Tuesday, May 3, 2016


About three years back I did a post about vellum covers, here...http://originalcomicartlocator.blogspot.com/2013/02/whats-issue-with-vellum-anyway.html

At the time I was wondering whether or not vellum covers still had the negative stigma for purchase they had in years past.  Historically collectors had to be cautious when considering acquiring a vellum cover at a premium price...even if it was a highly desirable cover.  A majority of the collecting community would not purchase art if it was on vellum and this was clearly reflected in the resale purchase price.

Recently, however, some high profile vellum covers have come to market and seem to defy the collectible rule to stay away at inflated prices.  I wonder why this is.  Has vellum found respect with the collecting base?  Or has new blood entered the market that doesn't worry about this old rule?

In November, 2014, Heritage Auctions sold this Wilson/Romita AVENGERS 118 cover, below, for $65,725--certainly a record for a vellum cover--most figured it being the best cover from the coveted Avengers/Defenders War storyline was the reason it overcame the vellum handicap.

But I'm not so sure--just nine months later, the AVENGERS 123 cover, below, also on vellum by Romita came to market at Heritage and sold for $35,850. This cover does not have the same pedigree as the 118 cover in terms of importance--yet I would argue that it way over performed it's expected market price at this time last year.  It seems that the vellum did not stop this cover from reaching a premium price.

The question is about to be tested again--in the next couple of weeks, two prominent vellum covers are coming to market, one at Heritage Auctions, DEFENDERS 10, and the other at Comiclink, CAPTAIN AMERICA 171.  The Defenders cover is already at 38k with ten days left before the auction.  I think it's safe to say that vellum will not be a factor on this cover which is the considered by some to be a key bronze cover.

Here is the Defenders 10 cover, in the May Heritage auction, before and after restoration:

Here is the Cap 171, in the May Comiclink Auction, before and after:

I'd love to hear some feedback from the collecting OA community--is vellum now a non-issue?  Would it stop you from chasing down a cover you had to have?  I'd like to hear from the old-timers and the new guys.  I suspect that the newer collectors are less adverse to collecting vellum.

A number of vellum covers were assembled from pieces of vellum that were in the hands of different collectors.  In some cases if the complete cover pieces could not be found, partial stats were made to go with the vellum pieces in order to give the look of a complete cover.  Here are a few examples that I know about:

ASM 135 - In this case the original art pieces to Tarantula and Spider-Man were missing.  The original art pieces that exist here were all drawn on a separate sheet of vellum that was split up and placed on with art board with the missing stats to give the appearance of a complete cover.

ASM 136 - This is an interesting one.  This cover was drawn on two separate original pieces of vellum.  The Spidey fighting Goblin image was much bigger than a standard cover and would not fit on a regular size board--an oversize board was created with Parker and Harry statted at the bottom, the first cover below.

Additionally the second piece of vellum, the original image of Parker and Harry, which was the right size for a standard board was placed with a stat of Spidey fighting Goblin--the second cover below.

ASM 136 exists on two separate covers--each with a part of the original.

ASM 138 - This is the most successful of the three covers as all the original pieces of the cover were reunited on a single art board and can be consider a complete original cover.  The head of the Mindworm was on a separate piece of vellum from the main image of Spider-Man being attacked originally.

After work is completed on vellum covers they often are sold in the marketplace.  As they change hands from one collector to another the history of what was done becomes lost. When buying a cover like this it's important to ask questions in order to figure out if you are getting a cover that has been assembled long after publication to make a larger profit in the collectibles market.  In other words, let the buyer beware.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Price list for Portacio recreations and commissions!

This is hard to read and I can't resize so I'll summarize from top to bottom:

RECREATIONS, 11x17, either direct or in his updated style are $3500-4000

COMMISSIONS 11x17, one figure $1500, two figures $2000 - add $300 for a more detailed background

COMMISSIONS 11x17, greytone/ink/copic markers, half figure $1800, full figure $2000

Monday, December 2, 2013

WHILCE PORTACIO is doing a limited number of commissions right now!

Whilce Portacio has opened himself up for a limited number of commissions due to a pressing family crisis.  He is willing to take on your original idea or recreate any of your past favorite Portacio covers.  This is an opportunity for a limited time. Once he has met his goal, he will have to close the list down.  Below are a few of his more famous X-Men covers.  But again, he is open to work on any title or character of your choosing.  

If you would like to find out more or schedule a commission, please contact Jo at portaciowhilce@gmail.com for details.  

They also have a number of published pages available, including his most recent work on his creator-owned NON-HUMANS mini series.  DON'T MISS OUT on this exciting opportunity!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


It now resides in the collection of MIKE "ROMITAMAN" BURKEY.  It's a lovely thing!  Worthy of a post all by itself.  The reported price tag?  Slightly over 500K.

