Since the focus of this (awesome) site is (awesome) commissions, I thought I’d focus on some ideas for same.

Over the years on the Yahoo! group to which I belong, several collectors have posted themed commissions. Having a theme is a great way to build your collection, unify it and popularize it. The theme becomes a thread that permeates the collection which in turn makes it wonderful conversation fodder and also gives it future display potential. (Museum shows are always themed. Same goes for your stuff, whether on your wall or that of a gallery.)

Another benefit of a theme is that it gives the artist a conceptual starting point, always good for preventing “idea block” and getting him/her focused. Granted, it can also have the opposite effect: if the artist isn’t crazy about the theme, he may delay in getting to it, or refuse it all together. I’ve often told the story of the fan–a columnist for a popular comics publication at the time–who was getting commissions of female superheroes nude on top with animal bottoms. No kidding. He came up to my table at a Chicago con and showed me a few of the pieces he’d had done. (Wonder Woman as half horse. Invisible Girl as half manatee. Probably Catwoman as half cat–I’ve mercifully blocked most of it out.) Then he asked for one from me. From what I recall he wanted Mary Marvel as an octopus from the waist down. Trying hard to hold down my lunch, I politely refused. I’m hoping no one reading this is getting any ideas either!)

While it may take the artist extra effort to “think it out” rather than just start drawing any old pose of a character, let’s face it: we’re supposed to be CREATIVE! So it should be fun to think of something cool and original and/or fun for your theme. Obviously give them a choice. If you sense apprehension, go with a standard commission of your favorite character instead.

What kind of theme should you choose? Possibilities are endless but make sure it’s nothing too offensive (see above) or difficult/time-consuming (like characters in historical battle scenes with hundreds of figures); and something that means something personal to you. Some ideas: favorite, color, location(s), time period, food, type of story, fairy tale, U.S. Presidents, famous covers, unlikely “never before” pairings (e.g., Little Lulu meets Darth Vader), TV shows, movies, pets, events, anything!

You can combine your chosen character or switch them with the theme. (Example: Wolverine posing with different historical figures, or different superheroes each posing with the same historical figure such as Abe Lincoln. You can let the artist choose the variation or choose on your own.)

Some themes to which I’ve contributed and enjoyed have been: M.O.D.O.K. and Grendel (both of which you can see in my sample section), silverfish, Winnie the Pooh, playing cards (you’ll need 52 or 54), periodic table of the elements, dancing girls, famous characters in literature, DC’s Hero for Hire series, anyone who’s been a member of the Legion, JLA and Avengers, even just guests at a particular convention.

If you attend conventions regularly, you can have all of these themed sketches and/or drawings in one sketchbook. Or if loose, into one of those vinyl portfolios with clear pockets like the ones from Itoya.

So now that I’ve hopefully stimulated your creative juices, what type of theme do you have or would you most like to try? Feel free to comment and tell us! (And if yours is one of the wonderful collections to which I’ve had the honor of contributing, THANK YOU! Please take credit here as well.)

Or better yet, just order your first commission from Craig by clicking HERE now.

[edit: since the writing of the article we’ve implemented bar-none the best commission policy in the business.  We’ve taken all the risk out of commissioning artwork!  Read all about it here! – Craig]

Thanks for reading!

See you next week,


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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  1. Good stuff Mike! As I’m a guy with a few themes of my own in my collection, I couldn’t agree more with your comments. My own collecting over the years has gone from any and all things “daredevil” related, to nearly completely focused on commissioned artwork. I really enjoy the creative process with the artists. Most of my commissions over the past few years are ideas that I’ve had very specific images in my mind for. I usually provide the artist with several reference images for each project. Whether they be simple images of my own personal favorite takes on the characters (Mazzucchelli’s DD is THE definitive version in my opinion), or images I’ve scoured from the web of a wonderful old building, or of some figures fighting, etc.

    The end results really show the wonderful magic of comics. It could be my own delusion (if so, let me be happy in my own crazy mind!), but I often think when I see the finished commission that this must be how the writers of comics must feel when they see the finished artwork of their stories. So often I’ve got an image in my mind, and what comes back is not only what was in my mind, but so much more! It’s my idea – my “story”, but done in such an amazing and creative way.

    I get so much satisfaction in creating a scene in my mind, and then commissioning a talented artist to bring it to life. If you’ve only ever collected published pages in the past, I strongly suggest you give a commission a try. It completely changed my own art collecting. As much as I loved the hobby before – I enjoy it tenfold now.

