Friday, July 27, 2007

The Destruction of Ross Andru & Mike Esposito's Zen The Intergalactic Ninja Original Art

What you're looking at is one of the few remaining pages drawn by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito for the Zen, The Intergalactic Ninja series. The book wasn't their best effort, but it did mark the last time that the celebrated duo would see print in a comic book, sadly Ross Andru passed away soon after the book was published, thus while Zen might not have been the most loved, or known, strip of all the Andru & Esposito work, it holds a special place as being their last collaborative effort. That counts for something. The pair did two issues of the book, plus a pin-up that doubled as a cover. Nothing to sneeze at.

So why is there so little art out there? Generally the answer is because the art is hoarded by collectors or dealers. People generally don't want to part with things because it either holds a special place in their hearts, or they're speculating and are just holding on hoping that their purchases will increase in value and make them richer than they already are. I know several people who fall into the latter category, they not only refuse to part with their art, but they'll go as far as to tell you what they have and then refuse to show a scan. I ran into this problem several times with both the Jim Mooney book and the Andru & Esposito volume. I know people who have some great original art, but they won't share it for their own reasons. Perhaps they acquired the art via dubious means and are waiting for the artists to pass away, perhaps they're just mean, who knows and frankly I no longer care. To be fair there are some very major collectors and dealers who are more than happy to share high quality scans whenever they're asked to - good guys one and all.

However with Zen it soon became apparent that it wasn't a case of people not wanting to share their collections, it was more that very few people had anything to share. Each and every time I'd ask people I'd be met with a silence or a statement saying, "I don't have any and have never had any." The sum total of searching for Zen art resulted in the above scan.

Then I got an email in early 2005 from an art dealer who I've always promised will remain anonymous for obvious reasons. I was shocked to read what he had to say about the Zen original art. "About 10 years ago I bought around 150 Andru-Esposito Zen pages, full splashes included, for $3 each. I tried like heck to sell those pages at $5 each with no takers. Then I tried $3 apiece and still no one bought them.

"I started taking the pages to the shooting range for target practice. I figured I was going to get something out of the pages one way or another. They saved me from having to buy targets at 45¢ each. Well, about 30 of 'em bit the dust. All lessor panelled pages. Then I had a guy call me up and take all the remaining pages for $3 each."

30 pages are now gone for good. They can't be recreated, Ross Andru isn't here anymore to do the job and I doubt that Mike Esposito could be bothered. They might be lessor paneled pages, but the fact remains that 30 pages of original art, by a legendary art team, have been destroyed for good. People cry about DC shredding original art back in the '50s and '60s, but trust me, history has taught some people absolutely nothing.

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