Script by Pat Mills, Art by Joe Colquhoun (B&W). All iluustrations are ©Egmont
This collection published by Titan Books is formed of oversized faux leather books (8.8 x 11.9 inches, 22.5 x 30.2 cm), covered with dust jackets (note that my copy of volume three doesn't displays the poppy on the spine) and printed on thick mat paper. It is comprised of 10 volumes that have been published once a year in October. Below there is a size comparison between this edition and the previous mid eighties Titan Book only partial edition.
Vol 1 "2 June 1916 - 1 August 1916", published in November 2004 (110 pages, ISBN 1-84023-627-2, cover price 14,99£) displays the first 29 strips.
Bonus material for this volume:- 2 pages foreword by Pat Mills,
- 3 pages introduction by the late Neil Emery,
- full lenght commentary on each strip by Pat Mills
- a contextual afterword regarding the Battle of the Somme written by Steve White.
Vol 2 "1 August 1916 - 17 October 1916", published in October 2005 (ISBN 1-84023-929-8, cover price 14,99£, 30 strips, 110 pages):
The book displays 4 pages contextual introduction by Steve White regarding the Evolution of the Tank, a recap, full lenght commentaries on each strip by Pat Mills and a 2 pages afterword by Garth Ennis about the impact of the strip.
Vol 3 "17 October 1916 - 21 February 1917", published in October 2006 (ISBN 1-84576-270-3, cover price 14,99£, 110 pages for 24 strips):
Note that my copy doesn't displays the poppy logo on the spine of the dust jacket (dust jacket that is slightly thicker than all the others).
This volume opens with 2 pages interview of Joe Colquhoun by Stephen Oldman. Then we have 4 pages contextual introduction by Steve White regarding the Bombing of Britain, a recap and of course the full lenght commentary on each strip by Pat Mills.
Vol 4 "Blue's Story", published in October 2007 (ISBN 1-84576-323-8, cover price 14,99£, 120 pages for 26 strips):
This volume opens with a 2 pages introduction by novelist Tariq Goddard . Then we have the usual contextual introduction by Steve White (5 pages) here regarding the Battle of Verdun and a recap. At the end of the book there is a 5 pages full lenght commentary on each strip by Pat Mills.
Vol 5 "Return to the Front", published in October 2008 (ISBN 9781845767969, cover price 14,99£, 112 pages for 27 strips):
Note that two pages from strip 26 were switched in my copy of the Titan edition (first print) which is rectified in the French edition and the second printing of the Titan edition (thanks to Glassstanley from the 2000 AD forum for this last information).
Vol 6 "Underground and Over the Top", published in October 2009 (ISBN 9781845767976, cover price 14,99£, 112 pages for 29 strips):
This volume opens with a 4 pages contextual introduction by Steve White regarding the Secret War Beneath the Trenches and a recap. At the end of the book we found the usual full lenght commentary on each strip by Pat Mills (4 pages).
Vol 7 "The Great Mutiny", published in October 2010 (ISBN 9781848567412, cover price 14,99£, 96 pages for 29 strips):
This volume displays a 4 pages contextual introduction by Steve White regarding the French Army Mutinies of 1917, a recap, 5 pages strip commentary on each strip by Pat Mills (with among others an illustration by Paul Slater) and a book references page.
Vol 8 "Hitler's Youth", published in October 2011 (ISBN 9780857682994, cover price 14,99£, 112 pages for 30 strips):
This volume opens with a 6 pages contextual introduction by Steve White regarding Hitler and the First World War and a recap. At the end of the book we found the usual full length commentary on each strip by Pat Mills (5 pages), also illustrated with pictures and a Chris Weston illustration. For this volume, 65 pages of Joe Colquhoun original art have been scanned and incorporated. Two pages are dedicated to this restoration process illustrated by original covers and pre-covers.
