or "Tabloid" comics were comics generally printed at around
10x13", frequently squarebound. The very first DC Comics ever
put out, 1935's New
Fun Comics, were treasury-sized, measuring at 10x15".
Which made total sense, since the series consisted of newspaper
strip reprints that had originally run in newspapers' Sunday color
supplements. That series only lasted six issues, and while some
other publishers in the 1940s(like Fawcett's Master
Comics) and 1950s tried publishing comics at that size,
generally they were short-lived experiments.
it's when DC and Marvel Comics started producing them in the early
70s that they became a beloved part of a lot of comic fans' childhoods.
were struggling to keep an ever-dwindling audience by the early
70s, and then-DC-president Carmine Infantino was casting about in
all directions, trying to boost sales. Newsstands that carried comics
were increasingly getting rid of them, finding their low price-point
leading to barely enough profit to be worth the effort. By producing
a larger book at a higher price, DC and Marvel were hoping to make
some extra money at very little cost (reprint royalties for artists
and writers were at least a decade away). Judging by how many treasuries
DC and Marvel produced, they must have been at least partly successful.
approach was more scattershot--they used a wider range of characters
and concepts to front the books, while Marvel stuck to its most
popular characters. Oddly, it seems of all the characters who headlined
a treasury comic, it seems that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was
the most popular, having no less than seven treasuries devoted
to him. Only Superman and Batman seemed to as or more popular! Obviously,
it was a different comics environment back then. (Click
to read some brief comments from then-DC v.p. Sol Harrison's thoughts
on the treasury format from an interview in Amazing World of
DC Comics #10, 1976)
DC decided to use all-new material to fill the treasuries, like
Superman's seemingly unending "vs." books. In the treasuries
alone, Supes took on Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, Spiderman (twice)
and Muhammad Ali!They also used them a promotional books for the
first two Superman films. Marvel ended up using them as a
place to do adaptations of licensed properties, like Star Wars,
Buck Rogers, Battlestar Galactica, Annie (!), the Smurfs, and G.I.Joe.
the late 70s, DC also went the other way, format-wise, and tried
doing reprints in also-classic "digest" format. For a
few years DC was doing both (Marvel only occasionally did digest
comics), but by 1982 they decided to send the treasuries packing.
DC's final "classic" treasury comic was DC
Special Series #27, featuring the unusual pairing
of Batman and the Hulk, superbly rendered by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez.
Marvel kept going a little longer, wrapping up their run of treasuries
with their collected reprint of their adaptation of The Empire Strikes
treasuries unexpectedly reappeared, courtest of DC, in 1998, with
Peace on Earth, the first book in a superb series
by Alex Ross and Paul Dini. A lot of the fans who read comics in
the 70s took them over years later, and Ross in particular had a
fervent passion for the old treasury comics. Trying to get these
books noticed amid all the other stuff, they pitched these books
to be in the classic old treasury comics format--10x13"--and
so they were. These books were very popular, and so DC tried a couple
of other ones, like Superman/Fantastic
Four, and JLA:
Heaven's Ladder. With all these big name talents
pushing to have their books in this format, I sensed a revival of
my favorite kind of comics.
DC published the sixth and last Ross/Dini book, JLA:
Liberty and Justice in 2003, they seemed to retire
the format again. My guess is the collective sales potential by
anything by Alex Ross got DC into doing treasury comics again, and
without his involvement, they're not all that interested in making
them an ongoing concern. Which is too bad, and that leads us to...
Alex Ross quote that adorns our first page: [treasuries were] "Hands-down
my favorite form of entertainment that comics ever provided"
(from the 2005 book Batman: Cover To
Cover) pretty much sums up how I feel about these books. I got
hooked on comics at a very early age--I don't remember a time in
my life when I didn't have them--and treasuries were just so impressive
to a small kid. They were so huge, the artwork seemed to just jump
right off the page. At that age, I didn't really know of reprints,
so seeing all this material for the first time was like dipping
a toe into the ocean--a whole new world beckoned.
the years, I would pick up one or two of my favorites, just to have
them again. With the advent of ebay, though, I got more interested
in the history of the format, not just the ones I had. Soon I found
myself spending absurd sums for books like Rudolph, Smurfs, and
Annie--all because they were in the treasury format. I would buy
other copies of them to give as gifts to friends' children, so maybe
they too could be blown away the way I was.
it was hard to know just how many were out there--there are a few
website resources out there, but I felt none of them were in-depth
enough, or, as I would find another heretofore unknown treasury
on ebay, even complete. So as the treasuries filled up my bookshelf,
I wanted an attractive, friendly place where anyone who loves these
books like I do could indulge their interest. Most of the info provided
on this site will be right out of the books, and any other historical
sources I've been able to dig up. A lot of the rest will be assumptions,
and I'm hoping that if someone or someones out there sees this site
and knows better, they'll let me know. Maybe, someday, I can find
a way to interview people with first-hand knowledge about these
books to make this site even more than just one man-child's gushing
feel that the treasuries were the best, more exciting example of
the last time that comics, as an industry, was really trying to
atrract a new audience, instead of just the same aging fanboys (like
me). I still believe that if the major publishers did them again,
and got them in front of young kids, they would be a big success.
During the summer of 2005, as I walked down the aisles of my local
Target, I wondered why DC didn't have a Batman Begins treasury
comic, filled with Ra's Al Ghul and Scarecrow reprints, on the racks.
