One of my favorite comic community happenings of each year is when a message board member named TigerEyes announces that it’s time for the “Annual Secret Ballot: Marvel’s Most-Wanted Omnibus.”
For the uninitiated, what this means is that over a hundred of the biggest Marvel fans and collectors who like to chat each other up on the internet send in their picks for what Marvel material is most worthy of compiling into an oversize Marvel Omnibus Edition, massive tomes that sometimes run over 1,000 pages and up to 50 issues of collected comics.
Whether it’s causation or correlation, books from the secret ballot tend to get printed by Marvel. Here’s the breakdown from the first three years of the survey:
- 2013 survey: 10 of 29 books were later printed as Omnibus (or are solicited).
- 2014 survey: 12 of 52 books were later printed as Omnibus (or are solicited).
- 2015 survey: 7 of 52 books were later printed as Omnibus (or are solicited).
That makes the secret ballot not only a fun exercise, but a useful straw poll to get an idea of what could be coming our way. In fact, the majority of omnibuses released in 2016 that are not from the past three years of comics are from the poll.
I’ll be tackling the results of the 2016 poll starting with this post, complete with likely contents, explanations, how to read the material right now, and the likelihood we’ll ever see the books in print.
Let’s get started! And, if you want to know more about all of the books that have been released to date, my Marvel Omnibus & Oversized Hardcover Guide is built on a database full of all of the information about these massive tomes so you can sort and filter them. It’s the only tool of its kind on the web!
Last Year’s Rank: #27
Definite Contents: Realm of Kings: Inhumans #1-5, Realm of Kings: Son of Hulk #1-4, and Realm of Kings: Imperial Guard #1-5
Possible Contents: Nova (2007) #29-35, Guardians of the Galaxy (2008) #20-24, Incredible Hulks: Enigma Force (2010) #1-3, The Thanos Imperative: Ignition (2010) #1, The Thanos Imperative (2010) #1-6, The Thanos Imperative: Devastation (2011) #1, Thanos Sourcebook (2010) One-Shot, Annihilators (2011) #1-4, Annihilators: Earthfall (2011) #1-4
What is it? More of the epic space stories that include the Guardians of the Galaxy from the film you loved.
Marvel didn’t have much of a cosmic line of comics and heroes until 2006. It was then that an event called “Annihilation” pulled together characters like Nova, Silver Surfer, Drax the Destroyer, Star-Lord, and Thanos to combat the overwhelming insect forces of Annihilus.
Annihilation was successful, and so the sequel, Annihilation: Conquest included all of those characters and Ultron plus birthed the Guardians of the Galaxy team as we know it. Then, all of those characters were mashed up yet again with the The Inhumans, The Kree, The Shi’ar, and a cadre of X-Men for a huge, epic blowout called “War of Kings” – which was every bit as awesome as it sounds.
All of three of those event stories have now been collected into corresponding omnibus volumes which proved hugely popular. Next up is Realm of Kings, a sort of aftermath to War of Kings that exposes all of the characters to a new external threat caused by the explosive end of that event.
Here’s the tricky part – Realm of Kings has already been collected entirely into a hefty oversized hardcover that includes the definite contents listed above. What would be left for an omnibus to collect? First, some tie-in issues from Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy. Second, a Hulk supporting title not actually staring The Hulk that extends the story of some of the characters in the event.
From there, a group full of ultra-powerful characters called “The Annihilators” formed, which included Ronan the Accuser and Silver Surfer, among others. They starred in a trio of mini-series: The Thanos Imperative, Annihilators, and Annhilators: Earthfall.
If we received a book that would collect all of those contents, everything from modern Marvel cosmic would be contained in four convenient volumes save for a brief portion of Nova (five volumes if you count a Guardians of the Galaxy standalone). The next book in the cosmic sequence would be the soon-to-be-released Guardians of the Galaxy by Brian Bendis, Vol. 1.
That’s a decade of oversized cosmic comics!
When you think about it that way, it’s a no-brainer for Marvel to print this book it … a lot of people would probably cave in and buy it, even if they owned all of the stories separately, purely for the uniform bookshelf. Chances we see this in 2017? Spoiler alert: This book has been announced for January 2017(!), but this was my pre-existing prediction – maybe I’m as psychic as Mantis and Moondragon!
Want to read it right now? See my Marvel Universe Events page for more information on Realm of Kings.
Last Year’s Rank: #18
Probable Contents: Avengers (1963) #227-254, with #255-287 reserved for a Volume 2.
