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Collectors Corner: Original Art

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“This is before the first issue of the comic book hit the stands in 1968. It’s a classic depiction of good versus evil. Notice the square jaw of Slayer – common in most comic book heroes. And the slightly disproportionate size of Jaguaro’s body to his head. This again is common, but only in villains… The thing to notice about this piece… …The thing that makes it very, very special… …is its realistic depiction of its figures. When the characters eventually made it into the magazine they were exaggerated… …as always happens. This is vintage…”

Mr. Glass, Unbreakable (2000)

A brief bit of history and background.

On the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia, a short trip north of Makassar, is a cave called Leang Timpuseng (aka Pettakere cave). Inside this cave, are paintings from prehistoric times dating from 35,000 to 40,000 years ago. A symbolic rock engraving has been found in Gorham’s Cave near the Strait of Gibraltar that dates 39,000 years. Painted claviforms (club shapes) have been found in Spain’s Cueva de El Castillo (Cave of the Castle) that date 40,800 years, and France’s Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave has well preserved (and quite detailed for the time) animal drawings that date as far as 37,000 years ago.

Art is older than written history. A wooden tablet known as the Dispilio tablet was discovered in Greece that has been carbon 14-dated to 5,260 ± 40 BC (about 7300 years ago). This discovery in 1993 is identified as the worlds oldest (known) written text, and is 2,000 years older than Sumerian and 4,000 years older than Cretan-Mycenean texts.

Anthropologists believe that humans mastered agriculture around 10,000 years ago, and The Later Upper Paleolithic Model is the idea that modern human behavior began 40,000–50,000 years ago.

All of this points to a simple truth and a question; for as long as mankind (as we know it) has existed, it has created artwork to represent its history, beliefs, and interests. So what is hanging in your cave?

Much like the cavemen of old, in 1992 I left my home in search of the unknown. Unlike the cavemen of old, it would only be for a few hours at a time, as I was 14 and riding a bicycle in search of girls, music, and comic books. Smart phones had not yet been invented, and while public commercial use of the internet (technically) launched in mid-1989, it certainly did not do so in my home (or my friends homes) until the mid to late 1990’s. To acquire original comic book art back then meant you needed to know someone who knew someone inside the comic book industry, or likely needed to visit a larger metropolitan area for a Comic Book Convention (note: Comic-Con International: San Diego began in 1970). As a teenager living in a small bayou town in the deep south, the chances (both financial and actual opportunity) were slim to none for me, so actually collecting original artwork did not really cross my mind (until some years later) and I enjoyed reading and collecting comic books.

Commercial prints of candy artwork color matching the couch cushions.

Fast-forward a few short years, and the world had changed quite a bit technologically. In many ways, it had become smaller and more accessible. Once again, much like the cavemen of old, mankind would decorate their caves (homes) with artwork of different types. At a certain age, people move into a place of their own (usually) and (also usually) tend to place things in that home to make it more enjoyable and familiar.

Over the past 30 year (much like most of those reading this article) I have visited many homes and observed their decorative styles and patterns. I typically will pay them a (genuine) compliment about their home as it is both their personal choice to do whatever they like, and also it would be quite rude to express judgement regarding their art selection. Often I might ask a question such as “I like how you perfectly matched the color of your couch cushions with the art on you wall. Is there also any special meaning behind the art for you?” to which the usual response would likely have been “no, not really. I saw a picture of a set up like this in a magazine at in an airport once and figured it looked cool. I don’t even like Life-Savors lol!

Not everyone has this same exact story, and while this particular example that I have provided did not actually occur, it is not far from the truth in my experience. Many have artwork or photos that are more indicative of that person’s own interests, beliefs, and experiences. Others might create their own art, or decorate their home with artwork created by a close friend or family member. My wife and I have a number of art pieces that we obtained during our years of travel around the world; hand-painted plates from Turkey, rice paper paintings from Vietnam, and Persian qum silk carpets from Iran. They represent memories and events that we experienced together, and remind us of this each time we see them.

If you are reading this, then there is a good chance that you are connected to comic books in some way or another.

I also have my own personal connection to original comic book artwork. Having enjoyed both the stories and artwork for well over 30 years, I (like many others) can look at a piece of original comic book art that I am familiar with and see MUCH more than a piece of art; I see the story that came before, during, and after that piece of art was created. In that moment I am reminded of my youth, or that summer five years ago where I was able to relax a bit and catch up on some of the most enjoyable stories (to me) around at that time.

So I choose to collect original comic book art. I am an art collector, enthusiast, and (occasionally) dealer. We work hard for our money, so when the chance presents itself and we are able to do so, we might as well invest in our own interests. (For me) the idea of owning and displaying a stunning piece of original comic book art that I share a historical and emotional connection to makes perfect sense and is of far greater intrinsic value than matching the colors of my couch cushions or the paint on my walls. (note: I have found that paper and ink do match well with most, but not all, furniture).

