The Collector’s Market for Comic Artwork is Still Thriving

Rob Salkowitz at Forbes says the artwork market is still doing well after a year of Coronavirus:


The market for original comic art continues to draw the interest of fans, collectors and speculators despite the nearly year-long draught of conventions, gallery shows and in-person auctions. Just last month, “The Blue Lotus,” an original painting by Belgian artist Hergé of his beloved boy detective character Tintin, sold at auction for nearly $4 million, and top tier artists in Europe and North America are seeing strong demand for their work.

To get a current read on the market, I spoke to Chicago-based art agent Sal Abbinanti who represents two of the industry’s top talents, Alex Ross and Bill Sienkiewicz. Both straddle the line between fine art and pop culture illustration. Ross is best known for his glossy photorealistic paintings of iconic heroes from DC and Marvel, and has lately branched out into other licensed images like David Bowie and the Beatles. He’s been a top name in comics since he rocked the comics world with the fully painted series Marvels in the early 1990s. Sienkiewicz is comics’ avant-garde expressionist. His energetic mixed-media work changed the look of comics in the 1980s with New Mutants and Elektra: Assassin. Both remain extremely popular with fans and collectors.

Abbinanti says today’s comics art market first took shape in the early days of the Internet, when the niche hobby of collecting the hand-drawn original pages of comic books, which were generally seen as disposable production art in the process of creating the printed comics, started reaching a wider audience. “Europeans had a much stronger appreciation for the original art than we did,” he explained, “so once they had access to American pieces via eBay and online auctions, the prices started going up.”


Captain America by Alex Ross



Sometimes, it’s just simply amazing when foreigners have more respect and dedication to art forms than the USA populace proper. I just think it’s a shame both artists cited are liberals, though the latter is actually far worse than the former, recalling he was taking knee-jerk routes attacking the Comicsgate campaign a few years ago, instead of just keeping his mouth shut. Most of the people who likely don’t care as much about the art form as Europeans do may be leftists, the very kind who’ve been leading to blacklisting and censorship today. In which case, no wonder the art form winds up deteriorating.


That aside, this subject reminds me of something that needs to be considered: if this is a valid market, why are there still many publishers specializing in only so many variant covers for their monthly pamphlet comics, rather than sell the illustrations as something to hang up on the wall of a house, museum or art gallery, instead of something that’s bound to gather dust inside a longbox for years to come, and nobody’ll see it clearly as a result? Any publisher not willing to consider the variant cover approach is more like a joke can’t be surprised the business is collapsing around us.


George Perez from JLA vs Avengers


So if the above specialists are trying to market according to portraits rather than pamphlets, they’re taking a much wiser path, setting a better example, and that’s how to get the art form recognized. If most publishers today want to earn more income, they’d do well to enter the art market by selling their paintings as something to hang on a wall in full display, not something to stick in a longbox where it’ll surely be forgotten for years to come.


Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1