Forget the gnashing of fanboy teeth! Remove the image of a four-years old Previews solicitation! Drop that memory of sending heated e-mails to online retailers or publishing big whigs! It's here! It's finally here! What's finally here, you ask? The first hardcover edition of Howard Chaykin's classic American Flagg!
I want you to go back and look at all the news from the CCI coverage from all of the various comic book news websites. You know the articles I'm talking about. The stories they are still mining and regurgitating through over a week after the convention? In each of the articles that references a fan Q&A, you would be hard-pressed to find one that didn't include a question about a late book or announced book that has yet to see the light of day. Those fans who constantly belabor over a late book can be annoying. You can read message boards and hear podcasts that deal with such bemoaning at length. Obnoxious, right? Well, yes, but I think we've all been that fan a time or two. I know I have.
If the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, consider my first step was asking Howard Chaykin about it at Herocon 2005. I asked him about the status of the status of the American Flagg! Hardcover. In his jokingly smarmy way he said that he was going to kick the next person's ass who asked that, but then he supplied me with the real answers that the page transfers looked like shit. I had pre-ordered the book and wasn't too terribly concerned with its sure to be soon arrival.
Fast forward three years later. I patiently waited until about two weeks ago when I was in a comic shop in Columbia, SC. I almost missed it as I passed by, but there next to the cash register was a copy of the American Flagg! Hardcover. "Holy shit!", I exclaimed in the store. I picked it up a rubbed it against my man-bosom. Yes, my man-bosom. I held it for long, loving moments, making small Wookie sounds as I felt it's hard, slender body against my own. I left it there, knowing that mine would surely arrive soon.
I stumbled out my front door today sometime after noon. I found a box awaiting me. Could it be my hardcover? I have a feeling you know the answer already.
The collection looks great. Produced jointly by Image (scrapy, upstart independent-publishing powerhouse) and Dynamic Forces (creator of special books well outside my means), this collection presents the first twelve issues of American Flagg! from now defunct First Comics. American Flagg! has seemingly been forgotten by fans, buried somewhere beneath the mights and gleam of Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen. Michael Chabon puts it best in his introduction that, "The debt to American Flagg!, while obvious, has been neglected."
So, do you need to read this book? I give an uproarious "yes" to this title. Read this book, steal it if you have to. It has all of the ingredients that make so many of our comic books (and other forms of entertainment) so appealing today. Irony, sarcasm, humor, sex, violence, conspiracies, disparagement, and action are all present in just the first few pages. My only complaint with the volume thus far is that the pages just don't seem to have that high quality gloss that most of these absolute collected editions have. But that's minor.
It is my opinion that American Flagg! is a lost classic that can finally be thankfully found by a larger audience with this hardcover. The price is a bit hefty at $49.99, but you can probably find cheaper versions online. There are also softcover versions available. I hope Image plans to continue publishing these collections as they would make a rich addition to any collector's bookshelf.
I wish I could tell you that this comic will make you slim or improve your life. The truth of the matter is that it probably won't do anything to seriously improve or impede your quality of life. What I can guarantee is that you will be reading one of the finest independently published comics ever committed to paper.