Though he’s far better known for his more inventive work on such titles as Promethea, Batwoman and Sandman Overture, it was from his work as the regular artist on the short-lived but beloved series Chase in the late 1990s that I became a fan of the art of J.H. Williams III. While the prices being asked for pages from the aforementioned titles are out of reach for me, Williams’ work from Chase is more affordable, and I decided to pick up a couple of boards from a dealer through an online transaction recently.
Comics inker Mark McKenna brought a particular eBay listing to the attention of his Facebook friends and followers this week. The item was billed as “John Romita Jr. original art,” and it appeared to be a Daredevil drawing, the sort of quickie head sketch one might get from an artist at a convention.
I think the first time I saw (or at least took note of) Tom Grummett’s art was on his run on Adventures of Superman, specifically during the “Reign of the Supermen” arc in the wake of the November 1992 “Death of Superman.” He and writer Karl Kesel crafted an interesting and lasting character in the cloned version of Superboy. I’m pleased to see the character design is about to make a comeback in the relaunched Young Justice comic from DC in the months ahead.
That work, and Grummett’s tenure on the subsequent Superboy spinoff series, really cemented Grummett’s reputation in the comics industry, not to mention some wonderful work on Robin. He offered some memorable visuals on the DC/Marvel Amalgam book Challengers of the Fantastic in the late 1990s, and perhaps the strongest evidence of the height of his “star power” in the mainstream comics industry was his participation in the striking but short-lived Gorilla Comics imprint at Image, through which he and a throng of top-tier talent — Mark Waid, Kurt Busiek, Stuart Immonen, Kesel and many more — delivered some strong creator-owned genre titles.
Grummett’s prominence seemed to wane in the wake of that endeavor, though he’s remained a constant presence in comics, notably contributing to many Marvel titles in recent years. Perhaps the brighter tone of his style fell out of vogue, but it’s a shame, because he always brings a great energy and sense of fun to his work. As demonstrated with his work on Superboy and Robin, he’s adept at instilling a convincing youthfulness in his characters, and he’s shined time and time again when playing with the creations of the late, great Jack Kirby. I’ve always enjoyed Grummett’s style, so when I got a chance to acquire a couple of pieces of original comic art on which he worked at prices that worked well within my budget, I jumped at it.
When it comes to stretchable heroes in mainstream comics, my favorite has always been the Elongated Man. This is no doubt due in part to the fact that he was the first of the elastic heroes I encountered when I started reading comics as a kid, but I think there’s a little more to it that just being first out of the gate in my world. Plastic Man was goofier, yes, and Mr. Fantastic was smarter. But Ralph Dibny was always the most human, a regular guy. I’ve been loving Hartley Sawyer’s turn as the character seasons 4 and 5 of The Flash on TV.
Despite my appreciation of the character, my collection of original comic art was always devoid of an E-Man appearance… until now. But even better than Ralph’s addition to my collection is the fact that I’ve now got a board featuring the bright and attractive linework of artist Chuck Patton.
Comics writer and Astro City creator Kurt Busiek recently wrote in a Twitter thread that often, younger readers discovering comics typically choose a thicker one as their first foray into the medium. “Young readers may not know the characters well, or care about creators, but they understand ‘more,’” Busiek posted.
He’s absolutely right. My introduction to comics came in a hospital room, as I recovered from a broken arm as a kid. My brother and friends from across the street visited me and gave me three comics. The one that grabbed my attention was Batman Family #19. It offered more content, more characters, more stories, and I couldn’t get enough of these colorful crusaders and criminals. After that, when my mom would take me to corner stores to buy new comics, I gravitated toward DC titles to its Dollar Comics in particular.
With the Black Panther movie approaching the $1-billion gross revenue mark, it’s clear the enthusiasm and appreciation for this movie — and more importantly, what it represents — is likely without end. It’s sets an intimidatingly high bar for the inevitable sequel, but given the intelligence of the story and characters in the first, it’s something Marvel Studios and the creatives who crafted the film can achieve.
The Panther pandemic means the property has remained at the forefront of my mind as of late. Previously, I revisited my review of the first issue of the Priest-helmed Black Panther series from 1998. Now, I’m turning my attention once again to the only Panther-related piece in my collection of original comic art.
