for the Baxter Days
July 21, 2005
By Avi Green
Back in the early 1980s, when the direct sales market was becoming
more common in comics specialty stores, DC and Marvel began using a
form of paper called Baxter. For DC, it was for a direct sales line
known as Deluxe Format, and was first seen as early as 1983.
It was a very good, sturdy form of paper, which holds up very well
even today in back issues. And in contrast to the “gloss” paper that
took its place in the mid-90s, it was less “shiny”, and thus more
enjoyable to read without the possibility that it might reflect
light if read under a bright light.
The titles to use it included, as follows:
From DC: Vigilante, The Omega Men, the
second volume of The New Teen
Titans, later to become The
Titans, the sans-adjective Outsiders, the post-Crisis version of The Question, and even Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight,
the only title since then to still be going, even though its no
longer formatted that way.
From Marvel: I don’t know
that much, but there most certainly are two examples: Marvel Fanfare, and possibly Doctor Strange, the second
volume (not counting the time that Strange Tales originally became a full-time
starring vehicle for the Sorceror Supreme in 1968).
One sure thing, Marvel Fanfare
was meant to serve as a special showcase anthology in which new
people to comics could show off their talents. Al Milgrom, who was
editor of the title in the mid-80s, once said that:
"It was intended that [Marvel Fanfare]
would appeal especially to the fans. [I] tried to get the best
possible stuff (as you say--by either established pros or talented
newcomers). At least part of the purpose was to use better paper,
more elaborate, detailed coloring and, by charging a higher cover
price, to eliminate all those unsightly ads. The creators were
paid a bonus 50% rate, too. I was sometimes 'accused' of just
using up inventory material--as if that was necessarily a bad
thing. I did use some inventory stuff--if I thought it was of high
enough quality. As with any grand vision, the results sometimes
fell short of the goal. But hey, I tried. It was sometimes
difficult to keep on top of the book, since I went off staff after
awhile, and had to try to coordinate its publication while working
at home and juggling a full-time freelance career. What finally
killed it was the advent of incentive payments to freelancers--top
creators could make far more than the rate-and-a-half Fanfare paid
if they worked on many of the better selling regular titles. That
and my workload and family obligations made it tough to keep the
book going. And sales had begun to drop as well."
It's certainly a shame that Fanfare didn't prove as successful as it
could have been in the end, but I must say that overall, what did
get published was certainly good stuff, and I thank Milgrom and
company very much for that.
As published on this very fine form of paper,
all these titles were certainly very easy to read, and their artwork
stood out marvelously. You got to look at the great artwork of
Jose-Luis Garcia-Lopez with wonder, and even Dan Jurgens and Jim
Aparo had a carnival fair on this wonderful publication. And let’s
not forget George Perez, of course! His work on the revising of Donna Troy’s origin was
also given the mark of excellence via Baxter paper, and it was
conveyed very well indeed.
Sadly, in 1992-93, both DC and Marvel began to abandon this
excellent paper, and by 1995, it was gone. Since then, what has
taken its place, other than the gloss paper we see on a lot of comic
books today that are intended to be high quality. (In print, at
It’s a real shame that this once very enjoyable material, Baxter,
has been discarded in favor of something that doesn’t leave much
impact, any more than the stories published in comics today, on the
Baxter paper is something that should be fondly remembered from the
days gone by – when comics were often decidedly better, and is
something that deserves to make a comeback.
Surely the industry could afford to bring it back? I would have to
think that it would also cost less than the gloss paper, and could
even help to cut back on heavy prices for at least a while longer.
I guess that’s why I’m hoping that someday, for as long as pamphlet
comics are around, that Baxter will make a most welcome return to
publishing. For it really was one of the best of its time, and
deserves the chance anew to shine.
Something I was delighted to find
This is something I came across on the web, a page scan at that,
that was a pleasure to read. It's an interview from the Straits Times of Singapore with
Gail Simone, published April 23, 2005, on how she researched in
advance for a story set in said country:
I'm always glad to come across articles like this one. As with
Joseph Szadkowski's columns in the Washington Times, which
I wrote about some time before, this too is very intelligently
written, and is well above anything that Captain Comics has ever
written about in his columns.
This is something US newspapers in print could learn from, if you
Copyright 2005 Avi Green. All rights reserved.
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