In the comic book art collecting world, people often talk about their “grails” (as in “Holy Grail”). Depending on whom you ask, this refers to: 

1) The single piece (or select few pieces) of art you desire most; the one “you’ve always wanted” that holds the most nostalgia, meaning, or other personal value, which is also very expensive and/or very hard to find.

2) The single piece (or few pieces) you would want above all others, were money no object, and assuming it even exists–almost mythological. (Think cover art to ACTION #1, MARVEL COMICS #1, DETECTIVE #27 and so on.)

3) A single piece of art so coveted, so important and so meaningful to you, that once you acquire it you stop collecting altogether.

 

My holy grail in the second sense: Currently outta my league, even if it exists. Pencils by Jack Kirby (Inks by?). ©1968 Marvel

 

Personally, the last one sounds implausible to me because anyone who’s a lifelong collector knows that killing the Collecting Bug with a single item is like trying to kill Godzilla with a pea shooter. We’re addicted, way more than any alcoholic, smack addict or nicotine junkie. Collecting is part of our DNA (which, for many, actually stands for, “Desperate Need to Acquire). Yes, we may get a huge high from that “grail” piece which will satiate our hunger/lust/compulsion for awhile. But I guarantee you that as soon as the next convention or major auction rolls around, and money is available, we’ll find something else that we “just gotta have.” Human nature.

The second one is fun for fantasy lists and discussion board goofing but not much else. Why waste any time and emotional effort wishing for something you can probably never have, let alone may not even exist? Not fun for me.

So let’s focus on the first, which is what I have the funds for *now*, or at least could raise if absolutely needed. For instance, if someone kindly offered me Frazetta’s original “Death Dealer” painting for just $500K, it would be a huge bargain–but still out of reach even if I maxed out all my available credit. So I don’t bother putting it on my grail list. But if it’s a steal and I can raise the cash, it’s a grail.

 

An “affordable” Frazetta sketch. ©Frank Frazetta (date unknown).

 

Speaking of Frazetta, what is and has been near or at the top of my list for a couple decades now is an original Frazetta sketch, drawing, strip or comic page. I’ve seen them go for as little as $2,500 and as much as $25,000. Every time I’ve seen one for sale, I’ve passed it up. And now that the master has passed to join the realm of past masters, I regret not taking advantage of most of those opportunities. Even the oddest one, a few years ago: due to the price, a buddy of mine and I seriously considered going 50/50, splitting ownership every six months. As hassling and wacky an arrangement as that would have been (especially with my moving across the country a few years later), it still would have been preferable to not having an original Frank on my wall, even for half a year at a time.

 

A nice Frank pencil piece (more than a sketch!). ©Frank Frazetta (date unknown).

 

As recently as last year I had a chance. At WonderCon 2009, a dealer had a nice little b/w ink piece for about $4K. I asked if he would consider trading for a sweet Jack Kirby Silver Age THOR page I had. He was interested but would have to see it. All I had to do was bring it to San Diego a few months later and negotiate a deal, but I didn’t want the hassle of dragging such a valuable page to the show, storing it in a hotel safe (assuming it would even fit) leaving it in the room, blah, blah, blah. I put it off and of course today it’s either sold or too expensive.

Now I have no choice but to either wait for prices to come down or my income and savings to rise to meet the new values. Either one will take valuable time! (At least I have a remarqued print to tide me over…more on that next time.)

So my advice to you is: When you see a grail available, however you define one, don’t wait. IF you can swing it (and you need to be realistic about it), and the opportunity presents itself, take it.

If you don’t, next time I–or someone like me who wants it–will!

