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"Safety First!"
An interview with editor Cory Sedlmeier: 1-30-2005

As a new year dawns, Masterworks fans have lots to look forward to! Already, the first five months of this year will cover a wide range of interests for the Marvel Maniac: from the Silver Age derring-do of Romita's Spider-Man, Heck's Iron Man and Colan's Daredevil, to the big, bombastic boffo of Lee and Kirby's FF; from a jump way ahead in time to the classic 80s Claremont/Byrne "Dark Phoenix" X-Men stories, to a trip way back to the dawning of Marvel Comics, with the Golden Age adventures of Captain America- there's something for everyone! And with a couple more surprise titles to be revealed later in this interview, our big, happy family of Masterworks fans must ask the question: Have we ever had it so good?

The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind...and that answer is a resounding "NO!" And according to Masterworks editor Cory Sedlmeier, the future of Masterworks will involve a constant repetition of that same question (so get used to asking it..."Have we ever had it so good?!?!") But, as he warns, "Safety first!" As we look ahead to the significant milestone of publishing the 50th Marvel Masterworks, we don't want to lose you to an fit of uncontrollable excitement. I mean, just when we're getting this grand trip rolling!

So enjoy this interview between me, your Masterworks Resource Home Page host Gormuu, and Masterworks guru Cory Sedlmeier, as we discuss the "State of the Masterworks." (I'll give an early tip to the two of you who want to duck out early: The State of the Masterworks is strong!)

* * *

ME: Cory, it was almost a year ago that the last "Remasterworks" volume hit the stands. As you correctly stated in a past interview, the reprinting of those 32 Marvel Masterworks in the span of 10 months is the largest single publishing initiative in collected editions comics history, with what seemed to be a million different editorial, marketing and production questions needing answers at any given time. Looking back, how do you feel it has all played out?

CORY: Nightmares! You're giving me nightmares bringing all those memories back! So many sixteen-hour days...so many Italian packing labels! I think I have a collapsed area in the ol' gray matter where January to June 2003 were meant to be.

Seriously, though. There's no question the ReMasterworks were a fantastic success. I'm very proud of all of the refinements the new editions feature, from the inclusion of every last pinup and bonus feature to restoring the original coloring to the Fantastic Four volumes. In bringing back the Masterworks, I felt it was key that we not only prove that we were making a committment to the line again, but we were making a higher committment to the quality of the line and its objective of collecting these Marvel classics in their original form in every way we possibly could.

It was an uphill battle in terms of the sheer volume of work, and in winning the argument that the extensive Remasterworks revisions were a sane thing to do in the midst of sending almost ten-thousand pages to print in six months. If you ask anyone I work with, I'm nowhere near approaching what's considered "sane"--there's more than a little too much of the Ohio-workaholic in my blood. I pushed, the books made it out on time, and now we're looking at a Masterworks Renaissance that makes the heyday of the late 80s/early 90s look like a jog around the block.

I'd say it all played out pretty well!

ME: Since the "Remasterworks" initiative concluded and new Masterworks began publication shortly after, we've settled into what projects to be a monthly routine of Silver Age Masterworks (and the lone Bronze Age Uncanny X-Men line.) Are there any challenges inherent in getting these books online at that rate of speed? Or are you getting it down to a pretty streamlined science?

CORY: Every book is a challenge. Even the ones I've thought were going to be the "easy" ones have come up with some kind of last minute surprise. Whether it's juggling the demands of content vs. page counts, locating film, scheduling colorists or getting in that last page of original art that comes in just before we go to print, each and every book has its own unexpected quirks. The bad news is I lose a lot of sleep, the good news is I learn something new every time.

Getting the ball rolling for the last push of '04 was harrowing at times, particularly on X-Men Vol. 4 and Uncanny Vol. 4. I've become pretty accustomed to juggling up to eight Masterworks at a time along with my gig in the Marvel Knights office, so it's getting to be pretty "old hat." The biggest hurdle is always getting the books tied down and on schedule as early as possible, and we're doing a superb job at that now. Once that's taken care of, it's pretty much an exact science of research, preproduction, reconstruction, recolor, design and stir when you're up to your 42nd book.

ME: So far, the amateur number crunchers at the Masterworks Message boards seem to think the sales numbers look good. What's your judgment on how these books are selling through, and how stable do you think the monthly initiative seems to be?

CORY: We're doing great. There's no question there's a demand for these books and we're happy to serve it each and every month.

I just received the official approval on the last section of the plan for 2005, and I've already knocked out the map for 2006, which has got me twice as excited as '05 already. There are some very big landmarks on the horizon that every Masterworks fan is going to want on their bookshelf.

ME: As of today, Uncanny X-Men stands as the only post-Silver Age title to be canonized in the Masterworks library. Is there a particular Masterworks policy that Marvel is standing by in regards to its 70s titles? Followup question: If so, when will this policy lapse so we can get to ROM Vol. 1? ROM-a-maniacs want to know!

CORY: No, there's no established policy that has us shying away from '70s material. Everyone around here knows my secret jones for "Warlock Masterworks." I'm an absolute, self-professed Kane/Thomas Warlock junkie. There's just too much great material from the '60s that we're devoting our attention to first.

2005 is our first full-out year back on the block producing all-new volumes, and we're looking to make it a rock-solid foundation for the long-term future of the Masterworks. Come out swinging with your best, and then diversify.

(ROM? You crazy, Gormuu, crazy.)

ME: Crazy like a fox, maybe! OK, I'm back on my meds and taking the ROM helmet off, back to the interview... Speaking of the Uncanny X-Men, since October '04 there was a quick double-shot of Uncanny X-Men Masterworks, with Vol. 5 being released only two months after Vol. 4. Why such a hurry on that particular series?

