Saturday, September 22, 2012

OPINION: JOHN BUSCEMA -- Highly Respected -- Undervalued!

I don't suspect I'll get too many arguments when I suggest that John Buscema was one of the true masters of the medium.  He had the dynamics of Kirby crossed with the illustrative prowess of Neal Adams.  He and John Romita were the primary movers of Marvel product after Jack Kirby left the building.  Buscema's runs on Avengers and FF and Thor are legandary now having gone down as absolute classics.
The cover to Silver Surfer 1, Avengers King Size 2 and FF 107--his first cover for that title are perfect examples of his mastery of the form.

But when it comes to valuation in the marketplace it seems that John Bucema's work tends to lag behind some of his contemporaries.  This Avengers 55 page (below) traded hands in 2010 at the 2500 level.  At the same time Romita Spider-Man pages were trading for 10k.  Kirby small size pages on Cap, FF and Thor were between 5-10k as well.  The Buscema pages are still lagging in value today and are a great place for a collector to find value along with quality.
This Avengers 74 page (below) sold in the August 2012 Heritage auction for $4481.  Still lower than the Romitas or Kirbys, but it seems there is a little catch up going on as this is one of the higher sold pages I have seen on record.
The Avengers 78 cover (below) sold for 23k in the November 2011 Heritage auction.  It feels like a bargain once again when we consider that Romita Spider-Man covers from this period are going in the 40-50k range.  Same with the Kirbys.
I bought this Conan 124 cover (below) at the August 2010 Heritage auction.  At the time I felt that the cover should have been 8-10K.  I liked the image a lot, it's one of my favorite Conan covers, so I chased up to 14300 and pulled it down.  I felt like it was such a good cover I could put my money where my mouth was and overpay.  A few people did make fun of me at the time.  I've always felt that if you buy the best of something you may overpay--but not for too very long.  Prices seem to catch up faster on the best pieces.
This cover, Avengers 44 (below), is twice up.  It went for the shocking low price of 19k due I think to the Vince Colletta inks.  Still, it's a truly great cover that was an absolute bargain at the Heritage May auction in 2010.
This Avengers 105 cover below traded not too long ago on Burkey's site for 12k.  12k for a classic Avengers cover from the 70's that rocks.  That's less than you'll pay for panel pages by Romita or Kirby.
Someone got a deal and you can too...if you keep your eye on the Buscema market.  I think there are a lot of bargains to be had keeping your eyes peeled in this arena--even in this apparent market of escalating prices!  Certain Conan pages by Buscema can be had for less than $200, still.  That's the price of pages drawn by some newer artists yesterday.

Monday, September 3, 2012

OPINION: New money and the ComicLink connection.

Wow! 100k for a slightly better than average Ditko 29 page (below) that couldn't do 30k at auction two years ago.  What's behind the price jump?  Quite a number of rumors abound.  Who benefits?  Certainly ComicLink benefits as they can now lay claim to selling the most expensive ASM Ditko panel page to date.
Anyone who owns a Ditko ASM page benefits--if someone were sitting on a pile of Ditko pages turned out to be the buyer, I guess I wouldn't be too surprised.  My current theory is that the market has been influenced by an influx of comic book collectors that are discovering the joys of OA.  I spoke with a high grade collector of CGC comics that made this transition.  One of the things that struck me was his frustration that more CGC book are graded each year.  The high grade books that once were unique are threatened by more high grade books being graded each year--but original art is really one of a kind.
I spoke with the seller of the FF 16 page (above) which went for about 46k--a surprisingly high number--just 3k less than the splash to FF Annual 2 (below) went for last month at Heritage--shocking!  This page did more than double what I expected it to do.  The seller told me that he would have sold the page for less than 20k just two months ago but the art dealer he offered it to passed.  Pretty sure he's over the pain for rejection now.

