DC: Collecting the Multiverse: The Art of Sideshow review

When looking for high-quality collectibles, there’s hardly a name that earns more reverence and awe than Sideshow.  Largely seen as the gold standard, the crème de la crème of figures and collectibles, Sideshow has a sterling reputation that is matched only by its exclusivity.  Not meant to be a slight in any way, but their pieces can often be an investment, as their hefty price tags are indicative of the quality and craft that is put into making each figure, bust, and statue.

I mentioned it before, but one of my favorite activities at San Diego Comic-Con is wandering through the Sideshow booth, marveling at the amazing product they have on display.  From insanely detailed busts of Wolverine and the Predator to spot-on interpretations of Lobo and Doomsday to an Ecto-1 that lights up and makes noise, you’d be lying if you said you could walk away from the booth without wanting to take something home.

Even if you can’t find the budget to invest in a Sideshow piece, though you can still appreciate their offerings in other ways.  Specifically, with Insight Editions’ new book DC: Collecting the Multiverse: The Art of Sideshow, a hefty gallery that showcases Sideshow’s best pieces based on DC Comics properties, along with design sketches, 3-D renderings, and insights from the sculptors and tailors who put in countless hours of work to capture the essences of our favorite characters.

On a high level, this can be seen as an art book or gallery, only instead of sketches we get high-quality photos of gorgeous statues and figures with some pretty dramatic lighting and backgrounds.  This could have come across as hokey, corny, or even pretentious, but thanks to the handsome presentation and marvelous production design, it ends up being one of the nicest “art books” I’ve seen in some time.

The pedigree of talent tapped for the production of the book certainly helps.  It kicks off with a foreword from Kevin Conroy, who shares some nice words about the importance of superheroes in the lives of fans.  Again, this could have been corny in lesser hands, but Conroy’s clear passion for the character of Batman and, by extension, the entire DC Universe gives his foreword the necessary amount of earnestness needed for the sentiments to ring true.

The book’s text was written by Andrew Farago, who also wrote last year’s excellent Batman: The Definitive History of the Dark Knight.  His contributions are a little more matter-of-fact than in the earlier book, as he serves as he allows Sideshow’s sculptors, artists, and designers to speak for their own work.  This is the perfect approach, though, as material that could have been dry and dull is still engaging under Farago’s pen, be it point-by-point product descriptions or historical details about the various featured characters.

Admittedly, this is a book that can be kind of difficult to review, as it’s another example of something that you really need to read and experience on your own, rather than having someone else describe it to you.  I could go on and on about the amazing photography, so high-definition and pristine that you can count the leaves and vines on a Swamp Thing statue and the scales on Killer Croc, so vibrant and dynamic that a Superman figure makes it appear as if Clark Kent is practically flying off of the page as he discards his disguise.  Even the more static figures (relatively speaking, of course) like the 1:1 scale busts are brimming with personality, with different camera angles and various degrees of closeup and wide-shots pulling out the cocksure attitude of Hal Jordan and the strong, humble confidence of Superman.

Pretty as the pictures are, though, it’s the extra materials that really make this book worth diving into.  Farago has different members of the Sideshow team discuss their contributions to each piece, and their skill and passion are so evident that it makes even the discussion of different materials used for miniature ties and hats absolutely gripping.  I particularly loved seeing some of the box art “unfolded” so you can see the details of the packaging, and it’s always fascinating to see early design sketches right next to the end result, especially when initial concept and final product vary wildly.

The book features a strong variety of figures and pieces, ranging from A-listers like Superman and Wonder Woman to a surprising number of Lobo pieces.

Nothing less for the Main Man, of course.

Naturally, there are plenty of Batman pieces featured, and by and large they’re all incredible.  If you want feature film and television representation, there are pieces based on Batman, The Dark Knight, Batman v Superman, and Batman ’66.  Love the Arkham games?  Or how about different comics looks, be it a traditional blue and grey suit with the yellow oval or something a little more niche, like the Dark Knight’s look in Superman: Red Son?  Are you more into the extended Bat-family and want to see Batgirl, Robin, and Batwoman, or maybe the rogues gallery of Joker, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, Mr. Freeze, and Scarecrow?  Sideshow do not shy away from great Batman-related pieces, with statues and figures that draw inspiration from the Caped Crusaders presence across all mediums.

All in all, this book is a great gift for any DC fan, as there’s not one particular aspect of the Universe that gets overwhelming treatment above the others.  Sure, there’s tons of Batman stuff here, but there are almost as many great Superman-related pieces, and I’d even argue that the Man of Steel has some of the best looking figures out of the entire lot (the aforementioned Superman: Call to Action statue, where Clark Kent rips open his shirt to reveal the S-shield underneath?  Absolutely perfect).

It retails for around $75, which is about standard for a “coffee table book” of this size and quality.  It may not get you one of your coveted pieces in hand, but given the quality of the book, it’s definitely the next best thing.

SCORE: 9/10

Insight Editions provided a copy of this book for the purposes of this review.

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