Look what arrived in my post today, and just in time for Christmas too! The just released Deluxe edition of Happy! with those all important new pages, and some nice extras for fun. And funnily enough I spoke to Grant Morrison about this just recently…
The UK got a slightly earlier ship date for this rather lovely HC but it’s fair to say that in the rush of pre-Christmas madness – haha, I’ve not done all my shopping yet, haha, kill me please – I’d somewhat forgotten about it until it arrived in a shower of last minute gift buys. Looking longingly at the lovely comics I’d bought for everyone else, Happy! afforded me a welcome moment of selfish glee.
The trade paperback of the four issue mini by Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson was released earlier this year, back in April, after the original run had some timing issues with release dates. Issue 4 was originally scheduled to land before Christmas 2012, with the story building up to the Christmas finale, but an eventual February release unfortunately robbed the story of some of the momentum it had built up. The Christmas release date of the new HC goes someway to rectify that, and is a must buy not only for those who haven’t read the series, but for tpb owners too.
Why? Well the all important extra ten pages are not – as the listings seem to be saying – an additional short story, but are inserted between what was originally #3 and #4, a transitional point that originally had some readers a bit lost. As I said in my original review of the series:
The story could perhaps have done with being a tad longer, but only if you’re not that big on filling in some gaps yourselves. There is movement between issues and pages that are logical if you pay attention (watch the feathers!), and remember that Happy never gives up.
The feathers do indeed show the way, but now we see exactly how Nick connects the dots and finds his way to Happy again, as well as seeing what Happy is doing. It’s a seamless insert, and most readers will be none the wiser as to its later creation, but it answers a few more questions and actually gives Nick more of a heroic shine in his last hours.
I spoke to Grant a couple of months back, and one of the things we touched upon was this HC release (bolding added for your pleasure).
Laura Sneddon: I read Happy, which we were talking about last time, and it was going to come out before Christmas…
Grant Morrison: And Darick’s artistry just couldn’t handle the pace. [laughs]
LS: But there’s a new edition going to come out.
GM: Yeah, we’re doing a new one, supposedly this Christmas. Darick’s got ten new pages to draw so we’re trusting him to do it. There just weren’t enough pages, I’d have liked to have gone on to 5 issues but Darick could only commit to four. So I’ve added ten new pages that I think really just finish the story. But the version of it that I’ve come up with for the movie is like ten times better as usual, because given the opportunity to take a story and try and make a better version of it, we really can do a better version of it. So yeah, the comic’s pretty good, but the script I’m kind of thinking about is even better.
LS: Is the script done now?
GM: It’s not done at all, no. And that’s the trouble. I’ve still got a couple of other things to get through, and I don’t even know, I don’t even know if I want to do it?
LS: I suppose you could kind of outline it-
GM: Yeah, I mean that’s what I did. As I say I’m not sure if I want to write it now because I’ve got a couple of other jobs on the go but I think Darick was right to take as long as it took. He just said “Look this is going be on sale forever, and I want to get it right”. And although it drove us nuts I think ultimately on occasions like that you’ve got to let the artist do his thing. So what I’m looking for with the new one, I think it just really tightens it up.
LS: I read the first issue of Ballistic [by Adam Egypt Mortimer and Darick Robertson], and I was like “When’s the second one out?!”
GM: That’s actually my favourite comic in years.
LS: I really liked it. [duh]
GM: It’s been so long since I’d seen something so wise and sci-fi, brilliant mad ideas like Transmetropolitan issue one, or something, you know? It was great.
LS: Yeah, Transmet is one of my favourite comics. [understatement! It's why I do what I do] Happy was your first comic with Image right?
GM: Apart from Spawn, back in the day. But yeah, my first.
LS: Have you got any plans for more stuff with them?
GM: I do, but I can’t talk about it now because I can’t reveal who I’m doing it with. But yes, definitely. I’m writing it right now, in fact.
Image sure do know how to put out pretty books. This is, I think, only the second Image HC I’ve bought – the other being the exquisite Soho Dives, Soho Divas by Rian Hughes – and both have been of the utmost quality.
The extras at the end include the cover gallery and a black and white sketch that were in the tpb, along with Darick Robertson’s design sketches of Happy the horse (one of which will definitely appeal to My Little Pony fans) and Nick Sax, and a From Script to Ink segment where we see Morrison’s detailed script for pages 2 to 4, and Robertson’s pages from roughs to pencils to finished inks (read more on his work process here).
I actually wish more collected editions would include script excerpts (or even the whole script) as it is fascinating to see just how much comes from the writer on the finished page, and to read the asides to the artist pointing out bits that will stand out on second reading, or even in this case, details that support alternative interpretations of the story.
This deluxe edition also includes six suggested page layouts from Morrison – it’s interesting to see which bits were used almost verbatim while others differed hugely – and even a plan of the train that much of #3 takes place on.
Those who loved the rallying of the troops that occurs in #4 (who didn’t?!) will enjoy seeing how many of them have actual names and backstories in The Imaginary Friends section, while there are also teaser options and cover developments included, as well as variants unused.
Plenty then for fans old and new, and the stylish cover seals the deal.
If you fancy a happy uplifting tale for Christmas… well, there are plenty of those already innit? If on the other hand you fancy a protagonist who is essentially a cursed cockroach in the grotesque gutter of human life, swearing at a being of pure innocence and hope while being shot to bits, and a pedo Santa Claus who will haunt your nightmares and steal your kids. Well, firstly seek help, and secondly get this.
But remember that the book is called Happy! after all…
Happy Deluxe HC
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Darick Roberston
Colourist: Richard P Clark, Tony Aviña
Cover Artist: Darick Robertson, Michael and Laura Allred, Cameron Stewart, Rian Hughes, Frank Quitely
Letters: Simon Bowland
Design: Drew Gill
Released: 24th December
Laura Sneddon is a comics journalist and academic, writing for the mainstream UK press with a particular focus on women and feminism in comics. Currently working on a PhD, do not offend her chair leg of truth; it is wise and terrible. Her writing is indexed at comicbookgrrrl.com and procrastinated upon via @thalestral on Twitter.