Collecting original comic book art is similar in many ways to collecting comic books themselves; however, while 100,000 copies of a comic book might be in print, or 500 copies of a specific variant might exist in circulation, there is only one original art piece for that book. Each is truly one of a kind. In this case it would be similar to owning a 1:100,000 variant, and it being the only one on earth.

Splash Page by artists Frank Miller & Klaus Janson.

There are a number of types of original comic art that are typically available.

A page my contain multiple single panel illustrations. It may have a mix of single panel illustrations with a Half-Splash (meaning that a large portion of the page is a single illustration). This is the vast majority of original comic book art where the story is told. Depending on the content of course, they are usually less expensive than Splash Pages, Double Page Spreads, and Covers.  However, there are instances where (again, depending on the content) pages are EXTREMELY valuable. An example would be artist Herb Trimpe’s final page from 1974’s The Incredible Hulk #180 featuring the 1st appearance of Wolverine which sold in 2014 for $657,250 USD (Source: HERE).

Splash Page is usually a full-page illustration dedicated to a specific moment, emotion, or purpose within the story. They can be used to open a story, or close a story (as is the case with Frank Miller’s Splash Page from The Dark Knight Returns #3 pictured to the right), or to draw the reader’s interest in the middle of a story to highlight a significant moment. In 2011, a Splash Page from 1986’s The Dark Knight Returns #3 penciled by Frank Miller and inked by Klaus Janson was sold for a (at the time) record $448,125 USD (Source: HERE).

(Painted) Double Page Spread by artist Alex Ross.

A Double Page Spread (DPS) is basically a two page illustration dedicated to a specific moment, emotion, or purpose within the story. They can be (and often are) visually incredible as they afford the artist an opportunity (and the space) to place a tremendous level of detail into their art. Since standard comic art pages measure 11″ x 17″ a DPS can either be created on an 11″ x 17″ standard art page (turned sideways) or on two 11″ x 17″ standard art page (side by side). These frame quite large and make outstanding display pieces as details can often be visible from a distance.

Covers are usually (but not always) the most detailed and visually iconic pieces of original comic book artwork. While the interior pages, Splash Pages, and DPSs may well be equally amazing, typically a greater degree of time, effort, and detail are placed into a cover than an interior page. Additionally, far more people have seen, or are familiar with, the image depicted on a given cover than they might be with the interior artwork itself. As a result, cover art is often (but not always) the most expensive original artwork that collectors might purchase.

Amazing Spider-Man #328 cover by artist Todd McFarlane.

Spider-Man #1 cover by artist Todd McFarlane.

Several noteworthy examples are artist Todd McFarlane’s original cover art for Spider-Man #1 which sold for $358,500 USD in 2012 (source: HERE), Todd McFarlane’s original cover art for Amazing Spider-Man #328 which sold for $657,250 USD in 2012 (Source: HERE), Frank Miller’s original cover art for The Dark Knight Returns #2 which sold for $478,000 in 2013 (Source: HERE), and Belgian artist Herge’s 1932 original cover for Tintin in America which sold for $1,600,000 USD in 2012 (Source: HERE) (Note: 2012 appears to have been an incredible year for original comic art sales).

While these are rather expensive examples of original comic book artwork, it is important to note that many original covers, splash pages, and DPSs are created each month by talented artists all over the world. In fact, thanks to modern technology (e.g. the internet, email, and scanners) many titles that you may be quite familiar with are drawn by artists 10,000 miles away from their publisher’s headquarters or production site.

Having been a fan of Valiant comics (now Valiant Entertainment) for over 25 years, I have made original Valiant artwork my personal collecting focus in recent years. With the 2012 re-launch of Valiant the past few years have been a “golden age” for collecting significant pieces of original Valiant artwork to a degree that otherwise might now be possible or financially practical. Artists such as Lewis LaRosa, Mico Suayan, Cary Nord, Clayton Henry, Adam Gorham, and Carlos Alberto Fernandez Urbano (CAFU) create visually stunning work that is often available.

 

While I could write for years about original Valiant artwork (and might), this article will list only a few incredible pieces from the respective artists.

******ADAM GORHAM******

(Original Artwork Below)

Adam Gorham

******CARLOS ALBERTO FERNANDEZ URBANO (CAFU)******

(Original Artwork Below)

******CARY NORD******

(Original Artwork Below)

CARY NORD

******CLAYTON HENRY******

(Original Artwork Below)

******LEWIS LAROSA******

(Original Artwork Below)

******MICO SUAYAN******

(Original Artwork Below)

Comic books are published every month, there is an artist behind each cover, page, and gatefold. Not all will appeal to your specific taste or interest; however, many will. As a collector, enthusiast, and fan, I encourage you to reach out to your favorite artist or his/her art representative if the possibility exists of adding an original comic book art piece to your own personal collection. It might be one piece, or twenty, but the goal (for many) is to enjoy something truly remarkable and one of a kind that is connected to the lives we live.

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