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Collecting Comics & Art

Collecting Silver Age DC Art

above:Detail of the original cover art by Joe Kubert from Brave & Bold #36, 1960.

In the late 1960's, when comic books were just beginning to flourish as a hobby, a great phenomena took place. Phil Seuling, a legendary figure in the formation of the comics hobby, ran the first New York Comic Art Con. Collectors old & young went to these shows regularly, when they could through the "jungle" of humanity, who were voraciously devouring the material planted on dealers tables, they would spy all kinds of things they had never seen before.

Golden age comics, EC comics, Marvels & DC's. Big Little Books, Movie Posters, Sunday Newspaper, Pin-Ups & other related items. What could also be found was Original Art! Stacks & stacks all over the room. Prince Valiant, Flash Gordon, Frazetta Johnny Comet's,and more.

A particular area with which collectors always been enamoured was Silver Age DC, and today it is one of the major focuses of many art collectors habits (and believe me, it is a habit).

Silver Age DC art, though quite common in the old days, today is in actuality quite scarce when it comes to trading or buying. Due to the to the rather unimportant role of the art after it's original publication, mass quantities were destroyed, having outlived their usefulness.

This makes it quite difficult to obtain. Combined with it's great popularity, Silver Age DC art is one of the hottest commodoties in the art market today. Many collectors, few items trading & relative scarcity have accelerated the market much faster than other comic art (with the possible exception of Marvel art).

The artists that worked at DC during this period include such greats as Jack Kirby, Joe Kubert, Alex Toth, Russ Heath, Carmine infantino, Curt Swan & Wayne Boring. These artists, along with Mike Sekowsky, Murphy Anderson, Ross Andru (with Mike Esposito), Ruben Moriera, Sheldon Moldoff, Kurt Schaffenberger, Jim Mooney, Mort Meskin, Bob Brown & scores of other famous illustrators made up the core of the DC Comics bullpen. Superman, Batman, Metal Men, Sgt.Rock, Hawkman, Adam Strange or The Justice League, these artists brought them all to life. Many of them are now renowned names in the field, and will undoubtedly wind up in the Comic Art Hall of Fame (if there ever is one).

Some very popular art to collectors is Carmine Infantino's "Flash", Joe Kubert's "Hawkman", Infantino & Murphy Anderson's "Adam Strange", Curt Swan or Wayne Boring's "Superman", Dick Sprang's "Batman" & Gil Kane's "Green Lantern". All of them are wonderful creators, & their work is always a pleasure to study.

above: a panel from a Superman page by Wayne Boring ca.1954

Concerning the Flash, we are really quite lucky as during the sixties, Julius Schwartz -the editor of the Flash, sent out artwork to fans who would write in about the character. The best letter would be sent the lead story, 2nd got the backup story & 3rd got the cover (I'd be wishing for third thank you). This lasted from issue #117 through to #149, and we salute Julie for helping to save this art for future generations as Flash art from this period is very desirable. (Note: the Flash was not the only art given away. There were others).

Kubert, of whom it is said is the most "visceral" of these artists is an absolute master at his craft. His Hawkman art and his Sgt.Rock are two of the most hard-hitting comic series ever done. Though he only did six tryout issues of Hawkman, which was then taken over by Anderson, it is this image that remains as the epitome of the character.

Joe's horror story revolves around his Hawkman art. One day, arriving at the DC offices, he saw DC employees shredding artwork. Among the material about to be shredded were his Hawkman pages! Joe promptly snatched the work from these employees, and we suspect Joe is responsible for it's continued existence.

Sprang, who drew Batman for two decades, also remains as this character's epitome artiste, though the Sheldon Moldoff/Charles Paris work on the Batman comic from the fifties into the sixties is also held in very high regard. Sprang's work appeared in the Batman title mainly in the forties & early fifties, but appeared in the title World's Finest into the sixties.

Some of the most unique comic characters were "The Metal Men". Drawn by Ross Andru & Mike Esposito, these exquisite "men" were a constant source of fun & interest to many readers. Andru & Esposito were also responsible for a long run of Star Spangled War comics where dinosaurs were the main protagonists. The covers for these stories are real standout items. Tyranosaurs with tanks clamped in their jaws, or Terydactals flying off with soldiers carried in their claws, these illustrations were very dynamic & remain indelibly etched in our collective memories.

Of course that is not to trivialize the work or value of any of the other artists who worked at DC during this period. Jack Sparling, who drew a plethora of titles for DC including the Secret Six will sell very well. And I can't say I would'nt like to get my hands on some Jerry Grandanetti "Spectre" pages either. What about Space Ranger by Jim Mooney or Prince Ra-Man by the great Bernard Bailey?

Of the most heatedly contested items, original Cover Art is the most popular, and the most expensive. There are reasons of course. For each comic of the period, there is one cover for each book. However there are 20-25 interior pages of which 1 or 2 is called a "splash" page. The splash is usually the first page of each story & is called a splash because it usually has one large panel on the page compared to an interior page which may have 2-10, or even more panels. Sometimes a story might have an interior splash, or even a two-page spread.

By simple arithmatic ... 1 cover, 2 splash pages, 23 interior pages. Therefore the ratio of 1-23 (covers to pages) exemplifies the possible differential between these items.

As an example of the differing value: A Hawkman interior page by Kubert from Brave & Bold #36 sold for a mere $250., while the cover to the same issue sold for $3000.. Both sales took place in 1990/91.

An example of the acceleration of of price: The cover to Justice League #24 by Murphy Anderson sold in 1988 for $500.. A collector offered $2000. for it recently, and was turned down. Similarly, Curt Swan Superman covers from the early sixties that traded for $300-$500. three years ago, bring as much as $2500 today. A drastic markup in three short years.

Something that would exemplify the variance in value between 2 pieces of art for the same book, by the same artist are the sales of 2 Flash Comics covers in the 1991/92 art season. The cover to issue #123 depicting the first silver age appearance of the original Flash sold for a whopping $17,600. in October 1991, while the cover to issue #141 sold for $2000. in August 1992.

That is not to say that all silver age DC art is valued as highly. The afforementioned Jack Sparling pages would likely only bring in $50. to maybe as much as $250., and there are numerous Kubert, or Russ Heath "war" pages that trade as low as $50. also. However, with the aging of the "Baby Boomers" with which these books are most familiar; and with our subsequent enrichment in society as we get older; this material is escalating in value at breakneck speed.

For those fanatical collectors who seek this art, it is not a welcome sign, as with a higher cost, collectors can only buy less with their money. But to this we say "Sell us more. We can't get enough".

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