Thursday, January 30, 2020

World's Finest 263

Once upon a time in comics, writers and editors created alluring covers to entice readers into buying each comic book.  The covers typically depicted a scene within the book - a scene that was usually outrageous, shocking, or unbelievable.  Sometimes it appeared the heroes faced an impossible doom. Sometimes it even implied that a hero would die!  The potential reader couldn't help but think "I need to see how this turns out!"  In fact, it was common knowledge that some of these outlandish covers were created first, and the writer was simply told to write a story around it.  This system resulted in a lot of interesting and unbelievable ideas.  But it was also a lot of fun.  Unless of course the scene depicted on the cover never actually happened in the book, which was sometimes the case.  Or, it was tweaked slightly within the story giving the heroes an out.  In those cases, the reader faced bitter disappointment.

This system lasted for decades, but began to decline in the early 1990's.  The new trend was to have covers that were more vague, and more iconic.  The covers rarely had anything to do with the actual story and one felt that the covers became interchangeable - any Superman cover could be swapped with any other Superman cover and it wouldn't affect the story a bit.  This new method is what we have today; long gone are the days of those eye catching covers with their impossible dilemma's.  Instead we have depictions of our heroes looking strong, brave, iconic.

When I first started reading comics, the old system was in place.  It was always fun to see how these stories would resolve themselves.  Well, not always fun - some stories were pretty terrible.  But I read them anyway to satisfy my curiosity.  Another disappointing aspect, which is still with us today, is the fact that the cover artists were not always the artists hired to draw the interiors.  So even if you had a beautifully drawn cover, you might not have a beautifully drawn comic book.  That actually happened a lot.  So these covers were really special to me because they showcased the better artists working at the time.  For DC, that meant people like Neal Adams, Rich Buckler, Ross Andru, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, and George Perez.  More often than not, these artists works were greatly improved by the inking of one of DC's all time greats, Dick Giordano.

Even though the stories were not always the greatest, I still have quite a bit of nostalgia for many of the covers from those days.  I was lucky to find a couple of my favorites.  One is the cover to Word's Finest 266 by Rich Buckler and Dick Giordano (seen here).  The second is this one, World's Finest 263 by Ross Andru and Dick Giordano.  Did you know Batman and Superman had sons?  Neither did I until I picked up this comic!  Too bad their existence meant the world would be doomed! (see, now you'll have to buy the comic to find out what happens!).  click for larger image

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Happy Birthday Gregory Gallo

I'm missing my old friend Greg Gallo today and thinking about him on his birthday. I worked for Greg at WG Studios in Queens NY in the 1990's for a number of years. We were family. The studio was just that - a studio apartment that was long and narrow with a single bathroom. It was a smoke filled place and there was a pool table, tv, and lots of books. We worked from 11 - 7 every day which was a schedule that I liked. This was to accommodate Greg's painting schedule (he liked to sleep in). Greg was a kind of scary and intense guy with a thick Long Island accent who had red hair and a red beard. That intensity was what made him such a great artist. He was the first "real" artist I ever met. The man created almost non-stop for as long as I knew him. He designed all the art for the business which was mostly licensing for apparel companies. Each day, he'd give me a few assignments - he'd quickly sketch out what he wanted the finished piece to look like and then send me on my way - so he could get back to painting!

Greg painted all day long (he'd usually have a movie playing in the background or a great album (he introduced me to Joni Mitchell's Hissing of Summer Lawns). At 7 pm, he would sometimes send me on a beer run so he could start his long night. :) Greg was constantly experimenting with different painting styles and he liked to do a "series" of paintings. Sometimes they were very detailed and a single painting could take days or longer. At other times he could knock out five pieces in a single night! It was always fun coming in the next day to see what he had done.

Though I found him intense and intimidating, I loved him. Greg was really a loving Italian guy who cared about the people he worked with and the bigger world in which we lived. He was always thinking about nature and the environment and how we fit into it. This was reflected in his art where he would often incorporate the earth, animals, people and spirits. He told me I was in one of his paintings once but would never tell me which one exactly!

