Back in 2001, Geewun fans were having a ball. Dreamwave Productions had the Transformers comics and were selling insane numbers of books, so the time seemed ripe to revisit some of the old Marvel material. Titan Books deigned to do so. However, they didn't start at issue number 1, no. You see, most comics that have runs in the dozens don't have every story reprinted. Instead, publishers opt for highlights. Since Furman was involved, it's unsurprising that they started with what he considered to be his best work, The Unicron War. And so, come summer of 2001, All Fall Down was published, containing issues #69-74. Shortly thereafter, End of the Road came out and collected #75-80.
It's clear that titan was pleased with the sales on these books, because by the end of 2002, the rest of Furman's US run was collected. Issue 56-68, and G2 #1-12 were collected over four volumes. (Sadly, the Halloween Special from G2 was skipped, as was the G2 G.I. Joe crossover. The latter I can understand, since it was probably a separate license, but the former chafes.) Since these apparently sold well, Titan drew up plans to reprint the rest of the G1 Marvel run, issues #1-55. The out-of-continuity stuff, Man of Iron and The Big Broadcast of 2006, was skipped. The Headmasters mini-series was folded into the run, but the out-of continuity movie adaptation was skipped. This wasn't too problematic, though G.I. Joe and the Transformers mini-series was likewise skipped, with slightly more serious continuity implications for the book.
Titan didn't skimp on the extras either. Given that the project started off as a few isolated stories, they took care to frame the stories in the proper context. Many of the books had newly-commissioned forewords, from guys like Greg Berger and Bob Forward and of course Simon Furman and Bob Budiansky. Also included were sketches, original treatments, and in two of the later, shorter books, galleries of the Titan covers. Slightly meta, maybe, but since I had all the hardcovers I liked getting a gallery of the softcover covers.
All in all, it was an excellent collection. Sixteen volumes, available at $19.95 each for softcover or $24.95 each for hardcover, came out to $320-$400 for the collection. Pricey, yes, but far less than purchasing the 93 issues individually would have been. The collection was not, however, without problems. It was clear that some of the originals had degraded, leading to a few issues with washed-out colors or a VERY slight blurriness to the lines. This mostly impacted the earlier volumes, later volumes tended to be of higher quality. Also, the original covers were all present but they tended to be presented two to a page. I'd have preferred a whole page each. Finally, and this is a nitpick but it's always bothered me so I'll say it, it annoys me that every one of the 16 books uses the latter-half of G1 logo. (There were three logos, the classic G1, the *Masters G1, and then the G2 logo. All sixteen volumes use the *Masters G1 logo.)
However, as nice as they are, they too are sadly not perfect. Circuit-Breaker, a fairly prominent character, was owned by Marvel Comics, a competitor to IDW. Whereas Titan was able to reprint her stories, IDW was not. (Issue #3, with the infamous Spider-Man guest appearance, was likewise stricken from this collection.) A guy named Stuart Denyer wrote up some pretty decent summaries to fill the gap, but of course it's not the same. (Thankfully, by volume 5, this issue appears to have been resolved, as Circuit-Breaker stories are included.) Secondly, while the Headmasters mini is printed in this collection, it's not printed until Collection #6. Thus, it's far out of place from the reading order. Third, this collection ends at G1 #80, skipping the entire G2 saga. Finally, the collections are pretty bare-bones. No new forewords, no sketches, none of the sizzle. They didn't even spring for new covers, instead making a collage from existing comic panels. This is a shame, because IDW has a terrific stable of talented artists who could have done amazing things with it. Remember that Nich Roche cover to Buster Witwicky and the Carwash of Doom? (I'll admit that I don't have any of these books in front of me right now, and I don't quite remember how they handled the original covers.)
Comparing the two, it's apparent that neither one is perfect, but the Titan editions get a whole lot closer. They just put a lot more effort into them. The few Titan omissions that IDW fixes are hardly critical, and the extras are very nice. However, even at retail the Titan Books books were more than twice the price of the IDW books, and the IDW books are considerably easier to find today. For someone who is looking to just read the comics, IDW is the clear winner. Plus, it's always possible that IDW will come out with a volume 7 covering G2 and, who knows, maybe even the Halloween Special or the G.I. Joe crossover that was skipped by Titan. But if you're looking for a display collection, I think Titan edges it out.
Next week is, I think, my very last formal post on the subject. I'll try to gather up all my thoughts and recollection from the run and turn that into something coherent. Hope you enjoy!