Tuesday, April 23, 2013

PART 2 - The X-MEN 1 original art by JACK KIRBY is sold!

Continuing my conversation with comic art dealer/collector, Bechara Maalouf, on how he acquired the X-Men 1 story.


GLEN: How were you able to finally convince Brad to sell?

BECHARA: Brad and I stayed in touch from mid 80's on.  I would generally buy things from him on a periodic basis.

GLEN: What kind of stuff did you pick up from him?

BECHARA:  Silver-age Marvel, some hero and some pre-hero stuff.  I made him really good offers.  I would tend to pay twice what Brad perceived the current market value to be.  This way he always thought of me when he was ready to sell something.

But I'm not crazy, I would focus on pieces that I felt had upside for the future.  In those days you couldn't lose, anything of quality felt undervalued.  Some of the things I bought, among many other things, were great Kirby original pages from X-Men 5 including the splash, the complete X-Men 9 story that featured the first cross-over battle of the Avengers vs. X-Men, and a nice X-men 2 page.

GLEN:  So he eventually contacted you when it was time to sell because of your track record of purchases?

BECHARA:  Not exactly, we played a cat and mouse game over two decades.  What I mean is Brad was always a lot higher than what I was willing to pay for the book.  In 1990, if the book was worth 20k--Brad wanted 50k.  By the time the book was worth 50k, Brad wanted 100k.  Years later when it was valued at 100k, Brad wanted 200k--this continued on for quite a while.

GLEN: When did the value of the book catch up enough for you to finally pull the trigger?

BECHARA:  It didn't exactly happen like that.  In 2001, I was in the middle of completing a deal for the Tony Christopher collection.  Tony was famous for having the BEST Kirby collection-- over a thousand Kirby pages--quite a few of them coming directly from Jack Kirby himself after his artwork was returned from Marvel.

With access to so much prime Kirby material, I realized I finally had the kind of trade that would entice Brad to part with the X-Men 1 story at a price I could tolerate. I knew his number one love was Kirby Fantastic Four art.  It took a number of key Kirby FF pieces to do the trick.  The components of the deal were:

The complete story to Fantastic Four 3 - missing one page, the complete back up story to FF 11, and a good amount of cash.

Given that the FF 3 is the earliest known Fantastic Four story in the market--the issue has a recap of their origin and is the very first time we see the FF in costume--Brad was much more willing to be negotiable.  I drove to his house to do the deal in person.  I was nervous because Brad was very hard to get a hold of.  Many times I had driven to his house just hoping that he would be there.  Happily the FF 3 was enough of an inducement for him to keep our appointment.  We made the exchange and I finally had the X-Men 1 story in my possession.

BRAD SAVAGE - Holding the FF 3 splash at a recent comic art con

BECHARA:  Unfortunately, I had a partner in Greg Manning Auctions when I made the Tony Christopher deal which meant we were also partners on the ownership of the X-Men 1 book too--we had used the FF 3 in trade--part of the TC collection.  This also meant that the X-Men 1 book wasn't mine to keep.  Greg Manning Auctions and I agreed to move the X-Men 1 story to Kirk Hammett--an avid collector and the legendary lead guitarist for the band Metallica.

BECHARA: Years later, Bill Wheatly, an outside hobby collector saw an opportunity there and was able to purchase the story from Kirk--he broke the book apart, sold the splash, and the majority of the other X-Men 1 pages went to auction at Heritage where they have sold over the past years.  It's sad that the book had to be split up--I would have wanted to find a buyer for the X-Men 1 who would have at least kept the pages together.

A huge heartfelt thanks to Bechara for agreeing to this interview.  Again he can be reached at http://www.nostalgicinvestments.com or email: nostalgic5@aol.com

Friday, April 19, 2013

PART 1 - THE REAL STORY - How the original art to X-MEN 1 by JACK KIRBY was found!

I've known Bechara Maalouf for as long as I've been an original art collector. He's been a high end dealer in OA and comics for over twenty-five years. Back in 1994 he sold me my first two John Romita Spider-man pages from ASM 116 for $400 and $600--the more expensive page had Gwen Stacy on it.  We've done hundreds of deals since then.  I can honestly say that some of the best pieces in my collection came through him.  Prominent collectors like Hari Naidu and even dealers like Will Gabri El began dabbling in OA with Bechara's help.  He is someone you must absolutely know in the hobby.  If you are looking for a particular piece he knows not only where the bodies are buried…but how deep.

For years Bechara has promised to share the details with me of how the complete X-Men 1 story came out into the marketplace, and how he had a hand in it.  We finally had that discussion the other day:

GLEN: How did you first hear about the existence of Jack Kirby's X-Men 1 original art pages?

BECHARA: Through Brad Savage--he has been a collector of comics and original art for a generation or two.  I met Brad in the 80's and at that time he revealed to me that he had the complete original art to X-Men 1 by Jack Kirby, as well as other stuff.

GLEN: As you got to know him better he finally agreed to show them to you?

BECHARA: He invited me to his house--a collectibles emporium if there ever was one--the place looked like a serial killer had put his mind to collecting comics and related items instead of bodies.  He showed me the complete book to X-Men 1 and I was astounded.  My first question was how did you get this?  It turns out the original pages had turned up at a downtown comic shop in Manhattan around 28th street.

GLEN:  Wait a minute, the historic pages to X-Men 1 were available for sale at a comic shop?

BECHARA: One day in the mid 80's, Brad was in the local comic shop he frequented when two young men entered the store with a bundle of comic art to sell the owner.  Brad was stunned as the art turned out to be originals by Steve Ditko.  The actual original Marvel art pages from complete stories to Amazing Spider-Man unfolded before his eyes--ASM issue 4 with Sandman, the third issue with the first appearance of Doc Ock, issue 2 featuring the Vulture and finally the complete original art to the historic Amazing Spider-Man number 1.

BECHARA: The two men offered the whole lot, four issues of originals, to the shop keeper for $2000.  Brad couldn't believe it--the shop keeper either couldn't afford it or didn't want to buy the art but Brad absolutely did.  Between what he had in his pocket and a loan from the shop keeper he was able to scrape together $700.  Brad offered to give the men the $700 as a down payment but they wouldn't take it.  They needed the full $2000.  Brad desperately tried to buy just one of the stories, the ASM 1, for the $700 but they wouldn't take that either.  However, they were willing to meet Brad back at the comic shop the next day and do the deal if Brad had all the money.  Brad figured he would never see the men again.

The next day Brad was surprised to find the men back at the shop just as they had agreed.  Brad was ready with the cash.  Unfortunately, the men explained that they had found a guy to give them $2000 for the ASM 1 story alone, and they sold the book and the other Spidey stories to that same guy as well.

BECHARA: However, they did have some good news for Brad.  They had with them additional art that included the complete stories to X-Men 5, 2 and the complete art boards to the first appearance of the X-Men--issue 1--all by Jack Kirby.  Brad asked them how they were able to get all this art.  The young men explained that it all was very legit.  They promised the books weren't stolen--they just couldn't talk about it.

Brad wasn't about to argue--he was able to buy the complete X-men 1 story for $400, and the other original X-books as well for the paltry sum of $200 a piece.

In part 2 of this story, that I promise to post next week, Bechara and I will talk about how he was able to fiinally convince Brad after 20 years of pursuit to actually part with his X-Men 1 story.

Bechara Maalouf can be found at Nostalgic Investments for one of the very best selections of original art on the web at: http://www.nostalgicinvestments.com or email: nostalgic5@aol.com