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Compact Comics: Your Guide To DC Comics’ Accessible Graphic Novel Line
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Compact Comics: Your Guide To DC Comics’ Accessible Graphic Novel Line

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There’s one thing I can tell you as the owner of a site that caters for new readers: there will always be a wave of new readers who will want to explore classic material. In prose, outfits like Penguin Classics make it their bread and butter by making affordable editions of classic and important material. (Penguin Classics has even done a handful of Marvel publications!) Now, DC Comics is getting in on the action with a new line of collected editions called “Compact Comics“.

This guide details everything you need to know about DC’s Compact Comics. Find out what makes these different to other collected editions, which stories and characters are represented in the line, where to find them, why they’re fantastic for new readers, and heaps more.

What is Compact Comics?

Compact Comics is a curated line of classic and modern-classic DC Comics. Each comic feature in this collection is new reader-friendly and presented in a smaller trim-size, hence the “compact” part of the name. Further to this, each book is marked at a price that makes sampling DC Comics an affordable proposition.

Read on to find out even more about Compact Comics.

DC Compact Comics comparison size. Left: the regular regular. Right: Compact Comics edition.
DC Compact Comics comparison size. Left: the regular regular. Right: Compact Comics edition.

A smaller trim size

The Compact Comics line lives up to its name by having smaller dimensions than the standard DC comic. These collected editions have a trim size of 5.5″ x 8.5″ (13.97cm x 21.59cm), which is much more pocket-sized than the traditional 6.625” x 10.25” (16.83cm x 26.03cm) that dominates in the direct market. You can see the image above for reference.

Many people compared Compact Comics’ smaller size to manga when the line was announced. These collections are indeed closer to manga’s (5” x 7.77″) than a traditional trade paperback comics collection. However, it’s worth pointing out that DC has opted to match a common paperback novel trim size instead. The 5.5″ x 8.5″ book dimension is quite common in bookshops and is very familiar to fiction readers, the audience that DC Comics is intentionally trying to capture.

That size is also one that bookshop owners love. Aligning with a standard size means they don’t need to accommodate shelving height like they would for a trade paperback collection that DC usually publishes. As a result, Compact Comics may be more likely to be displayed alongside bestselling novels and authors instead of being segregated to a small section towards the back.

From a reader’s perspective, the smaller size makes these collections very portable. They’re more likely to slip into a jacket pocket or can be put into a bag without taking up too much space.

A great price

Compact Comics are very affordable, retailing at $9.99 (USD).

That’s a great price when you consider that DC Comics’ standard trade paperback collections (which generally have 150-200 pages of material) retail for $19.99 (USD) nowadays. To illustrate it further, some of the standard-sized editions of the material collected as part of the line (see a few sections below) are retail for $24.99 or $29.99.

Batman: Hush (Compact Comics edition) cover by Jim Lee.
Batman: Hush (Compact Comics edition) cover by Jim Lee.

Different genres

DC Comics is trying to shake off the superhero stigma with Compact Comics. If you’re a regular reader of Marvel and DC, you’ll understand that most of their superhero output crosses over into different genres. However, the general public might not understand that and decide to not check out comics because of preconceived notions of superheroes.

DC Comics is attempting to shake this stigma by highlighting the genres the material crosses over into. This has been employed through labelling on the cover, which highlights the genre just above the title. Genres like fantasy, mystery, thriller, adventure, horror, and science fiction have been used. These are great shorthands for potential readers, who, for instance, might pick up Batman: Hush because they want to read a mystery story.

The labelling is helpful for bookshop owners too. It makes it easy for them to categorise the Compact Comics into different genres or shelves. As a result, these collections have the potential to have wider exposure in store. Instead of being on the graphic novel shelf, Watchmen (labelled as “Thriller”) could potentially be situated in the vicinity of best-selling authors such as John Grisham or Michael Connelly.

Great for new readers

DC has intentionally curated Compact Comics to be new reader-friendly. Every comic tells a self-contained story and doesn’t require any background reading to get into – even the ones set in the main DC continuity. This makes these perfect for those who want to sample what DC’s back catalogue has to offer without being confused.

Where to find Compact Comics collections

Compact Comics can be found at all good comic book shops, bookshops, online retailers, eBay, and Amazon.

You can find out more about where you can find comics in this extensive guide.

Batman: The Court of Owls Saga (Compact Comics edition) cover by Greg Capullo.
Batman: The Court of Owls Saga (Compact Comics edition) cover by Greg Capullo.

Which stories are part of Compact Comics?

DC Comics has announced the following Compact Comics collections so far. I will update this section when more are revealed.

Batman: The Court of Owls Saga
Written by Scott Snyder. Art by Greg Capullo.
Collects: Batman (2011 series) #1-11

Batman: The Court of Owls is the first story in Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s popular Batman run. In it, Batman uncovers a secret society known as the “Court of Owls”, who have secretly influenced Gotham for centuries. How do they relate to Bruce Wayne’s childhood and can Batman stop this dangerous force?

