The Main Event
Scott Dunbier: Behind IDW's Artist's Editions

Every job, no matter how great, is just a job some days. It may look like the most fun one could have or have the most interesting people with whom to interact, but it still has deadlines. It still has to produce.

On the other hand, Scott Dunbier, IDW Publishing’s Special Projects Editor, has a pretty cool gig.

He’s already assembled a pretty cool track record – and it’s not just good stuff, it’s some truly significant work. In an age when the word “classic” is being liberally applied to almost anything older than a junior high school student, he’s worked with Darwyn Cooke on the Richard Stark’s Parker books, Berkeley Breathed on the Bloom County volumes, and put together the Hero Comics fundraiser projects for The Hero Initiative.

He also put together Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures, which compiled and beautifully updated the late artist’s masterwork, and he’s edited Rocketeer Adventures, in which other renowned artists have taken their turns at the character.

Following the success of The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures, IDW released Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer: Artist’s Edition, which became another hit and launched a new line of Artist’s Edition books. The second in the series, Walter Simonson’s The Mighty Thor: Artist’s Edition, was just released in July 2011, and more are on the way.

Scoop talked with Dunbier about the line and what’s coming up.

Scoop: How did the concept of doing the Artist’s Edition books come about?
Scott Dunbier (SD): The first impulse for it probably goes back 20 or more years, when I started making color photocopies of art because regular B&W copies looked so crappy. But a color copy was a different thing entirely; you could see all the fine details. Later, I got a copy of Chip Kidd’s Batman Collected book. It had a beautiful Neal Adams page from Batman #251, with Batman fighting a shark. It was photographed in color and looked incredible, you could see the line work, but also white out, blue pencil editorial scribbles, everything—it was beautiful.

Scoop: What made you think that there would be a market for this kind of product?
SD: Publishing is always a gamble. But I knew that I would buy these books—and, really, that’s what an editor has to do, decide if something is good and if it will sell. And it helps if you have a boss who trusts your judgment.

Scoop: The first one you released was the Dave Stevens book. For readers who might be familiar with the collected edition of The Rocketeer but who haven’t seen the Artist’s Edition, how would you describe it?
SD: Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer: Artist’s Edition collects the entire Rocketeer saga in one book. But, rather than the regular and Deluxe versions that are so beautifully colored by Laura Martin, the Artist’s Edition is in Black and White. Sort of. It’s actually a full color book, but one that scans the original art in color and prints it at same size it was drawn. Which, in the Rocketeer’s case, was 10 x 15 inches. The final book weighs in at 12 x 17 inches. Our designer, Randy Dahlk, won an Eisner Award at San Diego, and we won Best Archival Project too.

Scoop: Was this always part of the plans when you were working on the regular and deluxe editions of The Rocketeer or did it develop from their successes?
SD: It always was for me, yes. I had wanted to do something like this for ages, and here was one of the most beautifully drawn books of all time—it was almost too good to be true!

Scoop: What sort of technical work went into putting that one together?
SD: Well, that one was fairly easy, thanks to a couple of friends. David Mandel and Kelvin Mao were good friends of Dave and had been helping the estate after he died in 2008, just before I arrived at IDW. Kelvin had scanned most of the art himself, nearly all was in the hands of the family, and the rest David, Kelvin and I managed to track down. Then it was just putting in the hours to get it done right.

Scoop: How was it received?
SD: The reception has been phenomenal. It’s a great feeling when a book is so universally loved. The two Eisner Awards this year were icing on the cake.

Scoop: Did you always have additional books in mind or was it something you had to start thinking about when the first one went over so well?
SD: I had other books in mind. And I have way too many in my head that I want to see done, more than can possibly be put together. The thing that people need to remember though is only books where the original art can be tracked down can be made into Artist’s Editions, those crappy photocopies I mentioned earlier just won’t cut it.

Scoop: The second Artist’s Edition book was Walter Simonson’s The Mighty Thor. What made that appropriate for this kind of focus?
SD: First, Walter is a great writer and artist, his run on Thor is, in my opinion, the best ever—obvious choice. Plus, fortunately, he has all the art.

Scoop: Was the production work in putting it together different than The Rocketeer or similar?
SD: Well, I didn’t have David and Kelvin to help this time, but seriously, it was fairly close.

Scoop: What other volumes do you have coming up?
SD: In October we’re doing Wally Wood EC stories, which just makes me smile. This book has a lot of different stories that came from a number of collectors, and there are some of Wood’s absolute best efforts in here: “My World,” “Came the Dawn,” “Mars is Heaven,” “Atom Bomb,” and so many more. And, remember, EC stories were done “twice up,” larger than modern art, which is one and a half times up from printed comic size. All that basically means that instead of having an Artist’s Edition that is 12 x 17 inches, you get an insanely big book of 15 x 22 inches!

In December we’ll be releasing John Romita’s The Amazing Spider-Man: Artist’s Edition, collecting some classic stuff by Jazzy John.

In April we’ll release Will Eisner’s The Spirit: Artist’s Edition, with a selection of Eisner’s stories from his post World War II stuff, which are my favorites.

I ask you, who has a better job than me?