The DD 16 page by Romita, highlighted in a previous post, did 41,500--over 10k more than I thought.  The FF 112 page by John Buscema/Joe Sinnott was a standout at 15,750.
The Sub-Mariner 26 cover (below) struck me as an interesting cover to highlight.  The Donnelly's had this cover for sale for quite a number of years with no takers--it's a great looking cover, but they were always above market on the price.  I think they were asking between 13-14k.  The cover sold at auction, just hitting the reserve, at 14,750.  The buyer, Joe Shaffer, up until 2010, was a high grade CGC collector.  Now his goal is to get covers from all the series he collected.  I mentioned the recent history of the piece to him and asked Joe what he thought about the price that he paid.  Here's what he said, "Some pieces will speak more to one collector than others.  I think this is a far more interesting cover than the other Subbie offerings out there."  He said he was fine with the price.  He also spoke about a uniqueness in the art you don't get with the CGC books.
I think this is true for a number of comic collectors, recently turned OA collectors, who are now willing to go higher at auction than those who are a bit more seasoned in the hobby--hence the recent market spike.  I think it's telling that the pieces that have spiked are the same type of pieces that the CGC collectors crave--special covers, early key pages, as close to key as possible--names like Kirby and Ditko--the creme de la creme of the early Marvel.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


If you're a seasoned comic art collector, or even new to the hobby, you've probably heard the name Mike Burkey.  Known as ROMITAMAN due to his passion for collecting Spider-Man originals drawn by the legendary John Romita Sr, Mike is one of the largest art dealers in the OA game.  I personally would not have the collection I have today without the purchases and trades I've been able to do with Mike over the years.  Mike is someone you absolutely must know in the hobby.

BRUNSWICK:  At one point you were simply a collector that bought and sold art. Is there a moment in time, or a specific deal, that made you think it was time to turn into a comic art dealer?
BURKEY:  Early on in collecting, I realized this hobby was too expensive and I couldn't afford to collect comic art unless I could subsidize my spider-man collecting by buying and reselling OTHER art I didn't collect to help pay for the art I do collect!
That's how it all started..... I always tell philosophy was..."I'LL BUY A ROCK ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD IF I CAN SELL IT TO MAKE A PROFIT"
So I kept buying and trading for art I DIDN'T collect, so I could use that art for trading... Many collectors back in the day never wanted to sell...but they would TRADE their art for other art they that's what I did!
My inventory just kept growing and growing and I kept doing so many private deals over the phone and at comic shows before the Internet came about.... And when "the Internet" started up, my tax accountant told me I should make this a business .... so I did!
I always remember...... BEFORE the Internet...... I ALWAYS had 300-500 dollar a month phone bills as that was how you connected with other art collectors to get art deals done....MY HOW TIMES HAVE CHANGED! LOL
BRUNSWICK: What's your take on the recent prices of OA? Does it seem to you that the high end pieces are accelerating faster than they were in the past? What about the lower end?
BURKEY:  Absolutely....Just an example pertaining to what I collect.....
My first 5 years in the hobby I told myself that if the Romita Amazing Spiderman art I was collecting and enjoying would ever be worth 1000 per page In the future, that my retirement would be set....
(But remember.....I was paying between 40-125 dollars for small AND LARGE SIZE ASM pages in 1989-1992.... and no one really liked Romita ASM art back then.....I constantly got laughed at (in fun) by art collector friends and dealers for collecting Romita ASM art when I came into this hobby.... as DITKO and KIRBY were KING and Steve Ditko was the ONLY "REAL" Spider-Man artist people would tell me all the time. :O)
In 1993 I remember paying 2000 dollars total for 4 great historic pages to ASM 50..and an art friend of mine told me I was nuts to pay that high and I'd never get my money back out of them.... 1996 was the first time I ever paid 1000 dollars for a large art ASM page. Again my friends told me I was nuts..... I always tried to stay 1 step ahead of other people collecting ASM art in the 1990's.. It certainly helped a lot that I got a good job working in a major hospital after I got out of the Army in 1989, and finished medical schooling in 1991, so I finally had disposable income.....

