Finally. I’ve only been saying for decades that a fine way to print money would be to make a fancy, curated, collectible series of books reprinting the best Marvel comics. And now Penguin and Marvel are making this no-brainer reality with the Penguin Classics Marvel Collection, which will offer seminal tales of key Marvel characters in a handsome, uniform trade dress.
The first three books in the series, Black Panther, Captain America, and The Amazing Spider-Man will be published on June 14, 2022. More titles will be announced at a later date.
Penguin, of course, has been publishing the Penguin Classics line for decades, and if you don’t have at least one of their orange-themed volumes somewhere in your house, I’d be shocked.
Not only does the series offer Marvel comics in a handy collectible format, it also reinforces their place as actual literature that had influenced generations. Series editor is academic Ben Saunders, with additional contribution by Qiana J. Whitted.
And now to see which stories made the cut! The actual contents —Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, et al. — of each volume is not listed in the PR, but from the cover, the Spider-Man book is all Lee and Ditko; Black Panther includes Lee/Kirby material and some of the Don McGregor/Rich Buckler/Billy Graham stories (Panther’s Rage in a Penguin Classics? That would be so cool). Captain America includes Lee, Kirby & Simon, Jim Steranko and John Romita Sr. stories.
Introductions are being written by Jason Reynolds, Nnedi Okorafor and Gene Luen Yang.
The Marvel line will match the classic look, according to the PR. More from the PR:
Each title will be published in black spine paperback as well as a collectible hardcover edition with beautiful gold foil stamping, gold top stain edges and endpapers featuring artwork from the comics. They each include a foreword by a contemporary young adult author and a detailed scholarly introduction, speaking to the enduring significance of Marvel’s iconic creations.
The Amazing Spider-Man includes a foreword by Jason Reynolds, the award-winning and #1 New York Times bestselling author of many books including Miles Morales: Spider-Man, Look Both Ways and Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You. Reynolds is the 2020-2021 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.
Black Panther includes a foreword by Nnedi Okorafor, the multiple award-winning author of Who Fears Death and the Binti novella trilogy. She has written Black Panther and Wakanda Forever for Marvel Comics.
Captain America includes a foreword by Gene Luen Yang, the fifth National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and the author of Shang Chi for Marvel Comics and American Born Chinese.
Ben Saunders is the series editor and author of the scholarly introductions for Captain America and The Amazing Spider-Man; he is a Professor of English at the University of Oregon, where he founded the world’s first undergraduate minor in Comics Studies. He has also served as curator for several museum exhibitions of comic book art. Qiana J. Whitted is author of the scholarly introduction for Black Panther; she is Professor of English and African American Studies at the University of South Carolina, and an Eisner Award-winning comics scholar.
For decades, Marvel has published groundbreaking visual narratives that sustain attention on multiple levels: as explorations of the relationship between power and responsibility; as metaphors for the experience of difference and otherness; as meditations on the pain of adolescence and the fluid nature of identity; as examinations of the meaning, and limits, of patriotism; as ironic juxtapositions of the cosmic and the quotidian; as resources for the understanding of political and social history; and as high watermarks in the artistic tradition of American cartooning. For the first time, these classic stories of some of the most iconic super heroes in the history of American comics are Penguin Classics.
Ben Saunders, editor of the series, says, “The comics produced at Marvel in the 1960s can be compared to the most enduring popular music of that same tumultuous decade. Working at tremendous speed in what was widely regarded as a low-status commercial medium, the creators at Marvel initiated and participated in an aesthetic revolution. These comics have now influenced writers and artists across all forms of media — from contemporary novelists to hip hop musicians to Hollywood filmmakers. It is not hyperbole but simply a fact: these classic Marvel Comics are foundational documents of our culture.”
Elda Rotor, Vice President and Publisher of Penguin Classics, says, “When we talk about what makes a classic, we consider the work’s ability to connect with an audience across time, in both universal and individual ways. Marvel’s sustained and rich engagement with generations of readers, one that also provides a critical social lens, a deeply personal reflection of the human condition, and a shared reading experience of such storytelling and artistic innovation, is a super power. For instance, you can just say, ‘Spider-Man,’ and it opens up a whole world of stories and understanding. To me, that makes a Marvel classic a Penguin Classic. To have this opportunity to place the work of Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby and many other historic Marvel creators on shelves alongside the world’s classics marks a very special chapter in Penguin’s publishing history.”
Sven Larsen, Vice President of Licensed Publishing at Marvel Entertainment, says, “From The Odyssey to The Time Machine, the Penguin Classics list not only recognizes the most important works in storytelling but also places them in their important historical and cultural context. Spider-Man, Black Panther, and Captain America have become the bedrock of countless stories across media, and it’s a testament to the genius of Marvel’s writers and artists that these characters resonate so strongly today. It’s a remarkable honor to have these important chapters in Marvel history join this esteemed series from Penguin Random House. I can’t wait for new readers to discover these stories for the first time, and I’m excited for existing fans to be able to read the new introductions, essays and other material that will provide an even deeper appreciation of these seminal works of graphic fiction.”