In tandem with our Art of Narrative Exhibit opening at Stranger Factory on 1/4/12, I have been given the opportunity to share one of my major loves in life. I have been collecting original comic book art for the last five years. With the January exhibit being made of comic book art, I felt it would help to offer in some personal insight on how I choose and collect my pages.
First, let me point out that collecting comic art hasn’t always been easy. It really helps that a lot of artists are represented on the internet and bring their original pages with them to conventions. So, in this day and age, the real question is: “Why do some people choose to collect comic book art and what helps them choose the pages they have hanging in their homes?”
It seems the most obvious reason is of course, the art and artists themselves. When you read a comic book regularly, or many books for that matter, you find yourself becoming attached to certain artists and their styles. I have always been a fan of Geof Darrow. I find that his work pops on many levels, and his clean line work and extreme detail make it stand out from traditional comic book art styles. His work on Big Guy and Rusty or Hard Boiled is some of my favorite work in comics. So, having that connection to Geof Darrow’s art, I find it very easy to put him on my list of artists I would like to own art by. This isn’t the only factor that can come into play though.
In recent years, I have become a big fan of Wolverine. The interesting thing about this is that Wolverine tends to find himself in a lot of books. Being both an Avenger and X-man leads to lots of exposure and with that, lots of different people putting their stamp on your character. So in a situation like this, I can find myself first deciding first on the book I would like a piece of him from. Or, I can decide the artist is more important and look through my options. With Wolverine, a stand out would be someone like Eduardo Risso. Risso’s work on “100 Bullets” and “Batman: Black and White” are great indicators of his style. His use of heavy blacks in his compositions are a great match for the character, so I would seek out one of his pages from the Wolverine book “Logan.”
Let’s say I have a perfect mixture right in front of me. A solid artist I know I enjoy, like Cliff Chiang, on a book I love, like Wonder Woman. At that point its a matter of taking the page itself into account and what I look for in a page. Now right off the bat most people will always go for a splash page. Personally, I prefer panel work in a page of comic book art. The medium itself is all about story telling, and while a splash is usually gorgeous and can express a moment perfectly, I want to see a level of story telling in a page. I do own a splash page in my collection, but typically I prefer sequential panels.
When looking at the panel work in a page, I tend to look for one thing: a page that can tell a story with just the visuals. Someone like Mike Mignola is a great example. Starting as an artist, he perfected his visual storytelling and later spent years on Hellboy developing his writing style. Mike is going to rely on the imagery to tell the story more then the words; he will use facial expressions, scenery, or body language to tell the tale and the words will be used later to fine tune the details.
With all these different reasons and motivations, buying comic book art can become a very complicated thing. You might find yourself wondering if the page is overall a good depiction of the character. Or while this may be one of your favorite artists, do you really want to own a page by them from a book you may have never even read? The simple reality is that like all art, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In my case, the beholder can be more often than not swayed by his childhood love of Green Lantern.
All these questions and artists lay ahead for you in our Art of Narrative exhibit in January at Stranger Factory, curated by Jimmy Palmiotti. Best of luck with your choices, True Believers.