However...... I did make a decision and traded/sold away all of my Romita Amazing Spiderman covers in 1997-98 to buy and trade for Romita ASM interior art when covers hit 5000 dollars!
I felt that collectors would be able to afford buying small art ASM Romita art at 1000 a page 1 day when I would ever decide to sell...., but NO WAY would a collector be able to pay over 5000 for a Romita ASM cover... LOL....
Needless to say..... I was very wrong there! It's easy to see NOW that my estimations have been exceeded by over 10-fold on covers...... and pages!

BRUNSWICK: What do collectors need to know about using trade with you? Are there certain types of pieces that get your attention more than others?
BURKEY:  I'll trade for ANYTHING if I can use it!
Usually the older the long as its Marvel, DC or EC art being offered to me, I'll trade for it as that's the art I like looking at the most.
I don't like having art sitting on my website for a year or 2 like many other dealers do...I believe that if I keep putting new art on my website I will attract more customers to keep coming back and this to me is a good thing. So I try to move inventory as fast as possible to keep things fresh for people coming to my website!

BRUNSWICK: What do you personally collect these days?
BURKEY:  ASM interior art from #39-297, any ASM strip art from 1977-1980, and Incredible Hulk covers from 102-231 (The Herb Trimpe era mostly)

BRUNSWICK:  I've noticed that you've been selling a number of Romita Sr. Amazing Spider-Man pages--pieces that were once exclusively collection pieces. Why have you decided to sell collection pieces now? Are there still things in your collection that you consider untouchable?
BURKEY:  Nothing is untouchable if the price is right.  I've sold certain pages because I've gotten a price that I never dreamed I'd get for them when I first started collecting. but they are market value now..... I grew up with nothing...I never even saw a 100 dollar bill until I joined the army when I was 20 years my parents couldn't afford to send me to college.
So NOW.....when someone offers me good cash or good trade for a small art ASM interior art page I paid 100-200 bucks for in the early 90's..i'm definitely going to consider it.
I have a lot of ASM art and I don't think I want it all going to go to my grave with me when i'm hopefully very old..LOL
I have my favorite pages from certain issues I will keep til i'm an old man I hope.
BRUNSWICK:  Will you be releasing other collection pieces to market soon?
BURKEY:  I really wont actively release any collection art to the public.... .that's what my website is for.... If someone wants to contact me and make me a fair offer for pages I will at the very least discuss it with them. Most people refuse to even entertain offers for collection pieces...I at least will chat with people and see if there interest is high enough for us to do a deal.
I've probably sold and traded about 20 pages from my collection over the past 3 years so being reasonable if 2 people can agree to a deal like that.

BRUNSWICK: What do make of the recent Kirby controversy? The thought being that Kirby had help pencilling some of the commissions he did later in his career. Do you think this will hurt the sales and legitimacy of later Kirby work?

BURKEY:  Well that dropped a major bomb on the Kirby collecting part of our hobby. and i've had my share of being dogged by people thinking I'm selling fake Kirby drawings which is quite unsettling...but you gotta make it right if you feel someone bought something that was not as advertised.
This doesn't affect the PUBLISHED Kirby art in our great hobby in any way shape or form...But it does change the entire dynamic for Kirby commission and sketch drawings by Jack now, as there will ALWAYS be suspicions about what Jack really drew on each piece that's not published.

BRUNSWICK:  I've heard you say that this is the greatest hobby ever. Can you elaborate on that?

