The Joys of Blank Covers

Back in the day, liking an artist’s style of drawing meant asking said artist to either sketch IMG_6163something over top of a comic cover or to create something on poster board.  In the early 2000s, Dynamic Forces, a company IMG_6162 who bills itself as the top producer of limited editions and autograph memorabilia; used to offer something called “remarked”covers. These were comic books with small sketches from a significant artist. Said covers could range in price from $50 through $100, depending of course on the artist and popularity of the character.

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Sean Chen rocked this Wolverine.

In 2009, The Marvels Project issue one was published. With this book Marvel introduced a card stock semi-blank cover. We collectors snatched them up. The potential was limitless, with the open space on the cover, one could get their very own commission piece. Add CGC‘s offering to authenticate the artist signature/drawing and a whole to market of original art is born. Marvel seized on the popularity of the blank covers and began issuing them whenever a significant issue number came up. DC moved a bit slower but eventually they too offered card stock blank cover to their comic lines. Today, most of the comic publishers offer a blank cover to entice collectors during a relaunch or exception comic book issue.DSC_0324

What does this do for us collectors? It gives us the opportunity to get awesome customized covers by our favorite artists. I’ve had the privilege of meeting and negotiating with several of my favorite artist for blank cover commissions. The covers end of being some of the best pieces in my collection and I proudly display them in my comic cave. Here are some words of wisdom based on my experience soliciting artists for commissions.

Not all artists are the same. Some artists are very careful with comics and attempt to give

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Some of my many commissioned covers.

the requester an amazing piece. The artist offers several options for the commission and has reasonable pricing. Whats more, these artist truly enjoy what they do and love sharing that enthusiasm with their fans. Matt Kindt, Terry Moore, Nick Dragota, Charles P. Wilson III and Matteo Scalera are names that easily come to mind. They were great people to talk with and to request commissions from. There are more out there like these guys and it makes this hobby all the more enjoyable with each experience.

Some artist are jaded and believe anything they sign or draw will end up on eBay for an exorbitant

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Matteo Scalera was wonderful. This is one of my favorite pieces.

amount of money. Because of this mindset said artists charge a large fee for anything requested. Some artist just don’t care about their fans and care even less about the art you just commissioned. These artists are wrapped up in their own world (in some cases with good reason cause they can f-ing draw amazing things but still…) which mean you get what you get good/bad or indifferent. I once prepaid an artist for a full body sketch commission of Superman. The sketch didn’t arrive until six months after the con. Even more insulting, it wasn’t the commission I requested. So, I shifted my preference to sketch covers instead.

One time prior to a con I planned to attend,  I worked with an artist for a commission. We discussed pricing and pose type DSC_0325for the blank cover, I was excited. He let me know that he wanted payment prior to starting the commission. I agreed. This was months before the comic con where we would meet so I wasn’t too worried about the timing, however that artist sent me daily email reminders for payment. I paid a month in advance and provided one of my favorite blank covers (to my regret I only had the one). Immediately after paying the artist, I stopped hearing from him. I priority mailed the blank cover we had discussed and asked the artist to let me know when he received it. I heard nothing from him. I sent one additional follow up message, hoping the book arrived on time and in good condition. I didn’t get a response from DSC_0322the artist until a week out from the con. He said he finished the commission but that he lost the blank cover I provided so he used something he had laying around. Needless to say, the blank he provided was not the limited edition I sent. Lesson learned; only provided a collectible to an artist you’ve worked with in the past and trust or you risk getting burned. I intentionally don’t mention names of the folks I’ve had bad experiences with on purpose. I admit however that I praise those with whom I’ve had good experiences because they were really nice to me and as it turned out great people to meet. Win/Win

Some artist have brokers who do the negotiating for them. These middlemen provide the basic information needed, such as cost of commission, method of commission and wait list is there is one. The plus side to this is you know whether or not you are you are the commission list, you know the cost of said commission and there’s some guarantee that the commission will be done in a timely manner (usually during the con) so you get your piece right away.

The drawback to the middle man is you don’t usually get to build a rapport with the artist you admire. Too the middle man doesn’t give a crap about you or your admiration at the fan, he or she see you as a number, a customer someone they have to deal with on behalf of someone else.

DSC_0326Okay all that said and done, let’s talk about blank covers and commissioned art. I try to keep a variety of blank covers on hand so that when an opportunity presents itself, I’m ready. Most of the character’s I like are creator owned, but that doesn’t stop me from using any of the big two’s covers for my commissions.

Oh and I should also note that thanks to CBCS, there  is a way to get a commission cover drawn and certified outside of attending a con. The lovely folks at CBCS offer a service whereby the artist signs a statement and mails the comic directly to the CBCS office.

