Let's Talk Comics

Let's Talk Comics
With Rob Lamberti
Scarcity and demand play important roles in setting the collectible market value for a comic book, but other elements in the alchemy includes the artist. And there's a large batch of artists that will tickle the fancy of most collectors.
Artists bring someone else’s - or their own - ideas to life.
There is a long list of artists who have had an impact on the hobby and the list below is not exhaustive by any means. A short list includes artists such as Al Feldstein, John Severin, Harvey Kurtzman, Alex Toth, John Buscema, Jack Cole, Mac Raboy, Basil Wolverton, Alex Schomburg, Joe Maneely, Neal Adams, Graham Ingels, Michael Kaluta and Russ Heath.
But my personal short list of artists who I look for when looking for comics include - Jack Kirby (1917-1994).
This prolific artist provided so much to the comics industry. His impact continues to this day and is expected to continue for decades to come. His art was dynamic, expansive and intricate. His larger experimental pieces are guaranteed to provide new discoveries in the beholder for years. He and Joe Simon created Captain America on the eve of the Second World War. The Kirby-Simon team created the romance comic genre.
After Kirby and Simon split, Kirby had a hand in creating the majority of the Marvel super-heroes now enthralling moviegoers and television audiences: the X-Men, the Hulk, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, the Avengers, Nick Fury, SHIELD and Thor.
If anything, Marvel’s fortunes for the most part are still focused on Kirby’s work. His volume of work is legendary and so was his constant development of ideas. His drawing style became the house standard at Marvel and other artists had to be “Kirbyesque” in their drawings.
Over at DC Comics, Kirby created the Fourth World characters, including the New Gods and Mister Miracle, and OMAC. I wouldn't be surprised if DC monetizes some of them in the movies or television.
Steve Ditko (1927-): This reclusive and elusive artist helped Kirby usher in the Silver Age at Marvel, developing moody characters such as Spider-Man and Dr. Strange.
Isn't that Benedict Cumberbatch that’s going to play Dr. Strange in an upcoming movie? Egads!
Steve Gerber (1947-2008): He co-created Howard the Duck, which appears to be Marvel’s next Big Thing. Anything more need to be said? Well, he also worked on Omega the Unknown and Man-Thing for Marvel and the Flash and Metal Men for DC.
John Romita, Sr. (1930-): He had a long career that included Atlas Comics, the precursor to what we now know as Marvel. Romita Sr. took over Spider-Man with issue 39 after Ditko left Marvel. Romita Sr. made an immediate impact with issue 42 when he finally unveiled Mary Jane Watson. My eyes widened when I turned to the last page and I still remember my reaction… Romita used Ann Margret as a model for MJ. Another lasting character he developed was the Kingpin, an evildoer that would later haunt Daredevil.
Wally Wood (1927-1981): His work in comics art spans across the Golden and Silver Ages. There isn't a genre Wood hadn't dabbled in. His work on his creation, THUNDER Agents, is second-to-none.
Wood is considered one of science fiction’s top comic artists. While he worked at Marvel and DC, look for some of his best art in EC Comics and Warren comic magazines.
Will Eisner (1917-2005): One of the pioneers of the modern comic book, his work continuously pushed boundaries in story telling and design. The Spirit is probably his best-known work, introducing characters such as Lady Luck. But his studio, which supplied art for other labels, developed characters such as Blackhawk, Sheena and Uncle Sam. Eisner is considered the father of the graphic novel.
Jim Steranko (1938-): His brief career in comics turned the Silver Age on its head when he got his hands on Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD. He wowed fans with the merging of various artist influences. But it was his Salvador Dali-influenced work on the covers of Nick Fury that indicated a change was coming to comic art. He employed full-page art and two-page spreads that were pioneered by Kirby. But he blew that up when he used a four-page spread, which required the reader to buy a second copy of Strange Tales 167 to capture the full beauty of the effort.
Matt Baker (1921-1959): Drew women for various companies like nobody’s business. He was one of the first Afro-American artists who worked during the Golden Age. One of his greatest creations was Phantom Lady. He died young, 37, of a heart attack.
Bernie Wrightson (1948-): Drew scary things for DC and Marvel, among others. It could be argued he reached his peak with his 1983 version of Shelley’s Frankenstein, but I say almost all of his work is, well, very, very scary, and beautiful.
He mastered his co-creation Swamp Thing and commandeered House of Mystery.
Carl Barks (1901-2000): He built his career drawing Donald Duck for Walt Disney Comics. He created Scrooge McDuck, among others in Duckburg. His original edition Duck comics command a hefty market price and demand.
These artists are among the favourites of collectors and will maintain value, especially in higher grades, over time.
1 & 2 - Jack Kirby's Golden Age Captain America and the Silver Surfer
3 - Steve Ditko artwork - Strange Tales 115, the origin of Dr. Strange
4 - The introduction of Mary Jane Watson, the work of John Romita Sr
5 - Wally Wood's art of Daredevil 5 cover
6 - Jim Steranko's Agent of SHIELD 7, with the Dali-influenced artwork on the cover
7 - Bernie Wrightson’s work, Weird Mystery Tales cover
Next column: Condition of comics
Let's Talk Comics with Rob Lamberti, who started collecting comics when the going price was 12 cents an issue and Peter Parker really was a teenager. He dabbled in the comic convention circuit in the Toronto area for a while, but stopped to concentrate on his career as a not-so-mild- mannered crime reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, where he hoped he managed to record a little bit of history the past three decades.
You can reach Rob at lamberti@cogeco.ca
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