I managed to acquire a few of his pieces when I worked there. The first was from my favorite series that he had done. Each piece was very detailed and took many days to finish. He worked on several at the same time and I remember that he put himself and his girlfriend (future wife) into a couple of the pieces. I so loved them that I offered him a few hundred dollars for one (which was a lot back then). He agreed and sold it to me though he tried to get it back from me later. I wouldn't part with it and it is hanging in my home today! I used to kid him that I couldn't give it back because that was my retirement. :) Another time, I came into work one morning and there was a big 4ft x 4ft canvas that just blew me away. I gushed over it and Greg said "give me a dollar", which I did, and it was mine! That's the kind of guy he was...

Click here to see his some of his paintings: GALLO

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Superman 13 Cover

Anyone who has read my blog knows what a huge fan I am of the comic work of John Byrne.  If it's not already the consensus, he will go down in history as one of the greatest comic creators of all time.  He had phenomenal success with his work on The X-men, Fantastic Four, Alpha Flight, She-Hulk, Avengers, and Superman, to name but a few.  It should be noted that Byrne was almost always the writer and penciler on most of these titles (and sometimes inker and letterer!).  I first saw his work in X-Men 123, which my high school art instructor had in his classroom for some reason.  I was blown away by the art.  Not long after, I immersed myself in the world of comic books.  At that point, Byrne was writing and drawing both the Fantastic Four, and his own creation, Alpha Flight.  He instantly became my favorite writer and artist.

When I first started collecting comic art, I wanted Byrne Fantastic Four art above all else (you can read all about my hunt for that stuff here on my blog).  Over the years I was able to acquire some great Fantastic Four and Alpha Flight art.  A few years ago however, I re-read (again) Byrne's Superman run.  Boy was it fun!  I remember vividly when he moved to DC and took over their biggest character.  He did not disappoint.  I quickly decided that I would like a nice Superman cover for my collection.  I'd seen a few change hands, and I knew there were some good ones floating around.  I recalled seeing one cover sell on ebay for what would now be considered a very modest price - I regretted not getting it.  Saw another for sale on a website, but somehow just missed it.  Finally, I was able to find this one.  It's got a great, large shot of Superman on the cover.  When I got it, it didn't have any of the logos so I added them myself.  Typically, I would put the logos on an overlay as to not disturb the original art, but this time I applied them directly to the art.  I think it came out great.  The cover looks twice as good as it did before! (click for larger image)

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Power That Preserves - Original Painting - Darrell K. Sweet

(click for larger image) A journey of over a decade has come to an end!  I finally found one of the Darrell K. Sweet covers to one my favorite fantasy novels! I started collecting original comic art in around 2003 and started thinking about the original art for The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever.  Originally a trilogy of books, and later followed up by sequels, these books really spoke to me when I read them in my adolescence.  I was a big Dungeons and Dragons player (for those old enough to remember), and when I saw the book covers they brought to life that fantasy world which existed in my mind.

When I stated blogging in 2007, I posted a request for information about where the original paintings for the covers might be (here).  I searched ebay, spoke with other collectors of sci-fi and fantasy art, spoke with art dealers, and networked with anyone who I thought could shed some light on where they might be.  Nobody seemed to know.  I spoke with the artist’s former agent who inquired with Mr. Sweet if he recalled where they ended up.  It turned out to be a dead end; he could not recall because they were sold so long ago (Mr. Sweet has since passed away).

As time passed, I would often contemplate the notion that I might never see one of the originals. Were they buried deep in someone’s private collection?  Perhaps in Europe or Asia?  Were they destroyed in a flood or fire?  Did someone who didn’t know what they were accidentally discard them?  I wondered all these things.  I got to the point that I would have been happy just to know they still existed.  But fate had something better in store!  After years of searching, I was able to find this painting and make it my own!  In light of all that history, this piece has a very special place in my collection – I treasure it.

