I have nothing but fond memories of Marvel Comics’ Treasury Editions, the over-sized reprint books the company published between 1974 and 1981. I would receive at least one every Christmas, probably because they were always on sale around that time and were readily available from most large newsagents. There was just something very satisfying about the larger size of the Treasury’s – they just had more impact and, well, were more special.
Marvel published 28 of the collections as well as another dozen or so specials and I’m happy to say I own quite a few of them. Originally published on a (more or less) bi-monthly schedule the early editions featured a good mix of characters and stories – Dr Strange, The Avengers, Howard the Duck, Thor, The Defenders – before settling down to concentrate mainly on the company’s most popular titles: Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, Conan and The Hulk. Oddly The X-Men never featured in their own title although both Wolverine and The Angel made guest appearances in other collections.
The books were oversized, coming in at a generous 26cm x 34cm, quite a lot larger that the average comic book (to my knowledge I think they are the largest sized reprints Marvel ever printed, even their long running Marvel Omnibus collections aren’t as big), were either 84 and 100 pages in length and printed in colour. Reproductions of the original covers were usually featured on the inside back cover and some of the editions featured introductions by Stan Lee or Roy Thomas. Most of the content consisted of reprints but some contained new material: Howard the Duck (issue 12) featured a new story as did issue 25’s Spider-Man vs. the Hulk at the Winter Olympics and issue 28’s Superman and Spider-Man.
Although I own most of the editions published between 1974 and 1978 I confess that I stopped buying them after issue 16’s Defenders, mainly because by then I was old to visit my local comic shop in Birmingham and buy original Marvel comics. Also, towards the end of the run the collections seemed to diminish in quality: Spider-Man vs. the Hulk at the Winter Olympics just seemed like a sad cash in to me and the final issue, Superman and Spider-Man was pretty bland with the Bob Larkin and John Romita painted cover being the only point of interest.
A list of all 28 Marvel Treasury Editions. Click for a larger version.
The success of the Treasury Editions spawned other reprint titles under the Marvel Treasury Special or Special Edition banners. There were over a dozen of these and they featured mainly one-off specials and movie tie-ins. For me there were three stand-outs: the first of the Marvel/DC crossovers, Superman vs The Amazing Spider-Man; the Star Wars Special Edition which reprinted the first six issues of the Marvel comic; Jack Kirby’s surreal adaption of 2001: A Space Odyssey, a comic that I’m sad to say I once owned but lent to a school friend and never saw again. The less said about some of the other ‘Specials’ – including the G.I. Joe Special Treasury Edition, the Annie Treasury Edition and the Smurfs Treasury – the better.
Marvel’s Treasury Editions also hold a small place in comic book history as they were the company’s (and I suspect the industry’s) first attempt at a regular series of reprints. Although the Marvel/Fireside Books quartet – Origins of Marvel Comics (1974), Son of Origins of Marvel Comics (1975), Bring On The Bad Guys (1976) and The Superhero Women (1977) – are widely regarded as the precursors of today’s trade paperback collections I’ve always felt that the Treasury Editions had their part to play in helping to establish the reprint market that now so dominates the industry. It’s just a pity that the over-sized format didn’t stick… those large books really do look great.