Possible Contents: Since that Volume 1 would be on the slim side, it could possibly also include earlier Stern issues #167, 189-191, 201 and the original West Coast Avengers (1984) #1-4 mini series. Stories from Solo Avengers (1987) #2-4 fit better alongside Volume 2.
What is it? As good at the Avengers gets in the 80s from a fan-favorite author with a cast of characters you’re sure to recognize.
The Avengers was a solid, well-loved comic book for at least it’s first 25 years of life, partially due to the string of workman authors who penned the title after Stan Lee and Roy Thomas kickstarted it.
Yet, The Avengers isn’t quite as chock-full of classic multi-issue runs as its sister team titles Fantastic Four and Uncanny X-Men. Maybe part of that has to do with the rotating team roster – the Avengers line-up changed too frequently for one mega-length story. However, that didn’t prevent major themes from developing across a long run from an author.
Roger Stern was that sort of author. It’s probably not a coincidence that he is a writer held on perhaps the highest pedestal after Claremont and Byrne by online Marvel fans of all ages. His run was a who’s who of Avengers members, heavily featuring a movie-friendly core cast of Captain America, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, The Vision, and Captain Marvel (not that one, but also a woman), plus visits from Iron Man, Thor, Wasp, X-Men’s, The Beast, She-Hulk, Hercules, Wonder Man, Spider-Woman, and more!
I’m not sure what lead to this volume’s precipitous decline in the standings from last year. A pair of TPBs covering the majority of this material called Avengers: Absolute Vision Volumes 1 and 2 were already advertised in time for last year’s survey. It could be that after seeing back half of Stern’s run being covered in Avengers Epic Collection Volumes 16 and 17 the die-hard fans are now giving up on seeing this in a pair of huge volumes (or, at least, they are sated for the moment).
Chances we see this in 2017? Even if Marvel wanted to re-cover the material from those recent trades, I think they’d hold on to this MCU-friendly line-up until there is another movie to help promote it.
Want to read it right now? See my Avengers (1963) page for all the ways to collect Stern’s run.
Last Year’s Rank: Debut!
Probable Contents: Spectacular Spider-Man #1-42 & Annual 1, plus the Amazing Spider-Man (1963) Annual 13.
What is it? Spider-Man’s second ongoing title (third, if you count Marvel-Team Up), launched in 1976 followed his campus life as a college student and more of his supporting cast.
As the story goes, both Stan Lee and Gerry Conway conspired to create this title to get Conway onto Spider-Man without interrupting his flagship book, The Amazing Spider-Man. Spectacular launched in 1976 alongside ASM #163 – giving Spider-Man a total of three ongoing titles.
Despite Conway’s association with the launch, this period written almost entirely by Bill Mantlo (creator of Rocket Raccoon) starting from issue #9.
Aside from the highly-regarded material, here’s what’s so attractive about this possible volume: it’s the perfect size for an omnibus, requires no preface or tie-ins, and marries up neatly with Spider-Man by Roger Stern Omnibus on the other side, which begins with #43-61 before hopscotching over to ASM with #224.
(And, let me say, I’ve never seen fervor for a Spider-Man volume like the fan community has for that Stern omnibus. I’ve had people volunteer to bring a copy to my house to make me read it.)
Here’s the rub: by virtue of debuting in 1976, Spectacular Spider-Man is also credibly in line to be one of the next titles to debut in the Marvel Masterworks format. These are library-quality, fully-restored color reprints with a high price tag that are not presented with the oversized pages of an omnibus. Once Marvel gets started on collecting a run in MMW, the rule of thumb is we need to see three MMW editions released before we get a corresponding omnibus of the same material. No title releases more than one MMW per year. That would put this book four years away, at minimum.
There are a lot of collectors with fond memories of this material who have their fingers crossed for that to happen. I’m not convinced. I think the hardcore fans have too much faith in the Masterworks program when Marvel has already let other quality series languish without Masterworks attention. An omnibus is the best chance to see this run collected.
Chances we see this in 2017? Nothing is a sure thing, but with a high school Spider-Man hitting the screen in 2017 this is some of Marvel’s best-fitting, in-continuity material that has never before been reprinted. If we don’t get an omnibus, we’ll definitely get a Masterworks.
Want to read it right now? Visit my Spider-Man Collecting Guide & Reading Order to see what’s already been reprinted.
Debuting this year!