BURKEY:  I was lucky enough that I got into this hobby when it was easy to buy art at cheap prices..... but I didn't have a lot of money really to spend on it so it was all any hobby..its all about TIMING!
I had no idea what comic art was when I was curious and decided to buy my VERY first piece of comic art out of the comics buyers guide in October of 1989 for 100 bucks (a GREAT battle page from ASM 46 with Spiderman battling the shocker) when I got it jaw dropped...... I knew this was HISTORY I was holding in my very hands....... I'm holding this actual one of kind piece of art that john Romita slaved over for MANY HOURS drawing in 1966, and Stan Lee's writing of the story was partially written in the side columns...... I loved it so much I called the dealer (Scott Dunbier) and I asked him if he still had the other 2 pages he had 110 each on..and he said he still had I bought them also. I'm proud to say that 20 years later I had amassed 19 pages to that issue..... and I only needed the splash...... and In the fall of 2010 I bought the splash to ASM 46 from a long ago marvel staffer, and I completed the THAT'S what makes this hobby AWESOME! :O)

BRUNSWICK:  Moving forward, from a strictly investment perspective, where do you think people should park their money?

BURKEY:  Honestly..if you can afford it...ANYTHING from the 1960's era of MARVEL with major super hero titles (particularly LARGE ART covers splashes and pages) I feel will be GOLD in the future, as this was when Marvel was in its infancy and just starting out.
obviously COVERS and SPLASH pages from any era for the most part will always be very sought after also

BRUNSWICK: When do you think a single piece of American comic art will break the million dollar threshold? What do you think it will be?
BURLEY:  I feel that the first million dollar comic art piece will be a will be a very key early Ditko Amazing Spiderman cover or a key early Jack Kirby cover from the Fantastic Four.

BRUNSWICK: From a collector POV, is there one piece of artwork you would like to see in your lifetime? What would it be?

But realistically..... i've always loved the cover to Amazing Spider-Man #50 as my favorite cover!
A close friend owns it but he doesn't want to sell it...but when it comes to one of a kind collectibles which is the essence of our great hobby....that's how it goes...... and that's why this hobby is so fun.....because EVERYTHING is 1 of a kind, and owning a key 1 of a kind piece of art has an even greater attachment when YOU own it! :O)
Many thanks to Mike for the interview and the wonderful scans he provided from his collection!  To see more of Mike's collection or simply browse his website for the thousands of awesome originals he has for sale go to


Wednesday, August 22, 2012


'SWEET CHRISTMAS!", I love me some Luke Cage books from the 70's.  Billy Graham did all the pencils and inks on all the early covers numbered 3-16 and he did a masterful job.  Why he wasn't selected as the penciller on the interiors over George Tuska I find hard to understand.  I hope it was simply a deadline issue because the cover work is leaps and bounds better than the interiors IMHO.  None of these covers, however, has found their way to the marketplace--and I've looked for many years.  The only exception is the 15 cover (below) which is just about twice up.  It popped up on ebay a number of years ago and I bought it from the collector who won it.  I traded it recently--which makes me all the more hungry to find one of the others.  Has anyone seen even one of them?  I have posted them here for your appreciation...

Monday, August 20, 2012


I'm a big NOVA fan!  I bought 100 copies of issue 1 at a local convention when I was a kid 'cause I was sure he'd be the next Spider-Man and these things would be funding my college education.  We'll, they're worth only slightly more than I paid for them back then--not my best investment--kind of like the stock market over the last 12 years.

But the OA covers are a different story--I love them, but they're hard to find.  I bought the 2 cover (above) by John Buscema at one point from collector pal, Dan Forman.  I think we valued it at 4k.  The condition kind of bugged me so I traded it to Burkey some time later for 7500.
The Nova 4 cover by Kirby/Sinnott - I think is the gem of the run.  I got it from Alan at Heroes in a trade which included the DD 14 splash that I've since gotten back in another deal.  I sold this last year at a very high number (although, honestly, not that high by today's standards) to a collector/friend who I believe still has it.
The 5(above), another Kirby/Sinnott cover sold through Heritage--was never really a favorite of mine.

I recently got the 7 back(above), also Kirby/Sinnott, from Josh Gray who was kind enough to hang on to it long enough to trade me when I told him I had to have it back.  I used to own it, but sold it after getting the 4.  Of course, after parting with the 4, I needed it back.

So where are all the other Nova covers from the original run?  I'd like to pick up one or two more.  Here are the other covers I have seen on CAF at one time or another 10, 13, 18 and 25.  Where are the rest?  I'd love to know...anyone seen 'em?