For those who have read the novel, this painting may be the best of the original trilogy in that it features so many important characters and story elements– the hero (or fool?) Thomas Covenant with his “half hand”, the giant Saltheart FoamfollowerBannor of the Bloodgaurd, and High Lord Elena (and perhaps a Raver).  In the background we see the Colossus of the Fall.  In the foreground we see the Staff of Law, and most importantly, a certain white gold ring.  :)

Original paperback:

One down, three to go:

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Raffaello Romanelli 1856 - 1928 - Shepherd Boy 1910

I love museums and can spend hours exploring them.  When I lived in New York, I loved spending time at the Met.  When I lived in San Francisco, I had memberships to the Legion of Honor, and the De Young.  It's great being able to see in person, masterpieces created through the centuries.  At the De Young, there is a room of American artists which features mostly paintings, but also has some nice marble statues.  There is marble statue of Delilah by William Wetmore Story that is very striking.  There's another in the same room - Penelope by Franklin Simmons, also beautiful.  Classic marble statuary is not something you see every day.  So imagine my joy in finding just such an example for my collection!

No, this piece is not of the same caliber as the two masterpieces I mentioned above, but it is a beautiful example from the late Nouveau period.  It's a sculpture of a shepherd boy or goat herder taking a break.  He sits relaxed on a stone, his staff resting beside him, a water jug strapped to his waist, and a piece of food in his hand.  He stares peacefully off into the distance - perhaps keeping an eye on his flock.  The piece is in marble and signed Romanelli 1910.  It is likely the work of Raffaello Romanelli (  The Romanelli's are a multi-generational family of artists and they still have a studio in Firenze, Italy today.

I contacted them to inquire about the piece.  They said it was quite likely that it was carved by Raffaello, or by the gallery at the time.  I'm assuming he had artisans and craftsmen working for him that may have produced pieces like this.  His larger works are typically signed Prof. Raffaello Romanelli.  I don't know if he signed it differently because of the size or because it was produced by his studio.  Regardless, it is a museum quality marble statue that I simply love!  I'm thrilled to add it to my collection. (click for larger images)

UPDATE: I added a picture of me with the statue to show scale - I realized I never mentioned the size!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Alan Davis Fantastic Four

I've been a big fan of Alan Davis for many years, and I buy every comic he draws.  He's always been one of my favorite comic book artists, and over time, he has become one of the best to ever work in the industry.  I think he reached a high point with two different series.  The first was Justice League of America: The Nail, which he wrote and drew.  There was also a terrific follow up several years later (and he was that much better as an artist) called Another Nail. The other series was Fantastic Four: The End.  Davis wrote and drew this as well, and I think it's a great series.  I don't think it's a coincidence that his best artwork was also on the books he wrote himself.  He was clearly more invested in these series and it shows in the art.  And the storytelling is as good or better than any mainstream writer in comics.  He's that good.  I'd always hoped to add a Davis piece to my collection but never found the right one.  I hit upon some good luck recently and was able to acquire a few pieces from Fantastic Four: The End.  I'm posting one of the better pages here, an epic battle between the FF and their longtime foe, Dr. Doom!  I'll let the art speak for itself, but I would be remiss not to mention Mark Farmer who has inked nearly everything Alan has ever drawn.  He's an insanely talented inker, and he really brings the pencils to life.  (click for larger image)

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Richard MacDonald - Flight in Attitude

Here is the second of two Richard MacDonald sculptures I recently purchased.  This is a bronze depicting a graceful ballerina.  After admiring his work for over 20 years, I was so thrilled to add a piece to my collection.  This picture really doesn't do the piece justice.  The patina is exceptional - I've added a close-up picture to show the detail (click for larger image).

Richard MacDonald - Angelic Crystal

I've been really busy lately and have not had time to update my blog, but that doesn't mean I have not been buying more art!  I first saw Richard MacDonald's sculptures over 20 years ago in Las Vegas and I was immediately struck by them.  They have great proportion, balance, and grace.  His mastery of anatomy is incredible.  I always dreamed of owning one and now I have two!  This is a bust of a dancer done in "marble dust".  I found out that Richard imported some marble from Italy to do some sculptures, and used the remaining marble fragments to make these busts.  It's very lovely and graceful, and I'm thrilled to add it to my collection (click for larger image).

