Saturday, January 10, 2009

An Introduction to Original Comic Art

"Alex," you ask, "Tell me, please. What's WAY more expensive than collecting comics, but brings along with it many of the same obsessive compulsive feelings and hair-pulling quests to find missing links in a collection?"

"Well," I'd say, ignoring the wonderful recession in this country and poo-pooing the insane prices asked (and realized!) for pieces of original, hand-drawn artwork, straight out of the funny books,"Collect original comics art."

Now, before I get into this post, I should say that I am still a novice original comics art (OCA, from now on) collector, and though my collection has grown nicely this past year (my first year of collecting), I am still trying to learn as much about this new (and expensive!) facet of the comics collecting hobby as is possible.

So the crash course goes something like the following: Original comics art is just what it says--the original artwork drawn by the penciller and inker of any given comic book.

So, if the final printed page you see when you break open a comic looks like this (And it goes without saying, that this image is copyright Marvel Comics):

Moon Knight page sampleThen the original art, before the digital coloring is laid on top, looks like this:

Moon Knight original art pageThe above page is pencilled by David Finch and inked by Danny Miki. And, yes, this page is now in my personal collection. And, no, it's not for sale.

(Especially not to you, Nathaniel)

The above page, which is actually page 12 of the first issue of Marvel's Moon Knight relaunch, was one of the first big purchases I made when I started this new, insane hobby.

Since those first few purchases, I've learned a bit about the hobby, and I've scoured the Internet almost daily, on a search for new stores, new Web sites, new anything related to comics art.

So, to start on the course of demystifying this particular fandom for all of our readers, I'll give a few, crucial links to anyone interested in collecting artwork. The first, and most important, is Comic Art Fans. There, you will find hundreds of virtual galleries of collections. Mine, for instance, is right here.

Comic Art Fans is a great place to start, as the site handily (and amazingly, if you ask me) is an emporium of any and all information related to comics art. Besides the hundreds of user galleries, they have a sister site, linked directly from the main site, called Comic Art Shop, which, well, as I'm sure you can guess, is a place for collectors to check out art put up for sale by other collectors, and even by comics industry professionals.

What's more, and this is the really amazing thing, Comic Art Fans provides thumbnail links to every major comics art auction currently going on over at Ebay! So, if you think you might want to start collecting this stuff, Comic Art Fans and Comic Art Shop are really must-visit sites in order to get you going.

Now, as you may have noticed if you've checked out my Comic Art Fans (CAF) gallery, you probably noticed that I tend to have a pretty narrow mindset when it comes to collecting art. And I think that is going to lead me to my biggest pointer for someone who wants to get started in this hobby. And it's a mantra we've all heard before in other fandoms:

Collect what you like.

Especially when it comes to the prices currently being asked for this stuff, it is really imperative that you simply collect the character you love most, or the artist whose work you really enjoy and wouldn't mind staring at on your wall.

The art page, I mean...not the...artist.


Anywhatsit, I basically collect art that falls into one of these three categories: art with Batman in it, Goon/Eric Powell art, and art from comics series that mean something to me, such as this cover from the lesser-known indy comic from NBM Publishing, Boneyard, by Richard Moore:

Boneyard cover artUnlike comics, whose prices rise and fall based on arbitrary (well, I think so, anyway) turns in the market, OCA values have exploded lately and tend to retain their value and actually appreciate as the years pass. Mostly, I think, due to the fact that each page is quite literally one-of-a-kind.

Talk about a limited edition, huh?

As with any other collecting hobby, though, certain pages are worth considerably more than others. Some artists' work, such as Jack Kirby and Jim Steranko's, fetch astronomical amounts. And for good reason, too, as these were two of the true pioneers of comics art in the 1960s and 1970s.

But don't go thinking that it's just the older art that's high-priced. Current artists regularly see their work sold for thousands of dollars, as well. Take Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, for example. His interiors (panel pages from within the comic) fetch in the thousands, while his cover art easily goes for multiples of that.

Not all OCA is gonna cost you an arm and a leg, though. Some interior pages can be purchased for under $100. And, even better than cheap interiors are what we in the business (of ultra-dorky collecting, that is) call pin-ups. These are basically unpublished, single-character drawings by specific artists, usually obtained directly from the artist at a convention.

Here's an example of a Spider-Man pin-up I got from artist Mark Bagley at the New York Comic Con a couple of years ago:

Spider-Man sketch by Mark BagleyAnd here's a Batman pin-up by Ed McGuiness I got through an art dealer:

Batman sketch by Ed McGuinessWhen approaching an artist at a convention with hopes to get a sketch drawn, remember that they are typically not free, especially for more complicated drawings. Many times, though, artists will do quick head sketches for no, or very little charge. Inker Scott Hanna was nice enough to do this Spidey head sketch for free during a signing at my local comics shop:

Spider-Man sketch by Scott HannaRemember that artists make their living by drawing, so you should never go up to a creator simply expecting something for free. That said, let's get back to collecting interior pages for a minute.

Most of my collection is made up of interiors, mostly because of price concerns. If I had Nathaniel money, I would be rolling in Gene Colan and Neal Adams cover work, mind you. So, you may be asking, what do I look for when collecting interiors?

What's that? No one was asking that, you say? And 99% of our readership could care less, you say? Huh. Well, to you 1% of readers who give a hobbit, I go about collecting interiors much like an inebriated man would go about finding a bathroom.

Wait, what? Sorry, I thought that would be funnier...and more...sensical. Anyway, what I do is this. If I read a comic I like, see a page I like, I try to find out where that artists' work might be available for sale, and if it's in a certain price range, then I go for it.

Simple, really.

Take that Moon Knight page from the beginning of this (now) epic post. I'm a big Moon Knight fan, the writer of that series, Charlie Huston, is one of my favorite novelists, and David Finch's art has always blown me away. So, when I found that page available for sale on Comic Art Shop, I jumped at it.

Which takes me to my last point--how to actually acquire art that you are interested in. First, see if the artist has a personal Web site. Sometimes, they'll sell their work directly. In most cases, however, artists have art dealers, who in turn sell tons of art on Web sites. For example, The Artist's Choice is one of the most-visited and well-represented of art dealer sites. I've bought art from them before, and I highly recommend them.

Some other sites I can personally say I've purchased from and was incredibly happy with are Fanfare Sports and Entertainment, Anthony's Collectibles, Ed Benes Art, Dave Finch's personal site, and Will's Comic Art. Sadly, Space Goat Fine Arts, where I purchased my two Richard Moore pieces, has just recently closed its doors.

So, now that you are all experts in OCA, and since I really, really need to wrap this up, I'll say this. If you do decide to start collecting art, start small, check out Comic Art Fans and Ebay to gauge prices for certain artists you're interested in, and collect what you like.

And now I'll leave you with this, one of my very favorite pages, drawn by Ed Benes because, well...I really, really like it!

Batman and Superman original comic art by Ed Benes

(All characters are copyright their respective owners)

1 comment:

dolls like us said...

I love comic art I grew up reading comic books that I got to read for free . My mom ran a magzine comic book store out of her drycleaners the comics that were in it in the in the late 50's would be worth a fortune today. She sold them or traded them people could bring in two and take home one or pay 5 cents for one .