Friday, February 08, 2008

Alan Kupperberg’s Stolen Dagwood, Or, “Thank You For Calling Me Back Thirty Odd Years Later And Telling Me I’ve Been Victimized Again On The Same Job”

ALAN KUPPERBERG’S STOLEN DAGWOOD, or, “THANK YOU FOR CALLING ME BACK THIRTY ODD YEARS LATER AND TELLING ME I’VE BEEN VICTIMIZED AGAIN ON THE SAME JOB.”

It began simply enough. I’d spent the weekend updating and revising Alan Kupperberg’s web-site when I received an email asking me about a Dagwood illustration that Alan had done. Not knowing anything about it I forwarded the email onto Alan, knowing that he’d be able to look into his workbook and identify the art, who it was for and when it was drawn, virtually down to the day. Generous to a fault and as honest as they come, Alan replied, giving the history of the piece. Alan’s said, “I believe what you have are parts of a color illustration that I did in November 1976 for a publication called "You Magazine." The article was titled, "Crazy Boss." According to my account book, they stiffed me for $300. I was never paid for it. As I remember it, they printed my color rough rather than the finished piece.” The reply was sent and Alan decided to keep me in the loop for further replies. What happened next surprised us both.

You can see the printed Dagwood illustration to the right of this article. It’s a typical Kupperberg, solid, odd and quirky all at once. If you owned it you’d be happy to have it. You might not frame it, but then again you just might. It’s not a bad piece of art. I asked Alan about not being paid, did this happen often, especially in the mid to late 1970s when artists rights were in full force due to the intervention of luminaries such as Neal Adams. “That assignment was my FIRST slick color magazine illustration, ever,“ Alan said. “That stuff is the Holy Grail for comic book guys. My comics rate might’ve been $85.00 a page back then, so $300.00 was a big deal. I did comics work for Charlton, Gold Key, National (DC), Marvel Comics, Atlas/Seaboard, Warren, Archie Comics, Defiant, Sick, Cracked, National Lampoon and others. And NONE of them ever screwed me on money.” The current ‘owner’ of the art then followed up his email with a series of almost illiterate emails, beginning with this one, which frankly confused both Alan and myself. “Thank you for that info,” it read. “I got it a lot "sale" of unpaid for wharehouses (sic). What to do with it?” Frankly I couldn’t work out what the guy meant – had he picked it up in an auction? Was it part of a job lot of artwork from a bankrupt publisher? My bet is on the latter. As for “what to do with it,” well, Alan was upfront. “Since you asked, I'll give you my opinion. Since my artwork was taken and used by "You Magazine" without payment; I believe it was stolen from me. If I were in possession of stolen property, I would return it to its proper owner. Since you asked.” No malice, no demands, just some friendly advice.

Now I’ll depart for a second and state some facts for those who are reading this. I own a lot of original art. Heaps of it. Virtually all of it is on public display via Bill Cox’s excellent site, ComicArtFans. It’s there for all to see. I own pieces by Norm Breyfogle, loads of that stuff in fact as Norm is a close friend of mine and I like his art a lot. I’d say that about 85% (if not more) of my Breyfogle art has come directly from Norm himself. Each time I buy a new piece I alert him to where it came from and ask his opinion. I’ve yet to have Norm tell me that a piece of art might be stolen, or that he was never paid for it. None of my Breyfogle art is under a cloud. I have heaps of Jim Mooney art, again the bulk of it came from Mooney himself. I like buying from the artist. I know who Alan Kupperberg sold the majority of his art to and I buy from that person, so yes I own Kupperberg art. And so on. Never has any artist contacted me and said, “You know, I like that piece I did, but I never got it back from the publisher and I was never paid for it.” If that happened I know what I’d do – I’d immediately offer to return it, gratis. If it’s stolen then it’s not my art, it belongs to someone else. Norm once told me that if it happened he’d just allow me to keep it, I’m not entirely sure I’d feel comfortable with that, but he’d get the benefit of reclaiming that artwork. Same with Jim Mooney, Alan Kupperberg or anyone else whose art I own. I know I’m not the only person who collects art who thinks this way, but I also know that I’m in the minority. I’m no angel, I’ve done wrong in the past, but in this case you can indeed call me holier than thou because I’m as pure as can be.

Back to our story. It didn’t take long for Alan to receive this reply. “It was not stolen as you gave it to them to use. Fact that you did not get paid is unfortunate,” the author stated. “Why did you not persue (sic) You Magazine? I on the other hand Paid for it at a legal auction and have good title. I have been stolen from many times. Just recently almost $80,000. from a "Friend" no recourse there for me. So I know and am a reasonable person. Keep in touch.” I couldn’t help but laugh at the last part. As I told Alan, “Here, allow me to smash you in the face and piss on your cat, but hey, stay in touch, man.” I’m not sure if the writer was being sarcastic or just being ignorant, either way Alan decided further communication would be unproductive. “What could I say?” asked Alan. “My main thought was, ”thank you for calling me back thirty odd years later and telling me I’ve been victimized again on the same job.” And that’s a cold truth – Alan was ripped off back in 1976 and now it’s being smashed into his face.

