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Preliminary spine design for Famous Firsts Masterworks Slipcase – NOT FINAL ART.
March 15, 2014

2014 is Marvel's 75th Anniversary and the company is celebrating its Diamond anniversary with many different initiatives across their publishing spectrum. Speaking of anniversaries, the Masterworks library is well into its third decade of reprinting the canonical stories of Marvel's greatest characters and comics, so it seems appropriate that any high-falutin' celebration would touch on this august collection.

And so it is that CollectedEditions.com is happy to announce the coming of Marvel Famous Firsts: 75th Anniversary Masterworks Slipcase Set, which will collect the first volume of ten of Marvel's inaugural comic book series from its Silver Age heyday – plus a surprise 11th volume of new-to-Masterworks stories. Just what is that now? Read on, as Marvel's Senior Vice President of Sales David Gabriel and Collections Editor Jeff Youngquist spill the beans...

CE SPOTLIGHT: The Marvel Rarities Masterworks volume announced last month was a pretty nice surprise, but it was something long regarded as inevitable in Masterworksland. I don't think anybody has been anticipating a package like the Famous Firsts slipcase set. What's the impetus behind this set?

DAVID GABRIEL: With our 75th anniversary this year, we wanted something completely different from anything we've ever done. We also wanted to get some of the original volumes of the Masterworks HCs back in stock, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to create something unique. When we discussed what type of packaging we could go with, the idea of putting those volumes into a replica of the original Avengers Mansion just seemed like an exciting idea. From there, everything else followed: making this a limited print run, adding an Alex Ross poster signed by Stan Lee, and then finally adding the never-before-printed Not Brand Echh volume to give fans something truly remarkable and one of a kind!

CE SPOTLIGHT: The first Masterworks volumes of Marvel's primary stable of characters are represented — ten total: Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Thor, Hulk, Doctor Strange, Captain America, Iron Man, Avengers and X-Men. I assume these will each include the most recently and impeccably remastered pages from Masterworks editor Cory Sedlmeier, right?

JEFF YOUNGQUIST: The new hardcover editions will feature the best and most recent restoration for the titles as seen in recent Masterworks TPBs and Omnibus releases. Cory is adjusting the bonus material here and there to run Dean White's superb cover paintings from the TPB in the back of each hardcover release.

Avengers Mansion mockup art for Famous Firsts Masterworks slipcase - NOT FINAL ART. (Click for larger image.)
CE SPOTLIGHT: Aside from the reprint volumes, there's an eleventh volume of new material: Not Brand Echh, which collects the entire thirteen-issue run of the original slapstic series. That's a huge deal, getting those satirical strips from Marvel's Silver Age into print.

DAVID: Yeah, this is exciting for everyone. Cory has been asking for years to do the Not Brand Echh edition, and we’ve been holding out for the best time. It’s always great when high-priced items like this set include something that you can’t get anywhere else, making it a must-have for the 75th anniversary. However, in fairness to all our loyal Masterworks customers, we’ll also be releasing our two standard Regular and Variant editions of Not Brand Echh in June 2015, about eight months after the full set. This way, fans who need to have that volume right away will be able to get a copy before anyone else in September 2014 for the anniversary — or if they can wait, they’ll still be pleased!

CE SPOTLIGHT: The books in the box set will all feature paper-on-board trade dress. Can you talk a little about the specifics of that design?

JEFF: The sleek new trade dress — the work of graphic designer Nelson Ribeiro — will showcase the iconic cover artwork of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko & Co. to the fullest extent possible. A talented artist in his own right, Nelson has transformed each piece into a fully realized wraparound cover. It’s a streamlined look we haven’t seen on the Masterworks previously.

CE SPOTLIGHT: Let's talk a little about the design of the set. First up, there's a very unique spine design that ties together all the spines of the various volumes (a Marvel collections tradition), and the box itself resembles the Avengers Mansion. Who put together the design?

Marvel Masterworks Backlist order form.
DAVID: I’ll let Jeff speak to the specifics, but I can say that we went back and forth over a few weeks of different designs because I really wanted these eleven editions to stand out with unique trade dress not available anywhere else. We naturally love seeing the Marvel logo large as possible, so it seemed a natural to have it spread across the 11 spines. The rest was up to Cory and Jeff!

JEFF: Like the new trade dress, the interlocking spine treatment is Nelson’s work — with input from Cory, who laid the groundwork with his initial mockups and provided valuable feedback along the way. Production Coordinator Joe Frontirre is responsible for the slipcase itself, pulling artwork from various sources and modifying it to fit our needs. The image we’re soliciting is very much a work in progress — Joe is doing painstaking work to make certain the final version is reflective of the scope and scale of this project.

CE SPOTLIGHT: Do you think there might be another Famous Firsts set that includes first volumes of Silver Surfer, Captain Marvel and Nick Fury, as well as other initial volumes?

DAVID: If this set does well, of course there will be a second set! That goes without saying!

CE SPOTLIGHT: The Masterworks volumes in the Famous Firsts slipcase will also be released separately (two a month) starting in January 2015. This shot in the arm to the Masterworks backlist indicates a priority to keep the old hardcovers in print.

DAVID: We’ve had a surge recently in Masterworks sales, with many editions making their way overseas into international territories, as well as a bit of an upsurge within the direct market. And to be clear, we’ll ONLY be doing new printings of the regular editions — the silver-and-black-jacketed versions, not the limited marble editions (those sought-after versions are long gone). But keep in mind the NEW Not Brand Echh edition will have both silver-and-black AND marble editions like any other new Masterworks HC! •

Thank you David and Jeff for giving us some background on this box set, which will be available for pre-order from your retailer of choice once the next round of Marvel solicits hits.

Meanwhile, site sponsor Tales of Wonder has some pre-order links raring to go for the Famous Firsts Masterworks box set, and also for the Not Brand Ecch masterworks, which is currently scheduled to hit stores in June 2015. (Since Not Brand Ecch is advance solicited for over a year from now, it might be worthwhile to place a pre-order to guarantee you get a copy.)

• Marvel Famous Firsts: 75th Anniversary Masterworks Slipcase Set

• Marvel Masterworks: Not Brand Ecch Vol. 1 REGULAR EDITION HC

• Marvel Masterworks Vol. 219: Not Brand Ecch VARIANT EDITION HC

Also, look out for an interview next week with Masterworks Editor Cory Sedlmeier as he gives us an inside look at Not Brand Ecch!

Once you're done digesting all this information, head on over to discuss the slipcase and Not Brand Ecch at CollectedEditions.com's Marvel Forums!

Marvel Previews ad for Not Brand Ecch Masterworks Vol. 1