Saturday, February 23, 2008

Wonder Con

Here's a batch of pictures, all taken Friday. For the sake of expediency I’m going to try and keep this briefer than my usual verbose descriptions.

Okay, you know you're in the right hotel when you walk in and see this.

Here's Jim Lee and his art dealer, Albert Moy, caught in the midst of heavy negotiations--gotta keep those art dealer types in line!
Oh, and is it me, or does that hat Jim's wearing look familiar...?
Here's a shot of writer/publisher Richard Starkings. Besides being the driving force behind Elephantmen, Richard also dabbles in lettering.On the left is JG Roshell. JG is the very talented designer who, amongst others, is responsible for the look of Astro City.

The gentleman below is my old buddy Peter Maresca who published the finest Winsor McCay book of all time a couple of years ago, So Many Splendid Sundays. Keep 'em coming, Pete!
Darwyn Cooke on the left, with his sometime collabortor J. Bone. I worked with these two fine gents on The Spirit and it was a pleasure to catch up with them again here. The animated version of Darwyn's The New Frontier will be screened tonight at the show, looking forward to catching it.
A happy Arthur Adams manning his spot in artist's Alley.
A few seats down from Arthur is Jeff Campbell, who was also riding shotgun on the drive up to San Francisco. Jeff's good company on a long drive, he can talk almost as much as me... almost.
Bob Wayne, gazing off dreamily, getting a peck on the cheek from Mimi Cruz of Night Flight Comics in Utah. I asked Mimi if it was okay to post this shot to my blog and she said sure, just not to tell her husband. So, anyone reading this, please keep mum--there are reputations at stake here.
Howard Chaykin, one of my favorite phone pals, and Glen Gold, writer of Carter Beats The Devil as well as a short story in Spirit #13.
I couldn't decide if I should put "The dreaded Wolver-Noto!" on this one or, "Crap, I forgot I owed Phil Noto money!" You decide.
These pictures have been all out of order but this was the last one of the night so I'm ending with it too. My old friends Mike Mignola and Mike Carlin. We didn't close the bar, far from it at our age, but had a lot of fun and much laughter talking and telling stories with them.And, I gotta say, Mike (Mignola) made my day when he told me how much his wife likes my blog--thanks, Christine, this one is dedicated to you.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

San Francisco Bound

I’ll be heading to San Francisco first thing in the morning. Driving up with a good friend, hopefully we’ll arrive early enough to meet some other pals and get dinner. This will be my first comic convention in a year; the last was the previous Wonder Con. Looking forward to seeing friends, catching up, sharing some good meals. I’m bringing my camera and will try and post some pics over the weekend. That’s the plan anyway. Only one scheduled thing at the show, the Darwyn Cooke Spotlight on Friday from 4:00 to 5:00, the rest of the time I’ll be enjoying my first con in 20 years without doing booth duty. If you see me wandering the Moscone halls feel free to say hello.

Monday, February 11, 2008

What Do You Mean?

I previously wrote about my odd habit, from bygone art selling days, of flipping coins occasionally to determine the final price of a piece. The original post was about a deadbeat, the only time anyone had ever reneged on a flip, you can read about it by clicking here. Today’s story is also about a flip, and just as unique in the way it transpired, but with a much finer conclusion. Actually, I can’t think of any other flip that was so memorable or as much fun.

It happened maybe 13 or 14 years ago. I was set up at a comic convention, don’t recall which one but probably a Great Eastern show at the Javits Center, on the far West Side of Manhattan. Klaus Janson stopped by my booth as he was making his rounds, checking out the dealer’s wares. It was always nice to see Klaus; we were friendly acquaintances who used to run into each other on line at movie theaters, usually to see the new Woody Allen picture.

As Klaus and I exchanged pleasantries and caught up he checked out my display of original art. Hanging in the center was a drop dead gorgeous Jack Kirby pencil drawing of Dr. Doom. It was big, about 17 x 22 inches, and with a sticker price to match: $5000. Klaus liked the piece very much but at five grand he wanted to think it over. Who wouldn’t? He asked me to give him a call in a few days if I still had it so we could discuss.

The drawing didn’t sell at the show so early the following week I phoned Klaus. He said he’d like to buy it but the price was a bit steep; could I do any better? Sure, I’d knock off ten percent, making it $4500. Klaus laughed and said what he’d like to pay is $4000. I thought for a second and posed a question: was he a gambling man? “Why?” he asked.

I said to Klaus, “You can have the piece for $4500. Or we can flip for it, $4000 if you win, $5000 if you lose.” I can’t describe with any degree of justice the response I got back. Simply put, he said, “What do you mean?” But that doesn’t begin to convey the excited glee behind those four little words. If you know Klaus you know he has a great laugh. This was a hybrid of that; half laugh, half scream: “WHATTAYOU MEAANNN??” I explained it to him one more time, in greater detail. Once again, and in the same manner, “What do you mean?” was his response.

When he wrapped his head around the concept he said, “So when would we do this?” I told him we could do it right now. He said, “On the phone?” I said, “Yeah.” Then Klaus offered, a bit sarcastically, “And I suppose you’ll flip it!” I said, and probably with a certain degree of flamboyance, “No, you flip it, I’ll call.” For the third and final time, and just as before, Klaus said, “What do you mean?” “Go ahead,” I said, “I trust you!”

