Thank you All-Comic and Valiant Central for giving me a platform to discuss one of my favorite interests, Valiant original art. In the 25 years since Valiant first began publishing a lot has changed in the way art is produced and the way creators communicate in this collaborative process. With this column I would like explore those differences, share with you my experiences in collecting art, tips and tricks on how to get started, and examinations on the creation process step by step. Additionally I will be interviewing past and present Valiant comic artists, conducting critiques and commentaries of their art, and curating retrospectives of their bodies of work.
First, a little about me and how I got started. I became a Valiant fan in 1992. It was my senior year of high school and I was growing bored of what was going on in Spider-Man and X-Men comics. Valiant was grounded in the real world. “A world outside your window.” But just like the real world it was still fantastic, interesting, and everything was not in black and white. Valiant, for me, will always represent freedom, opportunity, and a sense of excitement.
I’ve been collecting Valiant original art now for over 15 years. My first piece of original art was the cover of Bloodshot Volume 2 #10 published in 1998 during the Acclaim Era years. From the story titled “Dreamland” written by Len Kaminski, this cover was penciled by Sal Velluto and inked by Steve Geiger (Bob Almond did interior inks). It featured Bloodshot in Area 51 being levitated and abducted by a UFO. One of the things that fascinated was the small details, the crossbeams of the guard tower, the links of the fence, the texture of the mountains, the contrasts of light and shadow on Bloodshot’s outfit. Another thing I noticed was the absence of detail in the night sky (where are all the stars?) and simple outlines of the UFOs and the beam. Those elements were filled in by the colorist. This was first time I realized how each role of penciller, inker, and colorist all play a vital part in the production of the comics we enjoy.
From there my passion for collecting original art was born. The pursuit was on. I remember rummaging the internet for more. I would call dealers. I would await faxes (yes faxes) for scans and lists of available original art. I was interested in anything and everything related to Valiant. Fortunately this was during a time when the speculation bubble had burst and dealers were eager to rid their inventories of Valiant related comics and artwork. I would occasionally buy entire stacks of pages at a fraction of what original asking prices were. This is not to say that there was no longer a Valiant fan base. In fact this was also during the time that I connected with many other Valiant fans, from around the world, online. It was the shared devotion that reinforced my love for these characters. Valiant fan sites were starting to pop up. eBay had taken off and many nights I recall having to be home at a certain time ready to bid on a desired piece or lot. I didn’t always know what I was doing but I enjoyed doing it.
These days I have over 1000 pieces of Valiant art in my collection from over 100 different artists. This consists of penciled prelims, inked interiors, framed covers, old style colors and production pieces. My collection has nearly doubled since Valiant’s glorious return to publishing in 2012. Limited only by budget there is really no shortage of artwork to choose from. One of the important things to do is find a focus. I originally sought out art from every title Valiant published and desired artwork from as many artists as possible. As costs, demand, and output rose, I realized I need to narrow down my scope.
My favorite titles are Harbinger and Imperium thanks to writer Joshua Dysart’s mastery of characterization and emotion. I mostly seek to obtain work from those books. The quality of material that Valiant publishes is stunning. I can’t help adding work from titles from Ninjak, Bloodshot, Divinity, Book of Death, and others. The roster of artists and their skill sets are stunning. My favorites include Lewis LaRosa, CAFU, Mico Suayan, Clayton Henry, Doug Braithwaite, among others. I can’t help but wish to add work from each of these talents to my collection. The bar has been raised. I’m continuously impressed by the level of detail, storytelling ability, and range of emotion that is conveyed. With the rise of digital production (which will be the topic of an upcoming column) you will at times discover that physical art will not exist for a desired piece. There are certainly pros and some cons of this method but for one it will allow you to move on and seek something else out.
In closing, I’m looking forward to sharing more about the subject of Valiant original art. I would like to hear from you! What got you started? What challenges have you faced? What are some of your favorite experiences with collecting original art? I enjoy the sense of community with other Valiant fans and collectors. Even during the years there was no output from Valiant there was always discussions taking place. Today the fan base is growing. Original Valiant readers are returning to the fold and new ones are discovering Valiant for the first time. I cannot express enough the joy of owning a piece of art from a favorite title or artist. Please add your comments and questions below or contact me via twitter, my website, or the Valiantfans board.