The First Slimline Collections: Fell and Casanova

Recently, the first collections of Fell and Casanova came out, collecting all the issues of the series to date. Casanova: Luxuria reprints 7 issues as a $24.99 hardcover, while Fell: Feral City put its 8 issues into both paperback ($14.99) and a limited hardcover ($24.99).

(Casanova is an interesting case. It was originally offered as a softcover, but the publisher made the decision to change the format to a hardcover at the higher price, with the paperback collection to follow later this year. Retailers were given the chance to adjust their orders, but some reportedly found the announcement unclear. Others thought the change wasn’t promoted enough within the official notification channels. However, sales appear to have been good anyway.)

The two series have in common their structure. The Image slimline format consists of 16 color pages of story plus another 4 pages of “backmatter” (additional editorial content) for a total of 20. The price is $1.99 US, or 2/3 of the usual cost. DC and Marvel comics are 32 pages (22 story pages) for $2.99, while some Image comics of the same size have moved to a $3.50 price point.

Fell: Feral City cover
Fell: Feral City
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To improve the package, each slimline issue is also a complete story, increasing reader satisfaction, and the content is dense, with panels based on a 9 or 16 block grid. There’s been much discussion over the past few years of the problems of attracting customer interest (and thus money) to serialized installments, so in an attempt to attract interest to both formats, none of the backmatter from the individual issues was reprinted in the collections.

Is that a loss? No. Let’s look at the content to talk about why.

Fell first. The first issue sets the tone. Writer Warren Ellis rambles about why he chose to do a cheaply priced bargain comic and cites the factual basis for one of the odder elements of the story. If a reader’s interested in this type of thing, there’s plenty of it at his website. There’s also a couple of brief script excerpts and some small sketches by artist Ben Templesmith (that to my untrained eye replicate panels from the story).

The second issue has longer script sections and a comparison of the comic to Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound. Issue #3 moves to letters from readers, heavy on the praise, very light on the editorial response. Four adds a couple of pictures of female fans, one dressed as zombie holding comic, the other showing her bare back with one of the book’s logos drawn on. The remaining issues contain some combination of the above — script, letters, nods to what’s being alluded to — until #7, which chucks the whole thing to run four pages of Casanova.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re interesting reads when a new issue comes out, to get a further picture of what’s on the writer’s mind at the time. But in my opinion, they don’t age that well, and they’re nothing to regret missing out on. In this case, I think letting the writer speak through the work is the better choice; knowing too much about the personality runs the risk of making the work less significant than it should be.

Casanova: Luxuria cover
Casanova: Luxuria
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Speaking of Casanova, there, I think the text is more significant. Writer Matt Fraction begins by acknowledging his influences, including Ellis and Fell, but ranging further afield. Perhaps it’s due to having read many more of Ellis’ monologues and many fewer of Fraction’s, but his seem fresher, more interesting, more relevant to the work. In issue #2, Fraction weaves together bits of trivia and writing tips and personal life anecdotes that affected the writing of the issue, a pattern that continues until the powerful #7.

Also, the artist sketches by Gabriel Ba are more clearly formative. They don’t look like uninked panels, as they do in Fell; they look like construction drawings, providing more insight into how the work was built.

Still, none of it’s necessary to enjoying the story, or even particularly memorable, although I was entertained in the moment. Until #7. That’s the one where Fraction looks back at the run so far and what happened in his life in the year it took to produce them and how they both intertwined in disturbing and painful ways. That should have been included in the collection, because it’s a powerful piece of writing that directly affects one’s interpretation of (although not reaction to) the book.

4 Responses to “The First Slimline Collections: Fell and Casanova”

  1. david brothers Says:

    I loved Casanova enough to buy most of the single issues (I’m only missing two, now, I think) and the hardcover. I found the backmatter very interesting, especially the bit about North Sentinel Island, the last vestige of the stone age. You’re right, though, #7 was the end-all be-all as far as that series went.

    The image up there doesn’t really do the HC justice. There’s some wonderful font work on the logo, and it’s an HC without a dust jacket, making it feel almost like a school text book.

    Fraction said in an interview (either Comic Geek Speak or Fanboy Radio?) that the orders for the Casanova trade were so good that Image switched it to an HC partway through and orders went up or stayed the same.

  2. Rob Says:

    The art in the back of FELL is awesome. No idea why you think they’re just “sketches”. They clearly are fulling inked panels using even paint and some white lines most of the time. I think you just see more substantial multimedia work as “dirty” compared to the crisp clean linework of traditional comic art. I actually wanted to see more of that stuff in the back of FELL issues and follow his process more as it is much more unique than the work of conventional artists.

  3. Johanna Says:

    Rob, that’s how the intent was described by the writer. I agree with you that that’s an inadequate term, and I would have loved to have seen some content about Templesmith’s process.

  4. Philip F Says:

    My local shop didn’t get the memo about the format change on the Casanova collection. I ordered the paperback, and they put the hardback in my pull box. But it had pricetag with the paperback price. I pointed out the mistake, since I didn’t think they’d appreciate selling the book at such a high discount.

    The hardback looks gorgeous, but it’s just not in my budget right now. I’m looking forward to the paperback whenever it shows up.




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