Friday, August 17, 2012


What is the mechanism that makes you pull the trigger before you buy a piece of art?  Sometimes you find that perfect piece within your budget and that makes the decision easy.  But I'll bet that more often than not these days your art purchases are made out of fear--fear that you won't find the thing you're looking for at this price level again.  Here are a couple of examples of what I consider to be recent fear based purchases...          
The first begins as a reaction to the sale of the ASM 6 page 12 (above) by Steve Ditko which sold in ComicLink's May auction for a record price of  $64,000, and the ASM 30 page 16 (below) by Ditko that sold in the same auction for a healthy price of $36,000.
Shortly after these two pages sold, another page from ASM 30 p 2 (below) sold off of Nostalgic Investments website for $32,000.  This is my subjective opinion at work here--but this is a page that should have sold for much less.  There is no great shot of Spider-man which I believe is essential for a page that crosses the 30k barrier.  This is a page that sold out of the FEAR that they were about to be priced out of the ASM Ditko market.
My second example of a fear based sale begins with the sale of the ASM 106 cover by Romita Sr.(below)at the ComicConnect auction last week for the very healthy price of $38,500.
A day or two after the 106 cover auction closed, this cover (below), the ASM 118 cover, also by Romita, sold for the full price of 30k off the Romitaman website.  This cover had been on Burkey's site for well over a year at this price with no takers.  Even though I think that the 118 is a nice cover, and in the interest of full disclosure I used to own it, I feel it's safe to say that FEAR of being priced out of the ASM Romita cover market was IMO the reason behind this quick purchase.
Whatever your reasons for buying art may be--my advice is to at least love the art a little bit before you let the FEAR of being priced out take over.  Or at least make sure you know the reason why you're pulling the trigger.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

TRADER TRENCHES: Do I get a do-over?

Marvelmania - Toys for Tots poster art by Jack Kirby

San Diego '97 - I'm cruising the dealer floor, a much easier feat in those days, the art dealers were all on one side of the room and you could walk around easily--even on Sunday.  I see this huge Kirby poster piece at Anthony's table. It was bigger than a DPS, 17x22.  I asked Anthony how much he wanted for it.  He tells me that he thinks it's going to be 8k, but he's not sure 'cause he co-owns it and needs to check.  I tell him if it's 8k I want to buy it, NOW!  It's awesome!  The other owner was Mike Carbonaro.  At roughly the same time, good guy collector, Vince Oliva, was at Mike's table trying to buy the same piece.  Anthony tells me that's he's got to go over to Mike to find out what Mike wants to do with my 8k offer.  A few minutes later, Anthony returns and tells me that there is another interested party but he's pretty sure I can have the piece at 9k.  I agree to the 9k and whip out my check book.  Not so fast, Anthony needs to go make sure with Mike before I can take the Kirby home.  When Anthony returns the price is 10k.  This goes on for a bit.  I'm getting kind of upset because the price is getting higher every few minutes.  Finally, Anthony tells me if I'm willing to do 12.5k that I can have the piece for certain.  I agree, but it's more than I want to spend.  However, once I have the piece in my hands, the price shlacking I just took begins to fade away.  It's a beautiful thing with something quite rare--it's one of the few pieces that Jack Kirby inked himself.

A number of years later, I decide it's time to part with the piece.  Prices had been increasing on art.  I now had two kids and there were expenses I needed to attend to. When you have a piece unique like this it's sometimes difficult to figure out how to price it in the current market.  They are no real comp sales to compare it to.  I finally decided, a guess, that it should be about the same price as a Kirby twice-up cover--it was much bigger and inked by Kirby, so I figured it should rate about the same as a published cover.  Well, I put it out there at 30k, the then going rate for Kirby 2X covers, and had no takers.  Everyone felt I had WAY overpriced it.  I finally traded it to So Cal collector, Tony Fornaro, for a ASM 23 page by Ditko, a fight page with Spidey battling thugs in every panel, that was thought to be worth 22k.  It wasn't a keeper page for me and a few months later I managed to move the Ditko for about 25k in trade.  Sometimes if you can't quite get your price on a piece it makes sense to trade for an item that the market deems more desirable. 

