It looks like DC Comics are using the Omnibus format as their current way to collect classic material in chronological order.  In the past, there have been the Archives series (hardcover, full color), the Showcase Presents series (softcover, black and white, usually twice the page count of an Archive), and the Chronicles series (softcover, full color, smaller page count than an Archive).  In the past few years, all of these lines have been quietly shuttered, and now DC is releasing Omnibus collections in both hardcover and softcover formats.

As you would expect, the Omnibus hardcovers are huge.  Two Silver Age volumes collected the first 76 issues of JLA (along with Brave and Bold 28-30 and Mystery in Space 75), for example.  Earlier this year, DC released JLA: The Bronze Age Omnibus Volume 1, collecting JLA # 77-113.  That's almost half of the original series collected in this way, which for a fan like me is great news.  The JLA Archives had 10 volumes, collected the first 93 issues, and the first volume and last volume were released twenty-two years apart.  The first JLA Omnibus came out in 2014.

DC is also releasing these collections in trade paperbacks with a smaller page count than the hardcovers.  The great thing is that these TPBs collect more issues than the Archives did!  The material collected in the first JLA Silver Age Omnibus has all been released in 3 TPBs.

I have the first JLA Silver Age TPB, and I loved it!  I also have the first JLA Showcase Presents, but I find that without color, I just don't enjoy the stories as much as I could.  Actually, I find I enjoy most Silver Age comics more in color versus reading them in Showcase Presents and Essential Marvel.

I wonder how many of the rest of you are buying and reading these Omnibus collections, and what you think of the format.

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I may have an answer for you.

The first 12 issues of Marvel Classics weren't produced by Marvel -- they were reprints from a publisher named Pendulum Press. Pendulum produced a great many one-shots (most, but not all, literary adaptations) from 1971 to 1979, then went away and came back in 1990-1994 with what I assume are some reprints.

Pendulum's 1971 output was four funny animal books. It published nothing in 1972. It published 13 one-shots in 1973, and nine in 1974, all literary adaptations. It was from these 21 issues that Marvel lifted its first 12 issues of Marvel Classics, albeit with new, in-house-produced covers. Pendulum published nothing in 1975, and nothing in 1976 except Basic Illustrated History of America #1-12. So when Marvel Classics launched in 1976, the above is all they had to choose from vis-a-vis potential reprints.

Here's a list of Pendulum's output, with Marvel Classics reprints in parenthesis:

1971

Bugs Bunny

Road Runner

Tweety and Sylvester

Woody Woodpecker

 

1973

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Marvel Classics #1)

The Time Machine (MC #2)

20,000 Leagues under the Sea (MC #4)

Black Beauty (MC #5)

Tom Sawyer (MC #7)

Moby Dick (MC #8)

Dracula (MC #9)

The Red Badge of Courage (MC #10)

The Call of the Wild

Around the World in Eighty Days

Frankenstein

Treasure Island

Huckleberry Finn

 

1974

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (MC #3)

Gulliver's Travels (MC #6)

The Mysterious Island (MC #11)

The Three Musketeers (MC #12)

The Invisible Man

Kidnapped

The Story of My Life

The Great Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

The War of the Worlds

 

1976

Basic Illustrated History of America #1-12 (1976 – 1981)

 

1977

Captains Courageous

The Best of O. Henry

1978

Ben Hur

The Best of Poe

A Christmas Carol

Crime and Punishment

The Food of the Gods

White Fang

Wuthering Heights

The Last of the Mohicans

 Jane Eyre

The Hound of the Baskervilles

The House of the Seven Gables

Houdini - Walt Disney

Ivanhoe

The Man in the Iron Mask

The Prince and the Pauper

The Prisoner of Zenda

Robinson Crusoe

The Sea Wolf

 

1979

Billy Budd

Charles Lindbergh - Amelia Earhart

Abraham Lincoln - Franklin D. Roosevelt

Davy Crockett - Daniel Boone

Babe Ruth - Jackie Robinson

The Beatles

The Beatles

Elvis Presley - The Beatles

George Washington - Thomas Jefferson

Heidi

The Iliad

Jim Thorpe - Althea Gibson

Lord Jim

Madame Curie - Albert Einstein

Thomas Edison - Alexander Graham Bell

Mutiny on Board H.M.S. Bounty

The Odyssey

Solarman #1-3 (1979 – 1980)

Vince Lombardi - Pelé

 

1990

Pendulum's Illustrated Stories #1-6 (1990-91)

 

1994

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

So, reading between the lines, Marvel isn't reprinting Marvel Classics #1-12 because they no longer have the rights to the material, which wasn't generated in-house.

