Buz Sawyer - "The war in the Pacific" was released by Fantagraphics earlier this year.
Now, Roy Crane is one of my all time favorite comic strip artist and Fantagraphics is one of my favourite publishers. Crane is the master artist and storyteller and Fantagraphics have a great history of publishing fine books.
What could go wrong? Well, something obviously did here.
The first thing that made me worried about the project, even before the book was published, was that Rick Norwood was announced as the editor. He's probably a nice guy (I don't know him) but he's got a track record of reprinting classic strips in bad resolution taken from bad sources in his magazine "Comics Revue".
When the book was published I started to ask around if anyone who had actually seen the book could tell me what the reproduction quality was like. The answers got me worried and I put off buying the book. But Roy Crane is Roy Crane and I knew someone at FB must have given the book thumbs up before it went to press so ... I picked it up.
The preface by Jeet Heer is really well written. (As is everything I've read by Jeet!)
But boy, am I glad I didn't sell my old Dragon Lady Press and Pioneer reprints!
The quality of the repinted strips varies a lot in this book. Most of them are muddy. Both as a result of bad source material (Guess it's because they didn't find a good set of strips where the bottom hadn't been cut. Many of the strips from this era comes in two formats where the cut version seems to be more common.) and too low resolution when scanned I guess.
On the other hand there are a few pages that looks as if they are scanned straight from proofs. Other seems to be scanned in high resolution but from bad sources.
I wonder if a combination of high quality cut strips and not so good full strips could have been possible? With someone in charge who knows his/her way with photoshop I guess that would have been the ideal way.
Here's a sample of what I mean. Just so you can see for yourself.
Left image taken from the old DLP edition and the right from the FB book.
You can see what the low res scanning has made with the lines in the background.
This panel also contains an odd piece of restoration.
Top panel from the DLP edition and the bottom from the FB book.
|Compare Sultry's torso in the two images. Ouch, she's been cut.|
If you take another look at the images above you might notice something else too.
And this is an even more disturbing problem than using bad source material and low res scans, I think.
More on that below next sample.
Again we can see how much better reproduction can be.
About the problem I mentioned earlier. Can you see it in the images above?
Yes, the image has been "squashed". Probably to make the strip fit in neatly on the page instead of keeping the ratio. (Hard for me to explain this in english so it makes sense. But I hope most of you follow what I mean?)
Below we see the same images on thop of each other. The height is the same. (If you disregard that the left version is a short version.) As you can see the red/FB version is not as wide as the old version. Squash!
To sum things up: This could have been good, but it's not.
My suggestion is that FB stops this project before it goes too far, and that the editor and production team responsible for this mess is taken off the project. Then production can then resume when a team with knowledge on how to restore old comic strips has been found.
PS. If proofs are needed, just ask and I'll try to help. Don't have access to the first years but large runs of late 40's and onwards.