Comico: The Comic Company was something of a publishing force in the comic-book market in the 1980s. Though perhaps little more than footnote in industry history now, it was noteworthy for the talent and properties it fostered. Perhaps best known as the home of the Robotech licence at the time, it was also noteworthy as the original home of Matt Wagner’s Mage and Grendel, as well as Bill Willingham’s The Elementals. Among its editing talent are two of the most respected figures in comics today: Bob Schreck, formerly of Dark Horse, DC and IDW; and Dark Horse’s Diana Schutz.
I was browsing the original comic art auctions on eBay the other day, and I happened upon an unusual listing dealing specifically with Comico’s history.
The seller, identified by the eBay user ID coyotesurplus, describes the lot of material thusly:
HUGE collection of proofs, color separation & color key printing cells, art copy, original artwork, comic books, graphic novels, posters and advertising items. THOUSANDS OF ITEMS. Collection from the founder of Comico Comic Book Company.
Approximately 95% of this collection consists of THOUSANDS of color separation sheets/printing proofs. These are the original acetate sheets or “3-Ms” used to print the comic books. Many sheets have multiple pages on them. The rest of the collection is a mix of artwork, splash sheets, promo pieces, graphic samples, posters, signs, et al. Mostly all of the collection is from the 1980s.
THIS IS A MASSIVE AMOUNT OF MATERIAL. THE STACK OF ACETATE SHEETS IS ABOUT 3′ X 4′ X 8′ TALL AND WEIGHS IN THE THOUSANDS OF POUNDS.
The listing — which isn’t really an auction as it carries only a Buy It Now option for $12,000 and a Best Offer option — goes on to provide contact information and promises potential buyers the chance to view the lot in person in Pennsylvania. Furthermore, coyotesurplus has a solid eBay rating: 100 per cent positive feedback with more than 2,000 transactions. Given the description of the lot, though, whether it’s worth $12,000 is another issue.
I contacted the seller through eBay for information about how he came into possession of this material from Comico, which went bankrupt in 1990.
“Comico was located down the road from us in Norristown, PA. Following the bankruptcy, we had the opportunity to assist in the liquidation of some of the inventory. We became friends with the former owners who in turn used our warehouses to store their assets. The color separation sheets need to be moved — taking up too much space!,” the seller answered.
“We listed them to test the market and get an idea of demand. Most people seem interested in the associated artwork such as the splash sheets and sketches. Does not appear to be too much demand for the acetate color separation sheets. We are hesitant to just sell the artwork. We need to move the entire lot because we need the room. We specialize in paper, books, photos and art. This particular lot has been with us for sometime.”
The response was signed by “Greg.” A quick online search of the telephone number listed in the eBay description revealed it’s associated with Gregory J. Lignelli II of Phoenixville, PA.
Schutz said Monday that Comico’s policy was to return all original artwork to artists.
“If any of the original art up for sale on eBay is part of the stuff that ‘disappeared’ when Comico folded in 1990, then that art was not Comico’s, legally, to sell. That art was in Comico’s hands for reproduction purposes only, and should have been returned to the rightful owners — the artists, that is — at the time of bankruptcy,” she wrote in an email.
“The only original art that Comico should have sold off would be artwork that had been gifted to the owners of the company. I hope that’s what Mr. Lignelli has in his possession and not the art that was never returned to its rightful owners 20 years ago.”
The Comico auction is slated to end midday Dec. 3.
Addendum: One of Comico’s original partners has sounded off on his blog about the material available for sale and some Comico history.
Thanks to Jamie S. Rich for his assistance with this report.
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