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The unique style of Talent Caldwell.

I’ve used this service for Charles P Wilson and Janet Lee, it was a godsend and my comics arrived to CBCS in good condition. It is a good idea to check with both the potential artist and CBCS for instructions on how to use this method.

Additionally, CBCS has added to the services they offer for authentication, you can have your comic signature authenticated or certified as original “art”. The difference here is the comic isn’t graded, it is authenticated, encapsulated and labeled ‘original art’. Good stuff in my opinion.

Comics are awesome

Since November 2016, my social media has been overshadowed by politics. I feel I would be remiss if I ignored what’s happening from the executive branch in Washington DC so I’m not apologizing for the attention I give politics on on my twitter page.

Still I look at my stack of funny books and smile knowing they bring me some measure of happiness. So here is a current pic of the comic cave. IMG_5988I’ve a lot of books to put away. In the mean time here are some of the awesome titles I’m currently reading. Oh and I also collect Funko Pops, I specifically like exclusive. Though I’ve been in love with #StrangerThings since it’s release so I indulged myself with these awesome toys.

I’ve been reading and enjoying Gail Simone’s Clean Room since issue 1. It’s been funny, dark, scary and brilliant all at once. The main character Astrid Mueller is amazing but I admit my favor is Killian who I see as a total badass. Clean Room is comprised of nightmares, death, dreams and redemption. Standing between us and certain annihilation is Astrid and her army of rooks. I’ve tweeting about this comic since it first appeared in Previews. Not one issue has been disappointing. It’s full of twists and turns, heroics and betrayal. I admit I’m in love with this book and will collect it until Gail doesn’t write it anymore.

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I love a good mystery and murder mysteries are my favorite. So of course Matt and Sharlene Kindt have roped me in with #DeptH. I’ve blogged about this comic before and my praise still stands. This books is amazing. An advance science team is living on the ocean bottom while exploring and discovering it’s many mysteries. During routine exploration and analysis a portion of the under water station explodes. There is only one casualty of the explosion…the smartest man on earth. Enter Mia, a scientific genus in her own right; to investigate the suspicious death. Was the explosion just a freak accident or is there more sinister plan in effect? Mia suspects everyone including her own brother, for when it comes to this investigation, she will get to the bottom of who killed her father in this suspenseful tale.

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Wildstorm is a new book I’ve been reading, written by the great Warren Ellis. I’ve only read issue 1 but I admit this comic has all the makings of something grand. Here are a couple if pages that I enjoyed from the book. I will definitely be reading issue 2.

There’s no comic more full of rich charaters and all things fantastic than Monstress. Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda immerse the reader in a fantastical world of witches, beasts and spirits set to a steampunk backdrop. Everyone has a angle and none is more driven to achieve her goal than Maika Halfwolf. She has and will sacrifice any and all to get answers to her mother’s mysterious death. This comic is Anthropomorphism done right with an opulent array of diverse characters. There’s something for everyone small cats with three tails, large cat in business suites, wizards who sprout wings, pirates with shark crewmen, its eye-candy for the mythical soul.

When I’m not reading comics, but still want some comfort, I snuggle with my 4 year old.

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21 Comics that are better than DJT or How I spent inauguration day 2017

Rather than give the media any of my time this day, I chose instead, to spend my time in the comic cave reading some of my favorite comics. Some of the comics held a special political meaning for me while others were just plain fun to read. In any case, here’s my list:

img_58221. Wolverine vol. 3 “Old Man Logan” Issues 66-72
Mark Millar can have my money; I will throw it at him if he keeps writing great stories such as this. The premise: Logan has long since given up the Wolverine mantle and lives life on a post-apocalyptic frontier as a pacifist farmer. Enter Hawkeye with the promise of adventure, mayhem and some much-needed cash. img_5823

2. The Killer vol. 1
An assassin with no moral compass is available to the highest bidder in this tale of espionage and murder. Matz and Luc Jacamon provide an in-depth look at a man who operates in the shadows of the underworld, who kills without mercy and never asks questions.

img_58163. Granville vol. 1
Scotland Yard, chief inspectors and world domination on steampunk steroids. Granville is s tale of conspiracy and government covers up shown through the lens of anthropomorphic splendor by the talented Bryan Talbot. img_5819

4. Wild’s End
The country side of England is quiet, peaceful and full of fire from the sky. An unassuming retired community is terrorized by an invader from out of space. Afternoon tea will never be the same thanks to Dan Abnett and INJ Culbard.

