Monday, April 1, 2013

Time to Graduate to the Comic Art Con


“As for me, I am in pursuit of excellence, I have no time to get old.”
~ Will Eisner

I know a whole lot about comic books.
I know how to grade.
I know how to care for them.
I know how to take advantage and survive a comic convention.
Yup, there isn’t much about comics I don’t know about.

Or so I thought.

It’s safe to say that you and I love the work that a particular artist publishes but have you ever tried to acquire that artwork before?  Hell, do you even know how to go about it properly?  For the first time in a long time, I didn’t have the answers!!!  Luckily I found what I was looking for at the ‘Comic Art Con’ in Secaucus, New Jersey. 

Minutes away from the Lincoln tunnel, right next door to the Meadowlands (home of the Giants & Jets), is probably the largest expo of comic book art that exists.  It’s a dream come true for any real comic book fan.

It’s the fifth year and tenth show overall for this convention.  Vendors from all over the country and the top auction houses come for this one-day show.  This says a lot and shows how impressive this convention truly is.

Parking is free.  Kids are free.  Admission is only $10 and you can see historical pieces of original artwork from comic book history.  Honestly, it’s the type of art that you hear people talk about, or may see online, but you never expect to see it in person.

An enormous amount of original comic book art is at this show. 

Work from Ditko and Kirby. 
Pages from numerous amounts of comics/superheroes were represented. 
Prices ranged from $25 to six-figures!!!

In the grand scheme of things, the aspect of this show that I love so much is that everything is a one-of-a-kind piece of art.

I won’t lie to you.  As amazing as I’m making this show sound, I was a little intimidated at first.  Hell, other than knowing the type of art I like, I don’t know how to shop for original artwork. 

After being a spectator for just an hour, those problems quickly went away.  Co-promoter Dan Gallo perfectly summed up how a show with such lucrative pieces is the best place to learn about a whole new hobby and investment opportunity. 

“By coming here, you get to meet, talk and ask questions to vendors.  Not just any vendors, but thee vendors.  You get to meet with only serious collectors and hear the stories of their mistakes and triumphs.  Best of all, no one is going to rush or pressure you.  The atmosphere is nice and relaxed and you have time to really know the vendors, auction houses, their inventory, ways of the trade and meet/network with other people.”

As I perused the walls of art, and slowly flipped through pages of work, time after time my jaw would drop to the floor with the pieces of work in front of me.

I may sound over the top, but it was the honest truth.  This wasn’t something I was viewing on my computer.  I was seeing the original work with my own eyes.  Being able to see the work first-hand allowed me to see notes written next to side panels, the original blue pencils from the artist and the page information written at the top of the page. 

It made the show, and the work, that much more powerful.  I talked with long time collector Thomas Fish about the industry and how a show like this is so beneficial than buying work online. 

In Thomas Fish’s words, “If you're a collector, or you enjoy the hobby, it's much more fun and beneficial to interact with other collectors.  You get better knowledge here.  You can learn first hand what goes on, what people are looking for.  Online, there's a big disconnect.  There's no personality there and it's beneficial to come to a show like this.”

His knowledge on the median, and the work he collects, was extremely impressive. Then he told me something that really showed how much of a hardcore dealer he is and how important this show truly is.

"This is the only specific comic art show in the country.  I actually live in Northern Virginia.  It took me four and a half hours (to get to the show).  I came up here last night.  I don't miss this show.  If I'm not out of town on business, this is THEE one show, I can't miss.”

After seeing many art pages well into six figures, and safely assuming someone has a million dollar piece in a vault somewhere, it was easy to see why people from all over the country were coming to this one show.

I was extremely excited by this point.  I wanted to know more, I wanted to buy some art, but I still didn’t know what the hell I was doing.  After 20 minutes of shopping, I knew that I shouldn’t make any rash decisions.  So I decided to do the next best thing: ask someone with 20 years experience (versus my 20 minutes of experience) of the trade.

Vincent Zurzolo is the COO of Comic Connect (a site which is a much better alternative to buy/sell comic books and artwork compared to ebay.  As someone who’s disgusted with ebay, I speak the truth.)  Luckily, Vincent shared some tips on how any type of newcomer can get into collecting vintage comics or comic book art.

"So there's a piece of art for every budget, and there's a budget for every piece of art.  What I always tell collectors that are getting into the art market is figure out which characters you really like, which artists you really like, and stay focused.  Make a list up of what you want to collect. You have to put a strategy together and figure out what you want to do. 

So basically figure out what your budget is, how many pieces you want to buy a year, which characters and artists you like…is really going to help you figure out how to build your collection.  Then after that, you need to see if your strategies and goals are realistic and if you can make it happen.”

Vincent was giving me tons of great tips.  Then, he used the dreaded H-word:  HOMEWORK!!!

"Make sure you do your homework at a convention.  Maybe contact them beforehand and see what types of pieces they'll be bringing to the show, and if there's something you really want to see, you can ask them to hold it in the morning before you show up.  Never be shy.  If you're bringing pieces to trade, use it to bargain and get a discount on top of it.  That's all okay.  People are extremely passionate about this art.  It's all one-of-a-kind.  It's important to realize that you'll always have that one piece.  Hopefully over time, that one-of-a-kind piece will appreciate in value.”

The Comic Art Show can really help you make a different type of investment.  As an added bonus, it can also be a great learning experience for anyone of all ages.  Especially kids.

Jonathan Mankuta, from the high end collectible show on SyFy ‘Hollywood Treasure’, is an avid supporter of the ‘Comic Art Show’.  He’s also a big comic book collector and an expert of comic book art.  After showing up multiple times to this show, he truly sees how important it is for children to especially visit.

“This is a great show for kids because kids get to hold pages of original art used to produce comic books.  That's not something you get on ebay.  It's not something you get on mail order.  This is really where all the artwork is.  Kids get to actually see the process of what comic books are made from.  They get to physically hold it and that's really fascinating for a kid.”

In the long run though, Mankuta admits that this is an opportunity for anyone to be engulfed in a whole new dimension of comic books.  Anyone with just a little bit of love for this hobby will see things in a whole different light.

"If you're new to the comic art hobby, all you need is a love for comic books.  Sometimes you want a gift for someone, sometimes your kid has only seen Spider-Man in the movies or cartoon, maybe your husband has old books from his childhood collection; here is the chance to come in and find what was actually used, hand drawn, from the artist."

With so many people into comics, it’s a matter of time before a show like this becomes the next big thing.  Yes, the original comic art market is small, but the Comic Art Show can open the doors to the many, many, fans of comic books.

As I said before, I was extremely intimidated when walking into this show.  Now, I can’t fucking wait for the next show on September 22. 

I’ve been a comic fan for about 20 years.  After just a few hours of checking out the Comic Art Show, I am now EXTREMELY hooked on the original art side of comics.  I know for a fact you will be too.

***MY YOUTUBE REVIEW OF THE SHOW***


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