Comic Art, Comics

Comic Art Update

For most of the later part of 2011, I had stayed away from Comicartfans, that great big time-sink of a site. Last year was fairly decent for my art habit. I streamlined my addiction quite a bit, paring down the collection to minimize the chaff. Yes, that means I sold and traded a bunch of pages that would have never really gone up on the wall, but which I bought just because it seemed like a good idea at that time. This has had the fortunate effect of making me feel contented about the pages that I own right now, being on a plateau of sorts, where I can just relax and not worry about art-related expenses. Pages come and go, and nothing really grabs my attention unless it’s really cheap or truly one-of-a-kind. The former makes me wonder if I really need one more portfolio-warmer, the latter inevitably makes my bank account whimper.

This may sound zen, but the art-habit seems to have settled down from a burning “I-want-this-page-now” feeling to a gentle simmer of a “Do-you-really-belong-in-my-collection?” question.

High points:

A Kelley Jones Sandman page and a Dave McKean Sandman commission. ‘Season of Mists’ is one of my favorite Sandman arcs, as I have mentioned before, and I already have a Dringenberg page from it that fills my heart with joy every time I look at it. A bulk of the art from the run though was by Kelley Jones, who does not sell most of his originals. Whatever’s available in the market comes from Jones’ inkers, Malcolm Jones III and John Beatty. This page came up for sale on Scott Eder’s gallery at a mind-numbing high price during Wondercon last year. It did not sell. He put it up on eBay a few weeks later, and I emailed to ask if he would accept time payments. Long story short, I bid on it, won it for a little less than my final bid, and much less than the original asking price.

The Dave McKean commission was bought at San Diego, thanks to my friend Joe’s contacts with McKean’s agent Allen Spiegel. McKean himself did not make it to the con, thereby putting my plans of asking for a personalized commission on hold, but he had sent a few pre-done pieces to Allen’s booth, and I got a chance to select and pick one of them up. This conveys just the right amount of grandeur and melancholy associated with the Lord of Dreams. Also, it did not involve me paying $25000, which is the price that one of McKean’s covers usually go for.

 

Kelley Jones - Sandman 22, page 6 and Dave McKean - Sandman

Two Batman pages by Kelley Jones again. One of them was the promotional poster image from a Batman and Dracula crossover, which is one of the most recognizable images of Batman from the nineties, if you were buying comics back then. Jones, in my opinion, is one of the top 5 artists that have worked on Batman, his neo-Gothic, somewhat-surreal style meshing perfectly with the tone of the character. The other one is a cover pencilled and inked by him, and knowing what I just mentioned about him not selling his art, I have no idea how this came into the open market. I saw both of them on a dealer’s page a few days before San Diego Comicon, and jumped on it without hesitation. They were priced well below-market, and also, I fucking love Kelley Jones’ art, man.

 

Click on each image to enlarge

Three Preacher pages. I owned a Preacher page before which was a self-proclaimed placeholder – quite cheap, but not really something I would put on the wall. It got traded away this year. One of these came from eBay, from the collection of Albert Moy, dealer extraordinaire. It encapsulates the story of Preacher so far in a single-panel spread that caught my eye. The one with the bar scene from a collector who was, in his own words, cutting himself to the bone to get money for a Bolland Killing Joke page. And the third from a close friend. The three of them represents three different art styles through the series, as Dillon drastically stripped down his line-work as the issues chugged by, sort of evolving as an artist and also increasing his output to meet his deadlines.

The third also has an interesting history – it came up on eBay one fine day a few years ago at a ridiculously low Buy-It-Now price, so ridiculous that most of the usual Preacher-maniacs were wary of pulling the trigger. That ensured that my friend saw it and bid on it, and was deluged with higher offers over the years from the ones that missed it. I had asked him to let me know if he was selling it any time, and he made up his mind recently. Needless to say, I pounced on it.

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Three Preacher Pages (Click to Enlarge)

And finally, something that came in a few days ago. An Adam Hughes painting of Jean Grey as the Black Queen from the Hellfire Club. Now I could give you a manic foaming-at-the-mouth rave about how Adam Hughes’ work combines early 20th century pinup-girl aesthetics with a distinctive art-deco-influenced style and how it is so gosh-darned beautiful and so on and so forth. But I’ll just let you go take a look at his site to decide for yourself. If you collect comic art, getting an Adam Hughes page is a trial in itself. But getting your hands on a good Adam Hughes pinup without breaking the bank? Forget it. He used to do special sketches for fans at conventions – with rates at 200-400$, the pinups would fetch 10 times the amount on eBay when collectors went around to selling them. Due to some “fans” selling their pages a day after a convention was over, Hughes stopped those sketches, causing prices to jump even more.

