Looking to expand into comics-related publishing, Running Press has signed licensing agreements with Marvel and DC Comics and DC's Mad Magazine to publish deluxe hardcover editions of classic cartoonists and other archival material. Running Press also has an agreement with manga publisher Tokyopop for a series of manga coloring books.

Running Press will work with the DC Comics license to produce Mad's Greatest Artists, a series of deluxe, slipcased oversized hardcover collections featuring the great cartoonists who have worked for Mad. The first title will be The Completely Mad Don Martin, focused on the wacky and influential work of the late Don Martin, due in October 2007 and priced at $150. RP will follow with editions of other classic Mad cartoonists such as Jack Davis and Mort Drucker. The Don Martin work will be two volumes and 1,200 pages; each deluxe collection will be as comprehensive as the artist's archive allows.

Also coming in fall 2007 is The Marvel Vault, a collection featuring an overview of the history of Marvel Comics, documenting its creators and classic characters, and packaged in the form of an oversized, loose-leaf notebook. Running Press will also produce a similar publication for DC Comics, The DC Vault, in 2008. All of these collections will launch with 50,000-copy first printings.

While Running Press has published pop culture works before, the house hasn't focused on the comics market. Publisher Jon Anderson, a former graphic novel buyer at Barnes & Noble, said Running Press is looking to attract hardcore comics fans by offering high production values and classic cartoonists whose work is mostly uncollected.

The Tokyopop manga coloring book is based on the Princess Ai series (created in collaboration with rocker Courtney Love) and the popular goth-lolita manga series Bizenghast. "We wanted to do something on manga," Anderson said. "Manga how-to books have all been done. This is different, and the characters' intricate costumes are really popular."

Anderson compared the deluxe Mad magazine series to The Complete Far Side, Andrews McMeel's bestselling two-volume deluxe edition of Gary Larsen cartoons. RP will use the same packager, Lionheart Books in Atlanta, to produce the series. Running Press will partner with DC, Marvel and Tokyopop to promote the titles and will debut the works at New York Comic-con this week and later at the San Diego Comic-con.

"This is our first foray into a comics-specific program," Anderson said. "We think we can attract the over-40 male comics fan that loves Don Martin, Mad and classic comics of Marvel and DC."