16 March 2012

RE-HASH


To paraphrase something Image production manager Tyler Shainline said to me earlier today:

When did we start using "remaster" as a euphemism for "rape?"

And okay, maybe that's a bit strong, but with the new 3D version of Star Wars Episode I still stinging the eyes of audiences everywhere, and a hardcover version of Bat Man: Year One in stores that is in absolutely no way an improvement over the original, Marvel just announced they're doing a "remastered" version of Amazing Fantasy #15 featuring the first appearance of Spider-Man.

I assume this is to tie-in with the release of the upcoming reboot of the film franchise (itself a bit unnecessary), but after seeing the cover for this new version of Spider-Man's origin story, I'm really not sure who they're aiming this at. The original line work by Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko is totally obscured, and a classic cover has frankly been rendered something of an eyesore. I mean, I am a huge fan of Dean White's color work, but looking at this, all I can think is that somebody directed him to color this as though it were a velvet Elvis painting from the '70s. Does that wow new readers in the 21st century?

I've written before about my growing disenchantment with oversized hardcovers, like Marvel's Omnibuses, DC's Absolute editions, and even the big slipcased The Walking Dead and Invincible books we publish here at Image, but one of the deciding factors in consigning that format to the void on a personal level was the "remastered" The Mighty Thor by Walter Simonson Omnibus. Steve Oliff is another colorist I have a tremendous amount of respect for, but I don't think re-coloring those stories benefited the work in any way. I bought that book and then immediately sold it, putting the money towards seeking out the original issues.

I think there's something to be said for leaving well enough alone. There's a clarity and charm to the original coloring on these classic comics that seems to work fine for licensing – you don't see "remastered" versions of the artwork on t-shirts, coffee mugs and refrigerator magnets, just as there's something almost undefinably cool about the original Star Wars films, before Lucas began his apparently lifelong mission to defile them again and again. Maybe it's just the fan in me – because even after close to 40 years, I still love comics and comic book art – but mucking about with all this stuff just seems to devalue the work of the original creators and reduce the impact of work that has rightfully stood the test of time.