The ever-vigilant Terry Beatty, professional comic artist and comic art collector, posted links to “original” art listings on eBay through his Facebook profile over the weekend, calling into question their authenticity. Beatty has an excellent eye and track record for this sort of thing, and as a collector of comic art myself, I’ve always been interested in the field and instances of fraud.
I clicked on one of the eBay links Beatty posted and then on the list of all items this particular seller — collections_of_art — was offering through the auction site. I was immediately drawn to what was reportedly a sketch by the late, great Superman artist Curt Swan, listed for $999 US. It’s been more than three decades since I saw the original version of that so-called sketch, but I immediately recognized it as a figure from cover art from the classic “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” story by Alan Moore and Swan.
The market for original comic art, commissioned comic art and sketches by noted professionals in the medium has exploded in recent years. Pieces that were once valued at less than $100 are now selling for hundreds more. Four- and five-figure prices for sought-after art and artists is commonplace these days. With the rise in demand and corresponding rise in prices comes an unfortunate side effect: fraud.
Phony comic art has definitely circulated in the marketplace, so buyers have to be knowledgeable and aware so as to avoid being fleeced. In addition to reading comics, I’m a collector of original art, and as such, I’m always scanning the marketplace for affordable pieces. Ebay has been a great resource to get bargains, so I peruse the original comic art listings on the site almost on a daily basis.
I stumbled across a piece Sunday that caught my eye; well, truth be told, it was the listing title that caught my eye: “BLACK CANARY FULL FIGURE original art commission by DARWYN COOKE (BEAUTIFUL).” I have three sketches from the late artist in my convention sketchbook, and I’ll always treasure them. As a fan of his work, I’m always up for a glance at something else he did.
Everyone has their favorite incarnation of the Justice League, be it the Silver Age original, the JL Detroit team, Grant Morrison and Howard Porter’s return of the Big Seven, or perhaps (and most definitely in my case) the humor era begun in the late 1980s by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire. I don’t think anyone has ever mentioned the two-year stint on Justice League America from the mid-1990s by writer Gerard Jones and artist Chuck Wojtkiewicz, which saw a new lineup launched in the wake of Zero Hour.
I have very few issues from this run on the title, which surprises me a little, since included in the team roster at the time were Infinity Inc. alums Nuklon and Obsidian, characters I’ve loved since they were introduced in All-Star Squadron in the early 1980s. Despite my lack of connection with this era of the JLA, I jumped at the chance to pick up this board from Justice League America #98. The price was right, and there was a lot about the page that appealed to me.
I’ve never been much for war comics, though there have been occasional exceptions of strong storytelling that really grabbed my attention. But my extensive comic-book collection really includes very few war comics, just the occasional issue here and that was a part of a larger lot I picked up at flea markets or the like over the years. I have several issues of DC’s original Weird War Tales among the many long boxes around my place, but I honestly don’t recall if I’ve read them all (I ought to rectify that, especially given the vintage-comics kick I’ve been on as of late).
Despite that lack of nostalgic connection to war comics, when I spotted a page from Weird War Tales for bid online recently, I definitely wanted to try my hand at winning it. The reason wasn’t due to the content, but rather the era from which it originated and the unusual pairing of artistic talents who crafted it. I was fortunate enough to have landed the board and added to my collection, and when I finally got it in my hands, I realized it was a treasure-trove of classic comics craft details.
The Challengers of the Unknown have been with us for 60 years (!), having debuted in Showcase #6 (cover dated February 1957). The characters enjoyed a few more appearances in Showcase before moving onto their own title the following year. It’s noteworthy in that it’s one of the many long-lasting creations of the King, the late Jack Kirby. It’s actually such a beloved DC property, I’m surprised a Challengers one-shot wasn’t listed among the planned comics DC is publishing in August to mark what would have been the legendary writer/artist’s 100th birthday.