Check this one out if you’re a fan of mystery, big action, and surreal underground labyrinths.

Want to know more about this story? I have previously discussed it as part of the Bat-Classics column.

Batman: Court of Owls (Compact Comics edition) will be published on 4th June.

Watchmen (Compact Comics edition) cover by Dave Gibbons.
Watchmen (Compact Comics edition) cover by Dave Gibbons.

Watchmen
Written by Alan Moore. Art by Dave Gibbons.
Collects: Watchmen #1-12

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ superhero deconstruction is famous for many things. Many consider it one of the greatest comics of all time. It became one of the early blueprints for mature storytelling in comics – for better and worse. It popularized the 9-panel grid. And Zack Snyder adapted it into a film.

It’s a highly influential comic that’s dense, visually rich, and has an ending that will surprise you. However, as I’ve previously said, I don’t think you should make Watchmen your first comic. By reading other comics first, you’ll get a deeper understanding of what makes it such a good deconstruction of superhero comics and have a better appreciation for the craft and storytelling techniques behind it.

Watchmen (Compact Comics edition) will be published on 4th June.

All-Star Superman (Compact Comics edition) cover by Frank Quitely.
All-Star Superman (Compact Comics edition) cover by Frank Quitely.

All-Star Superman
Written by Grant Morrison. Art by Frank Quitely.
Collects: All-Star Superman #1-12

Superman discovers that he’s dying after being overexposed to the Sun. Before he goes, he’ll perform twelve labours to make peace with the world before he goes. The result is a celebration of Superman, highlighting what makes the character great. Grant Morrison mines ideas from various eras of the character’s publication history, from some of the more wacky ideas of the Silver Age to concepts from modern comics, to gel them into one cohesive tale.

Check out All-Star Superman if you want to discover what makes Superman a wonderful character, brimming with rich ideas and concepts.

All-Star Superman (Compact Comics edition) will be published on 2nd July.

Far Sector (Compact Comics edition) cover by Jamal Campbell.
Far Sector (Compact Comics edition) cover by Jamal Campbell.

Far Sector
Written by N.K Jemisin. Art by Jamal Campbell.
Collects: Far Sector #1-12

Far Sector is a Green Lantern series. However, instead of starring one of the Green Lanterns of Earth – such as Hal Jordan, John Stewart, or Guy Gardner – this series features a brand new character in the newly chosen Green Lantern Sojourner “Jo” Mullein. It’s set in an alien metropolis home to 20 billion people, all of whom have had their ability to feel emotions stripped from them. It’s a method that has created peace, with serious crimes almost non-existent. Well, that’s until Jo has to investigate the first murder in 500 years.

This 12-issue miniseries was nominated for three Eisner Awards and won the Hugo Award for “Best Graphic Story or Comic”. Writer N.K. Jemisin has won numerous awards for her novels. This includes being the first author to win three successive Hugo Awards for “Best Novel” (2015-2017) for her Broken Earth trilogy.

Far Sector (Compact Comics edition) will be published on 2nd July.

Batman: Hush (Compact Comics edition) cover by Jim Lee.
Batman: Hush (Compact Comics edition) cover by Jim Lee.

Batman: Hush
Written by Jeph Loeb. Art by Jim Lee.
Collects: Batman #608-619 and a Hush interlude from Wizard #0

There’s a criminal epidemic in Gotham City, with all of Batman’s villains coming out of the woodwork to wreak havoc. However, this appears to be a smokescreen for a much wider plot by a mysterious new villain Hush – whose goal is to destroy Bruce Wayne.

Batman: Hush is a fan and critic favourite for its engaging mystery and thrilling action. It’s also noteworthy as Jim Lee’s first major DC Comics work after becoming a sensation through his work at Marvel (especially with X-Men) and founding Image Comics. Lee brings his brand of dynamic to Batman: Hush to create an exciting read.

Batman: Hush (Compact Comics edition) will be published on 6th August.

Wonder Woman: Earth One (Compact Comics edition) cover by Yanick Paquette.
Wonder Woman: Earth One (Compact Comics edition) cover by Yanick Paquette.

Wonder Woman: Earth One
Written by Grant Morrison. Art by Yanick Paquette.
Collects: Wonder Woman: Earth One Volumes 1-3

Earth One was a graphic novel line that gave DC Comics characters a modern update. One of the more interesting takes was Wonder Woman: Earth One, which blended some of the more imaginative Golden Age elements with Sapphic ideas and arranged them through a modern lens.

The Compact Comics edition collects all three graphic novels in the series. These chronicle Diana leaving Paradise Island for “Man’s World” and her reactions to it and their response to her. Will Wonder Wonder Woman be able to carry out her mission of peace and love? Or will more insidious forces prevail?

