1. Please tell us a little about yourself.
I am a professor of North American Studies at Bordeaux University's Department of Anglophone Studies. I am French (sorry!), born in 1965, and a longtime reader and amateur of comics. To paraphrase the saying of Vizier Iznogoud (a famous French comic-strip character created by writer René Goscinny and artist Jean Tabary), "I have only ever read comics and they have made me what I am." The one reason why I decided at an early age to become fluent in English was to be able to read more American comics than those then available in French translation. Find the right motivation for a kid and he'll learn anything! I studied English language and literature in college, earned a master's degree at the University of British Columbia, and finally completed a doctorate on the cultural history of comic books in America. The latest incarnation of my dissertation is Of Comics and Men, a book released by University Press of Mississippi in 2009. I have managed to focus my academic career on the study of North American popular culture with an emphasis on the comics industry. Hence comic art collecting is actually field work for me (yeah, right!).
2. Which piece in your gallery is your favorite why?
That's a toughie! If I should pick one favorite piece I guess it would be the Steve Ditko wash page from "Demon Sword," a story published in Eerie #8 in 1967. Ditko's wash artwork is peerless. He produced only 80-odd pages for Warren but every single one of them is remarkable, the one I own ranking among the top 10% in my humble opinion. It is also one of the original art pieces I bought the one time I went to the San Diego Comic-Con, in 2002. Renewed thanks to the previous owner of the page, former Marvel inker Steve Mitchell, who agreed to hold the page for me until I came back to France and sent him payment (my credit card was maxed out two days before the end of the show; I wonder why!).
3. How long have you been collecting comic art and what prompted you to start?
My first comic art purchase was a wash page from Ka-Zar by John Buscema (and, I learned much later, Sonny Trinidad) at the Forbidden Planet comic store that used to be located on Denmark Street in London, England. I bought it in July 1983 and still own it today (it's in my CAF gallery of course). I guess my initial exposure to original comic art must have been in January 1979 when I went to the Angouleme comics festival. For the first time I saw comic art exhibited both in museums and in dealers' booths. I was unable to afford actual artwork then (I was 14!) but got autographed drawings in graphic novels. The rest is history; I gathered a few pieces here and there for fifteen years (mostly in Canada, where I lived for three years in the late 1980s) but my comic art collecting took off in 1998 when I became a regular eBay buyer.
4. How do you display/store your collection at home?
I own a little less than 200 pieces stored in two art portfolios and a few dozen autographed drawings in graphic novels. I typically have a dozen pieces displayed in my home. These days, for instance, the artwork featured on my walls is by Kelley Jones & Marc Hempel (Sandman art), Al Capp, S. Clay Wilson, Frank Miller, Charles Burns, Steve Ditko, Dave McKean, Chris Ware, Bruce Timm, Belgian artist Al Séverin, R. Crandall, Johnny Craig, Will Elder.
5. What are your top five most wanted original pages or commissions?
Just look at my want list... My top five most wanted are:
- the splash page of Jerry Grandenetti's "The Spectral Smile of Death" from DC's Ghosts #60 (Jan. 1978)
- a nice page by Paul Pope, preferably from Batman Year 100
- Jean-Claude Forest 1960s art
- the Clea & Dr. Strange commission by Butch Guice and Terry Austin that I saw years ago on the Web and have been unable to track down since
- a really funny Not Brand Echh page by one of Marvel's 60s greats...
View Jean-Paul Gabilliet's Gallery