Thanks,

Mike

 

 

 

 

 

P.S.: While you’re waiting for that grail, how about a super-affordable commission? You know you want one. You’ve got the cash. Besides, I could be hit by a meteorite or abducted by aliens next month, and then you’d be sorry. Contact 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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12 Comments

  1. Great post Mike! Begs people to announce what their own “Holy Three” would be. For me…”version 1″ would be something that’s actually out there right now, and I REALLY should try to work a deal out for it. Seriously – I should. Being that this hobby is cut throat at time, I don’t even want to say what it is right now. I’ve got some negotiating to do. 🙂

    “Version 2”, would likely be a commission from Bernie Wrightson featuring DD and some undead creatures in Hell’s Kitchen.

    “Version 3”, would have to be a Daredevil cover. #15 by Romita, 156 by Colan, 163 by Miller, or 214 by Mazzucchelli. But as you say Mike, this hobby is an addiction. Even if I were to own ALL of these covers, I’d never be able to quit the hobby!

  2. Thanks, Craig! I’d advise you to do the deal if you can swing it without sacrificing food, clothing or shelter. (Or at least two of the three.)

    I’d think some on your number three list are affordable–at least they should be in my book! But getting the owners to part with them would probably be the toughest obstacle.

    And btw, the copyright date on the Cap cover should be 1968. My bad!

    Looking forward to others’ grail lists!

    Thanks,
    Mike

  3. The Cap #106 cover exists. I believe Will Gabri-El owned it at one time, or was it Glen Brunswick?

  4. Hey Mike,
    Your Frazetta/ Kirby story sounds like mine at this years Wondercon but I went thru with it. But, Now I’m trying to find a Kirby to replace the one that I gave up. As for the real Grail pieces, I have a few Grails that I want to own and it’s one of those things that if I ever hit the lottery and money is no longer an object, I’m going to make an offer that the owners can’t refuse.
    1) I have dreams of landing cover #1 to Conan the Barbarian by BWS.
    2) I’d love to get one of the Frankenstein pieces by Bernie Wrightson
    3) I also fantasize on coming up with one of the original paintings to Tarzan by J. Allen St. John.

    Those are grails for me……..OK thats the beginning of the list which verifies the fact that once you would get one, you would still seek to add more to the collection. To better sum that up;
    Hi, my name is Ken Zenuk and I’m an
    art-aholic 😛

  5. My “grail” pieces belong to one of two categories:

    1) A group shot of the LSH by Curt Swan.
    2) A page from the first comic I ever bought – JLA (1st Series) #29.

    I was lucky enough to find a perfect example of the first in a charity auction, but lost it to someone with much deeper pockets. Sigh… I can still see it when I’m lonely thanks to Bill Cox’s wonderful CAF and a buyer kind enough to post to the CAF. 🙂 Here’s the link: http://cafurl.com?i=14989. I know that there are others “out there.” One day, I’ll find the money and the art at the same time. I have faith. 🙂

    As for the second category, I know where six pages are. So, that’s a start. I saw 5 of the six at the Comic Art Con in Secaucus, NJ. An excellent show that all original art collectors should visit. Nothing but OA. Awesome. Check it out: http://comicartshowcase.com/comic-art-con.html

    Acquiring either would not end my collecting, but it would certainly scratch a major itch.

    Of course, there’s a case one should never publish what you really want because someone will crank the price, but …

  6. Years ago, I remember Russ Cochran offering Frazetta’s poster art for THE NIGHT THEY RAIDED MINSKY’S. I actually rate this piece a lot higher than many of Frank’s more famous fantasy paintings. At the time Russ had a minimum bid of $10,000 on the artwork. $10,000 would not be impossible to raise nowadays . . . but back then, it WAS impossible! Fast forward to a few years ago, Lewis Wayne Gallery had for sale a Frazetta original used for the MINSKY’s pressbook release. Because the subject was a humor-based caricature, the artwork was probably overlooked by those Frazetta collectors wanting Fantasy work. The asking price was very reasonable. I made an enquiry, asking for the ‘best price’ they could do the art at – and I even got myself a nice discount! A nice highly-finished Frazetta character drawing (monochrome painting?), that relates directly to a personal favorite example of the artist’s poster work – I’m happy!

