1. Please tell us a little about yourself.
I'm an old fart now (sigh). I have a handsome and artistically talented son who is eight years old, and a beautiful, smart wife who makes me feel every day like I won the lottery. I earned a B.S. in Graphic Design, but for nearly thirty years I worked as a library cataloger, and enjoyed it and felt that I was good at it. I was a 60s kid, and that was a great time to be one. It was the Silver Age, and comic books were wonderful then. On TV, we had Batman and The Green Hornet, plus Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, and The Wild, Wild West. At the movies, there was Ray Harryhausen, Fantastic Voyage, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, and Hammer Films. These days, my happiest pleasure besides my family is collecting original comic book and fantasy art.
2. Which piece in your gallery is your favorite?
My favorite is probably the denouement of "The Curse" by Wally Wood, which I read as a teenager in Vampirella #9 in 1970. It's masterfully designed and drawn, and haunting. My friend Dan McGinnis and I used to dig each new Vampi issue as it came out, and we were always amazed at the quality of the art in these Warren magazines. We agreed that Wally Wood in particular was astonishing! Dan died way too young from a heart attack while playing a basketball game, decades later. It turned out, to everyone's shock, that he'd been carrying around an enlarged heart all his life. Soon after, I was wildly lucky to be offered the art for the entire story, which miraculously had stayed intact for almost 25 years at that point. I remembered how Dan and I'd dug this together, and I jumped at the opportunity.
Unfortunately, I made the stupid decision to sell all eight pages after I got married the first time, to my everlasting regret. I sold it whole and hale back to the collector I'd bought it from, and he immediately flipped it to a dealer, who broke it up and sold it to multiple buyers. Ironically, when I could buy any of it back years later, I was able to afford only this single page.
3. How long have you been collecting comic art and what prompted you to start?
Collecting art has brought me welcome distraction in trying times, and a lot of fun and something to feel excited about always. I started in 1994 after seeing the beauty of a Bill Ward Pussycat wash page and a Warren one by Wally Wood up close at a Pittsburgh comic con. I really think my snowballing interest in it from then had more than a little to do with the incredible luck I had straight out of the gate with acquiring things that I really wanted, which probably should've been much harder to find as they practically fell into my lap. (There simply seemed to be fewer competing fellow collectors then, and prices were still relatively sane, you see.) If it had proven as difficult to track down so many of these treasures then as it is today, I probably would've found something else to be passionate about, since I've always been one kind of collector or another.
4. How do you display/store your collection at home?
I only have two of my pieces custom-framed on my walls, a Matt Busch Alley Baggett painting and a Bob Rhett fantasy pin-up of a vampire girl from one of SQP's publications. Everything else is in various-sized Itoyas. I use archival backing boards from Bags Unlimited and archival sleeves from Bill Cole Enterprises for my 11 x 17 and my 8 1/2 x 11 and 9 x 12 pieces. I prefer to consider each Itoya a closed book after I've added a dozen acquisitions in it, because of the heft that accumulates from multiple boards in a single folder. For larger art, I simply insert the pages into an Itoya without boards or Mylars. (I'm still searching for a practical folder to use for my daily newspaper strip examples, so if you have any ideas, please share them.) I really don't really mind not being able to see all of my art around me every day, on display. I find that I can enjoy anew what I've been able to accumulate by pulling out the Itoyas whenever I want and ogling my stuff. This keeps it possible to appreciate my collection from a fresh perspective every time I do. I always end up falling in love with what I have all over again.
5. What are your top five most wanted original pages or commissions?
1. My favorite comic book or comic strip artist is Wally Wood. I'd probably most like to acquire an example from his classic fantasy, "The End," which ran in its original form as Wood intended it in The Woodwork Gazette, as a precursor to his Wizard King hardcover graphic novel.
2. A piece from another Wally Wood sword & sorcery tale, "War Of The Wizards," from Vampirella #10. I've seen or heard tell of pages of every one of Wood's other Warren strips for sale in various places (or in the case of one, complete and in a private collection). But I've never heard anything about this story existing out there anywhere.
3. Another Dejah Thoris illustration that's as beautiful as the one I already own by Jay Anacleto (preferably by Jay).
4. A Frank Thorne example featuring his trademarked luscious ladies.
5. A Gray Morrow Playboy Funnies color strip, especially one that parodies Flash Gordon. Or else that stars his charmingly nubile witch character, Hi-Jinx.
View Mark Yanko's Gallery