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. It took me less than a minute to find the source: Swan and inker Murphy Anderson’s cover for Action Comics #583. Clearly, it doesn’t take an expert to recognize the image for sale on eBay as a forgery.
The impugned seller — listed as being located in the Russian Federation — had another Superman “sketch” for sale, this one purportedly by the late Wayne Boring. My knowledge of the Golden and Silver Age artist’s work and style is limited, but fortunately, Beatty knows what he’s talking about.
“The Boring looks to be by someone copying him but trying to shift the character pose so it’s not a straight swipe — but not understanding the underlying drawing structure, so it ends up clumsy and awkward,” he told Eye on Comics. “The finish doesn’t look like any Boring original I’ve ever seen.”
Someone commenting on Beatty’s post about one of the Hergé listings identified the source has a panel from The Seven Crystal Balls, the 13th volume of The Adventures of Tintin. The eBay seller’s asking price: $489.95 US.
“The Hergé is a slick copy of a panel from one of the books. Typical forger move — copying a single panel or image — but not something a cartoonist would typically do. I don’t know of any legit panel copies by Hergé,” Beatty said.
“Also, real Hergé originals are scarce on the market and very valuable, having set auction records. The real deal would go to an auction house, not get sold on eBay at that price.”
The seller, collections_of_art, has illustrations for sale from a wide variety of artists, and not just American comic artists. Among the other artists whose “work” s/he has for sale are Charles Schulz, Dr. Seuss and even Pablo Picasso. These noteworthy artists only seem to have one thing in common: they’re all deceased. However, Beatty pointed out they have something else in common.
“There’s also a list of the commonly forged artists — usually those whose work is seen as ‘simple.’ Haring, Seuss, Picasso, Matisse, Warhol, Schulz, Kane, Shuster, etc.,” he said. “And if a seller is moving many forgeries, that calls all their auctions into question.”
Written in the description of all of this seller’s auction listings is the following caveat and explanation as to how s/he came into possession of these illustrations:
“The artwork is being listed with No reserve and Offered ‘AS IS’ since the artwork HAS NO Documents or Paperwork to prove its authenticity. Only buy once this is understood and accepted, as I am an honest seller and make no claims or guarantees.
“This is one of the items that were left to me by my uncle, who liked to collect various art objects and he had a large collection. Original Hand Drawing! Not a print or lithograph! Sale is Final. No returns.”
I contacted the anonymous seller through eBay to inquire about how his “uncle” came to be in possession of such an eclectic collection of pop art from the west, especially given the connection to Russia.
“My uncle was [an] art collector, travelled a lot. He lived for a long time in America and also in Europe. He was an artist. He was fond of many artists, illustrators, and they collected a large collection throughout life,” the seller responded Monday.
I followed up with the seller, noting that there have been allegations made that his/her art listings are forgeries and asking if s/he could explain the issues or if s/he wanted to comment. Eye on Comics has yet to receive a response to the second inquiry.
Eye on Comics also contacted eBay through its press inquiry email Monday. As yet, the online auction giant has yet to respond to the allegations that the seller is offering forged art or to a question about eBay’s policies regarding such activity.