These were a series of questions asked of me by the great site ComicArtFans, who do these weekly interviews with premium members. It was published in their newsletter on Jul 17th 2014.
1. Please tell us a little about yourself.
I am a 34-year old Indian guy living in Los Angeles for the last four years. My move to the US may or may not be because of this hobby. I work in linguistics/machine translation and other than comics and comic art, I am also into music, reading, cooking, technology, film and travel.
2. Which piece in your gallery is your favorite and why?
Some of the favorite pieces have great stories attached to them (like being on an overnight bus with near-nonexistent internet when the soon-to-be-mine Tezuka painting was about to end on eBay), and some have the hard-fought sweat of a Deal That Almost Went Away But Didn’t (yes, that Swamp Thing 29 page will probably be buried with me). I think I will say that my Milo Manara commission is probably the one I will pick. My then-girlfriend commissioned it from Mr Manara. To this day, when people ask me how she did it, trust me, you will not believe how unorthodox her modus operandi was, and I am honor-bound not to spill the beans. I believe about 9-10 people from 5 countries were involved in this operation (this includes payment, transport and delivery) and it was kept a secret from me for more than 6 months.
This being real life and not a romantic movie, we eventually split up. She let me keep it. It is not on my wall but I keep dithering over whether I should put it up or not. It has the words “will you marry me?” written below the painting, in Italian. So yes, a lot of bittersweet memories, but that makes it truly the most special piece in my collection, and probably the last piece I will ever consider letting go.
3. How long have you been collecting comic art and what prompted you to start?
I read a lot of comics growing up, but because of the way comics were sourced in India in pre-Internet/pre-TPB days, I was reading mid-1980s comics in the 90s. Began collecting whatever I could (Alan Moore Swamp Thing, hence my special fondness for that particular title, Knightfall-era Batman, John Byrne-era Superman). Graduated to Vertigo and indie comics. Once I graduated and got a job, began to buy comics on eBay and get them delivered to India once every 6 months through friends. Wrote a column on graphic novels for Rolling Stone magazine, became known as “that comic-book guy” in India, and also as the guy approached for a quote in any comics-related article in the mainstream media
I was 27 when I realized that at the rate at which I was buying comics (I had graduated from getting random runs on eBay to buying people’s collections), I wouldn’t really have much of challenges by the time I reached 30. I believe I was looking to see if I can find a signed print or two on eBay for my walls when I stumbled across the original art section. My first piece of art was bought on Christmas day 2005. It was a Phil Hester Swamp Thing page that I sniped for the princely sum of $25, from the Donnelly Brothers. A shout-out to them, because they were very patient with me. They did not accept Paypal at that time, and I had to get someone in the US to send them a money order two weeks later, because everybody was on vacation. Then I graduated to a $200 Frank Quitely Authority page on eBay, and still kick myself for not buying the other Quitely page the seller offered to me for $250. That guy clued me into Comicartfans, and that was when all hell broke loose. All I remember after that is the money flowing from my bank account every month and the thrill of the hunt, the pounding in my eardrums – sorry, got carried away there.
I would like to add (without being asked) that the answer to what prompts me to stay on in this hobby, despite the craziness of it all – it is the stories and the people I have met. Both of these are integral parts of the hobby to me, and I love listening to the old-timers about what they missed out on and what they got, some of it by sheer blind luck and others by dogged persistence. I have met my closest friends as a result of collecting comic art, and that kind of makes everything worth it.
4. How do you display/store your collection at home?
I sleep with some of my favorite pieces under my pillow so that I can wake up in the middle of the night and caress them. Er, I kid, I kid.
I love pieces on the wall. A lot of my art-buying decisions are based on whether something qualifies as a wall piece or not. My Sandman pieces are on the wall, as is the Prince Valiant, the Tezuka and the Koike, three of my Swamp Thing pieces, a Mignola, an Aragones sketch. They keep getting swapped out every now and then, for whatever strikes my fancy. The rest of the art is in portfolios, and I have to confess that I don’t like that. Art deserves to be seen. Maybe I should just sell everything and keep the pieces that are on the wall, I don’t know.
5. What are your top five most wanted original pages or commissions?
I think I have lasted long in this hobby precisely because I do not have specific nostalgia-based wants. (page X of issue Y, things like that) I also happened to bypass the Marvel mania of the 80s – That has helped my collection and my tastes to develop somewhat differently. I do have broad things that I would love to own, though every year the chances of buying some of them seems slimmer.
1. A Little Nemo page by Winsor McCay. What McCay was doing in the 1900s on the Sunday page, the comic-book industry caught up in the 80s. Truly timeless work.
2. A James Jean Fables cover. I love the first 75 issues of the series and it is a testament to Jean’s work that he won Eisner for best cover artist 5 years in a row.
3. A published piece from Blankets or Habibi by Craig Thompson.
4. There is a section of my wall specifically reserved for a definitive Chris Ware, Charles Burns and Dan Clowes piece. Depending on placement, there could be just enough space left for a small Crumb work.
5. Something by Uderzo (preferably from Asterix) and something by Herge (from Tintin, obviously).
Yes, I feel like I cheated on this list by saying more than 5 names, but it feels cathartic saying these names out loud. I feel good.