Original Art Inked Over Pencils vs Blue Lines. I Don’t See a Difference

I’ve been buying and collecting original comic book art for almost 20 years now. While the process used to create that art has changed considerably during that time, apparently the mindset of many collectors in this hobby haven’t changed with the times. It’s a mindset built on semantics and narrow definitions that is steadily becoming more irrelevant since the advent of computers and the digital age. The following is an example of why I think we are headed for major sea change in what people are calling “original art” and how we are going to value it. I am going to leave the real names out of this, but the following really happened.

I recently purchased the original art for a variant cover to a mini series published by Marvel from the inker who inked the cover art. He did so over what many are calling a “blue lined” print out of the penciler’s pencil drawing of the cover. I thought it might be “blue lined” when I bought it, but I wasn’t sure because some pencilers have been known to draw with non-repro blue pencils. The art was already signed by the penciler, so I got the inker to sign it as well. After getting such a great deal on it, I recently decided to sell it on eBay to recoup some cash to spend on more comic art at an upcoming comic convention. I listed it as:

COMIC TITLE #1  1:25 Variant Cover Penciler’s Name Original Art

This the wording I used in the Item Description section of my listing:

This is the original art page for the 1:25 variant cover to COMIC TITLE #1 drawn by Penciler(Credits) and inked by Inker. It features a future team of Heroes led by a female Super Hero charging into battle. The art has been signed by both Penciler and Inker in the margin at the bottom.

Admittedly I forgot the mention that it might be inked over “blue Lines,” but what I said was factually correct. This item was among 20+ auctions I was uploading and starting on eBay that evening, and I regret that now. 29 Minutes after the auction went live, eBayBuyer (2219) decided to end the auction by agreeing to pay the Buy It Now price listed. I was happy as I was going to make a nice profit on the deal and it gave me hope that the rest of the items might sell quickly too.

The buyer didn’t pay right away and I thought this odd, but decided to wait until the next day to send him an invoice through eBay. Still nothing. I put in my auctions that I expect payment within 3 days of the auction ending. I gave him 4 because I didn’t send an invoice until the day after the auction ended. I decided to send him a message through eBay and sent the following:

I was wondering if you were planning on following through on the Buy it now purchase and submit payment?

Later that night the buyer sent what he owed on the auction. I packed up the art, burned my hi-res scans to disc and threw in a copy of the comic with the variant cover for free. He got the art 2 days later and I got the following message in my eBay inbox:

Hi, I jut want to be sure. This really is Penciler’s Name art right? Like this isn’t a blue line printed photocopy that Someone inked over, these are Pencilers original pencils under the inks and there is no other original pencils out there for this specific cover?

I responded with what I knew, but deep down I knew he was going to ask to return the Art.

I bought the page directly from Inker’s Name, who is the inker on the cover. I didn’t ask him if it was inked over the original pencils or a blue line of the pencils, when I bought it. This is the art page that was used in printing and coloring the cover.

I could tell by his question he’s one of, I don’t know how many, art collector’s out there that claim that unless the penciler drew on the same art board that the inker inked, you can’t claim it’s original art by the penciler. And I was right:

Well that’s a big deal. If it’s just printed blue lines then it’s not actually drawn by Penciler’s Name. This piece was sold a being drawn by Penciler. I just spoke to the inker and he confirmed this isn’t actually drawn by Penciler but is a print out in blue line be inked.

Since this isn’t actually drawn by Penciler but a photocopy someone inked then it’s not a Penciler’s Name cover and I would like to return it.”

I knew it. I gave myself one chance to persuade him to change his mind, but I knew it probably wouldn’t work:

Blue-lined or not what is on that board is what Penciler drew, his inker embellished and was printed by Marvel. Many art teams work this way, especially under tight deadlines. I disagree with you assertion that it’s not Penciler’s Name art. Inker inked over something. The drawing didn’t magically appear on the page. Penciler drew the cover. Inker didn’t draw it. He inked it.