img_58155. Mind MGMT
Matt Kindt takes us on a journey of mind control, secret societies, political espionage  and world domination. We are all being controlled, convinced that what we see isn’t really happening and what’s happening is beyond imagination. So, what’s to stop an investigative reporter from blowing the lid off the whole thing? img_5820

6. Just a Pilgrim
The world burned and took mankind with it. Staying alive is a daily goal, eating a decent meal is a distance second. Still, the Pilgrim isn’t phased, for he had a purpose and a guide through the good book. Will anything shake is faith? From the brilliant mind of Garth Ennis, prepare for the end is nigh.

img_58177. Proof vol 1 “Goatsucker” Issues 1-5
The government has a secret program used to address unnatural phenomena where ever it occurs. In this world created by Alex Grecian and Riley Rossmo, Big Foot has a name, wears a suit and fears nothing as he protects mankind.screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-8-39-24-pm

8. Superman: King of the World
Superman takes over the world in a power grab to protect the innocent and thwart evil. Karl Kesel shows us what can happen when the man of steel takes over as ruler of Earth.

screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-8-42-02-pm9. Y the Last Man
Brian K. Vaughan is no stranger to a well written saga (see what I did there?). In Y, we learn that a disease has wiped out all species with the y chromosome. Well except Yorick Brown, who wakes up and finds he is the last man on earth. How will the survivors, all women receive him?screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-9-19-26-pm

10. Rotten
It’s the wild west; guns, horses, cowboys, hold-ups and zombies? This comic was written back when a non popular vote president took office during the 2000s. Mark Rahner and Robert Horton pull no punches with political satire and familiar zombie faces.

screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-9-22-01-pm11. Mystery Society
When Nick and Anastasia when the lottery, they pursue their dreams. They chase down conspiracy rumors, thwart the government and break into Area 51. What fun! Nick and Anastasia’s antics are beautifully illustrated by the fabulous Fiona Staples and wonderfully penned by Steve Niles. screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-9-25-45-pm

12. The Cape
What happens when a loser learns his childhood blanket posses super powers? He turns his life around, rights wrongs and fights for justice right? No that’s not how Eric does things. Joe Hill and Jason Ciaramella take us on a dark ride of vengeance led by a man with super strength and the ability to fly.

screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-9-26-44-pm13.  Astonishing X-men vol. 3 “Gifted” Issues 1-6
Cyclops forms a new team of X-men to watch over mutant youth. The team’s first assignment, stop an alien holding human hostages. Oh and a mad scientist has come up with a cure for the mutant gene. Joss Whedon writes the return of Kitty Pryde with style and flair.screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-9-18-22-pm

14. Rachel Rising
Go out for a night on the town and wake up in a shallow grave with a noose still tired around your neck; thus the beginning of Rachel Rising by the illustrious Terry Moore. Its a murder mystery and so much more as Rachel tries to find her killer while fighting the likes of Lilith and Malus.

img_582115. Superman: Red Son
In 2003, Mark Millar penned an elseworld story that imagined a baby Kal-El landing in the Ukraine during the age of Stalin. Comrade Superman is an easy pawn for a communist regime. screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-9-30-05-pm

16. All Star Superman
There’s nothing like a Superman comic written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Frank Quietly. Clark/Superman is oh so human, so compassionate, he shows his vulnerabilities, offers his powers to Lois and makes the ultimate sacrifice for a stranger.

screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-9-30-42-pm17. Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft
A tragedy in their home forces a family to relocate to an estate in Lovecraft, Massachusetts. Soon it’s discovered there are forces in play that manipulate everyone associated with Key House. It’s the ultimate fight between good and evil, thanks to Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-9-33-50-pm

18. Stuff of Legend
Into the Dark to rescue the Boy, a group of toys and his pet dog venture to fight The Booegyman. Mike Racist, Brian Smith and Charles P Wilson compose a melancholy tale of courage and betrayal.

screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-9-37-19-pm19. 30 Days of Night
It’s a vampire’s dream, a remote town full of warm blood and no sunlight in sight. All that’s needed is to cut off all communication inside and out and let the feeding begin. A master of horror tales Steve Niles hones a vampire narrative for the modern age; Ben Templesmith aptly provides the images.screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-9-36-51-pm

20. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 “Long Way Home” Issues 1-4
Joss Whedon and Georges Jeanty bring us the eighth season of everyone’s favorite vampire slayer. Buffy is operating in a world full of other slayers yet the threat of world annihilation has not lessened. This comic picks up where the television show left off.

img_581821. RASL
On the surface, Jeff Smith introduces a character that appears to be a raging alcoholic art thief who has the means to travel between dimensions of earth. Who is RASL and how did he come upon The Drift?

