In a Time to Collect post awhile back, I covered comic book writers and noted that hardly anyone collects comics based on writers. We can’t say the same for comic book artists, collecting comics based on favoured artists is one of the oldest collecting strains in the hobby and one still very active today.
My sense as of this post is that collecting by artist for investment peaked a couple of years ago. Matt Baker, the greatest of the Good Girl Art artists enjoyed renewed interest that saw almost all his cover work shoot up in value, books with strong covers from L.B. Cole had huge run-ups in value, Alex Schomburg covers were all the rage. Things have cooled down a bit, this current lull is more a symptom of the recent overall softer back issue market or correction to the market if we can call it that.
I think the artist collecting strain is here to stay and we can expect some more peaks in the future. An artist like Charles Biro was always dismissed back in the 80s and 90s when I was a much more active collector but slowly over time and with the growth in demand of crime covers there has been a second look at Biro stuff and some younger collectors I know seek out selected issues of his. Biro groupies, who knew?
Here I’d like to compare artists to covers which makes sense since one drew the other. Collecting covers is the fastest growing collecting strain these past several years and it’s interesting to note that some of the younger fans are gravitating to covers that the collectors of my generation and the generation before me thought little of. Comic artists are being targeted in this way now too as I illustrated above with the Bakers, Schomburgs and the Coles. It’s hard to tell which of the old artists will catch fire but I think the new fans will have a lot to say about it. The good thing about new fans is that they don’t often think like the old fans and new fans are going to be the ones that decide which of the old artists get “rediscovered”. Lets let my Biro example above make that point.
I do think collecting value increases in comics that come about from a newfound appreciation for artists will be concentrated in the Golden Age and extending maybe into the early Silver Age. The reason I say this is that spikes in demand for artists will never be as crazy big as say a spike in demand for a first appearance after a major movie announcement, they will be smaller spikes so their impact on value will be felt more where supply is already tight. So, for example, a hard to find old book selling for $300 now may get $600 if the artist on the book becomes a new darling.
Modern comics offer interesting opportunities, their historically low print runs assure some level of scarcity for future collectors, now add in variant covers and we get scarcity levels comparable to early Silver Age comics. Is Stanley ‘Artgerm’ Lau a good bet for future value? The work is exceptional, the supply is limited.
In my old Undervalued Spotlight posts, I picked a few comics that featured an important artist’s first work, first cover etc. Time has past and I no longer feel the first work to be the most important in a person’s collection of an artist. As good as the cover to Daring Comics #1 is give me a copy of Alex Schomburg’s Suspense Comics #3 any day of the week. Comics containing first works are important to collectors but its the iconic artist’s most iconic covers that are the way to go.
There are the giants of the industry, the Frazettas, the Schomburgs, the Kirbys, etc. We all know what Schomburg cover we want but what about Frazetta, Kirby? What are Jack Kirby’s five greatest covers ever? One of my all-time favourites is big John Buscema and I know that my favourite covers of his are Silver Surfer #4 and Avengers Annual #2. I’m also a huge fan of Gene Colan but I couldn’t tell you what my favourite cover of his is, is there an opportunity there?
I think there is still value in mining for artists. Looking at their catalogue and zeroing in on their very best work would be a good move and it’s a move you have control over, you do the homework, you pick the horses you want to bet on, perhaps signing up for an art appreciation class might be a good investment.
I’ve always been a huge fan of the dynamic fluidity of Gene Colan’s layouts, and his figure work leaves me awestruck. If you’re looking for a Colan cover with great eye appeal and collectability check out Daredevil #44 with DD swinging by a background of skyscrapers with the Jester’s jeering face superimposed over them.This also has the added appeal for collectors that it is inked by the great Jim Steranko, so it’s a double whammy when it comes to key artists. The next issue with it’s background photo of the Statue of Liberty should appeal to you as well!
I mentioned once that 20 years ago I was buying Flash because of Mark Waid’s writing…but that was an exception! Primarily its due to the art or cover art! The first thing you look at is the art… I doubt anyone reads the cover blurbs then looks at the art… and the medium is pictures accompanied by story! So, I think the art and cover art will always be dominate in our collecting habits! I know I have added new genres to my collecting due to 365 covers… romance being one… the other Archie! I especially love Bob Montana who utilized amazing line work that varied in weight and implied shadow without having to incorporate shadow! Plus my favorite Archie art is late golden through early silver which is where the bulk of my collection lies! Its a win win!
