1. Please tell us a little about yourself.
I am the son of two Mexican nationals. I grew up in the desert of the Coachella Valley, two hours east of Los Angeles, and two hours from the Arizona and Mexico border driving in different directions. Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico is where my grandpa would go to buy his prescription medicine. On his way back, he’d stop in Niland, California, to fuel up at a general store and there he chose at random a comic book from the spinner rack as a special treat for me upon his return. My grandpa knew two words of English: cottage cheese. Three words if you count Superman. And yet, despite his illiteracy or because of it, he felt it was important for me to have these “libritos,” or “little books.” He bought me my first comic book when I was six years old and I’ve been a reader since.
I graduated in the year 2000 from the University of California at Riverside with a B.A. in creative writing before attending graduate school at Arizona State University the following fall. I studied poetry writing and received an M.F.A. degree. I have placed poems in various journals, reviews, and anthologies. I have published three volumes of poetry. I spent about a dozen years teaching at various universities, until the birth of my first child in 2014, when I decided to leave academia so I can spend my days with my child (now, children) instead of hours locked up in an office grading papers. I live in San Jose, CA with my wife, daughter, and son.
2. Which piece in your gallery is your favorite?
My favorite piece of comic art is the cover to Azrael #39 by Roger Robinson and James Pascoe. The cover features the climatic rematch between Azrael and Bane, both of whom first went at it during the “Knightfall” storyline. Azrael is my favorite “Bat” character second only to Batman, while Bane is my favorite villain, period. This cover should be iconic. Its powerful composition works both vertically and horizontally.
3. How long have you been collecting comic art and what prompted you to start?
I entered the original comic art market in the spring of 2013. A year before, however, I attended my first con in seven years, Big Wow! Comic Fest, with only $40, a lot of money for me then because I hadn’t been working for year, having taken a year off to write. I blew those two $20 bills on four Frank Miller/Daredevil comics within the first half-hour of the con. Without cash, I decided to attend a panel on collecting original comic art. Comicartfans.com was represented there and I believe Bill Cox was on the panel with three other panelists. The panel gave its audience a basic rundown of what original comic art was and how it was used during the making of a book. Like many of you, I always believed the original artwork was locked up inside the vaults of the Big Two, or that the artwork was something artists never parted from. The idea of collecting something one-of-a-kind, that something didn’t have to be in mint condition to have value appealed to me. The next year at Big Wow, with a whopping $120 in my wallet, I managed to buy three pages in addition to many free and paid doodles. Since then, I’ve never been able to shake off this comic art influenza.
4. How do you display/store your collection at home?
All of my original art is stored in Itoya portfolios of various sizes. I do have two unpublished illustrations framed. One is of Dennis the Menace by Hank Ketcham and the other is a Ferdinand the Bull illustration by Marge Hudson, who was in the Paint and Ink Department during the early days of Disney. Both of these pieces hang in the kids’ room because I want artwork to be a part of their everyday lives.
5. What are your top five most wanted original pages or commissions?
#5 – Dick Giordano and Ed Hannigan’s cover to Batman #372 (June 1984). This is the first comic book that my grandpa bought me. It featured the Grim Reaper on the cover but not in the interiors and this made me, a six- year-old, sad.
#4 – Jack Kirby’s cover to DC’s Super Powers #6 (Feb 1986). This was either the second or third comic book that my grandpa bought me, plus, it was my first Kirby comic. I was probably the last generation of readers to read Kirby off the spinner rack.
#3 – Tom Morgan’s cover to What If… #24 (April 1991). What If Wolverine Had Become the Lord of the Vampires? This issue brought me back to comics in middle school and made me a fan of The Punisher.
#4 – Terry Austin and Hugh Haynes cover to The Punisher #48 (May 1991). Not the sexiest bondage cover I’ve seen but Frank Castle is tied over the mouth of a giant cannon, likely a scud launcher. This was the first comic I bought starring my new “favorite good guy.”
#5 – Rob Liefield’s cover to The New Mutants #100 (April 1991).
After my big brother accompanied our grandpa on one of his medicine runs he handed me this issue. It was also the last comic my grandpa bought for me as he became too old and frail to make those trips again.
View John Espinoza's Gallery