CORY: A combination of demand and timing. It's hard to let an anniversary like Dark Phoenix's 25th go by without doing something special. We felt that between Greg Pak and Greg Land's "Phoenix: Endsong" and the be-all, end-all Uncanny X-Men Masterworks we had just the right kind of chemistry to do just that.

A special thanks goes out to Terry Austin for his gracious contribution of original artwork to the Uncanny Masterworks. What a gentleman, that guy.

ME: And what an inker he is! A topic was brought up on the Masterworks Message Boards lately that perhaps Terry Austin is the "best artist" of early 80s Marvel, and after seeing his work in razor sharp relief in Uncanny X-Men Masterworks Vol. 4 and 5, it's an interesting argument.

I've been catching up on reading all my Masterworks for the purposes of putting together the Library page at my website. This has meant I've been a little slow on reading the newer books, while I catch up with the old ones. As of this interview, the first two books I've managed to actually spend some time with are Hulk Vol. 2 and Avengers Vol. 4, and I must say, the reproduction in those books is outstanding. How do you feel about those particular efforts?

CORY: Pleased as punch is how I feel. Looking at these two books as they stood in our previous reprint efforts, I was sweating bullets. Much of the Avengers material we'd previously been unable to locate in the film archives, and our Hulk material has often been the unfortunate victim of  rough repro; however, through the incomparable efforts of Wil Glass, Peter Dawes and their team at All Thumbs Creative, Hulk Vol. 2 and Avengers Vol. 4 came out as nearly immaculate collections. I mean, they're spot-on beautiful books. I like to think of Wil as my "second brain" on the Masterworks, and insofar as I'm concerned, he sets the gold standard for collections.

ME: I recall you mentioned you had nearly 80 pages of original art located to help produce FF Masterworks Vol. 7. How successful have you been with other Masterworks at getting access to original art?

CORY: Original art collectors have been very helpful in contributing copies of originals, and I couldn't be more thankful for their assistance. Nothing else, absolutely nothing, can ever approach the quality of an original page, and that's the kind of quality I'm searching for in the Masterworks—bar none.

Readers can definitely plan on seeing more original pages in the Masterworks. A few notable ones on the horizon are the complete FF Annual #6 and both Spectacular Spider-Man magazine paintings.

And for all of you out there in Masterworks-land, don't be a stranger if you have an original piece you'd like to contribute. I'm all ears morning, noon and night!

ME: Ya hear that, original art collectors? If you have suitable artwork for Masterworks or any conceivable Marvel collected edition, and you'd be willing to share it, drop me AN EMAIL and I'll put you in touch with Cory and the gang!

Cory, four "Remasterworks" have already gone out of print: Thor Vol. 2, Iron Man Vol. 1, FF Vol. 5 and Uncanny X-Men Vol. 3. Has Marvel decided on an approach to Masterworks that go out of print?

CORY: Stay tuned. This is a matter that's being discussed.

ME: What's the single biggest headache you have in regards to your job as Masterworks major domo? What's the single biggest joy (besides actually getting to read the darned things when they come out!)

CORY: Headache? Keeping it all under control, on-time and top-notch, and rallying for the best books possible.

Joy? Doing the job. It's a great pleasure to be able to shepard all these classic Marvel yarns back into the world at large.

And speaking of joy, how's about spreading a little joy known as Captain America Vol. 2 in June and X-Men Vol. 5 in July? I could also mention a certain volume 2 and a certain volume 1 that are on the horizon, as well, but I wouldn't want anyone spontaneously combusting when they read this!

Safety first!

ME: Thanks for your time, Cory! I'm sure I speak for a large number of Masterworks fans when I say that, not only for this interview, but for all the hard labor you and your crew spend crafting these books with the love and care they deserve. And they do deserve it! Now...back to work!

The following list is the 2005 Masterworks schedule as we know it, with links to purchase from site sponsor TALES OF WONDER. For a full account of the library, visit the MASTERWORKS LIBRARY page of the site. There, you will find extensive feature pages devoted to the Masterworks, with more being added every week!

January (already released):

BUY • Uncanny X-Men Vol. 5
BUY • MM Vol. 40: Uncanny X-Men (LTD)

February 16:

BUY • Daredevil Vol. 3
BUY • MM Vol. 41: Daredevil (LTD)

March 16:

BUY • Fantastic Four Vol. 8
BUY • MM Vol. 42: Fantastic Four (LTD)

March 23:

BUY • Golden Age Cap Vol. 1
BUY • MM Vol. 43: Golden Age Cap (LTD)

April 27:

BUY • Spider-Man Vol. 7
BUY • MM Vol. 44: Spider-Man

May 25:

BUY • Iron Man Vol. 2
BUY • MM Vol. 45: Iron Man (LTD)

June 15:

BUY • Captain America Vol. 2
BUY • MM Vol. 46: Captain America (LTD)

June 29:

BUY • Golden Age Sub-Mariner Vol. 1
BUY • MM Vol. 47: Golden Age Sub-Mariner (LTD)

July 13:

BUY • X-Men Vol. 5
BUY • MM Vol. 48: X-Men (LTD)

August 24:

BUY • Dr. Strange Vol. 2
BUY • MM Vol. 49: Dr. Strange (LTD)


• TBA Masterworks Vol.
• MM Vol. 50: TBA (LTD)

• Golden Age Human Torch Vol. 1
• MM Vol. 51: Golden Age Human Torch (LTD)

For more news on collected editions, from Masterworks to DC Archives to everything in between, visit the "Current News" section of this website, linked at the top of this page in the navigation bar. And don't miss THIS LINK to the transcript of a lengthy chat session between Marvel Director of Sales David Gabriel and the fans of the Masterworks Message Boards!

All cover images are courtesy of the Silver Age Marvel Comics Cover Gallery.

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