It may not be to your preferred method of working, but this is how art is being done these days. There are many artists that are doing their “pencils” digitally and then are sending that file to the inker who who does exactly what Inker did here. Scott Williams inked over blue lines of Neal Adams on Batman Odyssey are you going to tell anyone who buys those inked pages that they aren’t really buying Neal Adams art?

If it’s not Penciler’s art then why did he sign the page?

If you want to return it then I won’t fight it, but I think it’s beholden upon the buyer to ask questions before jumping in and buying something so quickly. You took it out of sale for 4 days (less than 30 minutes after it was listed) before you paid for it and never once asked anything about it before you did.

I was wrong about Scott inking over blue lines with Neal Adams. I misremembered something in a 4-year-old interview (DRAW! #22) with Scott Williams about inking in general and his experience with Neal Adams on Batman Odyssey. They covered the topic of inking over blue Lines and I somehow years later made an incorrect statement.

I woke up the next morning with a notice in my email box from eBay that the buyer has requested to return the item. I opened the link in my email and eBay is asking me to pay for the return postage after I had already paid to ship it to him in the first place. His reason for return was that the item didn’t match the description. Here’s what he wrote to justify it:

item is not the original art drawn by named artist but inked print. Verified with person who inked. SPoke to seller and they agreed to return.

Inked print?!

I talked to eBay and after explaining it to a customer service rep, I am not going to be out any more money in this deal. He has to pay the return shipping and then if it’s not damaged when I get it back, he will get a refund.

When I buy original comic art, I want to buy it in the most finished form out available (which is usually inked).  There are some pieces out there that have never been inked traditionally. I have a double-page spread by Drew Johnson, that was digitally inked, by darkening up the pencil drawing.  I also have a set of pencils and the inks over blue line for the same comic page of WINTER SOLDIER. I own 2 beautiful Flash(2014 and 2015) pinups by Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund that were inked over what Norm calls a “pencil print” (rather than print out the pencils as blue, he does a light grey). There are some inkers who ink digitally and sell one off prints of their work, but they don’t charge much for them, as it’s a rather new market, and collectors haven’t figured out how to place a value on them.

The notion that unless the artist drew on the page that you can’t call it drawn by him/her is absurd. If I scan in a drawing and email it to you, That’s a copy of the drawing, but it’s still drawn by whomever originally drew it. Marvel credited the cover as drawn by the Penciler and their source for printing the cover was the art that was inked over the blue lines.

I have heard some collectors say that unless it’s inks over pencils they don’t accept it as the penciler’s work. It’s as if they view inkers as nothing more than a person who traces  the penciler’s work and nothing more.

There maybe are some inkers out there who do just that, but most inkers embellish the penciler’s work adding depth and shading that many times isn’t the in the raw pencils. In my opinion, the best inkers are good artists themselves.

To understand what inkers bring to the art, you should check out the pieces produced as part of the Joe Sinnott Inker challenge that the Inkwell Awards sponsors and have posted to their ComicArtFans Gallery. It started in 2011 and has been done every year since. Two images drawn by Sinnott are emailed out  each year  to the participants who enter the challenge. They all print out and ink over the same base drawing. What becomes evident when looking through the entries posted, is how much or little an inker can bring to the artistic process.

I think I’ve said my piece and given my point of view. Whether you agree with me or not, you have to admit that the comic art hobby is going through an evolution and unless we change with it, we as collector’s may miss out on some great gems due to such rigid definitions and regret them later.

In Memoriam of Henry Huie, or How I Learned About Collecting Comic Art

(Originally I was going to post this yesterday, but didn’t want anyone to think this had anything to do with April Fool’s Day)

Henry hard at work in his restaurant

Henry hard at work in his restaurant

A year ago today, I got a text message from my Mom saying that my friend Henry Huie had died. Before I responded back, I had some googling to do and see if I could verify his death before responding. It was April Fool’s Day after all. I came across one news story about his death, but that was also published on April 1st, so I was still suspicious that perhaps I was being pranked. The news article mentioned where the wake was planned, so I went to their website and I found that Henry’s death was true.

