The Lovely Anna gets very annoyed with me over one thing—okay, over many things, but this one thing in particular—I’m very impatient when it comes to things I want to have. I tend to get them right away and leave her nothing to buy me for gifts on my birthday or Christmas. Well, here’s another thing she won’t be able to get me for my birthday: the enormous new book Tales Calculated to Drive You MAD: Artist’s Edition.
I saw an unboxing video of this book some weeks ago and blogged about it being a drool-worthy, albeit expensive, item. Afraid it would sell out quickly, I immediately ordered a copy, much to the chagrin of my gift-idea-starved wife. I just got my copy and I can safely say it’s worth every penny of the price tag.
The concept with these “Artist Edition” books from IDW is that they take untouched high resolution scans of original art boards and print them, with pencil lines, white out, paste-ups and all, at their original size on paper that they say approximates the surface of the actual boards. The result is supposed to duplicate the experience of looking at the actual, original art as much as possible.
I’d say they succeeded.
MAD has always had their artists work at 200% of print size, unlike comic book artists which typically work at 130-150%. As a result, the original art from MAD pages are huge, 16 1/4 x 21 inches without bleeds. That makes this book gigantic. Measuring in at 15 1/2 x 22 1/4 inches and 1 3/8 inches thick, it must weigh 15 lbs, but is not too unwieldy to page through… and what pages!
The reproductions really are like looking at originals. The ghosts of pencil lines are plainly visibly, gray smudges from handling, ruled lines from lettering, yellowing/browning of aged paper, white out from corrections, even the difference in tone from pasted in corrected art is obvious. All the production notes and margin direction are there. That stuff is all interesting and adds to the feel of a real, worked on piece of art, but the real magic is in the inks.
You can see the brush strokes. The places the pen blotted and scratched. The uneven strokes of the large, brushed-in black areas. Most importantly, you can see the art at the actual size the artist did it at… seeing his decisions and how he handles the smallest of areas. It’s as close to looking over the shoulder of Jack Davis, Wally Wood, Will Elder, Harvey Kurtzman and company working at the peak of their powers as you will ever get until they actually invent a time machine. In fact, I’d argue this is as close to an actual time machine as you will ever get. It’s amazing how you really get a sense of the original art, not just the original images.
Even the zipatone edges are visible
From one of my all-time favorites…
I have no qualms about recommending this book, even at the $150 cover price. I got it a bit cheaper at Amazon, but it’s worth twice the price regardless.
The only drawback? The physical size of the thing. It’s so big and heavy there is no way to display it. I tried setting it up on a display easel in the corner of my studio’s counter top, but that appears to not work. The pages are so heavy that having the weight distributed mostly along the bottom edge causes the pages to start to buckle within the binding, and the book begins to bend and warp within it’s hardcover shell. I am going to try and figure out some way to prevent that from happening… I might be able to use some kind of clamp on the top and sides to keep the pages in place, but only if it doesn’t detract from the display or damage the cover. Until then it has to be stored flat.