high printing cost regardless of content). I checked out some online comic shops, and it looks like you can get all four of the original 60's comics in VG to GD/VG condition for about the same price. Being a bit patient on eBay, probably less.



Example of May 2020 prices for the original comics (click to enlarge)


And for fun I checked the royalty calculator to find out how much Amazon and the publisher earned on me buying this book.
 



***

I've seen some really great reprints from scanned comics, and also great productions of public domain movies and books. But there are also those that try to make money on public domain material with little effort or care for the product they are selling. So you need to have a critical mind before using your money on projects like this.


Sunday, May 24, 2020

"Mickey Mouse 1932" from Club Anni Trenta (paperback edition)



I already talked about the hardcover edition of this book in 2016, when I bought it without knowing what I was going to receive.

When trying to do some research back then, I found a forum post mentioning a paperback edition, but found no pictures or more information about this edition anywhere. (I found a couple of pics searching right now) Not long ago however I randomly found a copy on eBay when searching for something else. And as usual my curiosity got the better of me and I got this one too.


Front cover of the hardcover edition (top) and paperback (bottom)

Back cover of the hardcover edition (top) and paperback (bottom)

Compared to the hardcover edition the content is identical, but title is different ("Mickey Mouse" vs "Mickey Mouse 1932") and the cover illustration used on the paperback is not included in the other one. The illustration is not taken from any of the strips in inside, but is actually an illustration for the Mickey Mouse theme song!


The book starts with the January 4, 1932 Mickey Mouse strip and ends with the November 11, 1932 strip. All of them are in English even if the book was published by an Italian book club.
 

Same content inside the two books

Even the copyright page has the exact same text.
 

Copyright text, click to enlarge

The book is a nice curiosity from the era where these Mickey strips wasn't as commonly available as they are today. But the book does not have any content you can't find in Fantagraphics' collection of Mickey strips by Floyd Gottfredson.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Live drawing with Arild Midthun during the corona epidemic

When schools closed due to the corona epidemic in Norway, the weekly Donald comic started streaming live videos with artist Arild Midthun on their Facebook page. The first live session streamed on March 17, and they kept it going with daily videos until April 26. They are all saved and can be viewed on Facbook (note: everything is in Norwegian!).


Some of the videos from the Facebook gallery

In the videos Arild do live drawing while talking about Disney comics. In several videos he also show some of the original art for covers and stories he has done, even some not published yet.


Cover not published yet (when this blogpost was written)

In one of the last videos he showed artwork from a detective story that was published this week, and I found it interesting to compare to the final product.


Arild with the original artwork for the cover

As you can see below the drawings are done the traditional way with ink on paper. But the panel frames, speech balloons and finishing touch is done digitally. And it looks like the camper trailer in the splash panel was redrawn later.
 



When done this way the originals have a tiny bit more artwork done compared to what ends up in the comic book.
 






The new detective story is both written and drawn by Arild, and features professor Argus McFiendy from Darkest Africa by Carl Barks.
 

Professor Argus McFiendy in Darkest Africa, created by Carl Barks

It's actually not the first time Arild have drawn this character. He is also used in One Step Ahead where he is teaming up with Flintheart Glomgold.

From the story One Step Ahead

Friday, May 1, 2020

Donald Pocket in large format

Norwegian Donald Pocket #491, regular size (left). large size edition (right)
Norwegian Donald Pocket #491, regular size (left). large size edition (right)

Yesterday we got a little surprise in the comic racks in Norwegian stores. The new issue of the long running Donald Pocket series suddenly was on sale in two different sizes! This came out of the blue with no previous announcement, but we got a short (not very informative) message on the publisher's Facebook page the same day.


Facebook post about the large edition


As I write this, we don't have any more information to go on, and it is unclear if this was just a one-time experiment or if they plan on changing the size or continue publishing two editions.

Apart from the size and some minor cover details the two editions are identical. They even have the same price.
 

Back cover

But the spine is different where the regular sized pocket has part of an image continuing from previous books. The new larger one just has a blue spine with a title*, but have the same numbering.

[* The cover title is "Ønsk-o-mat", spine title is "Ønsko-o-mat", the story title the cover is referring to is "Ønsk-o-maten", while the table of contens title for the same story is "Drømmeprinteren"...]