The thing is, a year or two later my finances improved and I kept thinking about that piece.  I really wanted it back!  I've never seen it posted anywhere since then.  After Tony, it went to some unknown collector and vanished into thin air.  Quality pieces can disappear like that.  If you're out there somewhere, Mr. Toys for Tots poster, you can always come home.  Don't be afraid, I'll take you back!

Monday, August 13, 2012


JERSEY GODS COVERS 1,4,6,7,8,9,10,and 12

One of the perks of being a comic book writer and an art collector is sometimes you get to combine your passions.  I was thrilled to have one of my very favorite artists, Mike Allred, doing covers on my Image series JERSEY GODS which ran for 12 issues during 2009-2010. If you missed out on all the hoopla and are now kicking yourself after checking out Allred's fancy window dressing, you can get your digital copy... 

Or your hard copy...

Mike was able to capture that classic 60's Kirby feel and at the same time give it a contemporary look of today--no easy feat!  Mike was kind enough to let me have the covers he did, for my personal collection, after they were published.  I present them here along with a short interview I did with Mike the other day...

BRUNSWICK: One of the things I love about your work is your ability to channel a classic 60's look while at the same time never sacrificing the vibrancy that makes your art look contemporary. How do you strike that balance between the two? How heavily do you research the 60's designs when you begin on a new title with 60's origins?

ALLRED: Not at all.  Sincerly, I try really really hard to make my stuff contemporary.  And no matter how hard I try, it's still called "retro" and "pop art".  I can only guess that, because the 60's stuff surrounded me in stacks from the day I was born, it's in my blood.  And my biggest contemporary influences going into my career, like the Hernandez Brothers, Charles Burns and Dan Clowes, share similar influences.  It's doubled up on me.

BRUNSWICK: We had a lot of fun riffing on classic covers while doing the JERSEY GODS series that clearly derives a great deal of inspiration from Jack Kirby's work.  What is it about Kirby's stuff, do you think, that still has resonance today?

ALLRED: Power is power.  No other artist exudes power like Kirby's work.  Some come close, like Moebius, for instance.  Moebius could be elegant and powerful at the same time.  Some artists have energy leaping off the page.  Kirby's energy just blows everything else away before or since.

BRUNSWICK: Why are collectors paying such ungodly sums for Kirby's originals?

ALLRED: Because it's all so "godly".

BRUNSWICK: Do you own or collect any original art other then your own work?

ALLRED: Absolutely.  And for the record, I don't collect my own work (nudge nudge wink wink).  I've been keeping the entire first issues of most of my series for posterity.  But I have at least one piece of most of my favorites.  And I'm especially thrilled with all the greats that have done Madman pieces for me.  Most of which can be seen in the gigantic "Madman Monster" hard cover.

BRUNSWICK: If in 20 years one of your Madman covers fetches 100k at auction would you be flattered by the amount or disappointed that the windfall might be going to a collector instead of lining your well deserving pockets?

ALLRED: I would be flattered.  Right now my newest Marvel originals are getting more demand than anything I've ever done.  If I'm progressing, I don't feel I would ever be disappointed to see anything of mine reach that kind of demand and appreciation.

BRUNSWICK: If you could write and draw any Marvel character, who would you pick?  What unusual thing would you like to do with him/her?

ALLRED: I'm doing it right now!  Just pick up Daredevil 17, Wolverine & the X-Men 17, my Ant-Man story in Point One, and FF no. 1 to see!  Having the time of my life!
Thanks big time for contributing to my blog, Mike!  Below is the original cover art to Mike's new FF series written by Matt Fraction.  Can't wait to pick up my copy.  This one really looks like it's gonna rock!

More Allred news and awesome art can be found at