Now while a Kirby page (of any description) isn’t with my budget when it comes to comic-art collecting, I did manage to acquire a Challengers page recently for an affordable price on eBay. And it was from my favorite incarnation of the Challengers: the 1997-98, Steven Grant-penned series featuring a new lineup of Challengers. It boasts a cool X-Files vibe, featuring paranormal investigations against the backdrop of the DC Universe.
The late Gene Colan is definitely best remembered and honored for his work on Daredevil, Howard the Duck and, perhaps most notably, Tomb of Dracula. However, because I was exclusively a DC devotee in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I came to discover his work on such books as Batman, Wonder Woman and Night Force. As a kid, I wasn’t all that enamored of his style, to be honest, but over the years, I’ve definitely come to respect and appreciate his craft. His style is incredibly distinctive, and I’m pleased I’ve finally managed to add a sample of his work to my collection of original comic art.
The original comic art board I recently acquired is Page 18 from Jemm, Son of Saturn #6. The 12-part Jemm series is a rather obscure footnote in Colan’s career (though the title character did show up briefly in a villainous role in the first season of the new Supergirl show). A little online research reveals it was originally intended as a Martian Manhunter book before DC editors nixed it (as J’Onn J’Onzz was about to return in the pages of Justice League of America in the early 1980s).
I was scanning the original comic art listings on eBay several months ago (as I do just about every day) when one in particular caught my eye. A seller had a lot of seven (!) pages from the 2003 Warren Ellis/Colleen Doran graphic novel Orbiter for sale for a surprisingly low opening bid. I marked as an auction I wanted to watch, but I assumed it would end for a price that was beyond my financial reach. A few days later, to my surprise, I noted there had been no bids, and ultimately, the auction ended without anyone taking a single stab at the listing. When I see a plum item such as that one end without bids, I sometimes make something of a Hail Mary pass, contacting the seller of the unsold item and offering to buy it, either for the minimum price or maybe even less. To my elation and surprise, the seller agreed to sell it to me for the minimum opening bid he’d listed!
I’ve been a fan of the artwork of Bernard Chang since I first saw it on Valiant’s original The Second Life of Dr. Mirage, and he’s only improved over the years. I think his strongest effort was on DC Universe Presents, a short-lived title with DC’s New 52 that featured different characters and creative teams with each story arc (Chang illustrated the Deadman and Vandal Savage arcs).
In recent years, he’s proven himself to be a reliable resource for DC Comics, illustrating such other titles as Batman Beyond, Wonder Woman, Demon Knights, Superman and Green Lantern Corps. Still, seeing his name and work on a comic title always takes me back to Dr. Mirage and even TV adaptation Sliders: Ultimatum (I think I was one of three people who liked that show). That his early efforts on relatively obscure 1990s titles has stuck with me over the course of two decades is a testament to his craft and skill as a storyteller.
In the past few months, I’ve been fortunate enough to pick up a couple of pages of Chang’s original comic art — not from Mirage, Sliders or DC Universe Presents, but solid examples of his style, featuring some familiar super-hero characters.
While I’m always on the lookout for a fun, interesting and attractive piece of original comic art (at a price that fits with my limited budget), there are certain categories in which I have a specific interest. Pages that feature journalism in some way, super-hero team-up pieces, Amalgam boards and others really grab my attention. Another category I’m keen on is DC’s Golden Age/Earth-2 characters. I’ve been fascinated by them since I first got into comics as a kid, so any chance to reconnect with them or new ones building on the same legacies is something I eagerly welcome.
As such, I was a huge fan of the original Infinity Inc. series by Roy Thomas and Jerry Ordway. There was no specialty comic-book store where I lived in the 1980s, so I’d have to wait for trips with my dad to a neighbouring province to get those early issues. My first trip to a comic shop was in 1985 (the year of Crisis on Infinite Earths) when I was in junior high. My father actually dropped me off, telling the store owner before I left, “Yeah, he’s gonna be a while.” I spent three hours in the shop, carefully selecting which comics to buy, focusing on those only available in direct-market stores. A whole lot of the comics in my selected stack were issues of Infinity Inc.
So when DC announced Ordway would be revisiting these 1980s characters as the writer of a two-part Convergence spinoff earlier this year, it was one of the few titles in the event’s lineup that really caught my interest.