Henry was a customer, friend and mentor who I trusted to tell it to me straight and not mince words if he thought I was doing something stupid. I first met Henry when I was attending college and working at Phoenix Comics in Houston in the mid 90s. He only came into the shop once a month, but picked everything up and would flip through the Previews or Advance Comics to see if he wanted to special order anything. It wasn’t until I bought the store in 1995 that I got know him more. He ran a small diner in the neighborhood, called Sam’s Deli Diner, and the reason he only came in on the last Sunday of the month is because that is the only day he closed his diner except for holidays.

About 6 months after I took over the store, now called Genesis Comics, and was running all by myself, I decided to close on Sundays. When I told Henry of this he wasn’t thrilled, but we came up with a solution. I would bring his comics and special order items to him once a month at his diner along with a copy of Previews so he could see if there was anything he wanted to order. This worked out for both of us. He didn’t need to make a special trip on his one day off a month and I discovered a new favorite place to stop and grab a bit to eat on my way home after the store closed.

jones ageofinnocence7

Age of Innocence

Over the years I got to know Henry better and we became friends, and I discovered that he was a massive collector of Fantasy and Comic art. He had such a large collection that it practically took over his modest 3 bedroom home in the Spring Branch area of Houston. He had pieces like “Age of Innocence” by Jeff Jones hanging on his walls. “Artemis and Apollo” by Barry Windsor-Smith was hanging above his couch in his living room. He collected a wide range of art, but the Studio guys ( Jeff Jones, Barry Windsor-Smith, Michael Kaluta and Bernie Wrightson) were his favorites. He also liked art from MAD Magazine as well.

Artemis and Apollo

Artemis and Apollo

At one point in 1998 there happened to be a Comic show on the last Sunday of the month and Henry decided to go to the show as well. It was a small show, but they had some artists there. I was and still am a fan of the Flash and Paul Ryan was at the show and had some of his art with him to sell. Henry suggested i buy a page. I wasn’t sure, but what he told me something about collecting art that started me down the road of art collecting that I still am on today. He said, ” You can buy a comic book and have one copy that is just like the other thousands out there that everyone else can own, or you can buy this page of art and you are the only one who will have it.”  That made sense to me and I ended up buying a page where Wally is trying out his newly created Speed Force suit after breaking his leg in the previous issue. I still own that page today, and It’s one of my favorites. My collection has grown from that first page I purchased in 1998 to around 150 pieces currently. Each piece I own has a story on how I acquired it and has a special meaning to me as well.

Flash v2 #132 page 11

Flash v2 #132 page 11

In June of 2000 I closed down my comic shop and moved to Los Angeles to work with my best friend from high school, Joseph Kahn, who had become a high-profile director of Music Videos and Commercials at the time. I helped Henry move his subscriptions and special orders over to another shop I recommended, and every time I got back to Houston to visit family and friends, I always stopped by his restaurant and we would talk about art and what we would like to buy. I always brought my portfolios with all my new art with me and he would critique my newly purchased pieces. Several years back Henry sold his entire collection off, as he wanted to build up enough funds to make an offer for a piece by Frank Frazetta. He never got the piece he wanted, but as he told me “You’ll never know, if you don’t make the effort.” I last saw Henry over the Christmas Holiday’s at the end of 2013. He had finally moved to a new house out in Katy and was talking about getting back into buying new art again. He discovered some pieces that had never gotten cataloged as part of the deal when he sold his collection off those years ago. I think finding those pieces re-ignited that fire for collecting he had let simmer over the years.

Henry may be gone from this world, but to me he lives on with every piece of art I purchase. I’ve told the story about how I got into collecting art to numerous people over the years and I always credit Henry with igniting my passion for what I do.

Flash_v4_PinUp_OA_CAF_1250

Hello world! again!

I’ve decided to reboot my website and blog and start it all over.

I plan to write more often and about more topics than I did before. I’ve avoided politics and religion in the past, but not if I feel the urge to vent, rant, or rage on any topic, I will. My main areas of interest are technology, comic books, comic art, music, films along with many others that are too numerous to list.

My goal is to have at least one new posting a week, with more frequent posts a possibility.