By a happy coincidence, I have five issues of Marvel Classics Comics on my desk: #2 (Time Machine), #3 (Hunchback of Notre Dame) and #4 (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea). When I recently went though them, I thought that they were European reprints or least from an earlier time. They did not look like any contemporary Marvel book.

In fact, #2 was adapted by Otto Binder and Alex Nino, #3 by Naunerle Farr and Jon Lo Famia and #4 again by Otto Binder with art by Ronnie Gamboa and Ernie Patricio. 

On each cover there was a medal-shaped side logo with the adapted book's title plus "Marvel Classics Comics" yet again. But I also have #14 (War of the Worlds) written by Chris Claremont and #21 (Master of the World) by Doug Moench with art by relatively unknown artists but definitely in the Marvel style!

However the latter covers' medal shaped side logos now read "ALL NEW Marvel Classics Comics" emphasizing Marvel producing them in house.

Thus answering a 45-year-old mystery that none of us knew about until Jeff brought it up. Thanks Philip!

More on Pendulum Press:

It's described on Wikipedia as a children's education publisher, and was founded by David Oliphant, whose name is familiar but Wiki has nothing and I can't remember who he is/was. He hired Vincent Fago, the former editor of Timely Comics, to run Pendulum. Wiki says Fago had trouble hiring American artists -- it doesn't say why, but I'd guess "money" -- so they hired Nestor Redondo of the Philippines, who did 20 of the comics, and all the rest were done by Filipino artists as well.

Not only did Marvel reprint some of the early Pendulum classics, but Solarman, too. I remember that title coming out for a couple of issues (in the '70s? '80s?), and like Philip mentions above about early Marvel Classics, I scratched my head as to the oddness of it. It wasn't in the Marvel art style, and if memory serves, it was pretty heavy on Christian propaganda. I got them all, but didn't enjoy them.

I recently stumbled across a hardback printing of their Treasure Island issue. I previously didn't know they existed.  I thought it was so well done that I purchased back issues of the She and War of the Worlds ones. Nice adaptations.

“Marvel isn't reprinting Marvel Classics #1-12 because they no longer have the rights to the material, which wasn't generated in-house.”

Ah, I did not know that. That is certainly the explanation. Thanks!

I happen to have the six issues of Pendulum’s Illustrated Stories. (They’re not very good.) The titles in that series are Moby Dick, Treasure Island, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, A Christmas Carol and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, all of which except A Midsummer Night’s Dream cross-reference to the list your provided above. Those issues were published the same year that First Comics released an all-new version of Classics Illustrated which ran 27 issues. I assume Pendulum must have assumed there was a market for comic book adaptations of classic novels and, since they already had the material on hand, reintroduced it to the market. If that’s the caliber of comic represented in the first 12 issues of the Marvel Classics series, I won’t miss it so much.

Coincidentally, I only recently purchased my first issue of Marvel Classics out of a dollar box, #19, Robinson Crusoe. You may recall (or you may not) Hulk #219-220 (1978) in which Hulk met Robinson Crusoe. The story took place in the present day, no time travel was involved, nor was it explained how the Hulk could meet a fictional character, however, there was a footnote referencing Marvel Classics #19. I had always assumed that the character was a modern day sailor who got hit on the head or something and only thought he was Robinson Crusoe, and that the Marvel Classics story provided the explanation. I had reason to think of this last year when Marvel Masterworks reprinted the issue in question. Some weeks ago I fished the issue out of the dollar bin, as I mentioned, but when I got it home I discovered that it was simply a straight adaptation of the Defoe novel.

Obviously my original interpretation must be correct, but why the reference to Marvel Classics #19? (I know, I know… to sell comics.)