A new generation of kids who are just discovering the characters
could've had a giant, four-color keepsake to take home and get them
into the world of comics. Maybe someday.
when treasury comics get sick they to go heaven...
there seem to be many theories as to why the treasuries died off.
The one I've heard the most is that comic collectors, who by the
early 80s were pretty much the only audience left, stopped buying
them. Then-DC publisher Carmine Infantino had this to say about
their sales: "I tried everything I possibly
could. Those things[the treasuries], strangely enough, sold well
by mail and eventually we sold them out, but when they were on the
newsstands, they never did that well."
tiny blurb from The Amazing World of DC Comics #2, in an
article about the ill-fated "ComicMobile" experiment (where
DC actually drove a van around to neighborhoods and sold comics
directly to fans--man, the 70s were cool!) backs up Mr.Infantino's
assessment. It seems the treasury/tabloid comics were big hits with
die-hard comic fans, but more casual readers were not as seduced
by their charms.
other thoughts from a treasurycomics.com reader, Jeffrey H.Wasserman:"The
trouble with these oversized books is that they just don't store
well. Over-sized comic bags didn't exist for them way back when.
The pulp paper quality of the pages proved to be the Treasury editions'
Achilles' heel; making them far too flexible and subject to damage.
Add to that the horrible printing methods comic companies used in
the 1970s and you can see why Treasuries have been forgotten.
they had great potential. These over-sized books allowed greater
freedom for the artists and permitted comics fans to see comic art
closer to original size than ever before. Neal Adams' work on the
Muhammed Ali vs. Superman book was just great... unfortunately,
the print job muddied a lot of the fine line art. Overall, it was
a trend destined to die out. At a time when the oversized Life
and Look magazines were folding, DC's and Marvel's experiement
were quite late."
theory comes from Mark Evanier:
"A marketing person once told me -- I have no idea how true
this is -- that what did treasury books in was when the industry
changed distribution deals in the late seventies. Most comics went
from being sent out on a returnable basis, where retailers could
ship it back and not pay for it if it went unsold, to non-returnable
terms where the retailer was stuck with whatever they got. The treasury
format books, I was told, were too often damaged just sitting on
a shelf and dealers were hesitant to order them on non-returnable
terms. As good a theory as any."
points all, though nothing stated above couldn't/hasn't been corrected
(see the more sturdy
Ross/Dini books), so I don't see why they couldn't make
a comeback. The state of the comics industry is such that, they
have to start courting new readers, or there simply won't
be "comics" as we know them anymore in about two decades.
I've bought many a treasury for a nephew or niece, and seeing them
stare and flip at the gigantic pages makes me believe that if they
were being made again, and get put in front of the right audience,
treasury-sized comics couldn't come back as a viable, commercial
format. If kids can learn to read manga from back to front, for
pete's sake, they can accept giant-size comics!
are lots of comic and comic-related publications that are oversized,
or in some form bigger than the traditional comic book. I've left
off any coloring books that are in comic form, since they're coloring
books first. Also, I don't count anything in the relatively recently-created
9x12" format, or any of those Marvel Try-Out books.
I feel that, for the most part, there is a very specific "treasury"
format that publishers adhered to, and anything bigger or smaller
than that are not treasury comics. I've made exceptions for
a couple of odd, non-exactly-10"x13"-size books, and once
I get ahold of them they will appear here! But otherwise, I'm sticking
to the traditional "treasury" comic.
I've said it, and I'll say it again if I have to.
name is Rob Kelly, and I'm a professional
illustrator and graphic designer. Like stated above, I discovered
comics practically in-utero, and they were overwhelmingly the single-greatest
influence on me growing up. They got me interested in art, and I spent
countless days drawing my favorite superheroes on notebook paper.
They drove me to pursue my life's dream of being a professional artist,
and now that I have, I feel like I owe them an eternal "thank
you" for sparking my imagination and giving me a dream to pursue.
three very distinct memories of getting treasury comics as a kid.
One was when my Dad, who worked in insurance, occasionally went
into the office on Saturday. My Mom was working weekends, so I went
with him. Before we went in, we would stop (frequently at Woolworths)
and he would buy me a bunch of comics, many of them treasuries.
He would plop me down at his secretary's desk, and I barely made
a peep while he worked. When I got hungry, I would walk down to
the cafeteria, filled with those quietly humming vending machines.
I would buy whatever I wanted, then sit at one of the tables and
eat while I continued to read.
other is very similar. My Mom would take me with her when she got
her hair done, so she would also take me comic shopping. I sat and
read in one of those hard plastic chairs while she got her hair
done. I distinctly remember reading the Famous First Edition
of Flash Comics #1. I can barely remembers some girlfriends
I've had, yet I remember reading Flash Comics #1 over twenty
five years ago.
at left is me taking my cousin Lisa through a tour of Marvel
Treasury #18 (with the help of C3PO, Chewbacca, a Tusken Raider,
a Stormtrooper, and Darth Vader). Getting comics while we were on
vacation in the Poconos was one of best parts of he yearly trip,
and I think I read that issue about seventy-five times in two weeks.
There was a real excitement for me, heading to the different newsstands,
wondering what I'd find.
see factual errors on this site, or have some new info to contribute,
I would love to hear from you! I hope this site can grow to be a great
resource for anyone interested in these great books, and I want to
make this site as accurate and informative as possible. Please feel
free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
all characters © their respective copyright holders
site © 2011 Rob Kelly