ASM 50 COVER by John Romita Sr.  The historic and iconic twice up cover that was the basis for the plot of the Spider-Man 2 movie.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Is STEVE DITKO drawing NEW stories of DR. STRANGE and SPIDER-MAN?

I saw this post on the Brian Bendis tumbler page.  Bendis talks about a story told to him some time ago by former Marvel editor Ralph Macchio who went to visit Steve Ditko at his studio.  Ralph apparently saw a pile of Dr. Strange art by Ditko that had never been published by Marvel.  Ditko told Ralph that the pages were for a brand new Dr. Strange graphic novel--never intended to be published--just drawn for Ditko's own pleasure.  I found this to be astounding.  Here is the post borrowed from the Bendis page:

Have you ever talked to Ditko? Any second hand stories even?
I had an amazingly similar experience to the one Jonathan Ross had.
 when I was doing my series of creator interviews for Wizard magazine I reached out to him. I knew full well that he didn’t do interviews anymore but I thought MAYBE if it was a creator creator interview there might be a slim chance he would be up for it.
 I got his number from our mutual friend and editor Ralph macchio. I called him up and explained myself and who I was and what I wanted to do.
he said he appreciated that but he didn’t do interviews.
 I said I completely understand but, off the record, I was curious to what happened that made him not want to do interviews anymore.
 he said that’s an excellent question but it’s an interview question and I DON’T DO INTERVIEWS ANYMORE!!!
 before he hung up I was able to thank him profusely for creating Spiderman and all that that has given me in my life. I do know that on some level he heard me so I feel really good about that.
Ralph told me that he went to his house yeares ago and saw a big pile of Dr. strange original art and he asked what it was for.  Steve said that it is a brand-new Dr. strange graphic novel. Ralph asked when he could read it and he said: no, that that’s not for you it’s just for me.
 you have to admire the purity

It made me wonder, what if Steve Ditko is actual at home continuing to draw his own Amazing Spider-Man stories to this day?  What if there are a run of stories in his studio that continue the Spider-Man saga they way Ditko would have wanted the book to go?  It boggles the mind to think about their existence.  I hope we find out one day that this is true and actually get to see those pages.  THAT would be something!  I can dream, can't I?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

PART 2 - The X-MEN 1 original art by JACK KIRBY is sold!

Continuing my conversation with comic art dealer/collector, Bechara Maalouf, on how he acquired the X-Men 1 story.


GLEN: How were you able to finally convince Brad to sell?

BECHARA: Brad and I stayed in touch from mid 80's on.  I would generally buy things from him on a periodic basis.

GLEN: What kind of stuff did you pick up from him?

BECHARA:  Silver-age Marvel, some hero and some pre-hero stuff.  I made him really good offers.  I would tend to pay twice what Brad perceived the current market value to be.  This way he always thought of me when he was ready to sell something.

But I'm not crazy, I would focus on pieces that I felt had upside for the future.  In those days you couldn't lose, anything of quality felt undervalued.  Some of the things I bought, among many other things, were great Kirby original pages from X-Men 5 including the splash, the complete X-Men 9 story that featured the first cross-over battle of the Avengers vs. X-Men, and a nice X-men 2 page.

GLEN:  So he eventually contacted you when it was time to sell because of your track record of purchases?

BECHARA:  Not exactly, we played a cat and mouse game over two decades.  What I mean is Brad was always a lot higher than what I was willing to pay for the book.  In 1990, if the book was worth 20k--Brad wanted 50k.  By the time the book was worth 50k, Brad wanted 100k.  Years later when it was valued at 100k, Brad wanted 200k--this continued on for quite a while.

GLEN: When did the value of the book catch up enough for you to finally pull the trigger?

BECHARA:  It didn't exactly happen like that.  In 2001, I was in the middle of completing a deal for the Tony Christopher collection.  Tony was famous for having the BEST Kirby collection-- over a thousand Kirby pages--quite a few of them coming directly from Jack Kirby himself after his artwork was returned from Marvel.

With access to so much prime Kirby material, I realized I finally had the kind of trade that would entice Brad to part with the X-Men 1 story at a price I could tolerate. I knew his number one love was Kirby Fantastic Four art.  It took a number of key Kirby FF pieces to do the trick.  The components of the deal were:

The complete story to Fantastic Four 3 - missing one page, the complete back up story to FF 11, and a good amount of cash.