Klaus thought about it. I think it was a feeling of outlandish adventure, coupled with the sheer, unabashed idiocy of the proposal that pushed him over the edge; he agreed to the flip. So, with me sitting in my Upper East Side apartment and Klaus in his Greenwich Village one, we decided to go for it. The ground rules were simple, same as every flip; the coin goes up and lands on the floor, it’s legal no matter what it hits or where it lands. Klaus had a quarter in his hand and told me he was ready. All at once he yelled, “Call it!” I shouted back, “Tails!” There was a moment of incredible anticipation as I waited to hear the outcome. Suddenly a shrill scream came over the line: “SHIT!!”Dr. Doom as drawn by Jack Kirby. From the collection of Klaus Janson.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Who Is This Really?

One day in the early 90s I came home to find my answering machine blinking. Not unexpectedly as an original art ad had just broken in the Comic Buyers Guide and calls would be starting to roll in. I hit the play button and heard, “Hi Scott, this is Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills, & Nash and I want to buy some art from your ad. I can’t leave a number because I’m on tour. I’ll call back later.”

The next message came on, “Hi Scott, this is Graham Nash again, from Crosby, Stills, & Nash. I’ll call back later.” The following two messages were pretty much the same, and in each he said “Crosby, Stills, & Nash.” I had just finished listening to the final one when the phone rang. The voice coming over the line asked for me and then said, “Scott, this is Graham Nash, from Crosby, Stills, & Nash, I want to buy some art from you.”

It was one of those moments when you just have to look at the phone. I said, “Okay, who is this really?” The voice came back, “Really, this is Graham Nash!” I asked him which band he had been in before CSN and he replied, “The Hollies." I told him everybody knew that. I said if you’re Graham Nash sing something. I was actually pretty sure at this point it was Graham Nash but I thought it would be funny to have him do a few lines of “Our House."

So the person who was apparently Graham Nash tells me he wants to buy a number of originals from my ad. But there’s a catch: he won’t be home for a couple of months because of the tour. And he’s anxious to get the pages. He tells me that CSN will be playing in New Jersey in a couple of weeks and asks if I could deliver the art to him there. He’d arrange for tickets and back stage passes to be left at the Will Call window and we’d complete our transaction before the concert. Oh, and he wanted me to bring along more art.

I hung up the phone and started to get a nagging feeling. Maybe this wasn’t what it appeared to be; maybe one of my friends was playing an elaborate prank on me. I had no number for him (in those dawning days of cellular) and no payment was en route to me. But, what the Hell, the worst that could happen was I schlep a portfolio out to New Jersey for a few hours.

So on the appointed day my girlfriend and I take a cab down to the Port Authority and are herded onto a bus bound for Holmdel, New Jersey, home of the Garden State Arts Center. When we arrived it was still a couple of hours before the concert and the crowd wasn’t too bad yet. We found our way to the Will Call window where…my name wasn’t on the list.

I was stunned. All I could think of was that depressing bus ride back to the city, what a drag it was going to be. We started to walk away and then I stopped. Screw it, they were going to have another look. This time the lady checked a different list, the one that had backstage passes. VoilĂ , we’re on the sheet. Guess we didn’t fit the standard VIP type.

So we headed down towards the stage, showed our passes, and were escorted to a waiting area inside. There were a lot of people standing around; some who I presumed were with the band, some with the Arts Center, and some who looked out of place (just like us). They had won a radio station promotion. The guy who ushered us in goes to tell Graham we’d arrived and a few minutes later Graham Nash comes out to meet us. He says hello and tells me he has to take care of something before we can talk art. He walked over to the contest winners and introduced himself. He’s a charming fellow, polite and funny, and he treated them like people. It was a nice sight. When he’s done he walks over and says, “Okay, Whattaya got to show me?”

I heft a large portfolio onto a table and open it for him. First he looked at the pages he called about and then puts them aside. Next he scrutinizes the three-inch stack of art he requested I bring. He started separating art into two stacks, one short, the other tall. When he was done he looked at me and asked, motioning to the larger stack, “How much for these?”

After adding it up I gave him a number. He asked if I could do any better. Soon we had a deal and he wrote me a check. In the background there was a guy who had been leaning over now and then to check out what was going on, he seemed very interested. When Graham and I were done he stepped up and pulled out one of the pieces that remained, a Beetle Bailey comic book cover. He asked how much it was. I told him $90. He said, “I’ll give you $75 bucks, cash!” I laughed and said sure. He was positively giddy as he walked away.

We said our goodbyes and walked out to be with the paying customers. The Garden State Arts Center is an open-air venue and it was a pleasant evening. We enjoyed the concert, it was my first time seeing CSN, and then headed out towards the parking lot when the show was over. Buoyed by a lighter portfolio and a fat check, I decided to spring for a cab back to New York and home…paid for courtesy of Stephen Stills’ $75 bucks, cash.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Shell Game

Years ago I used to sell Brian Bolland’s art. Brian, besides being a very fine and meticulous artist, has a wry sense of humor. He’s also quite the Badminton player. Anyway, years ago we were talking and I complimented an Animal Man painting he had done, one that featured a beautiful portrait of a lobster. Brian thanked me for the compliment, as well as giving credit to his wife Rachel for assisting him on it; she excels at painting animals.

Brian went on to tell me that the comic the cover appeared on had a missive in the letters column (remember those?) from an irate reader. The fan was upset by acts of cruelty perpetrated on some creatures in an earlier issue. Apparently, from what Brian said, the editor replied a bit cheekily, “No animal was harmed in the production of this comic.” Brian then revealed, “That’s not entirely true. I went down to my local market, picked out a lobster, and they killed it for me.” Brian then took his newly acquired model home and set about to immortalize it. The cover took Brian a week to complete, at the end of which he had a lovely piece of art…and a rather rank crustacean.The cover in question--hopefully Brian didn’t go to similar lengths to ensure realism with all elements of the piece.