Last week we had a great discussion regarding “grails”–your one or few most-ever-desired pieces. (To read and join in, just click .) Everyone who posted theirs (including me) had one or two things in common: the grail piece was either something by a favorite/greatest artist and/or something from our cherished past. Some recalled their very first comic book, others a book that impacted them in a meaningful way.

This got me thinking. (Dangerous, I know. But I’m wearing a condom.)

How much of your grail is because of quality (an artist you think is the best or your favorite) and how much is nostalgia? Do you have one of each? Can you even separate the two? Or do your grails represent equal amounts of both?

I’ll go first.

My “triangle” of favorite artists has been Michelangelo at the top, with Frank Frazetta and Jack Kirby at the opposite sides. (The letter “A”, as in Art, is just a triangle with legs. Coincidence?) The latter two guys have switched places between “number two and three favorite” over the last twenty or so years since I formed the triangle. (Michelangelo became number one while I was in college. Before that it was Kirby, Frazetta and Bernie Wrightson. I still have Wrightson grails too.)



Kirby was the first chronologically, having discovered him as a youngling when my folks bought me the book and record sets of AVENGERS #4 and FANTASTIC FOUR #1, which were exact reprints of the comics (minus the ads) along with a big 33-rpm vinyl record (before CDs, for those with non-prehistoric memories). The audio had actors reading the comic verbatim, with a few cheapo sound effects. (Most memorably, a loud, annoying, reverb-laden voice booming, “PAAAAAGE THREEEE!!” and so on at the start of every page.) _Apparently, Marvel never had editorial approval, which I embarrassingly found out years later when someone told me Namor’s name was pronounced “Sub-MARE-in-er” and not “Sub-Ma-REEN-er” like the record. Whoops.

I don’t recall how old I was but I must have been under six, since I started reading books when I was four. I do recall my friends and I sitting in my room, following along like entranced monkeys. After that I saw Kirby’s name and work in several comics history texts. The one I remember most vividly was THE PENGUIN BOOK OF COMICS at age eight, which reprinted the cover image of CAPTAIN AMERICA #106, referenced last week as my “major” grail. The art was full-page in color, but strangely, the editor blocked out the words “Cap goes” in the caption so it just read “Wild!” with a big blank space at top. (Editorial manipulation?)



Now that I think of it, the cover and/or splash of AVENGERS #4 would really be my “money no object” grails (with the page of cap lying on the table after being rescued a close third) but those are more fantasy than reality. Not only would they be insanely priced, but in all honesty I could not keep them in my possession. Those pieces are too important to American pop cultural history and our art form for one person to selfishly hold. I’d have to, in all good conscience, put them in a museum. (Probably either the cringe-worthy-named Cartoon Art Museum or the Smithsonian’s American History.) _So I’ll stick with CAP #106 because it’s at least partially possibly attainable, it’s not culturally significant, and frankly, I think it would look cooler on a wall, as it doesn’t rely as much on color for its impact. (All those Avengers need their bold, primary-colored outfits!)



Frazetta came along while I was just starting high school when I received THE FANASTIC ART OF FRANK FRAZETTA or THE FRAZETTA TREASURY books. I know I’d seen his work elsewhere earlier, but those books really unleashed my awe like BP unleashed oil in the gulf. Once I took in those and other books, he went right to the top of my list and has barely budged since.

Another contender would be an original Charles Schulz PEANUTS strip, as I devoured his Treasury books as a child. Soon after, I acquired every paperback reprint I could get my hands on and still have them today. That strip not only helped me to read but also learn all the basic necessities of visual gags, expressions, strip construction, pacing, punchlines, themes, characterization, the “language of lines” and so, so much more. But I couldn’t pin down a particular strip for a grail as there are literally dozens that are meaningful, hilarious and prime examples of Sparky’s genius to me.