Friday, December 4, 2015

Leonard Starr 1925-2015

I was saddened by the passing of Leonard Starr in August of 2015. I started buying his artwork a few years ago and only recently read his great Mary Perkins - On Stage series which has been reprinted by Charles Pelto of Classic Comics Press. If you haven't read it, do yourself a favor and buy the reprints. Leonard was not only one of the all time great draftsmen from the photo-realistic strip art era, but was also one of its greatest writers. Though the series originally began almost 60 years ago, it holds up remarkably well today - a testament to Starr's great talent. If you search the web or read the introductions to the reprints, written by many top talents of the industry, you will see similar accolades for his work. He was one of the greats.

Featured here are three consecutive dailies from 1965. Notice how each daily works as a stand-alone piece, and yet they also flow together smoothly and move the story forward. The beautiful inking speaks for itself. (Click for larger image)

Friday, November 20, 2015

Alias - Bendis/Gaydos

One of the best comic series I've read in the last decade was Alias by Brian Michael Bendis, and artist Michael Gaydos.  It's been collected in a big, hardcover omnibus edition, which I recently re-read.  The main character is Jessica Jones, a former Avenger and superhero, now a private investigator who avoids the superhero world whenever possible.  Bendis has become my favorite mainstream comic book author.  He writes a good story, and his dialogue is second to none.

In the pages featured here, Jessica has found out that her number one enemy, the Purple Man, has escaped from prison, and she is freaking out.  The Purple Man has mind control powers, and Jessica is still traumatized from her prior experience with him.  A young man named Malcom, who has a fanboy crush on Jessica and thinks he works for her (though she's never really hired him) answers the phone when she calls from across the street.  This page is loaded with tension, and classic Bendis dialog.  Michael Gaydos' style really suits this book and he does a great job.  It should be noted that some of the panels on the page are photcopies of other panels. (click for larger image)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Love and Rockets - Wigwam Bam - Jaime Hernandez

Love and Rockets was a series that I kept meaning to read for years but never did.  I finally got around to it and picked up the very nicely packaged Fantagraphics reprints that were published in the last couple of years.  This time around, the publisher decided to separate Jaime's work from his brother Beto's work resulting in a neat collection of nearly all of Jaime's L&R stories in five volumes.  For those who don't know, when L&R started out way back in the 1980's, it was sort of a semi-futuristic sci-fi story about a female rocket mechanic named Maggie.  As the series progressed, Jaime dropped the rockets and sci-fi stuff and focused what he is best at - stories about people.

Once I got passed the rockets stuff, I was hooked and couldn't put the books down.  Jaime is one of the greatest American comic book artists of all time.  His characters are so real and well written, that you can't help but think they're all based on real people.  His artwork is no less amazing - a clean, cartoony style bordering on realism with the ability to convey an incredible range of emotion and expression. He is truly a master of the medium.

My favorite story in the collection is probably Wigwam Bam, which focuses in part on the love triangle (or quadrangle if you coun't Hopey) between Ray, Maggie, and Danita.  I looked around for a nice example and found this great page from the story.  In it, Danita hears that Ray's old flame Maggie is back in town and begins to wonder what that means for her and Ray.  Her emotional flip from elation to devastation is executed so well and with so few words.  I especially love panel five with the passenger of the car yelling at Danita for not watching where she's going.  I also recall being blown away the first time I saw the final panel on the page - so subtle and just incredible.  I'm really happy to add this one to my collection and hope to add more in the future. (click for larger image)

UPDATE 12/3/2015!!!

