1. Please tell us a little about yourself.
I'm 44 years old, I retired from full time comic art dealing several years ago, around the same time that I was transitioning out of collecting mainstream comic art and into non-comics illustration, such as mid-20th century paperback covers and some magazine art. I'm now simply a private investor (equities) and spend most of my time on any given day doing things with my wife, who is a retired financial services rep, and then with our daughter when she comes home from kindergarten. I now also spend lots of time curating my own collection and doing research on paperback cover artists of the 1950s and 60s, and I still deal in comic book art on a very small scale, selling art for three buddies of mine who are currently working pros, Mike Perkins (Deathlok), Andrew Hennessy (Green Lantern: New Guardians and Sinestro), and Mel Rubi (Red Sonja). On rare occasions I still sell some more "vintage" comic art, all just for fun.
2. Which piece in your gallery is your favorite?
That changes from week to week, even day to day. Right now that would be the cover to Scowtown Woman, published by Ace in 1960. Aside from loving the very expressive brush strokes George Ziel employed, I'm also proud to say that Ziel was an unknown artist up until a few years ago, with only approximately nine cover credits to his name, but after spending a few hundred hours doing research, I discovered that his career in paperbacks had actually lasted for 29 years. By the time I was finished completing my checklist, I'd discovered that Ziel had actually painted somewhere in the neighborhood of 350 paperback covers over almost three decades!
My friend Lynn Munroe in California was working on a George Ziel checklist before I did, and we compared notes with each other and it turned out that we had almost identical checklists, thereby confirming in both our minds that the covers we suspected to have been done by Ziel, were definitely his. But Lynn not only researched the cover art, he also always researches the artist's life and background. By the time he had finished that research on George Ziel, an incredible tale of despair, survival and ultimately triumph, had emerged. It turned out that during WWII, Ziel had been sent by the Nazis to the Warsaw Ghetto and then on a train to a concentration camp in Dachau. With pencils and paper forbidden, Ziel use bits of charcoal and any scrap of paper he could find to make sketches of life in the camp. He survived, and after being liberated he spent a year in a hospital. During his convalescence, he made new sketches from the memories that were burned into his mind, of all the horrors he'd witnessed.
A year after the war had ended, a publisher in Germany published many of the drawings as an 'album' (which is extremely rare now), and later as a portfolio, both of which I've since tracked down and acquired for myself but will likely one day donate to a museum or center for Holocaust studies. Needless to say, Ziel eventually fulfilled his dream of moving to America to become an illustrator, and worked right up until his death in 1982. If anyone reading this is interested, I strongly encourage you to read the entire George Ziel story in detail on my friend Lynn's website, as it can be read in full in no more than 12 to 15 minutes, tops and is accompanied by more examples of his cover art.
3. How long have you been collecting comic art and what prompted you to start?
I purchased my first piece of comic art in 1991, and although I had always been aware of vintage paperback and magazine story art, I only got into collecting it hardcore around five years ago. It's actually kind of sad, but the impetus for doing so was the sudden death of Charles Martignette, a somewhat "eccentric" collector who devoted his entire adult life to hunting down and in many cases literally saving countless hundreds of paintings from the garbage collector, preserving them in his home and a warehouse, hoping to one day further the appreciation of vintage illustration with everybody and anybody who showed interest. Approximately a year after his death, the majority of his collection (which numbered over 4000 original paintings!) ended up in the possession of Heritage Auction Galleries and although up until that time I'd resisted having any dealings with them due to their many conflicts of interest and other less than comforting business practices, being able to acquire many great paintings from Martignette's collection was good enough reason to finally make an exception to the rule. So I registered with the auction house and four years and 10 to 12 illustration auctions later, I went from not owning a single vintage paperback cover to owning well in excess of 125. As many art collectors can understand though, it was often a question of bidding on and buying lots of stuff I really wanted to own, but also tons of stuff I really liked yet would otherwise not have purchased except that "the price is just too cheap to pass up!" Ultimately however, I have to admit that most of my favorite pieces have come from networking with dealers and other collectors.
4. How do you display/store your collection at home?
Having started out as a collector of comic book art, it was easy enough to just slide pages into portfolios and flip through those portfolios like books, either on my lap or on a table. I'm also a very tactile person, so I prefer the ability to be able to hold the art in my hands whenever possible and be able to study it up close, so I never found it necessary to frame any of my comic art. Initially, I went into the vintage illustration hobby with that same mentality. Meaning, I assumed the paintings also didn't need to be framed, and figured as long as I had space I'd just frame my absolute favorites and keep the rest standing upright and stacked in front of each other in boxes. About a year ago however, it dawned on me more and more that when it comes to the paintings, unlike the comic art, they were much more difficult to look at and enjoy, because of the fact that I can't simply pull a portfolio of paintings off a shelf and flip through them. So I came to the sad realization that since I was not going to ever frame and hang the ones in boxes, I had to make the decision to put them up for sale or trade, and that's why most of the pieces in my CAF gallery have prices on them.
But as of January 2014, this decision has been a great one because I have now refocused my paperback art collecting strictly to those paintings that I know I'm willing to frame and hang, and I custom frame every piece I buy, even if it already comes in a frame. I've quickly noticed over the past few years during which time I've been custom framing all my “keepers,” that framing and hanging art is truly the absolute best way to get the most enjoyment out of the artwork. Also, making that crucial choice to only buy art that I'm willing to custom frame and hang has really been the thing that allows me to more easily hold off from making impulse purchases, and I really appreciate and enjoy all my keepers hanging throughout the house way more than I ever imagined I could.
5. What are your top five most wanted original pages or commissions?
Honestly, I don't have such a list. I'm happy to say that for several different artists whose work I love, of whom I know most people reading this will never have heard, such as Robert Schulz, Ron Lesser, Robert Maguire, Lu Kimmel, Robet Abbett, Barye Phillips and many others, I've now already acquired what I consider to be "top" examples of their work. I own a couple of Robert McGinnis pieces as well and I love them, but the man did so many incredible covers featuring the female form in all its glory, that I suppose he remains the one artist I can think of off the top of my head who I'm always interested in finding more of so I can upgrade, or even just add to what I already have. Speaking of Robert McGinnis, for all comic art collectors who enjoy collecting pages and commissions of female characters, I highly recommend the brand new book that can be ordered cheaply through Amazon, 'The Art of Robert E. McGinnis'. Both of his previous two books were sellouts, and I expect this one will eventually do the same. If you like signed limited editions, in December there will be one coming out as well and currently it is available for pre-order from noted California book dealer and comic art fan, Stuart Ng.
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