Given that the FF 3 is the earliest known Fantastic Four story in the market--the issue has a recap of their origin and is the very first time we see the FF in costume--Brad was much more willing to be negotiable.  I drove to his house to do the deal in person.  I was nervous because Brad was very hard to get a hold of.  Many times I had driven to his house just hoping that he would be there.  Happily the FF 3 was enough of an inducement for him to keep our appointment.  We made the exchange and I finally had the X-Men 1 story in my possession.

BRAD SAVAGE - Holding the FF 3 splash at a recent comic art con

BECHARA:  Unfortunately, I had a partner in Greg Manning Auctions when I made the Tony Christopher deal which meant we were also partners on the ownership of the X-Men 1 book too--we had used the FF 3 in trade--part of the TC collection.  This also meant that the X-Men 1 book wasn't mine to keep.  Greg Manning Auctions and I agreed to move the X-Men 1 story to Kirk Hammett--an avid collector and the legendary lead guitarist for the band Metallica.

BECHARA: Years later, Bill Wheatly, an outside hobby collector saw an opportunity there and was able to purchase the story from Kirk--he broke the book apart, sold the splash, and the majority of the other X-Men 1 pages went to auction at Heritage where they have sold over the past years.  It's sad that the book had to be split up--I would have wanted to find a buyer for the X-Men 1 who would have at least kept the pages together.

A huge heartfelt thanks to Bechara for agreeing to this interview.  Again he can be reached at http://www.nostalgicinvestments.com or email: nostalgic5@aol.com

Friday, April 19, 2013

PART 1 - THE REAL STORY - How the original art to X-MEN 1 by JACK KIRBY was found!

I've known Bechara Maalouf for as long as I've been an original art collector. He's been a high end dealer in OA and comics for over twenty-five years. Back in 1994 he sold me my first two John Romita Spider-man pages from ASM 116 for $400 and $600--the more expensive page had Gwen Stacy on it.  We've done hundreds of deals since then.  I can honestly say that some of the best pieces in my collection came through him.  Prominent collectors like Hari Naidu and even dealers like Will Gabri El began dabbling in OA with Bechara's help.  He is someone you must absolutely know in the hobby.  If you are looking for a particular piece he knows not only where the bodies are buried…but how deep.

For years Bechara has promised to share the details with me of how the complete X-Men 1 story came out into the marketplace, and how he had a hand in it.  We finally had that discussion the other day:

GLEN: How did you first hear about the existence of Jack Kirby's X-Men 1 original art pages?

BECHARA: Through Brad Savage--he has been a collector of comics and original art for a generation or two.  I met Brad in the 80's and at that time he revealed to me that he had the complete original art to X-Men 1 by Jack Kirby, as well as other stuff.

GLEN: As you got to know him better he finally agreed to show them to you?

BECHARA: He invited me to his house--a collectibles emporium if there ever was one--the place looked like a serial killer had put his mind to collecting comics and related items instead of bodies.  He showed me the complete book to X-Men 1 and I was astounded.  My first question was how did you get this?  It turns out the original pages had turned up at a downtown comic shop in Manhattan around 28th street.

GLEN:  Wait a minute, the historic pages to X-Men 1 were available for sale at a comic shop?

BECHARA: One day in the mid 80's, Brad was in the local comic shop he frequented when two young men entered the store with a bundle of comic art to sell the owner.  Brad was stunned as the art turned out to be originals by Steve Ditko.  The actual original Marvel art pages from complete stories to Amazing Spider-Man unfolded before his eyes--ASM issue 4 with Sandman, the third issue with the first appearance of Doc Ock, issue 2 featuring the Vulture and finally the complete original art to the historic Amazing Spider-Man number 1.

BECHARA: The two men offered the whole lot, four issues of originals, to the shop keeper for $2000.  Brad couldn't believe it--the shop keeper either couldn't afford it or didn't want to buy the art but Brad absolutely did.  Between what he had in his pocket and a loan from the shop keeper he was able to scrape together $700.  Brad offered to give the men the $700 as a down payment but they wouldn't take it.  They needed the full $2000.  Brad desperately tried to buy just one of the stories, the ASM 1, for the $700 but they wouldn't take that either.  However, they were willing to meet Brad back at the comic shop the next day and do the deal if Brad had all the money.  Brad figured he would never see the men again.

The next day Brad was surprised to find the men back at the shop just as they had agreed.  Brad was ready with the cash.  Unfortunately, the men explained that they had found a guy to give them $2000 for the ASM 1 story alone, and they sold the book and the other Spidey stories to that same guy as well.

BECHARA: However, they did have some good news for Brad.  They had with them additional art that included the complete stories to X-Men 5, 2 and the complete art boards to the first appearance of the X-Men--issue 1--all by Jack Kirby.  Brad asked them how they were able to get all this art.  The young men explained that it all was very legit.  They promised the books weren't stolen--they just couldn't talk about it.

