From our art collection, here’s small sheet — 8 1/2 x 11 inches — of moodily expressive pencil sketches by John Buscema that reveal a side of his artistic personality that has largely gone unnoticed by fans of his work in comics:
From our modest collection of original art by various hands, here are five small sketches by John Buscema for you to peruse; if you click the images displayed below so as to enlarge them, you will find that the uploaded images are actually large enough to repay close study:
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All five of the above sketches currently reside in a 12 x 12 inch, 3-ring scrapbook album in our living room. In case you’re wondering how they’re displayed, each sketch is attached to the centre of one side of an acid free sheet with acid free photo corners. Works for me.
But please remember: don’t just take; link. (Yes, I’m talking to you, PNN.)
When Frank O’Neal created “Short Ribs” in 1958, his idea was to write and draw a comic strip without a set cast of characters or a single historical or geographical setting. Once he settled into the routine of actually producing the strip, however, O’Neal quickly found he could not resist returning to certain stock situations and periods — the old West, for instance, or Medieval Europe — bringing back certain characters, and indulging in short bursts of continuity. When he retired from the strip in 1973 to concentrate on advertising work, O’Neal generously handed “Short Ribs” over to his assistant, Frank Hill, who managed to wring another nine years out of the concept. Truth be told, I’m not really a big fan of “Short Ribs,” but when the following pair of amusing and attractive strips from 1980 came up for sale recently at a low, low price, I couldn’t resist:
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Frank Hill’s final “Short Ribs” strip appeared Sunday 02 May 1982. Did anyone notice when the strip ended? You might think not, but my experience reading and arguing about comics on the Web tells me that every comic strip, “Short Ribs” included, is (or was) somebody’s favourite.
My two favourite Christmas gifts for 2011 were 1) an eight-panel, single-page comic strip on 11 x 17 inch Strathmore bristol, pencilled, inked, and coloured by our 17-year-old son, just for the occasion, and 2) a page of original art from “Angelica,” a story that was published in The Tomb of Dracula #4 (April 1980), with art pencilled by Gene Colan and inked by Tom Palmer. Our son would prefer that I not post his piece, but if you pay a visit to our house in a month or so, I am fairly confident that you’ll be able to view it, framed, on the wall in our living room — if I let you in the door, that is. As for the Colan page, here it is, first as it was printed in black and white in The Tomb of Dracula, and second, as it appears “in living colour,” as it were:
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Oddly enough, that beautiful page — which I first saw when I bought The Tomb of Dracula #4 new, off the newsstand, when I was in high school — has a very strong personal resonance for me. You see, once upon a time my father quit his job in the big city to chase a dream, dragging his family to a “godforsaken place” that my mother “despised” from the moment she set eyes upon it. The mute object of my mother’s contempt was a shabby, drafty, uninsulated log house with no plumbing or adequate heating located on a discontinuous, serpentine tract of marginal farmland that some anonymous homesteader had laboriously carved out of the bush in east-central Saskatchewan. I won’t burden you with the depressing details of my father’s fourteen-year experiment in pigheaded determination and wishful thinking. Suffice to say that by the time the man finally admitted defeat, he and my mother had already spent more than a year shuttling back and forth between the farm and various low-skilled jobs the meagre pay from which might have slowed but certainly did not stop their burden of farm debt from growing more burdensome every month — which led them, at long last, to conclude that the only way forward was to file for bankruptcy and retreat, with my brothers and sister in tow, back to the city… well, not quite back to the city, but that’s a whole other story…
I don’t usually like to buy stuff for myself this close to Christmas, but when Lewis Wayne Gallery announced a series of auctions with starting bids of a penny each, I had to take a look, and among the various offerings of art and photographs, I found two items I thought I’d like to own, if the price was right. And much to my surprise, earlier today, I won them both, and now I’m here to share them with you.
First up is a newspaper strip by John Dirks, the son of Rudolph Dirks, creator of the famous strip, The Katzenjammer Kids, which according to Wikipedia “debuted December 12, 1897 in the American Humorist, the Sunday supplement of William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal.” The strip we now own isn’t a Katzenjammer Kids strip but rather is a Sunday instalment, dated 20 April 1969, of The Captain and the Kids, a strip that Rudolph Dirks created for the rival Pulizer newspapers after he had a falling out with the Hearst newspaper syndicate in 1914 over his desire to take some time off; the legal settlement allowed Dirks to continue to use the characters he created in the Katzenjammer Kids, but since it also allowed the Katzenjammer Kids to continue at Hearst without him, Dirks was forced to come up with a new name for his version of the strip. At first, he settled on the title Hans und Fritz, in deference to the ethnicity of the main characters, but when the United States entered World War I, the German moniker was quickly replaced with an English one, The Captain and the Kids. The final auction price for the artwork was US$27.00 plus shipping, and here it is:
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Currently, the cheapest “Captain and the Kids” strips available from Lewis Wayne Gallery outside of the recently concluded penny-start auctions can be had for the “Buy It Now!” price US$89.95 plus shipping; meanwhile, the most expensive are US$295.00 plus shipping. So, I definitely feel like we got a deal.
The second newspaper strip that we have just added to our collection is a terrific Archie daily by Bob Montana from 29 July 1969:
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I love Bob Montana’s artwork here; I love the contrast between Jughead’s old-fashioned suit and tie and slicked-down hair and the trendy ’60s clothing and hairstyles of the other characters (although Archie is stuck with his usual do); and I love the gag! The final auction price for the strip was a mere US$58.57 plus shipping. And I love that, too! Because out of the pair of strips I had decided to bid on, the “Archie” strip was the one I wanted the most to win, and if the price had soared too high — my final bid was significantly higher than what I actually ended up paying — I would’ve had to allow the “Captain and the Kids” strip to slip through my fingers. How fortunate for me, then, that the auction for the “Archie” strip ended first!
Here’s yet another recent addition to our art collection; it’s a signed original page from the fourth issue of James Stokoe’s Orc Stain (July 2010). I’ve included a scan of the full-colour published version of the page for comparison. Sorry the bottom corner of my photo of the original art is a bit out of focus. I’ll try to do better next time.
In May of this year, my wife and I purchased the following page from the graphic novel, Paris, by writer Andi Watson and artist Simon Gane (SLG Publishing, 2007), at a very reasonable price, via Simon Gane’s online art store:
Funny thing is, even though we bought the above strip from a different seller than the other two, and we had to outbid another person to get it — it wasn’t a “Buy It Now” listing — the final price, shipping included, came to US$55.00 even, almost exactly what we paid for each of the other two strips.
Not sure we’ll buy many more “Miss Peach” dailies after this, but I’d sure love to own a Sunday strip or two.
Mell “The Ladies’ Man” Lazarus visits the Sun-Times public service lounge on 09 April 1962:
So, dear reader, if you have a little money burning a hole in your pocket, and have a hankering to be a patron of the graphic arts, please consider a purchase from Dustin Harbin. He’s a skillful, thoughtful, dedicated artist and a disarmingly nice person who would love to sucker punch you to the funny bone with an original drawing, comic, and/or print. But if you’re interested, don’t delay! Dustin says that the sale will only run until Friday 22 July 2011, or until he runs out of stuff, whichever comes first.