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.
But here’s the kicker… at the bottom of the listing description, it notes the following: “Note this is a copy of the original.”
This may be new territory for knock-off sketches by noted comics artists on eBay. It’s not a forgery, per se, but “a copy.” While the listing makes note of that in its description, the listing title – “John Romita Jr original art Daredevil Spiderman Artist” – does not. Another note on the listing says, “Check out the scans for this one, and the special story behind this,” but no special story is to be found, other than “Can you just imagine being in the room at Marvel when John Romita Jr did this sketch” (it seems highly unlikely this sketch was actually done at Marvel’s offices).
I contacted the seller — identified only as boggs8396 — about the item, asking what he meant by a copy, if it was a tracing or a photocopy. The individual replied it was a photocopy. I asked if the seller possessed the original, to which s/he initially replied, “The original sold for over $200.00.”
In another followup message through the auction site, I inquired, “I’m wondering if this listing is for a photocopy of the actual original, that you had, or if it’s a copy of a printed scan of the original.”
To my surprise, boggs8396 answered, “It is a printed scan of the original.”
The seller has this listed for a Buy It Now price of $25 US, though it begs the question: if he just downloaded and printed a scan of the sketch, why wouldn’t someone who wanted a copy just do the same? It seems clear the seller, while purporting to be transparent about the nature of what he’s selling, is hoping his potential clientele (a) isn’t paying close attention or (b) doesn’t think the purchase through.
The same seller has another Romita Jr. piece for sale — a Silver Surfer/Blackheart sketch — at the same price. Again, it’s noted that it’s a copy, and that listing notes he has four copies of it for sale; buyers can choose their quantities.
If one looks at the photo of Surfer art, it’s clear that image isn’t a photocopy. The pencil lines are clear, and one can see at the top that the sheet was torn from a sketchbook. While the listing description owns up to the fact the item for sale is a copy, the accompanying image isn’t of the copy of an original.
The seller’s recently completed listings show he’s done the same with two John Romita Sr. sketches — one of Wolverine, one of Puma (the latter sold for $25 US) — and a detailed Romita Jr. Doctor Doom marker sketch. Finally, those completed listings also reveal he tried to sell a copy of a cover-border illustration the elder Romita did for Marvel’s 25th anniversary in the mid 1980s (though it’s been fudged here to make it for the publisher’s 35th anniversary).
The Puma sketch had the same tear mark at the top as the Surfer sketch and was on the same kind of paper, and it appears to have been removed from the same sketchbook or type of sketchbook.
While I’m a collector of original art, I never purchase sketches from comics pros online, mainly because I prefer to get them from the artists directly for inclusion in my con sketchbook. The added benefit is that I don’t run the risk of being scammed. The Internet has made such cons (or at least ethically and legally questionable practices) easier to pull off, but fortunately, the online world has also made it a lot easier to contact artists directly and request commissions. Furthermore, the proliferation of comics conventions — both big and small — have made in-person encounters with artists easier to accomplish. That’s how I get my sketches, generally.
As always, buyer beware.
Note: All images in this post can be enlarged by clicking on them.