Clearly, this Robinson Crusoe is a Skrull.

As many of you know, I've been trying to replace my Silver Age and other pricey books with shelf-worthy hardbacks, so I can sell those back issues for good money before I get hit by a tornado or something.

(I'm not joking. A tornado DID hit our neighborhood in October. The house across the street was crushed by a falling oak tree. Probably a dozen houses in our neighborhood suffered structural damage from trees. We have two huge oak trees in our front yard that, luckily, did not go down. Our only damage was from a pear tree that dented the drains on the garage and tore down part of our fence. But it could have been an oak tree smack on top of my comics collection. And that was just an F1 tornado.)

So I stopped buying Marvel Masterworks and went to Omnibuses when DC shifted from Archives to Omnibuses -- not only for consistency, but because the first fleet of Marvel Omnibuses included letters pages, Soapboxes and house ads. (I don't believe they do any more.) However, Marvel is being REALLY SLOW about Omnibuses, really only continuing Spider-Man and Avengers, and I expect those to stop pretty soon. So I'm going back to Masterworks.

Each time a Masterworks comes out, I buy it and as many of recent ones as are available at regular (discount) prices on Amazon and Instocktrades. Sometimes I'm lucky; I stopped buying MMW Fantastic Four at volume 12 or so, and when I bought the latest (#21?) I was able to get all the missing ones but two for cheap. Sometimes I'm not; a couple of titles have big holes that I'm unlikely to fill for what those books are selling for as "back issues."

Coming up is Daredevil and Avengers. Wish me luck.

I take that as very tongue-in-cheek.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

“Marvel isn't reprinting Marvel Classics #1-12 because they no longer have the rights to the material, which wasn't generated in-house.”

Ah, I did not know that. That is certainly the explanation. Thanks!

I happen to have the six issues of Pendulum’s Illustrated Stories. (They’re not very good.) The titles in that series are Moby Dick, Treasure Island, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, A Christmas Carol and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, all of which except A Midsummer Night’s Dream cross-reference to the list your provided above. Those issues were published the same year that First Comics released an all-new version of Classics Illustrated which ran 27 issues. I assume Pendulum must have assumed there was a market for comic book adaptations of classic novels and, since they already had the material on hand, reintroduced it to the market. If that’s the caliber of comic represented in the first 12 issues of the Marvel Classics series, I won’t miss it so much.

Coincidentally, I only recently purchased my first issue of Marvel Classics out of a dollar box, #19, Robinson Crusoe. You may recall (or you may not) Hulk #219-220 (1978) in which Hulk met Robinson Crusoe. The story took place in the present day, no time travel was involved, nor was it explained how the Hulk could meet a fictional character, however, there was a footnote referencing Marvel Classics #19. I had always assumed that the character was a modern day sailor who got hit on the head or something and only thought he was Robinson Crusoe, and that the Marvel Classics story provided the explanation. I had reason to think of this last year when Marvel Masterworks reprinted the issue in question. Some weeks ago I fished the issue out of the dollar bin, as I mentioned, but when I got it home I discovered that it was simply a straight adaptation of the Defoe novel.

Obviously my original interpretation must be correct, but why the reference to Marvel Classics #19? (I know, I know… to sell comics.)

"I take that as very tongue-in-cheek."

The footnote? I guess it must have been.

I read an article somewhere with Dan DiDio saying that they wanted to concentrate their reprint strategy on discrete storylines (without volume numbers) instead of chronologically reprinting complete series (with volume numbers). I can't find that article at the moment, but I found this quote from March 2019:

"Good morning. To those fans of our Silver and Bronze comics worried about changes to our collected editions program, I want to take this moment to set aside any of your concerns. While we are delaying (not cancelling) a couple of planned omnibuses, this decision was made to make way for even more books highlighting stories and series from these moments in time. Comics, never collected in color or ever before, will first see print in smaller volumes (like the titles in the photo and our old archives program) before being collected (if demand dictates) in omnibus form. This is to open a wider array of books and themes for collections from the past. We have so much great material and we are committed to collecting it in the best forms possible to reach as many fans as possible. This is the stuff that made me a DC fan for life, and will make sure it gets the attention it deserves."