Brad wasn't about to argue--he was able to buy the complete X-men 1 story for $400, and the other original X-books as well for the paltry sum of $200 a piece.

In part 2 of this story, that I promise to post next week, Bechara and I will talk about how he was able to fiinally convince Brad after 20 years of pursuit to actually part with his X-Men 1 story.

Bechara Maalouf can be found at Nostalgic Investments for one of the very best selections of original art on the web at: http://www.nostalgicinvestments.com or email: nostalgic5@aol.com

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


John Romita Sr did not concern himself with using art materials that would best display his art for the collector aftermarket of today.  Instead his concern was how slick the ink would look on the published Marvel comics finished product.  To that end a lot of his originals were drawn on vellum instead of board.  Vellum is a transparent paper that allowed him to see over his pencils as he was drawing and gave his inks a polish that they lacked on regular board.  My understanding is that the regular board absorbs the ink to a greater extent.  The lighter transparent vellum allows the ink to roll better on the paper which gave Romita more control. The vellum piece, once drawn, was then glued down to a cover board which over the years in many cases has caused the cover to yellow or brown in tint. The upside is Romita created some absolute classics with this technique.  The downside is many of his great covers are not on board--the preferred collector medium.

A good restorer, in some cases, can bring a vellum board to look almost as good as a work on regular board.  But for the most part, collectors tend to view the vellum pieces as less valuable then their board counterparts.  In the past I've managed to get some very nice vellum Romita covers at far less than they would have cost on board.  But when it came time to sell them they always seemed to move for less and slower than similar board covers.  In addition to the way the cover looks, some collectors feel that the lack of pencils underneath the vellum also brings the price down.  Generally speaking the vellum acts as tracing paper and the pencils are left behind on a separate paper after the ink is put down on the vellum.  Board covers tend to have the pencil underneath the ink on the same piece of paper--you're getting both the artist's pencils and inks.

With the recent rise in prices I wonder if this type of prejudice will continue or if vellum covers will come to be more accepted by the collecting community in future.  Here are a number of vellum covers that I owned, or considered owning, at one time or another:

This cover, Conan 30, is one of the few vellum examples I've owned not by Romita.  The bat was drawn on vellum by Ernie Chan to create a visual effect on the published cover.  While this is not truly a vellum cover as the rest is drawn on board, the darker discoloration of the bat made it less desirable.

Here you can see the cover after restoration lightened up the bat to make it better fit with the overall color of the cover.

The Avengers 119 cover was a favorite of mine.  It was very brown when I had it restored.  I kept it for a number of years and made a slight profit when I sold it. Had it been on board I could have sold it for much more as comparable board covers had doubled in price during my tenure of ownership.  This can be the opportunity cost of owning a vellum cover if not purchased at a discount price.

On the other hand the ASM 145 cover was fairly inexpensive and I was able to trade it for quite a bit more.  It cleaned up very nice after restoration.  You can barely tell that it's a vellum cover.  In this case the image was so dynamic that I think it trumped the vellum and allowed for me to make a really strong trade.
The Sub-Mariner 69 is a beauty--every bit as attractive as the ASM 145.  Still I was only able to move this cover at a slight profit after keeping it for a number of years.

The Sub-Mariner 69 cover was purchased a couple years back.  It was inexpensive due to the title and brown coloration of the vellum.

After restoration it looks quite nice.  I haven't tested it's price on the market as I've decided to keep this beauty in my collection.  The disco Sub-Mariner outfit designed by Romita is a personal favorite.

A stunning Romita Luke Cage cover I had restored.  It took me a while to move even after this fine job of restoration.

The Invaders 1 cover is a personal favorite that I would have loved to own.  But I felt it was too expensive at the time it was auctioned off.  The vellum kept me from stepping up on a price that I felt was too high.  I thought I would never get out of it if I ever needed to.

A classic Romita Vellum cover.  Never owned, just admired.

The Spec Spidey 1 special edition cover--another vellum cover that looked great after restoration.  Still it took me quite a while to sell and at a price that wasn't very different then what I paid for the cover initially.  The vellum, I feel, hurt it's resale chances for me.

I'm wondering if vellum is still the turn off it once was...or if today's collector sees it as an opportunity to get a really cool cover at perhaps more of a bargain price. Or does vellum not matter to you at all as long as you get the image that you desire?  I think vellum is still a factor the collector HAS to consider when paying top dollar for a piece.  After all, you don't want to get stuck with an expensive piece you can't move do you?