Absolute Sandman
March 28, 2011 5:22 AM   Subscribe

Absolute Editions - worth it?

Years back I bought the first few trades of Neil Gaiman's Sandman series and while I liked it, the shitty colouring and crappy paper put me off and I packed it in after the fourth or fifth book. This may have subsequently informed my dislike for the series, which I want to give another chance.

(See, I feel like I've grown up a bit since then, since I sold the Sandman books but kept the Preacher books because lol, "fuck"! However Preacher ended with a wet fart that I see now had been building up for at least thirty issues prior to the finale, whereas I've yet to hear anything bad about Sandman's denouement, and on top of that I'm digging Alan Moore's Swamp Thing trades at the moment and have decided I actually prefer the art style found there and in Sandman.)

But these Absolute Editions seem pretty nifty, primarily for the larger format and the recolouring. Still, $80 is a pretty significant investment and I'm told the binding on these Absolutes is not all that great.

Worth it? Or just wait for the "remastered" trades? Let me know your experiences, good and bad. Objects of genuine lasting joy (and possibly worthwhile investments for future generations) or slipcased crap-slabs that don't fit on the shelf properly?

Yeah I know I've been asking a lot of comics questions lately, I've rediscovered my joy for them recently and trust opinions here more than just about anywhere else.
posted by tumid dahlia to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I enjoy the Absolute Editions (I own two of the Sandmen, Kingdom Come, New Frontier, and a few others I can't remember - Criminal? Watchmen?). The Absolute Sandmen really do pop, colorwise.

I agree, though, that 80 bucks is a pretty steep price to pay. I usually would wait until Borders would issue a 50-40% off coupon and get'em for less. Of course, with Borders in bankruptcy that's probably not a viable tactic anymore.

The trick with the Absolutes is that they are so heavy and large that it's hard to just casually flip through them. You're constantly thinking about how you need to be careful, can't spill anything near them, and so on. Loaning them out is pretty much a no go both logistically and "please don't rip my baby"-ily.

If you have not read the comic before, can get an Absolute at a reduced price, and have faith that you'll enjoy it, then it is sometimes possible to save money, but that's usually up to serendipity more than anything. Plus many Absolutes just have like 2 trades worth of material, so, eh.

So my bottom line is that they are great to have, but not great to pay for or loan out, which puts them in the "gift ideas" or "need to spend a giftcard on something" category. They do sit large on the shelf and, if you have a growing trade collection, end up calling out for the purchase of more Absolutes as you seek to fill the shelf with them.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:44 AM on March 28, 2011

My Absolute Watchmen is my favorite thing.
posted by empath at 5:46 AM on March 28, 2011

I've got the Absolute Edition of Crisis on Infinite Earths, which is not only a really nice volume, but comes packaged with a second volume of extra material. The downside is that it's huge. It's currently laying horizontal on my shelf, because it won't stand vertically.
posted by valkyryn at 5:53 AM on March 28, 2011

Response by poster: I don't lend anything to anybody, ever, so no problems there, and was aware of the size and weight problems with the books, but yeah, I guess I'd be pretty stressed about tearing or staining them to the extent that I might not even read them. Hum.

Borders is keeling over here as well and I didn't see one of those 50%-off vouchers for at least a year before it started, so these will (potentially) be Amazon purchases, all four in one hit.

I'm glad you mentioned the fact that Absolutes could possibly clamor for more Absolutes, though, robocop, I'll keep that in mind.

empath, maybe you're right and I should start small. But I've already got all the one-shot trade versions of the Absolutes I would like, and the others I, well, don't like.
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:57 AM on March 28, 2011

Response by poster: This is literally the worst thing to happen to anybody ever.
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:58 AM on March 28, 2011

I think they're worth it. They present comics as a visual medium with the sort of gravitas and hefty physical and metaphorical weight that some of them demand.

They weigh a million billion pounds. When I want to read them I have to create an elaborate pillow nest situation, and I am loathe to lug them on and off the bed for sleeping. If I were a a professor or just an owner of a proper library, I would purchase one of those hardcore book stands specifically for reading the absolute editions.

The paper is a bit shiny for my tastes but they have some really excellent color clarity that shows off the new work nicely. My horrible half-broken eyeballs aren't at all stressed because the text is actually sized appropriately for lengthy reading. And the bindings on all the copies I've seen (a good handful of friends have them too) have been well-made, not cheap and seemingly able to withstand its own structural stresses.