Back to my original point: both my Kirby and Frazetta grails would be examples of both quality and nostalgia, as I regard both gentlemen to be among the elite of American art. The specific Kirby choices are due to nostalgia, while my favorite b/w Frazettas (the Buck Rogers covers, the Canaveral Press and other Burroughs art, and some of the men’s mag stuff) are based more on personal aesthetics. So I’d have to conclude that my grails are more quality-based for artist choice, and more nostalgia-based for example choice. Sounds like a copout but it’s the truth.

How about you?

Thanks,

Mike







P.S.: The offer for a non-grail-priced commission still stands. I haven’t been hit by asteroids yet but ya never know. Just ask Craig here!

 


Published by Mike Pascale

Mike is a freelance storyboardist, artist, writer, comic book/web comic creator, graphic designer, award-winning senior art director/copywriter, Kubert School alumnus, Spectrum Fantasy Art award-winner, guitarist/songwriter, future novelist and full-time, life-long comics fan, pop culture collector, and book hoarder. His creations include Bru-Hed™ (America’s favorite Blockhead™), The Game Buzz!™ weekly webcomic, Nasti: Monster Hunter™, Mikey Moo-Moo™ and more “™s” waiting to be unleashed from his crazy cranium.

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7 Comments

  1. I never got into original artwork collecting for reasons of nostalgia. By the late 1970s, I’d more than had my fill of superhero titles. Because I’m from the UK, where I’ve always been surrounded by lots of other (comic-book) genres, my tastes are fairly broad.

    As part of a growing need to move away from superheroes and super-villains endlessly slugging it out, decade after decade (yawn), I discovered (initially via reprints) the EC titles of the 1950s.

    Russ Cochran began to reprint the New Trend titles (with reproduction directly from the original artworks) in hardback format. As each title made it to print, Bill Gaines allowed Russ to auction off the art.

    I was (and still am) attracted to EC’s high standard of stortelling, coupled with outstanding art.

    As an extention of my interest in those EC books, I decided to pursue a complete story of original art in one of Russ’s auctions.

    From my first purchase (in 1982), my collection of EC art blossomed into several hundred pages (and some covers), bought over a period of about ten years.

    No nostalgic motivation here . . . I was just hip to the quality of the work.

    Although the story art is now long gone from my collection (traded away or sold), I still retain a selection of prime EC covers.

    My EC ‘grails’ would not be tied to any feelings of nostalgia (my era of collecting comic-books as a kiddie is the 1960s). Purely aesthetics-driven.

    My interests in the EC books, put my feelings of nostalgia into perspective. Although I have a lot of love for those 1960s books I collected as a kid (primarily Marvel), as an artwork collector (prompted by exposure to the greatness that was EC), I do think a lot of the artworks for those 1960s titles are merely serviceable. For every Kirby or Ditko, there were quite a few hacks (no need to name and shame).

    Stan Lee was savvy enough to have Kirby draw most of those 1960s Marvel covers. And behind a great Kirby cover, there often lay some not-so-great interiors.

    I suppose a 1960s ‘grail’ for me . . . a combination of nostalgia and aesthetics (a winning team) . . . would be Ditko’s cover art to AMAZING SPIDER-MAN # 18.

    But I’m fortunate to own three (large art) Ditko superhero covers from his prime period, the mid-1960s.

  2. Interesting take, Terry! Thanks much for sharing. It’s refreshing to see such a departure from the majority who are almost 100 percent nostalgia-based in their collecting.

    I also ADORE the EC art as you know, despite the verbosity of much of the non-Kurtzman stories. The Cochran hardback sets were like manna from heaven for me, as the art is gorgeously presented, and without the lousy paper and Ben-day dots. (Still working on acquiring a couple more sets to have all my favorites.)

    But like so much of what became “great stuff” when I got older, no one item sticks out so much that I have to own it (Other than, of course, the cover to WEIRD SCIENCE-FANTASY 29!). I’ll be perfectly content to just own a single page or cover from each of my favorite EC artists, just like with DC, Marvel, et al.