So I do not exaggerate when I say that this piece fills a very important hole in my collection, and does so in style. It’s 26 inches by 19 inches, and drawn using a combination of crayons, colored dyes and markers. Adam did it as a commission for a collector, and made it extra-large because he made the guy a long time. The collector went on to sell it to someone I know because he was getting married and he needed to raise money quickly, and I bought it from the latter recently. Not cheap, but not that expensive either. And it makes me really, really happy.

Click to Enlarge

Adam Hughes - Black Queen

So yes, happy happy.

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Comic Art

A Good Art Year

2010  has been a good year for art.

I refer to ‘comic art’ by the way, not art as in music or drama or art art, if you know what I mean. To be even more specific, I refer to my small collection of comic art,  something which has taken up quite a bit of my daily life. Hello, I am a Comic Art Addict and proud of it.

At the beginning of last year, I was fairly convinced that there was one great piece that I would buy. It was a page that I saw when I was in LA towards the end of 2009, in a friend’s collection. I was at his place, and he had just finished showing me the pieces on his wall, and then remembered a bunch of stuff that had just been framed but were not up on the wall yet. It was a page from one of my favorite comics, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman.

A brief word on the art of Sandman – in course of its 75 issues, the series had a tremendous line-up of artists, some extraordinary. most of them good, a few pretty middling. In most cases, the bad printing process on the series – remember that this was the late 80s/early 90s, where comics were just beginning to get used to computer coloring, and the quality of the paper, while not the cheap newsprint quality ‘mondo’ format from the 60s and 70s, was still far from the glossy format you young punks are familiar with today. So some of the printed art came out muddy and ugly, which ruined some of the artwork. Especially the work of Mike Dringenberg. Dringenberg was co-creator of the Gaiman run on Sandman, he inked Sam Kieth’s work in the early issues, and when Kieth moved on by the end of the first arc, Dringenberg took over the pencilling duties, along with inker Malcolm Jones III. Because of the aforementioned quality issues, I never really appreciated Dringenberg’s work all that much – and was glad when Kelley Jones, who was to become one of the all-time great Batman artists by the early 90s, took over the acclaimed Season of Mists arc. Dringenberg pencilled the first and last issues of Season of Mists, and that’s it. He moved on from comics work, apparently, going on to illustrate children’s books and album covers.

The first chapter of Season of Mists, issue 21, was the first in which six of the seven Endless make their appearance. So far, readers had seen Dream and his sister Death, and there were hints dropped by the writer about the fact that those two might have other siblings. The introductory sequence in that chapter had an interlude of sorts, where Gaiman wrote brief essays about the six Endless, choosing to omit the Prodigal (we are to find out later that it’s Destruction, who abdicates his position). Desire and Despair on one page, then Destiny and Delirium, and finally Dream and Death.

This last ‘interlude’ page was the one my friend owned.

I had to sit down. Because the art was so brilliant, so delicate and otherworldly that it made my knees weak. The expression on Death’s face, the bubbly water-color shadow that Dream cast behind him (later, when I held the page in my hands, free from the framing glass, I saw that Dringenberg had used glossier paper pasted on the bristol board – probably to enhance the watercolor effect), and the overall  My friend had asked me a few weeks ago about which page from his collection I liked the most, and I had, without hesitation, mentioned one that had struck my fancy. At the moment I saw the Sandman #21 page, I changed my mind, and I told him so. He smiled, and said that if he was ever going to sell this page, I could buy it from him at the price he had originally bought it for. Which was a lot, obviously. But yup, if there was ever a gotta-get-this-or-I-shall-regret-this-forever moment for me, it was when I saw this page. So I agreed.

A lot of collectors do not like artwork that has been personalized to other people. This page has both Gaiman and Dringenberg addressing someone named ‘Jordan’. Gaiman has the words ‘First you dream, then you die’ scrawled before his signature, while the artist just let his art do the talking, and says ‘For Jordan’. I do not mind. Jordan, whoever you are, thank you for keeping this page in  your collection and selling it to the right person who sold it to another right person.

Because 12 months later, I am the owner of the page.

It took some careful budget management, and much brain-ache. In the meantime, I prepared myself mentally – I know it sounds pompous saying it aloud ( hah! Like the rest of the post doesn’t) but really, wrapping my head around the idea of owning it needed a bit of …self-conditioning. Reread Sandman again, and enjoyed myself thoroughly. Read Hy Bender’s Sandman Companion, which gave me much deeper insight into the series, as I discovered things about it that I had not realized, or aspects of the story that I had overlooked. (I heartily recommend that you read The Sandman Companion, if you are a fan) And yes, I felt really bad for Mike Dringenberg, because his artwork, even in the Sandman Absolute Edition had taken a beating thanks to the limitations of printing technology. Or probably because the printer was high – the printed page made the blacks of the original pink – PINK! – because the text had to be given prominence.

Obviously that was not the only page I got this year. I mean, I do have self-control and all, but  the best-laid plans of mice and men….

But that, as they say, is another story altogether.

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