I had the chance to exchange with the person in charge of this restoration process, here are his fully detailed insights:
The new captions and balloons were not done by Titan. IPC reprinted the early strip in later issues of Battle, and had the original art re-lettered to fit in with the look of the rest of the comic, hence these re-lettered episodes are almost exactly as they appeared in Battle, second time around. I say almost, as in reprint form they were heavily censored, with large areas of strip exposed to the horrors of 'process white' to remove blood, body parts and corpses. Some pages simply had panels and captions removed entirely. The final episode in this collection is a fine example of that. I had to piece the pages together from a pile of individual panels, as the scene with Charley tearing up draft papers, pouring beer over the recruitment officer and getting into a fist fight were deemed unsuitable for a juvenile audience (yet graphic scenes of war were not).
The later stories reproduced in Eagle were cut up and pasted back together to fit the different page size and count. Cover pages were cut down and merged with half pages, and on occasion, pages were missed out entirely, sometimes by mistake. This is why there is sometimes a clash of typeset and hand-lettered work in a single episode. Roll call on story page 53, and Charley and Ginger under the walking boards on story page 70 have different fonts on the same page, for the same reason. Some of the Judgement Troopers storyline was published in Eagle, where the page budget did not stretch to the luxury of re-lettering. Reprinting strips was cheaper than commissioning new material, and re-lettering strips cost additional money that Eagle didn't have. These pages are presented in the book with the original typeset lettering. The strip moved to a hand-lettering process from 12th July 1980, when typesetting was abandoned.
When restoring the art from Joe's originals, I used a mixture of digital blending to manipulate multiple scanned images, or old fashioned scalpel blades and glue to remove or replace sections missing from the original pen and ink pages. Several pages arrived with envelopes full of captions and balloons, that had fallen off over time, untidily taped across the artwork, causing a lot of damage. Many of the mastheads were missing or damaged, particularly on covers. To save money, the titles and mastheads were ripped off the artwork to be used again in later issues. Joe's daughter allowed me to remove some of these, to better show the art concealed beneath. Obviously where original art was available, it was better to present the strip in black and white. This was not always possible, and so the odd grey version of a colour page slipped in. Sometimes pages were reproduced from clear film cell, or from the colourist's original work, but this was not always possible, and so, on occasion, the original comic page was used. Where this was the case, each frame has been restored by hand to remove the yellowing of age, and the ink splatter created by the cheap letterpress printing process. With letterpress, colours were normally misaligned, areas of heavy shading did not always align with the fine line work, and in large areas of shading, the ink simply didn't make it to the page. I have not touched the line work if possible, but most of the shading has been restored digitally.
As we progress through the story, more and more art becomes available. It was unfortunate timing that whilst this book was being prepared, the tank section from Volume 2 was unavailable to me, as it was gifted to the Tank Museum in Bovington. Since completing this first omnibus, a number of missing pages have come to light, but a number have been sold into private collections, including my own. I have completed scanning to the end of WWI, and I believe the rest of the story through to the Russian conflict will be collected in two further omnibus editions. At the behest of Pat Mills, there are no plans to reprint M. Scott Goodall's WWII story, despite excellent artwork, much of which survives.
I also provided the materials for the French editions (La Grande Guerre de Charlie) from Volume 3 onwards, and this portfolio http://labeldelirium.com/book/la-grande-guerre-de-charlie-portfolio/. In most cases the pages are not recoloured. I was able to use the original colourist's work on some, and simply cleaned up the colour on the others.
Vol 9 "Death From Above", published in November 2012 (ISBN 9780857683007, cover price 14,99£, 112 pages for 35 strips):
This volume opens with a 4 pages contextual introduction by Steve White regarding Shell Schock and a recap. At the end of the book we found the usual full length commentary on each strip by Pat Mills (6 pages).
Vol 10 "The End", published in October 2013 (ISBN 9780857683014, cover price 14,99£, 116 pages for 33 strips):
This volume opens with a 6 pages contextual introduction by Steve White regarding the end of the First World war and a recap. At the end of the book we found the usual full length commentary on each strip by Pat Mills (6 pages). Note that this is by far the best reproduction quality displayed in this collection because Titan had the the opportunity to use original art material from Joe Colqhoun.
This volume marks the end of the collection as Pat Mills is not keen to see the WW2 adventures of Charley reprinted (he was not the author of the scripts). For the occasion, Pat Mills has written a 3 pages afterword/acknowledgment.