"Treasury" or "Tabloid" comics were comics generally printed at around 10x13", frequently squarebound. The very first DC Comics ever put out, 1935's New Fun Comics, were treasury-sized, measuring at 10x15". Which made total sense, since the series consisted of newspaper strip reprints that had originally run in newspapers' Sunday color supplements. That series only lasted six issues, and while some other publishers in the 1940s(like Fawcett's Master Comics) and 1950s tried publishing comics at that size, generally they were short-lived experiments.

But it's when DC and Marvel Comics started producing them in the early 70s that they became a beloved part of a lot of comic fans' childhoods.

Comics were struggling to keep an ever-dwindling audience by the early 70s, and then-DC-president Carmine Infantino was casting about in all directions, trying to boost sales. Newsstands that carried comics were increasingly getting rid of them, finding their low price-point leading to barely enough profit to be worth the effort. By producing a larger book at a higher price, DC and Marvel were hoping to make some extra money at very little cost (reprint royalties for artists and writers were at least a decade away). Judging by how many treasuries DC and Marvel produced, they must have been at least partly successful.

DC's approach was more scattershot--they used a wider range of characters and concepts to front the books, while Marvel stuck to its most popular characters. Oddly, it seems of all the characters who headlined a treasury comic, it seems that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was the most popular, having no less than seven treasuries devoted to him. Only Superman and Batman seemed to as or more popular! Obviously, it was a different comics environment back then. (Click here to read some brief comments from then-DC v.p. Sol Harrison's thoughts on the treasury format from an interview in Amazing World of DC Comics #10, 1976)

Eventually, DC decided to use all-new material to fill the treasuries, like Superman's seemingly unending "vs." books. In the treasuries alone, Supes took on Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, Spiderman (twice) and Muhammad Ali!They also used them a promotional books for the first two Superman films. Marvel ended up using them as a place to do adaptations of licensed properties, like Star Wars, Buck Rogers, Battlestar Galactica, Annie (!), the Smurfs, and G.I.Joe.

In the late 70s, DC also went the other way, format-wise, and tried doing reprints in also-classic "digest" format. For a few years DC was doing both (Marvel only occasionally did digest comics), but by 1982 they decided to send the treasuries packing. DC's final "classic" treasury comic was DC Special Series #27, featuring the unusual pairing of Batman and the Hulk, superbly rendered by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez. Marvel kept going a little longer, wrapping up their run of treasuries with their collected reprint of their adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back.

The treasuries unexpectedly reappeared, courtest of DC, in 1998, with Superman: Peace on Earth, the first book in a superb series by Alex Ross and Paul Dini. A lot of the fans who read comics in the 70s took them over years later, and Ross in particular had a fervent passion for the old treasury comics. Trying to get these books noticed amid all the other stuff, they pitched these books to be in the classic old treasury comics format--10x13"--and so they were. These books were very popular, and so DC tried a couple of other ones, like Superman/Fantastic Four, and JLA: Heaven's Ladder. With all these big name talents pushing to have their books in this format, I sensed a revival of my favorite kind of comics.

I sensed wrong.

After DC published the sixth and last Ross/Dini book, JLA: Liberty and Justice in 2003, they seemed to retire the format again. My guess is the collective sales potential by anything by Alex Ross got DC into doing treasury comics again, and without his involvement, they're not all that interested in making them an ongoing concern. Which is too bad, and that leads us to...

The Alex Ross quote that adorns our first page: [treasuries were] "Hands-down my favorite form of entertainment that comics ever provided" (from the 2005 book Batman: Cover To Cover) pretty much sums up how I feel about these books. I got hooked on comics at a very early age--I don't remember a time in my life when I didn't have them--and treasuries were just so impressive to a small kid. They were so huge, the artwork seemed to just jump right off the page. At that age, I didn't really know of reprints, so seeing all this material for the first time was like dipping a toe into the ocean--a whole new world beckoned.

Over the years, I would pick up one or two of my favorites, just to have them again. With the advent of ebay, though, I got more interested in the history of the format, not just the ones I had. Soon I found myself spending absurd sums for books like Rudolph, Smurfs, and Annie--all because they were in the treasury format. I would buy other copies of them to give as gifts to friends' children, so maybe they too could be blown away the way I was.

But it was hard to know just how many were out there--there are a few website resources out there, but I felt none of them were in-depth enough, or, as I would find another heretofore unknown treasury on ebay, even complete. So as the treasuries filled up my bookshelf, I wanted an attractive, friendly place where anyone who loves these books like I do could indulge their interest. Most of the info provided on this site will be right out of the books, and any other historical sources I've been able to dig up. A lot of the rest will be assumptions, and I'm hoping that if someone or someones out there sees this site and knows better, they'll let me know. Maybe, someday, I can find a way to interview people with first-hand knowledge about these books to make this site even more than just one man-child's gushing tribute.

I feel that the treasuries were the best, more exciting example of the last time that comics, as an industry, was really trying to atrract a new audience, instead of just the same aging fanboys (like me). I still believe that if the major publishers did them again, and got them in front of young kids, they would be a big success. During the summer of 2005, as I walked down the aisles of my local Target, I wondered why DC didn't have a Batman Begins treasury comic, filled with Ra's Al Ghul and Scarecrow reprints, on the racks. A new generation of kids who are just discovering the characters could've had a giant, four-color keepsake to take home and get them into the world of comics. Maybe someday.

