02nd Aug2019

eBuying Comics: Week 24

by Ian Wells

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As comics are a visual media I am going to talk about collecting original artwork these week. When I first came up with this subject my initial idea was just the eBay hunting side of things. But collecting original comic artwork  goes much further, covering a variety of ways to acquire such items. What I want to do is highlight each of these ways and weigh up the pros and cons of each. This week I don’t really want to get into prices too much. Firstly it is a subject I am not overly familiar with and secondly the valuations aren’t readily available online like they are with comics. I want to start by saying that I believe if you are going to collect original artwork you should do so only for the enjoyment of collecting pieces and admiring the work that went into them. There are of course sharks out there who are buying art and flipping art. There is nothing I can do to change their opinon, like they won’t change mine. Owning a piece of original art shows a love of comics at its purest form. In an ideal world if you have a passion for a certain character you should have a piece of original artwork of them somewhere in your collection. Also I will strongly suggest  sticking to a budget and I don’t recommend buying artwork to then sell it on. Who knows how long this bubble we are in will last. Like I said buy a piece because you love it and admire the craft that has gone into it. Don’t love it because of speculated value it may posses.

The first and possibly the most fun way doesn’t even involve eBay. I’m of course talking about heading out to cons and perusing artists alley. Artists alleys are the lifeblood of the comics industry. Going out and meeting the people who make your favourite comics possible is an opportunity not to be passed up. Whether its a major talent like Rob Liefeld or a creator you discovered in social media cons are the best place to get some art at a reasonable price. Whilst prints may not be ‘original’s art they are the best more readily available way to show support for a creator. Depending on the size they are often inexpensive, so once you’ve praised your favourite creator show some real support and get a print. Of course these prints can gain a new life on the secondary market. Speculators are snapping them up and getting them signed and selling them on at much higher prices. I know of a few creators who no longer offer prints because there are so many non comic artists doing them, cashing in on big screen success. I can’t speak for all artists but at conventions most offer head sketches (pencils only) as there cheapest offer. Usually with a coloured head sketch next, a pencil full body sketch and finally a colour full body piece being the dearest. Months out before a con it is worth checking social media of your favourite artist as they have commission spaces available. They name the price, you name what you want and you pick it up in the day. Sketches over prints offer a more personal touch. It is a one of piece just for you. It may be worth investing in a decent sketchbook then you can fill it up at cons. A simply bit of research showed Canson sketchbooks to be a popular variety. A hardbound sketchbook (10.2 x 15.2cm) with 98 pages is just under £15 on eBay. Thats 98 unique sketches no one else will have! You can even choose a theme and have a different artist contribute each time.

A popular trend in recent years has been the invention of the blank cover variant. Usually they come with new first issues with all the countless relaunched going on or with a key issue. The idea behind these is again taking them to cons or sending them off for commissions. Again eBay is a wash with them from speculators. I read last week that Black Cat #1 was the highest selling comic of the last month! A blank variant for Black Cat #1 is still retailing on eBay for the low price of £3. At the complete opposite end of the spectrum is the same variant cover with a sketch by the legendary Adam Hughes with a retail price of £122. Detective Comics #1000 was one of the key milestone issues of the year so far. A blank variant for it is a little more, but it was a double sized issue. £9 was the cheapest UK based listing I found with £2 P+P.

With social media being at its height it is a great way for independent artists to showcase their talent and put their talent out there for commissions or by simply selling prints, sketches and a like. Sites like Etsy and Big Cartel seem to be the go places for indie/upcoming artists to put their name out there. Obviously it will take some research to come across a style of art you like on these sites unless you know people from Twitter or Facebook. A number of years ago now I came across an artist via Twitter called David Golding (@DGCstudios) He used to do £25 commissions on eBay but has since moved onto offering other products still on eBay but now also on Big Cartel. So for £25 he would recreat any cover or interior page of your choosing in full colour at 31cm x 43cm. For a few weeks I puzzled over what to get, a ruled out an interior page quite quick as it would have taken months to whittle the choices down. Eventually I was between Incredible Hulk #181 and Uncanny X-Men #286. As I doubt I will ever be able to afford an Incredible Hulk #181, a fact I may have metioned a few times on this blog, my choice was made. To this day it is still one of my top eBay purchases of all time.

Lastly and this is the level of collecting original artwork that is close to Indiana Jones levels of hunting. It is the hunt for original comics pages, either online or at cons. With the interest in comic related media at an all time high and the fact most artists are now digital the price of original pages are at a premium. My top tip as I have mentioned and I can’t stress it enough is to only buy something that speaks to you. But it, love it! That should be the comic collectors moto. Sell on value should not even cross your mind when making a purchase like original pages. Secondly and this is one I hear a lot and it makes sense as it avoids disappointment and potentially stops you from breaking the bank. Whether online or at a convention you can not go searching for a specific page. Just have one character or one artist in mind. If you are more artistic you might be thinking more along the lines of a splash pages or something with a unique panel layout. A page that encapsulates a series or artist if you will. You are never going to get the page where Bullseye impales Elektra (sorry spoiler) from Daredevil #181. The pages that everyone remembers from the best stories are like gold dust. I went to a DC exhibition last summer and they had pieces on loan from some high end collectors and even they didn’t have the gold. Going back to how expensive investing in some original comic art can be I would highly recommend doing your research and buying from a reputable source. If your at a con your probably on safer ground than online. But I amnot speaking from any area of experience here, so research, research, research. Just to give some context and talk about prices just for a moment despite what I said in the intro. I looked up work by the artist Sean Chen. He is a well established comics artist who had some success at Marvel in the mid 2000′s on Iron Man and Wolverine. He was the Wolverine artist when I started collecting so I always have a soft spot for him. Just by typing in ‘Sean Chen original art’ I got a few results and as testement to my second tip none of them are pages from his Wolverine run. All but one of the pages were from various Valiant projects in the 90′s. The cheapest being X-O Manowar #2 page 11 (£106)and the dearest being Rai #9 page 14 (£265). The one outlier in the results was a Avengers/Audi advert page. Simply because it is Avengers related it is £490! If original pages are out of your price range, I know they are out of mine. May I suggest searching on eBay for colour guides. A colour guide is a xerox of an original page which was the hand coloured as reference for colouring on the final issue. I wouldn’t say colour guides are more sought after than original ink pages, but they have a certain magic about them. They represent a piece of comics past, they are a piece of the process and therefore appeal to artists as well as just comic fans. With the advances in technology colour guides are now a thing of the past. At the moment on eBay colour guides are way more affordable than original ink pages, but I feel their time is coming so act now if you want one. My last top tip for this week, if you are looking up colour guides on eBay try both the English and American spellings of colour/color or better yet check out colorguides.com.

Till next time…

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