Is There Demand for More Flash Archives?

Note: The discussion is from 2007, and while the Silver Age material has gotten a fifth archive volume, three Showcase books and the start of a Chronicles line, the situation for the Golden Age Flash books has not changed.

Cover: Golden Age Flash Archives vol. 2Newsarama reports that during the Q&A part of the DC Nation panel at this weekend’s Baltimore Comic-Con, a fan asked:

Are there more Legion, Flash or Justice League Archives coming? [VP of Sales Bob] Wayne said that when you get up to the issues that can be affordably bought by collectors the demand for the Archive Editions goes down.

Okay, this might apply to the Silver-Age material. The four Flash Archives books so far are up to Flash #132 (1962). When I was tracking down back-issues in the #133–140 range (the contents of a hypothetical book 5) around 2000 or so, I seem to remember finding reasonably good copies in the $5-15 range. (Better copies, of course, run into triple digits.) Note: Since this was originaly posted, volume 5 has been released.

But there’s still 8 years of Golden-Age material to cover, from 1942–1949: more than 75% of Jay Garrick’s solo run. And those books are much harder to find, with battered readers’ copies often selling for $40–150.

Moreover, those 8 years include the first appearances of every major Golden-Age Flash villain. The current 2 volumes of The Golden Age Flash Archives only make it through Flash Comics #24 and All-Flash #2. The Shade, the first real supervillain to grace the series’ pages, didn’t appear until Flash Comics #33. The Fiddler, the Thinker, the Turtle, the Rag Doll—even the original Rose & Thorn and Star Sapphire all made their appearances during those years, and haven’t shown up in the archives yet.

In fact, the only Golden-Age villain to get the archive treatment for his original appearances is the Rival, who showed up in Flash Comics #104 (the final issue of the series), and whose story was (oddly) included in the silver-age Flash Archives vol. 1.

Even when you factor in the golden-age stories that got reprinted in later Flash books, the “Greatest Stories” collections, and the occasional anthology series like DC Super-Stars, 75% of the stories have never been reprinted* since the 1940s.

I’ve been looking for Golden-Age issues for almost 2 years now, and by focusing on All-Flash (which typically included 3–4 short stories or 1 long one), I’ve managed to hit 50%. It’s gotten harder, largely because I’m less willing to pay the big bucks for random issues than for issues with specific characters. Note: In the 2 years since I originally posted this, I think I’ve only found one more Golden Age book in my price range that I haven’t already read.

Now, there is of course a question of whether there’s a demand for the material at all…but when a beat-up reader’s copy of a book goes for more than the archive would cost on Amazon, I’d say there’s no risk that the availability of back issues will interfere with the market for the archive.

(Expanded from a comment I made in the subsequent forum thread.)

Originally posted at K-Squared Ramblings.

*104 stories in Flash Comics, 1 in the Flash Comics Miniature edition, 29 in Comic Cavalcade, 71 stories in 32 issues of All-Flash, 3 completed but unpublished until years later = 208 total. Of those, 32 have appeared in the GA Flash and Comic Cavalcade Archives, 1 in the Silver Age Flash Archives, and another 16 in various other books. Just 49 out of 208. Only 23.5% It’s a little harder to go by issues instead of stories, since some issues of All-Flash have only partially been reprinted, but it seems to be roughly 41 out of 169 — which works out to 24.3%.


4 thoughts on “Is There Demand for More Flash Archives?

  1. Clegane, Sandor

    I think the answer is “some”. They did produce one in 2006, so there IS a little hope the line could continue.

    But since then DC’s entire archive series has fallen on hard times, and it’s likely we won’t see another Flash Archives – GA or regular – for a few years at least.

    And similar to Green Lantern, we may have seen the last of the Golden Age archives either way. The GA characters have always had a smaller fanbase, and apparently the archive sales reflect that. If we see another Flash or GL archive, it will almost surely be the main versions, not the GA versions. Which is a shame, since so few comics from the GA still exist.

    I suspect that whenever the Showcase line goes digital, we’ll see a LOT more GA material show up online.

  2. Omar Karindu

    I suspect that at least some of the problem is that DC lacks any real archive of this stuff, and would have to invest heavily in acquiring and scanning/shooting GA books to release more Archives. In some cases, there may even need to be some form of Theakstonization.

    Even those “100-Page Super Spectacular” and “lost Annual” projects of the later 1990s used GA stories that had already been reprinted. That is, they used primarily or exclusively stories for which much more recent film existed.

    1. Omar Karindu

      I would too, but the digital copies would still require originals to be scanned. If you’ve heard any stories from Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, r Roy Thomas, you know that in the 1970s DC was actively *burning* original Golden Age art to free up storage space. (The only reason we have art from one JSA adventure is that those guys smuggled strips of chopped art out o the building!)

      DC didn’t store an archive of film or hard copies of it’s GA books; they literally may not have the material to upload digitally, let alone print. My understanding is that the All-Star Comics Archive series involved private collectors helping out; but All-Star is a series that a lot of early collectors got complete sets of. Flash Comics, on the other hand, is rarer.

      As someone with digital copies of every issue of All-FLash, I can tell you that Flash Comics isn’t around in that form either. (Neither are many of the key GA Green Lantern issues introducing characters like the Icicle or Harlequin.) The sheer expense of obtaining the material cuts considerably into DC’s profit, even as an online venture — most current-day readers are uninterested in the GA — and even a digital sales method might have higher costs than it’s “worth” to the bean-counters.

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