  2. Chris, when I think of themed collections both yours and Michael’s are the two that immediately come to mind!

  3. Many people know my iPod theme already. Since I work at Apple (going on 10 years) I thought it would be the perfect theme, first most artists own an ipod (there are a few exceptions) and it lends itself to any character. My theme isn’t just for con drawings but also commissions artists do outside of cons. It has been a really fun theme, I have gotten iPod piece from John Byrne, Chris Sprouse, Alan Davis, Paul Smith and AH! to name a few.
    Besides the regular PG “Draw me an iPod” theme I have a slightly different twist with a more R rated theme “Nothing but iBod…” I got the idea from a Swimsuit Illustrated 2007 image of Marisa Miller with nothing but an iPod. I even started a sketchbook with that theme. I ask the artists to draw a character wearing only an iPod. I get some interesting piece including a women riding and giant iPod (Tex), Mandy wearing 3 iPods (Dean Yeagel) and flying on a giant iPod (Tom Yeates).
    Like I said the theme leaves it open to many different ideas. Besides requesting iPod con drawings or commissions I also collect published (comics or strips) art with iPods or Macs in them. One that I am really proud to own is a page by Mike McKone from Fantastic Four.
    Having a personal theme also makes the commissions that much more special as opposed to just a character in some generic pose. Besides after cons I always get asked by some of my Apple co-workers what iPod piece I picked up. Even though they con read comic or collect comic art they are ineterested.

    Here are my iPod theme galleries:

    Draw me an iPod

    Nothing but iBod…

    Archie, Betty and Veronica iPod (Wonder Con 2010)

  4. For the better part of the last 6 years I have been a themed commission collector. I didn’t know I was going to be one until it was too late to stop. I was working with Brian Bolland to come up with an idea for a commission that he liked enough to agree to do it. I had a half-waking nightmare image of the Joker in a smoking jacket with a pipe and brandy sitting in front of a wall filled with the heads of his enemies. Without knowing it the “Trophy Walls” theme had begun. Several other artists took notice of the piece once it was posted on Comic Art Fans and I was soon talking to several of them to create their own Trophy Wall piece with different characters, setting, layouts, perspectives and coming from several different genres. Coming from Film, TV, Comics, Literature, Cartoons and more there were limitless places the theme could take artists.

    They all seemed to like the challenge and they all loved the “sick” idea enough that they could not wait to jump in on it. That’s one of the main reasons the original commission was turned into a theme of commissions. It really helped to get artists to agree to do a piece for me when they normally did not do commissions at all.

    I have been lucky enough to work with some very talented people and the pieces run the spectrum from dark and macabre (Eric Meador’s wonderful Norse Themed Piece) to downright hilarious (Brian Ahern’s Muppets piece featuring the Swedish Chef).

    Becoming a theme commission collector has been the most rewarding and fun thing I have ever done in this hobby of art collecting. It invigorated me with enthusiasm and imagination for the hobby overall and now, from time to time, I am even recognized at conventions by fans and artists who have seen all of my pieces displayed on my Comic Art Fans gallery or on the website set up to display them

    If you can come up with a solid, adaptable, and interesting theme such as Mike Finn’s One Minute Later or any of a dozen more on Comic Art Fans you will find yourself working with amazingly talented people and enjoying the hobby even more than you do today.

  5. Steven! I came across your site a little while ago. What an amazing collection! Do you chose the subject, or just ask the artist to pick one of their own?

  6. I’m glad you posted, Brian!! Yours is one of those I was thinking of when writing the column. Amazing stuff from Chris! I could spend all day going thru those gems, like Brian’s and Steven’s.

    And Steven I am SO thankful you posted. (Almost as much as I’m honored to have contributed…I still use your commission in my portfolio of samples.) It was challenging but a whole ton of fun…and I’m thankful you allowed me to choose the subject; I probably would not have done as well with ol’ Oscar, Edgar or Mr. Dickens… lol

    Just so you know, I was going to give you, Dave Morris (dancing girls) and Kasra (M.O.D.O.K.) credit, but I couldn’t recall the names of everyone listed, so I figured it would be more diplomatic to mention none and hope they posted. 🙂


  7. My own theme is pre-1960 DC covers. I have a master list of covers that I offer the artist a choice from. Have several up in my CAF and some more on the way. Latest score is a Jordi Bernet that I’m hoping will be done in a few months. Also have pending commissions from Darwin Cooke, and Kevin Nowlan.

  8. “13 years into it and that way madness lies…

    I am ashamed of myself that I have not seen your collection before. It’s, quite simply, the most spectacular combination of idea and execution that I have ever seen.

  9. Great blog! Themes are awesome; not only are they fun to collect, but they help keep my collection in focus. I have been collecting culinary themed pieces (published and otherwise) since right after my first Original Art.

    My theme consists of published pages, commissions and sketches. It’s always fun to preface a sketch/commission request with, “I’m looking for something a little out of the ordinary…”.

    Here is the majority of my Culinary theme;

    Here is the commission I got from one of my favorite artists, Pat Olliffe;

    And here is my most recent haul from the C2E2 con in Chicago;

    Thanks for reminding me how much joy there is in collecting themed pieces.


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