By sheer chance, I was sufing the web and I came across an interview with Jaime Hernandez.  On the website were examples of his work, and a couple of photos of him.  I was amazed when I looked at this photo of him from Emerald City Con in 2009.  Take a look at what is on the table in front of him - my page!!  He must have liked it to have it on display like that.  So cool!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Cisco Kid 1952-07-26

Picked up this wonderful Cisco Kid daily by the great Jose Luis-Salinas.  Salinas was from Argentina and drew the Cisco Kid from 1951-1968.  I obtained this strip from a family member who was good friends with Salinas.  He told me Salinas gave some strips to his father when he was a boy.  This is a great example, and you'll note how Salinas painstakingly painted the floral pattern on Cisco's shirt each and every time!  I especially love the last panel featuring Cisco.  One of the greats of the strip art era. (click for larger image)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Maximilian Spilhaczek 1876-1961

Just picked up this wonderful, museum-quality watercolor by Max Spilhaczek.  It's a portrait of a priest and is about 8 x 10 inches, and signed "98 MS".  I don't know much about the artist, but got this biography info from the seller:

Maximilian (Max) Spilhaczek (1876 Vienna - 1961 Kaltenleutgeben, Lower Austria) was a well-known Austrian artist who studied at the Vienna Academy under Professors Griepenkerl, Rumpler and Lichtenfels. He exhibited regularly at the Vienna "Kuenstlerhaus" - the largest exhibition hall of the time, and "Secession".

After doing a little more research, it seems the artist worked for Hitler at some point and even drew a picture of him.  Don't know if he was a supporter or forced to do the work.  Either way, this is an exceptional piece and I'm really excited to have acquired it. (click for larger image)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

John Byrne Superman 5 Page

(click for larger image)  Really excited about this one!  Back in 1986 John Byrne was the king of comics.  He had just completed a successful stint on the Fantastic Four over at Marvel Comics, his long-time employer.  He had written and drawn a whopping 60+ consecutive issues on the title!  Not only that, but he also launched his own series, Alpha Flight, through Marvel and both wrote and drew that title as well.  Just as Byrne was finishing up the Fantastic Four, the big brains at DC approached and said they had an idea to "re-boot" their most iconic character - Superman.

Byrne was given a lot of leeway, and like his previous books at Marvel, he would both write and draw the new series.  First up was "Man of Steel", a six-issue limited series that would retell the origin of Krypton's most famous son, as well as "clean up" some of his complex history.  It was a smash success, and slated for follow up were the newly minted Superman book (starting with issue # 1), and a run on the Action Comics title - the birth place of Superman way back in issue # 1 in 1938.  This re-launch met with a lot of "hoopla" and it was all over the news and press at the time.  In 1988, Byrne would even illustrate the Man of Steel for the cover of Time Magazine.

Anyone who has ever read my blog will know of my high regard for both the Fantastic Four series and the Alpha Flight series.  My sole desire as a new collector of original comic art was to acquire a nice example from the Fantastic Four.  I have chronicled my pursuit of these pages both in my blog and in articles during my tenure as a contributor to the CFA-APA (links on right ->).  In the back of my mind, I had also wanted to get a nice Superman example, and actually owned some minor pages which I eventually parted with.

After re-reading Byrne's Superman work recently, I was compelled to finally pick up a nice example.  I don't think I could have done much better than this page.  Not only does it have Clark Kent changing into Superman and flying up from the Daily Planet, but it has a last panel that could be a poster or comic book cover.  Very iconic!  You might be scratching your head and wondering why the stubble - older readers will recall the popularity of the t.v. series Miami Vice.  Everybody had stubble in the late 80's!  The other thing I really like about this page is the inks.  Byrne inking himself is my favorite and I own no other examples.  The only inker who, in my mind, comes close to making Byrne's pencils look the way they are supposed to look is Karl Kesel.  He did a great job on this series.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Byrne Fantastic Four 248 Pages

(click for larger image - pencils and inks by John Byrne)  My first love in comic art has always been John Byrne Fantastic Four art.  I've been lucky to have found some great pieces over the years, and I was stoked to find another couple of great pages recently.  I actually saw these a couple of years ago at a convention in San Jose, CA.  I wish I had bought them then because they were quite a bit cheaper!  At any rate, I decided to grab them anyway - I've been hunting down stuff like this for the last 10 years and if there's one thing I've learned - you only regret the stuff you DON'T buy!