Well, when treasury comics get sick they to go heaven...

Actually, there seem to be many theories as to why the treasuries died off. The one I've heard the most is that comic collectors, who by the early 80s were pretty much the only audience left, stopped buying them. Then-DC publisher Carmine Infantino had this to say about their sales: "I tried everything I possibly could. Those things[the treasuries], strangely enough, sold well by mail and eventually we sold them out, but when they were on the newsstands, they never did that well."

This tiny blurb from The Amazing World of DC Comics #2, in an article about the ill-fated "ComicMobile" experiment (where DC actually drove a van around to neighborhoods and sold comics directly to fans--man, the 70s were cool!) backs up Mr.Infantino's assessment. It seems the treasury/tabloid comics were big hits with die-hard comic fans, but more casual readers were not as seduced by their charms.

Some other thoughts from a treasurycomics.com reader, Jeffrey H.Wasserman:"The trouble with these oversized books is that they just don't store well. Over-sized comic bags didn't exist for them way back when. The pulp paper quality of the pages proved to be the Treasury editions' Achilles' heel; making them far too flexible and subject to damage. Add to that the horrible printing methods comic companies used in the 1970s and you can see why Treasuries have been forgotten.

Nonetheless, they had great potential. These over-sized books allowed greater freedom for the artists and permitted comics fans to see comic art closer to original size than ever before. Neal Adams' work on the Muhammed Ali vs. Superman book was just great... unfortunately, the print job muddied a lot of the fine line art. Overall, it was a trend destined to die out. At a time when the oversized Life and Look magazines were folding, DC's and Marvel's experiement were quite late."

Another theory comes from Mark Evanier: "A marketing person once told me -- I have no idea how true this is -- that what did treasury books in was when the industry changed distribution deals in the late seventies. Most comics went from being sent out on a returnable basis, where retailers could ship it back and not pay for it if it went unsold, to non-returnable terms where the retailer was stuck with whatever they got. The treasury format books, I was told, were too often damaged just sitting on a shelf and dealers were hesitant to order them on non-returnable terms. As good a theory as any."

Good points all, though nothing stated above couldn't/hasn't been corrected (see the more sturdy Ross/Dini books), so I don't see why they couldn't make a comeback. The state of the comics industry is such that, they have to start courting new readers, or there simply won't be "comics" as we know them anymore in about two decades. I've bought many a treasury for a nephew or niece, and seeing them stare and flip at the gigantic pages makes me believe that if they were being made again, and get put in front of the right audience, treasury-sized comics couldn't come back as a viable, commercial format. If kids can learn to read manga from back to front, for pete's sake, they can accept giant-size comics!

There are lots of comic and comic-related publications that are oversized, or in some form bigger than the traditional comic book. I've left off any coloring books that are in comic form, since they're coloring books first. Also, I don't count anything in the relatively recently-created 9x12" format, or any of those Marvel Try-Out books. I feel that, for the most part, there is a very specific "treasury" format that publishers adhered to, and anything bigger or smaller than that are not treasury comics. I've made exceptions for a couple of odd, non-exactly-10"x13"-size books, and once I get ahold of them they will appear here! But otherwise, I'm sticking to the traditional "treasury" comic.

There, I've said it, and I'll say it again if I have to.

My name is Rob Kelly, and I'm a professional illustrator and graphic designer. Like stated above, I discovered comics practically in-utero, and they were overwhelmingly the single-greatest influence on me growing up. They got me interested in art, and I spent countless days drawing my favorite superheroes on notebook paper. They drove me to pursue my life's dream of being a professional artist, and now that I have, I feel like I owe them an eternal "thank you" for sparking my imagination and giving me a dream to pursue.

I have three very distinct memories of getting treasury comics as a kid. One was when my Dad, who worked in insurance, occasionally went into the office on Saturday. My Mom was working weekends, so I went with him. Before we went in, we would stop (frequently at Woolworths) and he would buy me a bunch of comics, many of them treasuries. He would plop me down at his secretary's desk, and I barely made a peep while he worked. When I got hungry, I would walk down to the cafeteria, filled with those quietly humming vending machines. I would buy whatever I wanted, then sit at one of the tables and eat while I continued to read.

The other is very similar. My Mom would take me with her when she got her hair done, so she would also take me comic shopping. I sat and read in one of those hard plastic chairs while she got her hair done. I distinctly remember reading the Famous First Edition of Flash Comics #1. I can barely remembers some girlfriends I've had, yet I remember reading Flash Comics #1 over twenty five years ago.

Pictured at left is me taking my cousin Lisa through a tour of Marvel Treasury #18 (with the help of C3PO, Chewbacca, a Tusken Raider, a Stormtrooper, and Darth Vader). Getting comics while we were on vacation in the Poconos was one of best parts of he yearly trip, and I think I read that issue about seventy-five times in two weeks. There was a real excitement for me, heading to the different newsstands, wondering what I'd find.

If you see factual errors on this site, or have some new info to contribute, I would love to hear from you! I hope this site can grow to be a great resource for anyone interested in these great books, and I want to make this site as accurate and informative as possible. Please feel free to email me at namtab29@comcast.net!
email: namtab29@comcast.net • all characters © their respective copyright holders • site © 2011 Rob Kelly