1. Please tell us a little about yourself.
I’m the son of immigrants who came to the United States for college in the late 1960s and then decided to stay and build a life here. My professional life has been split between working in the biopharmaceutical industry and in the arts.
In pharma, I’ve been mostly involved in translational research and product development for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s Disease. I founded Panacea Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in 1999 to develop cancer diagnostics and therapeutics along with neurodegenerative disease therapeutics. At Panacea, I served as President/COO and today remain a Special Consultant and member of the Board of Directors.
While at Panacea, I was desperately looking for a creative outlet, some kind of release from the stress and 80 hour plus work weeks. It led to me to finding art again, and I began by acting as pro bono counsel or art agent to a half dozen artists whose work I believed in and who were at a place where they could benefit from some of my experience. I hooked up with my close friend Hans Rueffert at Luna7 to help out with their artists, too. The artists I worked with included a mix of comic book artists, illustrators, and fine artists such as Scott Radke, Ted McKeever, Richard A. Kirk, menton3, and Clive Barker.
For the last decade, I’ve been slowly moving full-time into the arts, starting VEI Studios to develop original screenplays, publish books, curate art gallery shows, and represent emerging artists. In 2011, I co-created and wrote the four-issue creator-owned comic book series MONOCYTE with menton3 at IDW Publishing.
This led to me helping start 44FLOOD, an artist collective and publisher. At 44FLOOD, I’ve been Creator/Curator/Editor of the TOME anthology series; Editor of LUST by Steve Niles, Ben Templesmith, and menton3; Creator/Curator/Editor of LIBRETTO Volume 1 co-published with IDW; Creator/Writer of KATABASIS I with menton3; and Editor/Art Whisperer of both THE SQUIDDER and DAGON by Ben Templesmith. Right now, I’m creating the art book SCOTT RADKE: ANTUMBRAE.
I also created and ran a weekly art project called MONSTER MONDAYS where I’d find and recruit artists to make monsters of their own creation, which 44FLOOD would then post every Monday morning for viewing and sale. The project ran for 34 weeks and included over 100 pieces of art. I’ve also curated a number of gallery shows including the Villains & Assassins group show in July 2011 at Strychnin Gallery in Berlin, TOME 1: Vampirism group show April 2013 in Chicago, the TOME 2: Melancholia group show October 2013 at Last Rites Gallery in New York City, and the MONSTRUM group show November 2014 at Gallery Provocateur in Chicago.
I’m finally at a place where I’ll be working only on personal art and projects, which will include writing, painting, book making, filmmaking, and MODOK.
2. Which piece in your gallery is your favorite?
The hardest question. I’ll pick the Wolverine Netsuke #3 cover by George Pratt. It’s such a beautiful and immersive piece. I bought it right as I was getting back into comics, which by luck was just after this series came out. And over the years, George and I have become close friends. So, even as an adult, this piece managed to have deep sentimental value, and it looks more and more incredible to me with each passing year.
3. How long have you been collecting comic art and what prompted you to start?
I think it was 2002 when my brother Ray said, “Hey, you can buy original comic art. There’s this whole community with collectors and dealers. This stuff is real!”
Like a lot of people, I was totally in the dark about it. The idea that this art existed and could be bought was the furthest thing from reality. Really strange blind spot, no?
If I remember right, the first pages we bought were by Sam Keith on Albert Moy’s site. They were from the Wolverine/Hulk mini series that had just come out. Incredible art, and I think Sam was donating the sales to ACTOR and the CBLDF. We were in big time, and addicts before the package even arrived.
By the time you mixed in the Yahoo ComicArt-L, eBay, SDCC, and CAF, it was a lifestyle.
4. How do you display/store your collection at home?
Over the years, I’ve gotten a ridiculous number of pieces framed, maybe around 100? They’re in every room wherever I live and wherever I work. I’d feel incomplete and hollow without them around me.
Outside of the framed art, it’s the usual Itoya portfolio storage along with using flat file cabinets. I also “store” art in my friend’s homes. I’ve got a lot of pieces from my collection in different people’s houses around the country.
5. What are your top five most wanted original pages or commissions?
Ted McKeever art from Superman’s Metropolis, Batman: Nosferatu, Eddy Current, and Hellraiser
Ashley Wood MODOK painted commission
Bill Sienkiewicz art from Moby Dick
Phil Hale Johnny Badhair or any primo painting
Jack Kirby Tales of Suspense #94 page
View Kasra Ghanbari's Gallery