If you are the sort to be particularly mobile, like if you move once every few years or more, I'd say not to get them because they were a big pain in the ass to lug when I moved last. But if your library is going to be stationary for the most part, and you have the money to spend on them, go for it.
posted by Mizu at 6:17 AM on March 28, 2011

Btw, Sandman's art gets MUCH better after the first 4 trades or so.
posted by empath at 6:32 AM on March 28, 2011

The last two Sandman novels are the best -- The Kindly Ones for the overall story and unusual and striking art, and The Wake for the emotional moments and stunningly delicate art.

That said, I'm sorry I didn't purchase the whole series in the late 90s when they were simple graphic novels with tasteful Dave McKean covers. They were solid but reasonably sized editions with good paper quality - maybe not the best but I never noticed any problems and I'm generally a paper snob with regular text only books, let alone graphic novels.
posted by jb at 7:37 AM on March 28, 2011

That said, I'm sorry I didn't purchase the whole series in the late 90s when they were simple graphic novels with tasteful Dave McKean covers.

I actually have an almost complete run of the original sandman issues. I paid $10 for it from a comic book store near me that went broke, and the two owners kind of hated each other by the time it closed. One of them was into indie comics and the other was into superhero stuff, and if you took the right comics to the right owner, he'd sell you stuff the other guy wanted to keep for nothing just out of spite.
posted by empath at 7:43 AM on March 28, 2011

Borders is keeling over here as well and I didn't see one of those 50%-off vouchers for at least a year before it started, so these will (potentially) be Amazon purchases, all four in one hit.

Two maybe-useful, maybe-not links.

Borders VIP is free to join, and they're constantly emailing me 25%-35% off or buy-two-get-one-free coupons. Some are for specific genres, but a lot of the time they're general discounts that you can apply to any book(s). Well worth signing up, at least until they go under for good.

Book Depository has the first volume of Absolute Sandman for the same price as Amazon, but Book Depository also offers free worldwide postage. The other volumes are more expensive but you may still find them cheaper once postage is factored in. (Book Depository is awesome, btw, if you've not used them before.)
posted by Georgina at 8:48 AM on March 28, 2011

Reiterating what's said above, the absolute editions are very unwieldy. I had to adjust a shelf just for oversized books and they're heavy and bulky when reading. If you don't know that you love those stories and want to be able to get lost in them, an absolute edition might not be right for you. That said, the Sandman ones are supposed to benefit best from the new colors and better paper. At 4 volumes plus Death plus a new one coming (I think), though, that's a lot of cash. Do you have a friend who could lend you the normal trades first before deciding?
posted by davextreme at 9:01 AM on March 28, 2011

I love the Sandman and have a few Absolute Editions (just not of the Sandman), but the art is so poor in general, with some admittedly stand-out issues interspersed, that it would just seem like a waste to me. Issues 50 and onwards may be worth getting in Absolute format, but getting only the last third in Absolute would seem kind of weird. Really, I think the best way to go is either in some electronic format or cheap trade paperbacks.

In case you're wondering, the Absoultes I have are New Frontier, Planetary 1 & 2 and All-Star Superman. Promethea is next on my list. They look great and are perfectly suited for reading at home. I haven't read them enough to destroy the binding so can't speak to that. But again, these all had top-tier artists and were meant to look good, most of the Sandman didn't work that way.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:29 PM on March 28, 2011

Response by poster: Ohh maybe Promethea might be a better bet.

Thanks for the info guys. I think these Sandmen might not be worth it in the long run, at least not in a Blu-Ray edition.
posted by tumid dahlia at 2:41 PM on March 28, 2011

Response by poster: Oh, what, now there's three of them? I guess All-Star Superman, for crying out loud!
posted by tumid dahlia at 2:43 PM on March 28, 2011

I have the first three Absolute Sandman volumes & I love them. When I ordered them from Amazon, one of the cardboard cases for the books split open, but that was clearly Amazon's fault (very poor packing). I feel like the prices I've paid (about $65 per edition) have been very good, considering the quality and volume of the books and content. They are unwieldy & I would never lend them out, but I'm very happy to have them in my own library. When I have some extra cash, I'm definitely getting the fourth edition.
posted by studioaudience at 9:15 PM on March 28, 2011

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