 

Norwegian Donald Pocket #491, spine

I tried to compare the paper used, and it does look like they have different paper. But it's not a very noticeable difference.

I guess the big question is, what version is the preferred one? The pocket format has a long tradition in Europe, originating with the Italian I Classici di Walt Disney, and have been published since the late 60's. And it would not be the same having the format gone or changed. But personally, there's no doubt that I prefer the larger one! I've never liked the pocket format much and prefer to read my comics in a larger size.

 
Example from inside the books

Edit after reading comments:

The lettering/text font is not scaled the same way as the art in the large version. The result is slightly different formatting inside the speech balloons.


From the regular sized pocket book (left) and the larger one (right)

From the regular sized pocket book (left) and the larger one (right)

This went wrong on one page in the large version with the text ending up like this:

From the regular sized pocket book (top) and the larger one (bottom)


The text is misaligned and smaller than the rest of the story on the entire page the panel above is taken from. But it's the only page in the book with this error.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Disney Masters box 3



I'm a bit late with this post, but I planned on doing a quick talk about all the Disney Masters volumes as I got around to read them. There's a lot of interesting things to note about the stories inside! I already did a post about the first two box sets in 2018, and here are some notes on the third box set, with volume five and six in the Disney Masters series.

As I wrote in the last post, the first two box sets had a 90th Anniversary sticker on the shrink wrap. The third box does not (at least not the one I received), but volume 5 has the same sticker on the cover. Online images of the book, including the one on Fantagraphics' own webpage have the logo on the cover, but it's actually just a sticker. Maybe later printings/distributions of the book will be different.

 

Screenshot from Fantagraphics' webpage, cover with the MM 90th Anniversary logo


Volume 5 - Mickey Mouse: The Phantom Blot's Double Mystery (Romano Scarpa)


Volume 5 is another book with stories drawn by Romano Scarpa, starting with two classics and ending with a story seen in English for the first time.

The Phantom Blot's Double Mystery

This story already got an American printing in Gladstone's Mickey and Donald series. But there the story was altered to fit a 4-layer format, with extended art, a few things cut out and in 3 parts different from the original 4 parts. The Disney Masters book have the story in its original format.



Gladstone's version with extended art (left), and original version in Disney Masters (right)

End of part one and start of part two in Gladstone's version

Same pages in the original layout in the Disney Masters book

The story could be seen as a sequel to Mickey Mouse Outwits the Phantom Blot, with the Blot trying to get revenge on Mickey and with several references to the original newspaper story.

Mickey and O'Hara refering to events in Mickey Mouse Outwits the Phantom Blot

Same costume in Mickey Mouse Outwits the Phantom Blot (left) and The Phantom Blot's Double Mystery (right)

While the story starts and ends as a Phantom Blot story, for quite a while it's mostly a Mickey+Eega story, when Eega Beeva suddenly appear.
 


But in this translation Eega calls the thnuckle-booh for Pflip. While originally and in a couple of other translations I checked, he is called Flip 2° (Flip the second), suggesting it's not the same Flip/Pflip as in the newspaper stories.

The name is Flip 2° in the original Italian text

 This one also has a nice feature turning him red when danger is around.

 
But I didn't think Eega would ever call him a dog…


From the newspaper story Mickey Makes a Killing, making it clear that it's not a dog!

From The Phantom Blot's Double Mystery

The translation in Disney Masters is the same as the earlier Gladstone version, with parts that was cut there added. But the dialogue has been adjusted here, and most notably the way Eega talks. The Gladstone dialogue has a P in front of almost everything he says, but this has been toned down in the new book. It's done in a way that still keeps the usual way of talking, but the text is a whole lot easier to read! Overusing the p-thing can get a bit annoying after a while.

 
Gladstone dialogue (left), Disney Masters dialogue (right)


We also got a strange appearance of The Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland in this story, here named Thomas Topper.



 

The Last Balaboo

The Last Balaboo is the first story with Birgitta, a character created by Scarpa that is now part of the regular cast in Duckburg. As the title say we also get to meet the last Balaboo, which we just learned was not really the last one of his species at all. A few years ago we got The Next-To-Last Balaboo published in Europe as a sequel to The Last Balaboo.

The Last Balaboo is also previously published by Gladstone, but it's nice to have it collected in hardcover on proper paper. We also got a different coloring than used by Gladstone.
 