Probable Contents: Wolverine (1988) #31-57 & 60
Possible Contents: Some or all of the Wolverine material from Marvel Comics Presents #62-71, 85-92, & 97-100, Marvel Fanfare #54-55, and Marvel Collector’s Edition; and any or all of Fantastic Four (1961) #347-349, Wolverine/Punisher #1-3, Spider-Man (1990) #8-12, and the original graphic novels Wolverine: Bloodlust, Wolverine: Rahne of Terra, Wolverine: Bloody Choices, Hearts of Darkness.
What is it? Wolverine tangles with Sabretooth and uncovers the first pieces of his forgotten past as illustrated by Marc Silvestri at his pre-Image height.
The first thing you should know is that there is no Volume 2 Omnibus of Wolverine yet printed or solicited. (Hmm, I wonder if we’ll be seeing it later on in the results?)
That makes it a little tricky to talk about a Volume 3, which resulted in a bit of controversy over the contents of this edition.
Wolverine Volume 1 ended on Wolverine (1988) #10. My hope is that we’d get a huge Volume 2 so that a Volume 3 could push all the way through issue #74 – after which Wolverine hits a new era with the removal of his adamantium skeleton. To fit those 64 issues (plus tie ins) into two volumes, I predicted Volume 2 had to push at least through issue #37 before this one began.
Wiser Wolverinies (Wolverewskis? Claw-Heads? Bubs?) than I pointed out that this run of Silvestri on art tells one operatic story that would be harmed by splitting it across volumes, and that issue #57 makes for a fine stopping point with #60 as an epilogue. I agree. (Issues #57-58 are a fill-in story told in advance and fit after #65.)
Chances we see this in 2017? We’ll need to wait for a Volume 2 to hit the shelves before we see this one – Marvel’s isn’t generally known for shipping two omnibuses from a line back to back (although, they are doing it this year with Master of Kung Fu and previously broke the rule for X-Men by Claremont/Lee from this same period). Wolverine’s 2017 movie might grease the wheels a bit, but I think that still puts this in the top of 2018 at best.
Want to read it right now? Visit my comprehensive guide to Wolverine for the existing reprint options, which will get you through #46 in color.
Last Year’s Rank: #46
Probable Contents: Marvel Graphic Novel #18 – The Sensational She-Hulk (1985), The Sensational She-Hulk (1989) #1-8 & 31-50, and She-Hulk material from Marvel Comics Presents (1988) #18.
Possible Contents: Those are all of the issues Byrne was involved in. Alternately, all of #1-50 might be squeezed into one volume, but it would unfortunately orphan the final 10 issues, probably never to be collected.
What is it? One of Marvel’s brightest stars writes and draws a wisecracking, self-aware She-Hulk – think Deadpool with less cursing and more curves.
Since her solo series wound down, She-Hulk had been a solo heroine and a member of both the Avengers and The Fantastic Four, the latter under Byrne’s pen. He departed that title – and Marvel Comics entirely – for a notable relaunch of Superman in Man of Steel in 1986, but came back to write Jennifer Walters again on The Sensational She-Hulk.
Roger Stern had already established She-Hulk as a happy-go-lucky hero who didn’t mind her hulked-out state during his run on Avengers. Byrne pushed that status quo to the limit – having the cheerful, sarcastic Walters break the fourth wall to address (and sometimes taunt) her audience starting with her first cover.
The title was perverse, tongue-in-cheek, and far outside the realm of Byrne’s typical marquee work on team books, but his initial run on this book upheld his solid streak of 1980s hits – fans loved it. He departed over a disagreement with his editor for well-regarded runs on Namor, The Sub-Mariner and Avengers West Coast.
His return to She-Hulk with issue #30 in 1991 is less lauded; at that point Byrne’s start-power was overshadowed by hot artist/writers who would be bound for Image Comics in a matter of months. Yet, the longer run (and time out of the spotlight) gave him two years to unfurl these off-kilter concepts at length.
Chances we see this in 2017? Unfortunately, this title has more things working against it than the big gap in its issue range. Marvel went whole hog on John Byrne this year – two omnibuses and also the first-ever printing of the later half of this run in a paperback. Unless that paperback sells out in a matter of weeks (highly unlikely), there’s no way we’ll see this omnibus in the next year or two (if ever).
Want to read it right now? Pick up Sensational She-Hulk, Vol. 1 and pre-order Sensational She-Hulk by John Byrne: The Return to own everything but the initial Marvel Graphic Novel that kicked off this run (and She-Hulk: Ceremony #1-2, which wasn’t written by Byrne and was part of the editorial dispute that saw him leave the book). See the She-Hulk Guide for more info.