Saturday, March 29, 2014

Comic Art Con this weekend - An Embarrassment of Comic Art Riches

For those of you who may not be familiar with it, the Comic Art Con is an ingenious idea - a comic convention not for comic books but comic art. I have been going since the earliest shows, although not the very first one. One of my earliest shows, perhaps my first but more likely my second, was as a dealer; I bought a table and set up shop. thinking back on it now, it may well have been my first as I had high hopes of selling a lot of stuff in the $75-$200 range, although I had a few betters items as well. I ended up selling my two Todd McFarlane Infinity Inc.pages to two dealers, Anthony Snyder (son of Jimmy the Greek dontchaknow) and one of the guys from Comic Link Not a good sign when the other dealers are buying your stuff, but at least I made two sales at the prices I had set when I went into the room.

Most of the time that show was spent sitting at my table obviously. This was a lot more fun than it would at first seem; my table was situated across the aisle from Conrad Eschenberg's booth and I stared at the wonderful art on his walls all day while he spent that time writhing in pain under his booth. I think it was his back. I have not seen him at any subsequent comic art cons and hear that his condition is relatively unchanged. I hope this information is wrong and that he has improved. But his comic art collection was amazing. I also remember, vividly, looking through Bechara Maloof's stuff for the first time (Nostalgic Collectibles). I stumbled across a small portfolio, never seen again, that contained an entire issue of Tomb of Dracula - issue 44 in fact. Issue 44 was a cross-over with Dr. Strange 14 in which Doc and Drac fight it out, both basically winning in their own titles. I remember reading it in the early eighties and loving it. When I tried to buy a page I was told he was not breaking up the issue, although he was thinking about doing so in the near future. Shortly thereafter he did just that. I have seen Bechara at many comic art cons and one or two Penn Plaza Pavilion shows, or NYCC, or WWE, or wherever it may be and always look for pages from this issue. He never again brought the portfolio with the whole book as far as I know, but I have since been able to buy 3 pages from that issue and one from Dr. Strange 14. I have seen one or two in other collectors galleries as well - John Sisson has a beauty and the Dr. Strange splash was recently sold at auction for just under $5K.

But other than that one time as a dealer my experiences at the comic art con have been as a collector. The set-up has some consistency at this point. In the inner circle you will usually find Mike Burkey and Albert Moy, as well as the guest artist for the show. One the outer wall as you walk in you will find Rich Donnelly, Comic Link, Tri-State, Will Gabri-El, Bechara Maloof, Anthony Snyder. I am less sure where you will find Frank Giella, Jim Warden, Scott Eder and Hans but they are usually there as well. I am likely leaving someone out as well. There is a ton of original art in the room of an unimaginable monetary value. It boggles the mind. Portfolios with 40 5-figure pieces abound. Six-figure art is not my domain (not even five figure art yet but someday hopefully!) but I don't think there is too much of that in the room, some but not piece after piece after piece like there is for $5000-$25000 pieces. And plenty of pieces above $25K as well, don't get me wrong. But of the dealers I mentioned above, although I have not bought art from all of them, only a few will have a majority pages and pieces of original comic art available for under $500. My favorite tables to visit at the comic art con are Bechara's and Albert's because they both have a ton of high end and beautiful art to look at which comprises the majority of their wares but they also have some lower end pages that are well worth looking through.

I am spending more time at Scott Eder's table at various shows. Back in the late 90s and early 2000s I was a fixture at Scott's table every con but my essentially buying all his Starman material coincided with him moving to more esoteric and alternative forms of comic art. I seem to be coming around his way once again, with the surefire evidence being my presence at his table again regularly after maybe a decade off or only going by to say hello but not peruse the art. He still has an edgier sensibility than I do but he has a wonderfully diverse selection; on any given Sunday you stand a chance of seeing Herriman, Ware, Moebius, and Crumb all at his table somewhere. Plus he remains a supporter of the artists he has always championed - artists like Ash Wood, Jim Mahfood, Tony Millionaire, Daniel Clowes and Jim Woodring - so his table is always full of new discoveries for me.

That's really why this small show is often the highlight of the collecting year for me, year after year. I am able to indulge most of my collecting passions (very little Starman ever at the comic art con) and ogle art from every interest I have. I also get to be exposed - in a very tactile, stimulating and immediate sense - to new avenues for my passion to follow; every show produces new neural pathways as a result of the experience, all from exposure to ink lines on paper.

1 comment:

Anne Glynn said...

What an interesting post. Comic art is such a niche hobby that I sometimes forget how big it's grown. Thanks for your insights.