Hi Mel, I like that DD #44 cover but I can’t see it as a classic that someone would want just for the umpfh factor, I bet Colan has a few, now I’m on a mission to find the best 5 Colan covers!
Gerald you are a smart man, some of those Romance covers are undeniable. Who was the quintessential Archie Artist? Montana? DeCarlo? Someone else?
I personally think Montana defined the look and DeCarlo and others emulated that look. There was another early, Vigoda I believe, who made Betty and Veronica look too much like adults and some of the characters like Miss Grundy and Jughead look too shrew like! Montana gave Betty and Veronica subtle differences to their head and body shapes that really made them distinct, gave Jughead his classic pointy nosed look, and gave Archie his incredible smile! By the late 60’s Betty and Veronica were more or less the same with different colored hair.
I correct myself… its not Vigoda, but Fagaly whom I don’t like as well…
I’m curious to know what you thought of Adam Hughes’ Betty and Veronica mini series. I’ve never been a huge Archie fan, but those books got me immediately hooked. Just some of the finest comic art I have ever seen, and I think he really did the characters proud.
Mel, I have always thought of Huges as a ‘cheesecake’ artist. He is really good at it and I will say he could go neck to neck with ANY of the classic pinup artists of the 40’s or 50’s ( think Earl Moran)! Chris Meli calls me a classicist toward comics and as such I shouldn’t like this new ‘modern’ take on this almost 80 year old franchise! But you know… I checked out Huges Betty and Veronica online and I have to say… I like it… just don’t tell Meli!
Just adding my two cents.. Mel, I read all the Hughes Betty and Veronica and it was amazing. The art was fantastic. Beautifully drawn and laid out. And the covers were great too. There is a book that really if it gets slabbed, people are missing 90% of the beautiful artwork. And speaking of covers, Gerald, I too have found new interests in covers because of 365.
I have always been drawn to the art more than the writing. However there are some books that i will almost always pick up because of the writer. Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Garth Ennis, and more recently Tom King. However my list of artists will always be much larger. It seems like every year I find a new appreciation for Kirby, Buscema (both John and Sal), Ditko, Romita, and even guys like Heck, Trimpe, etc.
As far as newer artists are concerned, it seems like the great ones tend to only do covers now. Hughes, Dodsons, Noto, Mignola, Adams. Then you have some artists that ONLY do covers. Mattina, Artgerm, Del’otto, Oliver, etc.
Anyways, just my 2 cents.
You got me thinking about the best five Colan covers and I pulled out my Gerber Guides to have another look at his Tomb of Dracula and his very few Doctor Strange covers and, you know, I was surprised to find that I didn’t see a lot that grabbed me apart from Doctor Strange #180. Even looking back at all the Daredevil covers, there aren’t a heck of a lot of them that jump out at me. It left me wondering where else I could go for Colan covers apart from these three titles. Any ideas?
Joe Maneely Walt. as per wiki…
Maneely worked at Atlas with Steve Ditko and John Romita, Sr. Writer/editor Stan Lee commented that, “Joe Maneely to me would have been the next Jack Kirby. He also could draw anything, make anything look exciting, and I actually think he was even faster than Jack.” Talented and well-respected, he died in a commuter-train accident shortly before Marvel’s ascendancy into a commercial and pop-cultural conglomerate.
Earthy,gritty,vibrant . What a loss to the comic world
Tales of Suspense, Tales to Astonish, Captain America are three off the top of my head! He worked on Cap, Shell Head, and Subby in those titles and has a few nice covers among the runs! I know he did some Batman stuff but Walt would know better as to covers and issue numbers… not only is Walt a contributor but a walking talking Price Guide!
When I was actively buying newsstand comics in the 60s, my go-to artists were Curt Swan, John Romita and Dan DeCarlo. They all seemed to have that polished refined look to me.
Hi Mel, the search for Gene Colan covers got me to thinking, are some artists better at interior pages? Maybe Colan never had the cover chops? Stupid thing to say I know but I don’t mean he’s a crap artist, he’s a master, maybe he just didn’t give us those sizzling covers like Wrightson, Steranko and Adams were giving out.
Klaus, were you buying specifically because of the artists or did you like the titles and just happy with the artists on them?
I think you may have a point Walt. Try as I might I really couldn’t come up with many truly masterful covers by Colan. I was having a hard time even coming up with a top five.
I started reading comics when my dad used to bring some home from his work, mostly Superman family and Archie. I discovered Spidey later, after Ditko had left the title. Swan and Klein were the main output artists at DC and DeCarlo was putting out most of the Archie stuff. They all made impressions on a kid and they became my favourites.