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. While it was too bad Ordway didn’t contribute to the art as well, it turned out to be a fun flashback to the 1980s, true to the characters and the dynamics of the original title.
I noticed this summer there was an eBay seller posting a lot of pages from the second issue of Convergence: Infinity Inc. for sale, and they were moving at incredibly reasonable prices. Actually, one could argue they were unreasonable, as they were so inexpensive. These pages weren’t by the main artist for the two-part series — Ben (Prez) Caldwell — but rather by the second-issue fillin team of June Brigman and Roy Richardson (though they’re based on Caldwell layouts). Still, I thought the pages were lovely, and I started bidding on a page or two, here and there. Finally landed one, and I was thrilled with it.
Before committing to a bid at first, I inquired with the seller if the page represented full pencils and inks or if it was an inked copy of a blueline scan. I was assured it was pencils and inks, not a blueline. When I processed the payment, I realized I shouldn’t have had any qualms, as the Paypal transaction went through to none other than Roy Richardson himself. I quickly learned he and Brigman are married, so there was no need for blueline scans in their household. When one looks really closely at the page, one can make out Brigman’s original pencil lines as well as eraser marks. I love seeing those hidden bits of the creative process mixed in and behind the finished inks. Another advantage of buying directly from the artists themselves is the fact they signed the art for me.
Since I won the listing, as is my usual practice with any successful eBay transaction, I asked Richardson if he had any other pages I could possibly add onto my order. I researched the projects he and Brigman had worked on over the years and gave him a list of what I was interested in, but the more dated stuff was pretty much all gone. Fortunately, he still had some more of the newer Infinity Inc. pages available, so I grabbed another one. I ended up getting pages 8 and 20 from the same issue (scans of below, and you can click on them to enlarge them).
The first board, Page 8, revolves around Obsidian jumping in to save his sister, Jade; it’s a nice little action sequence. I’ve always thought the Obsidian design was one of the most striking of the original Infinity Inc. lineup, so having him front and centre on the board was a bonus. I just love the bold strokes and thick linework the artists bring to bear with this page. The long, vertical layouts Brigman has opted for here give a strong sense of the aerial action and the scope of the scene. And given Obsidian’s shadow powers, the dark swaths through the various panels against the black-and-white original art work incredibly well. Richardson’s thick inks in the linework brings a pop and strength to the art, and they suit Obsidian perfectly.
Page 20 is a quieter scene with a more traditional page layout, but I’m thoroughly pleased with it as well. It features not only all eight members of the titular team in costume as well as Dr. Fate, but the elder generation with the Justice Society (not in uniform, though). I like how Brigman portrays the JSA as quite aged, not just as powerhouses with a few wrinkles. As the moment represents the older generation passing the torch to the new, it’s a fitting depiction of the aging heroes. Again, Richardson’s deep, dark inks serve the characters well, notably the black block across the middle of Nuklon’s costume in the final panel and the metallic shine of the Silver Scarab’s in the second.
While I’m thoroughly pleased with these pages, it doesn’t temper my wish to add a board or two from the original Infinity Inc. series to my collection. There are a number of reasons, not the least of which would be the desire to add an Ordway page to my collection, but another is the nature of such older pages as well.
Digital technology has really transformed the craft and process of comics storytelling, and in many ways, it’s been to the benefit of the medium. Colors and related effects have opened up new possibilities for artists, and digital lettering can be more inventive as well. Unfortunately, when it comes to original art collecting, advances in technology have taken away from things a bit. As I mentioned before, I was initially concerned these pages were inked copies of blueline scans, but fortunately, they proved to be boards that included original pencils and inks. What is lacking is the lettering. My preference is for vintage boards that feature hand-lettering or paste-ons for the text elements. More of the process is on display, and it adds to the art, as far as I’m concerned.
Still, when so many beloved characters and such well-crafted art stands out on newer boards like this one, it’s hard to lament what’s missing and easy to focus on what I got.
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