Checkout our review for Wonder Woman: Earth One Volume 1.

Wonder Woman: Earth One (Compact Comics edition) will be published on 6th August.

Harley Quinn & The Gotham City Sirens (Compact Comics edition) cover by Guillem March.
Harley Quinn & The Gotham City Sirens (Compact Comics edition) cover by Guillem March.

Harley Quinn & The Gotham City Sirens
Written by Paul Dini. Art by Guillem March.
Collects: Gotham City Sirens (2009 series) #1-13

Gotham City Sirens is a team-up series consisting of Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn. No longer tied to anyone else’s agenda, the trio are free to serve their own goals. But can they get along long enough to achieve them?

While this Batman spin-off has had more of a cult status among fans, it has become influential in how the characters are portrayed going forward. Check it out if you’re a fan of stories about women getting up to no good.

Harley Quinn & The Gotham City Sirens (Compact Comics edition) will be published on 3rd September.

Joker (Compact Comics edition) cover by Lee Bermejo.
Joker (Compact Comics edition) cover by Lee Bermejo.

Joker
Written by Brian Azzarello. Art by Lee Bermejo.
Collects: Joker OGN

Joker has mysteriously been released for Arkham Asylum. However, the Clown Prince of Crime soon discovers that his rackets are taken over by some of Gotham’s other villainous inhabitants. The story explores one evening of crime and revenge as Joker attempts to claw back what was his.

Most Joker stories are told from the perspective of a hero – usually Batman. Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo’s Joker is unique in that it tells this story through the perspective of one of Joker’s henchmen. As a result, readers get closer to Joker than usual. However, he’s still haunting distance as you have no idea what’s going on in his head.

Joker (Compact Comics edition) will be published on 3rd September.

American Vampire Book One (Compact Comics edition) cover by Raphael Albuquerque.
American Vampire Book One (Compact Comics edition) cover by Raphael Albuquerque.

American Vampire Book One
Written by Scott Snyder and Stephen King. Art by Raphael Albuquerque.
Collects: American Vampire #1-11

Skinner Sweet is an old west outlaw and the first of a new breed of vampires that, unlike his European counterparts, can survive in the sunlight. American Vampire follows Sweet and other vampires of his kind from the 1880s and throughout much of the 20th century. The series explores the rise of America as a country and culture as each story arc covers a distinct era.

Curious about Stephen King’s name in the credits? He writes the backup story, which details Skinner Sweet’s origin, as part of the first story arc. The Compact Comics edition collects the first two arcs of the long-running series. You can find out how to read more of American Vampire in this reading order.

American Vampire Book One (Compact Comics edition) will be published on 1st October.

Catwoman: Trail of the Catwoman (Compact Comics edition) cover by Darwyn Cooke.
Catwoman: Trail of the Catwoman (Compact Comics edition) cover by Darwyn Cooke.

Catwoman: Trail of the Catwoman
Written by Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke. Art by Darwyn Cooke.
Collects: Catwoman: Selina’s Big Score, Catwoman (2002 series) #1-9, and backup stories from Detective Comics #759-762

Catwoman is presumed dead. This allows her to leave the Catwoman persona behind and do her heists under the cover of anonymity. However, Selina Kyle is brought back to the Catwoman persona when a serial killer starts killing her sex worker friends.

This collection has some of the best Catwoman stories and is the start of Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke’s fantastic fun on the character. I definitely recommend checking it out if you’re interested in reading a Catwoman story.

Catwoman: Trial of the Catwoman (Compact Comics edition) will be published on 1st October.

Buy DC Compact Comics on…

Will there be more Compact Comics?

All signs point to the above collections being the first wave in the Compact Comics line. DC Comics refers to them as “launch titles”, indicating they will publish more in late 2024 or sometime in 2025. DC Comics has a deep catalogue of self-contained and accessible stories that could be included in this line. As a result, they could easily continue to publish more collections for many years to come.

At this stage, I can only speculate which titles will be included. However, one that is safe to assume is further American Vampire volumes. DC has intentionally labelled the first collection as “Book One”, which indicates a “Book Two” and onwards could be published. (There could be six or seven collections if my calculations are correct.) You can also assume that there’s more Superman on the way, with DC wanting to take advantage of the new Superman movie releasing in July 2025.

Beyond that, I could see more Batman and Wonder Woman; characters/teams not currently represented in the line such, as The Flash, Aquaman, and Justice League; as well as the deep Vertigo Comics catalogue.

I will add additional collections to this guide when they’re announced.

Have your say

Which of the Compact Comics collections are you looking forward to reading? Share your thoughts in the comments below or via Facebook, X (formally Twitter), or Mastodon. You can also subscribe to the How To Love Comics newsletter.

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