  7. I think that grail definition #3 leaves me out, as my “one-grail-to-rule-them-all” is a page from a story I’m working on reuniting… thus, I must quest ever onward (although I’m halfway there page count-wise).

    Grail version #2… I haven’t considered extensively, as I guess it’s the same page as grail version #1:

    http://www.comicartfans.com/GalleryPiece.asp?Piece=237325&GSub=36998

    That page is my ultimate grail. It influenced me profoundly as a kid (yes, I am that deep), it appeals to me as art, and is probably locked down in the collection of a guy who bought it for sane and balanced reasons. Who knows if it’ll ever surface (although it might if the owner knew how much I’d pay/trade for it)!

    But I’m also a collector who pluralizes “grail”… all Colan/Everett Black Widow artwork from Amazing Adventures #’s 3, 4 and 5 is grail art to me.

    Is it too late to coin “mega-grail,” “ultra-grail,” etc… or are those by definition redundant? What should we call our sub-grails if there can only be one?

    Good post Mike, and I hope you can one day reel in your Kirby/Giacoia Cap #106 cover. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for you!
    Pax,
    Sean

  8. Hey, thanks for the great comments, you guys. Fascinating stories and choices. (Thanks to for the links provided. I got drool all over my keyboard.)

    Glad you got that Fritz, Terry! I love the Minsky’s art; think I saw a prelim in one of the books. Though I prefer the b/w drawings, some of those prelims are as tight as my finished stuff. Brilliant either way.

    And Sean, thanks for cluing me in on the inker for the Cap piece. (Glad to give Giacoia credit–kind of an unsung Kirby inker.) That AA page is stunning; I still remember seeing it for the first time when I bought the back issue just out of puberty! There were pages from that story at Gene’s exhibit at the Cartoon Art Museum in SF. Hope you got to see ’em in person. (Especially interesting were the, um, “brights” added by Mr. Everett that were apparently later edited for publication!)

    I wish you the best on your search as well and will alert ya.

    Best,
    Mike

  9. Thanks for your kind comments regarding my MINSK’S art, Mike.

    The first Frazetta I ever bought was in 1982. A very early JOHNNY COMET daily. I bought the art sight unseen for $550. Bit of a gamble? Not really . . . I knew that I would not be disappointed by anything Frank drew.

    Traded the COMET away years later . . . got another replacement example in, but sold it to fund another purchase.

    The MINSKY’S art is definitely a keeper, this time! Although it’s a one character finished piece (not a prelim), that saw print in the pressbook release for the movie – it’s a self-contained portrait of Bert Lahr’s ‘Professor Spatz’. The attention to detail on the character’s face is amazing.

  10. Thanks for the clarification, Terry! My apologies as I don’t think I’ve seen any other Minski’s work…great stuff! Though I’d love the JOHNNY COMET as well.

    You know time has passed when $500 for an original FF is even passingly considered a gamble. I remember seeing a daily for $1500 just last decade and thinking it was a bargain even then!

    Sorry you sold it but I understand the process; hope it went to a good home as they say. Glad you got something you’d like to keep. Hope you enjoy it for many decades to come as you get the next masterpiece!

    Best,
    Mike

  11. Hi Mike,
    It took a few months, but here it is:

    Maybe you have something(s) that Glen Brunswick would consider in trade? Best wishes for good luck sorting something out if so!
    Pax,
    Sean

  12. Hi, Sean!
    Thanks for the link! Wonder what took a few months? Did Glen get it from you?

    Anyway, glad it’s with a good home. I’d never seen it before and didn’t even know it existed! (Like a hot babe, I’d almost wish it wasn’t in circulation than in someone else’s arms, LOL)

    If he just got it I’d doubt very much he’d part with it but maybe he’ll grow tired of it in a few years… (HA!)

    Thanks,
    Mike

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