    As an artist, most of my nostalgia involves inspiration as much as enjoyment, hence Kirby. (I consciously aped his style as a kid, and even sometimes at the Kubert School.)

    There are other stories I remember as early and/or vividly, like IRON MAN #24, which might be the first book I bought new–my copy was coverless for as long as I remember (when I saw the cover in the Gerber Marvel book, I didn’t even recognize it!)

    I created (more like plagarized) my first super characters and illustrated story based on it–“Metal Man vs. The Buller” (taken from The Minotaur of that issue, replete with swiped plot elements)–when I was nine. But I got rid of the comic years ago and have almost no recollection of the issue’s story or art; not even the artist. Weird.

    Other than the Ditko cover you mentioned, do you not have any favorite (or favourite) stories of *any* genre from early or late childhood that had a major impact enough for you to pursue ownership of a page? Just curious.

    Thanks again,
    Mike

  3. Sure. I’d like to do a cut-and-paste job of my commentary that’s affixed to the LOST IN SPACE # 25 cover painting that resides in my CAF Galleries . . . but this web-page won’t let me.

    Apparently, I need ‘permission’ to do so???

  4. Okay, thanks for that, Craig.

    Here’s the story behind a recently-acquired 1960s ‘Grail’ (that conbines Nostalgia with Quality):

    “Back in the 1960s, in my home town of Liverpool, England . . . I used to scour all the local newsagents for the latest American comic-books. Although I had a preference for the Marvel titles, I was quite open to try anything that looked interesting (regardless of publisher).

    One weekend, during a systematic search of the neighborhood, I came across the # 24 issue of a title I’d not seen before . . . SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON, LOST IN SPACE. The dramatic (painted) cover depicted a daring rescue bid to save a sacrificial victim from an imminent fiery death, atop of the hands of a gigantic statue in the ancient mythical land of Atlantis.

    On the strength of the cover painting alone, I bought the comic-book and was duly hooked on the adventures of the Robinsons (which have no bearing on the TV series of the same name).

    The interior art, by Dan Spiegle, was deceptively simple. His story-telling, in comparison to the superhero stuff of the time, didn’t go in for the heightened sense of drama most of us had become accustomed to. Spiegle’s story art was a gentle, refreshing change of pace . . . allowing the strength of the writing not to be overshadowed by flashy macho-posturing characters.

    A month or two after buying LOST IN SPACE # 24, I bought the follow-up issue of this two-part adventure. The cover image to SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON, LOST IN SPACE # 25 was, to the 10 year old boy I was at the time, even more spectacular!.

    For over four decades I’ve been enamoured of George Wilson’s stunning # 25 cover painting – and it had remained high on my ‘Wants’ list of nostalgic favourites.

    Late last year, when I decided to scale-down my collection to a core group of cherished favourites, I’d abandoned all hope of ever finding my LOST IN SPACE cover grail.

    November 2009, out of the blue, I received a totally unexpected e-mail from the (then) owner – expressing an interest in releasing the cover to me in trade (I’d posted an image of the comic-book cover onto my CAF ‘Wants’ list)!!!

    Through several weeks of looking at trade options (for artwork outside of my own collection that I could possibly buy as trade-bait), the alternative idea of a straight cash sale was agreed upon – and many, many years later, the original artwork for a much-loved and long-admired painting found its way to me. ”

    NOTE: As I can now provide a link to my CAF Galleries, you can check out my Wilson LOST IN SPACE Grail easily enough.

    As per our Frazetta discussion, my MINSKY’S piece is worth investigating, also.

  5. Wonderful tale, Terry! I can only imagine what a feeling it must have been for you to not only find out it was out there, but available, offered and within your reach! Something I think few collectors encounter in their adventures. (I’m even amazed you were able to track down the otherwise anonymous artist–so many of them were uncredited back then. No small feat I’m sure.)

    Congrats! And thank you for taking the time to share your stories and pictures here. I hope others take a gander at your gallery and immerse themselves in its treasures.

    Best,
    Mike

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