Friday, November 20, 2020

Comics Commentary: Marvel True Believers—Black Widow


Audio only.

Transcript below...

This is Heath, here today to talk about one of my favorite things in comics today. This is something that's published by Marvel. I think it's kind of an unsung gem in comics publishing. It's these occasional True Believers single issue reprints that Marvel does for a buck a pop. That's right: They cost a dollar each.

These are from not too long ago. This one’s dated June but actually came out in October, and the others are dated December but just came out in the last month or so. It's a run of one-shot reprints focusing on the character of Black Widow. Each of them has this masthead at the top indicating True Believers.

They're kind of hard to catalog and to list given that they're all considered one shots, have their own numbering, and they're all number ones. They are all individual issue or sometimes multi-issue reprints. For example, this one, the Black Widow and the Amazing Spider-man is a reprint of Amazing Spider-Man #86. This one, Black Widow: Amazing Adventures is Amazing Adventures #1-2. This is a reprint of Avengers #111. This is a reprint of Marvel Two-in-One #10. This is a reprint of Champions #7. This is another Avengers reprint, #196, and then this—which is the most modern of the comics coming out in 1999 originally—is a reprint of Black Widow #1.

They're interesting. They're thematic groupings of single-issue reprints. They're actually reprinting issues that are—if not key issues—close to key issues. For example, that Amazing Spider-Man reprint was the reintroduction and origin of Black Widow with her new costume. Amazing Adventures #1-2, so the first issue of that series from the ’70s. That excludes the Inhumans stories, but early Black Widow, reintroduced, appearances. In Avengers #111 there was an X-Men and Magneto appearance. The other Avengers issue was the first full Taskmaster appearance. He's been playing a larger role in Marvel comics now. The Champions was the first appearance of Darkstar and appearances by the Griffin and Titanium Man. And the Black Widow was a reprint of a #1 from 1999.

What these are intended to be are back catalog, back issue approaches to reintroducing characters that play a role in recent reprints or other recent publishing events. These True Believers promote various Black Widow collections. We've got the Black Widow Epic Collection: Beware the Black Widow that came out not too long ago. This one ties into the Avengers Omnibus Vol. 4 hardcover. This one is related to the Black Widow: Marvel Team-Up trade paperback, which I also just picked up. And Champions Classic: The Complete Collection.

They're all tied into recent trade paperback issues—or issuings. It's an interesting thing. I like them because the reprints are normally bronze or silver age books, normally bronze. I just love them. I love that they reprint. I love that they're single issue reprints. They're not facsimile editions, so they don't have the ads. They've actually got a ton of house ads for other stuff that the publishing company is coming out with recently, usually related to the books that they're trying to promote through these True Believers comics. They're not facsimile editions, but I really, really like them.

I like the treatment of single issues, particularly for a dollar because if you're a child or if you're buying a comic book as a gift for someone, and you know that they like a given character, why not buy something inexpensive, small, and light for them to get into the hobby and into the reading experience. Sometimes stuff like this is collected in a saddle-stapled collection. I think they did a book like that for the Inhumans, some Inhumans reprints a couple of years ago. This is not quite enough to be a trade paperback and maybe a little too much to be a saddle-bound reprint volume on its own. Here alone we've got seven Black Widow comics all along the history of the character, from the reintroduction to the 1999 series that rebooted her by Devin Grayson and J. G. Jones.

I love these comics, and they haven't treated them well. I think it's somewhat awkward that they are all number ones. I actually think that if they were considered as a piece of a series that that might be better. They also used to not do as good a job making it clear what they were tied into. They would come out with these True Believers runs, and sometimes I had trouble knowing what else was happening in their publishing that this was related to. They're now making it very, very clear who the focus is. They're making it very clear what the purpose of it is. And in each issue now, they're including at the end this little thing here: “Continued in…”  They're being explicit about what collection or what trade paperback it is tied into.

A much better approach than they used to be taking, but still not very well handled in my opinion. I don't know what the readership is. I mean, it's a total loss leader at a buck a pop. I wonder how many people go from it to the trade. I did recently. I wonder how many people read them or buy them at all. I get them pulled, so every single True Believer that comes out—just like DC's Dollar Comics, I have them pulled. It doesn't matter what it is because I want to see the bronze age and older reprints. Neat stuff.

I’m a big fan of True Believers. I’m not going to tell you what the stories are in these in this review, but I wanted to let you know about them because if you're not looking for them, if you're not seeing them, if you're not buying them, they are awesome and some of the best stuff that Marvel has in print today.

Marvel True Believers: Big, big believer in this. Right on, Marvel.

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