All in all it was a day well spent.

Ahh the smell of Speculation

I try not to speculate about comics as I was one of many who was burned during the 90s bad girl foil limited edition variant cover shenanigans. I remember when Image had a few titles and Todd McFarland was still writing and drawing comics. That said, each Wednesday I check out Comic Book Scalping for shits and giggles.

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Image from Comic Book Scalping December 2016

Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised by finding something interesting to add to my hunt list. Other times, I’m tickled to find that a comic I own is a hotly sought after item with high resale value. Screen Shot 2017-01-11 at 10.07.10 AM.pngTake for instance this blurb about #GothamCitySirens. I had no idea it was so popular among speculators. Why? Because there’s going to be a movie with the same title, staring Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy and Catwoman. For me, it feels a little bit like The Walking Dead boom all over again (granted on a small scale but still). I picked up the variant back when it first hit the shelves because I liked the way J.G. Jones draw the ladies. Even if the suggested speculation price is inflated, any price over the $5.99 I paid is a bonus.

 

Many of the comics I like to read, turn up on this speculator’s list of books to look for; case in point “Postal” by Matt Hawkins and Bryan Hill.

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Image from Comic Book Scalping September 2016

Oh yeah and last week when I finally got to my local comic shop and discovered that I had 2 copies of the recalled issue of Saga… imagine my happiness! Seems I will soon be sending a group of books off to CBCS for grading!

Yes, I have been living under a rock as I was not aware that Skybound now has a quarterly subscription box service. If I had the spare cash, I would definitely sign up for this. Here is a link to the cool write up in Comic Book Scalping Skybound MegaBox.

Better Beginning

2016 was one of the most difficult years of my adult life. Things well out of my control spiraled downhill and no matter what I was stuck on that ride. So 2016 went bye bye yesterday, I won’t miss it and I hope to never repeat a year like it. I am hopeful… for a better beginning, for a better life and a better future. I hope to find the happiness and joy comics used to bring me. It will happen.screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-8-46-40-am

Bone the Great Adventure

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I’ve been reading some really good comics lately and it has helped as I recover from my depression. I have been tweeting about some of the stories but for the most part I want to mention them here. My current loves are: Clean Room, Giant Days, Postal, Saga, Mae, Black Hammer, Harrow County and Dept. H. I tried some new comics recently, “Spell on Wheels” and “Seven to Eternity”. So far I have been quite pleased with both. I imagine as I heal and am more myself, there will be more books added to my list. For now, this is good I think. img_5583

In between playing Pokémon Go (yes I still play though Niantic keeps updating the fun right out of it), I have been reading some olimg_5587d stuff and some new stuff. I revisited Bone, a truly wondrous tale by the great Jeff Smith.

At one point I had 4 copies of the one volume edition, I gave one away (to encourage more fans), yet still have three. One is a reader copy, the one read through most recently and man did I finger those pages (haha). One is a limited edition leather volume with lovely gold foil.  My last copy is part of a limited edition box set that I never opened. I adore the thing too much to take the plastic off.

What starts off as a fun-filled silly adventure morphs into a ‘Lord of the Rings’ rival. It’s entertaining, full of drama and imaginative. Still re-reading Bone got me excited to finally read my copy of Bone: CODA. img_5589I love that it picked up right where the original tale left off. As a fan of this story and its creator, what a great way to start a new chapter.

Been too long

It’s been a while since I read a comic book, let alone posted about it. My twitter page has been quiet as well. This is attributed to problems in my personal life. I will try not to go into too much detail however in the interest of “self care,” here’s my story.

I used to think I worked for one of the best companies on the planet. I felt I had a promising career and future there. I was so into my company and enjoying my job that I volunteered personal time and joined projects without being asked. Things were going great until my old boss retired. The new boss was fine at first…it was business as usual and I was still loving life and my job. Then something changed, my boss started harassing me. Everyday it was something new, a constant moving target.

I persevered in rough conditions out of my control for two years. Needless to say things that used to bring me solace and joy no longer had effect. As things became more and more difficult for me, I lost interest in my wonderful hobby. This blog was the first casualty, then my social media presence and finally (hate to admit it) comics. Every now and then I walk into the comic cave and look at the bags of books I should be dying to read and at the boxes of graded comics I should be racing to open. Instead, I sit and stare at nothing or lay on the couch binge watching television. I’m startled by abrupt noises, I have headaches, hypersensitivity, nightmares, mood swings and a hard time concentrating, worst of all I’ve lost my sense of humor.

I am hopeful. I am getting help and I hope to recover, I hope to be myself again and I hope to find that old joy I used to get when Wednesdays rolled around. I’m hopeful.