Back in the day, liking an artist’s style of drawing meant asking said artist to either sketch something over top of a comic cover or to create something on poster board. In the early 2000s, Dynamic Forces, a company 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.
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.
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
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
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 for 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 the 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.
Okay 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.
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.