Coloring in Uncle Scrooge #242 (left) vs. Disney Masters vol.5 (right)


 

The Eternal Flame of Kalhoa

While the two first stories in this book are classics, The Eternal Flame of Kalhoa is the most fun one in my opinion. And that credit goes to O'Bully and O'Gally, two Irish sailors who is constantly getting in fights with each other and making a havoc!



They are constantly fighting, but good friends again imedialty after
 
According to some texts I've read about the story, it's based on an episode of the newspaper comic series Tim Tyler's Luck. But I haven't been able to find any copies of those comics to compare..

The story is also adapted to a book novel, illustrated with art from the comic story.



Book adapting the comic story

Panel from the comic story (left) reused illustrating the novel (right)
 
A lot of the early Italian Disney comics features guns and can be a bit violent compared to todays standard. When this story was first published in northern Europe in the 70's it was already censored back then with guns removed. The Disney Masters series try to publish the stories as close to the original as possible, and I didn't notice any obvious censoring here. But there might be minor cases like the bullets being removed (but not the gun) like I've seen in some other stories.
 

Norwegian 1st edition (left), later printing with coloring goof (middle), original panel as in Disney Masters (right)



Volume 6 - Uncle Scrooge: King of the Golden River (Giovan Battista Carpi)


We haven't seen a lot of stories drawn by Carpi published in the USA, but we've had a few – maybe most notably The Diabolical Duck Avenger, with Duck Avengers debut. But Carpi was a productive creator and Europe has seen a large number of his Disney stories trough decades.
 



King of the Golden River


Carpi is known for drawing many of the literature parody stories with Disney characters, f.ex. Hamlet by William Shakespare and The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

 

Example from Carpi's Hamlet parody, printed in English in a British book


The first story in this book is also based on a short story with the same name by John Ruskin, but maybe more inspired by than a parody story like the ones mentioned above.

 



The story is from a few years into Carpi's Disney production, but is a nice example of his early style. At the very end of the story we also get a little trivia. If you ever wondered how much the ducks weight, now you have the answer 😀
 



Mickey the Kid and Six-Shot Goofy

 


I briefly mentioned this story on the blog before, when talking about IDW's Showcase #2. Back then Mickey the Kid and Six-Shot Goofy was available digitally in English as Mickey Kid and Goofy Six-Shots on comiXology. But now we finally got the origin story on print! The earlier digital edition was actually removed for purchase on comiXology when this this version got published by Fantagraphics. The same thing happened with Mickey Mouse in the Delta Dimension, The Space Tourist (titled The Tourist at the End of the Universe by IDW) and The Factotum Cruise (titled The Bad-News Bruise Cruise by IDW). They also got removed from comiXology when a new translation was published by IDW/Fantagraphics. Maybe one of the reasons was to not get any focus on the different dialogue, but I'll post a little example here to show.

From the earlier digital edition (top) and the Disney Masters book (bottom)


Me, Myself–And Why?

The book ends with another story with Scrooge, Donald and the boys. This one was first published in 1970 while the first story in the book is from 1961. But comparing the two, you can see that the drawing style has changed a lot.


From King of the Golden River (1961)

From Me, Myself–And Why? (1970)

Me, Myself–And Why? is a perfect example of what I've always thought of as "the Italian style" from the era. We have the usual overdramatic expressions and actions.
 


...the typical running all over the place with cloud dust.



And we even get the recurring joke as often seen in Italian stories where Scrooge go to Donald's house to eat food.
 



Also, if you ever need to explain to someone what it means to "have several hats on", you can just point them to this story. It's the perfect example! 😁




In the story we see a butler that looks different than the Quackmore we know from other Italian stories translated to English. The inducks database identify him as "Battista in Cimino scripts", and this could have been a good opportunity to give this butler a different English name. But on the other hand, if you check a bunch of other Cimino stories drawn by different artist you would find a lot of different looking butlers. So maybe it's best to not use any names for them to add to the confusion…
 

The butler in Me, Myself–And Why?



This book didn't feature any stories written by Carpi, but he also wrote a lot of the stories he drew. I wouldn't mind seeing another book dedicated to him with some of those stories, maybe with Mickey the Kid vs. Jack the Streamer as a follow-up to this book and as a prequel to IDW's Showcase #2.