Well, that's close to what I remember. But maybe it's enough to explain this, which came out this week: 

JLA: THE WEDDING OF THE ATOM & JEAN LORING HC
DC COMICS
(W) Gerry Conway, Steve Englehart (A) George Tuska, Arvell M. Jones (A/CA) Dick Dillin
In these 1970s tales, Dr. Light makes his dramatic return-and so does Snapper Carr, who's now turned traitor to the League! Ultraa, hero of Earth-Prime, joins the League in their battle with the Injustice Gang, while the Phantom Stranger assists the team against a family of ancient gods! Plus, the Atom and Jean Loring get married-but will the power of her mind destroy the Earth? Collects JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #147-157 and SUPER-TEAM FAMILY #11-14.
In Shops: Feb 05, 2020
SRP: $69.99

I assume this is material originally intended for the now-canceled Justice League of America Bronze Age Omnibus Vol. 3, which I assume everyone reading this would rather have. Some quick observations:

  • Good news: This book picks up right after Justice League of America Bronze Age Vol. 2, which ended with JLA #146.
  • Bad news: An Omnibus usually has 40-45 issues for around $100 (a price which almost no one pays, with all the discount houses around). Which is a bargain. This book is 13 issues for $70. You could buy the originals for less.
  • The cover reminds me of something I forgot, which is how mannered, dull and repetitive Dick Dillin's art is. I read somewhere that he was selected for Justice League of America when Sekowsky left not because he was the best choice, but because he was willing to draw a team book with a lot of characters. (I've heard that's why Sekowsky was picked back in the day as well, but I don't know that for a fact.) Since he was coming off Blackhawk, DC knew he could do it. And he didn't leave until he died. I admire that, although his artwork left me unmoved.
  • I haven't read these issues in years, but I don't think The Atom's marriage was an A-story for 13 issues. More like a B- or C-plot that ran in the background for some of those issues (I doubt it was in all) until it rose to the cover for a single issue, and then everybody forgot about The Atom again. He was a seriously C-list character at the time, as evidenced by the fact that DC let him get married. (In those days, only second and third bananas got married, like Aquaman, Hawkman and Elongated Man.) My point is that this "moment in time" was not written as such, and isn't a discrete story. Not only is it false advertising, but trying to turn long-running serials without beginning or ends into "moments in time" is a disservice to the stories and to the readers.
  • I could get this book, to continue trying to get the entire original JLA in shelf-worthy HC (a goal I have for all Silver Age titles), but the packaging is different (and has no volume number). And I'd have to trust that DC would continue in this vein long enough to complete the series. And, when it comes to reprints, I simply don't trust them.
  • The last 40 issues of the Silver Age title have already been collected, in the JLA: The Detroit Era Omnibus, which begins with JLA #233. So they only need to fill in the gap from JLA #147 through #232. I really don't trust that they will do that in cohesive 13-issue increments, and even if they did, it would be pretty expensive.

As you can tell, I don't care for this development. And I won't be buying "The Marriage of The Atom," which I already have in floppies. More and more I'm beginning to think the future is in just subscribing to digital services and not buying any more analog books.

“I assume this is material originally intended for the now-canceled Justice League of America Bronze Age Omnibus Vol. 3…”

Correct.

“…which I assume everyone reading this would rather have.”

Correct.

I’ll jump on the whinge wagon.

Did you notice that DC has changed the trade dress for their omnibus editions? They had already been numbering Silver and Bronze Age volumes of respective series separately. I noticed the Bronze Age Doom Patrol trade dress was different from the Silver, but I at first chalked that up to a different dress for the two ages. Then I noticed that two volumes of House of Mystery within the same age were different. Then someone here mentioned that new printings of previously released volumes no longer match the other volumes in the series.

I asked the owner of my LCS about this and he said retailers (not to mention fans) were not notified or asked to weigh in, and they are p*ssed. When pressed on the matter, DC explained that their designer thought the new trade dress “looked better.” If one-off volumes (such as “JLA Weddings”) are going to replace the omnibus series, I guess it no longer matters… except for those we already have on our shelves that do not match. AARRGH!

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