With this in mind I phoned Alan and we spoke about it. I decided to ask the obvious questions, such as why didn’t he file a police report at the time if the art was stolen? “I was young,” Alan replied, “and we didn’t do those things back then, we didn’t know how to do that or even if we could. In the end, this is a civil case, not a criminal case, after all.” Did he go after You Magazine? After all they’re the ones who stole the art in the first place. “Of course,” he said, “I kept calling them and going up there, but they wouldn’t deal with me. Again, what could I do? But yes, I did pursue them. But after a while you just give up.” Did Alan give the artwork to You Magazine to use? "No, I was hired to draw it and never paid. I never 'gave' it to them in the way this guy thinks." We both agreed that the person who now owns the art is anything but a reasonable person, despite his protestations to the contrary. His excuse, that he’d recently been ripped off, was just that, an excuse. It smacks of, “Well everyone else is doing it, it happened to me, so that means I can do it to you.” Well, no it doesn’t. Try using that excuse in a court of law. “I’m sorry You Honour, but other people climb into bell towers and shoot people at random so I should be allowed to as well.” Do it and then tell me what the response is.

So what can Alan do? Nothing. That’s right, nothing at all. He can’t go after the guy who now owns the art and who clearly believes that he has clear title (I can’t help but wonder what else was in that lot, what other artists who’s work resides in a collection, art that doesn’t rightly belong to the new ‘owner’). It’d be a waste of time, money and resources to do so and the reward wouldn’t justify the expense. He’s lost that piece of artwork, someone has clearly profited from it and if the current owner decides to sell it then he’ll profit from it as well. In fact the only person who hasn’t profited from the art is the artist. Alan hasn’t made a cent on his effort. Going from the attitude of the current owner, Alan doesn’t deserve to profit from it, after all he gave the art away to be published. The fact that he was commissioned to create the art, which he did, and was never paid is incidental to the story. More fool Alan for believing a publisher of a reputable magazine would do the right thing and honour a contract.

Is there much stolen art out there? Of course. Was any of Alan’s art stolen, other than this piece? None that he’s aware of, although he did not keep strict accounts on that score. Alan got back all of his art from the Big Two comic book companies, Marvel and DC. He sold a lot of that art a few years back to a well known art dealer. The same dealer has sold off piece after piece since then, some of which I’ve bought. The ownership of those pieces are clear, the title is clean. However in the area of the Dagwood the title is very muddy.

So what’s to gain? Clearly there’s no great financial gain to be had in this case, so why get so worked up over it? Principal is the answer. In this regard I share Alan’s stance – it’s the principal of the entire thing, that someone can contact an artist, ask about a piece, discover it’s stolen and then wave it off with a huge ‘fuck you.’ And then ask that the artist “keep in touch.” Incredible. I’m not sure what the owner of the art was trying to achieve, as all he managed to do was both confound and upset Alan.

Back to another point, how much art out there is stolen? More than you could possibly imagine. In my time dealing with artists I’ve heard some right horror stories about art theft and the nature of publishers and employees. I’ve heard stories of artists helping themselves to art at both Marvel and DC (and, to a lesser extent, smaller companies such as Dell and Charlton). I’ve heard of senior editors who routinely took art home and never returned it. I’ve heard of very senior officials who lifted piles of art. There exist a few famous legends, one of an artist who stole enough art by the likes of Buscema, Kirby and Romita to fully pay off their house, another of a very famous artist who was in such debt that he’d take art as it was being photostatted and prepared to be shot for use in the actual comics, and would then run down the road and eagerly sell it to a dealer. There’s the world famous editor who’d have artists at the company where he worked make ‘corrections’ on vellum. He’d then take the original art home, keep it and submit the vellum for use. Oddly enough the same editor was vocal during the Jack Kirby art saga, despite the fact that he had more of Kirby’s art at his house and made more money off Kirby artwork than probably Kirby himself did. He likes to tell people these days how every now and then a famous artist would gift him with a piece of art, and how humble it made him feel. Good on him, for every gifted page he got he probably stole a book in return. All the art was sold, very quietly and very much under the table. I’ve heard of art dealers who’ve taken page after page of original art and not paid the artists for it, including one story where the dealer merely avoided an artist until the artist passed away. Then the dealer denied all knowledge of selling the artist’s work. You hang around people long enough and the floodgates open and all the nasty stories that you don’t read about in the pages of magazines such as Alter Ego, The Jack Kirby Collector and Back Issue come spewing out. Stories of editors, publishers, writers and artists who stole art. The same people who are lauded in those magazines, but you won’t read about the wrong they did, and if you dare confront anyone then watch out – you’ll be shouted down. The original art hobby can be a very insular one and there's a lot of people who protect their own interests and the interests of others as they seek their own personal 'Holy Grails'. As with any hobby there's good and bad, not everyone is a villain. However there can be a lot of shame in collecting original art, in particular vintage art. The shame is that art was stolen all those years ago. The larger shame is that same art now resides in collections, both public and private, and is used to send children through college and buy houses. The shame is that people buy and sell stolen art while claiming to celebrate the lives and works of the same artists that they steal from. The shame is that they cover their tracks with meaningless comments such as “If it was stolen then why wasn’t a police report filed?” There’s an easy answer to that – by the time a lot of artists discovered that their art was stolen it was far too late. Failure to file a police report doesn’t absolve art criminals from blame or liability. The shame is that terms such as ‘liberated’ are used to justify making a living off stolen goods, while some artists themselves often live day to day. There’s a lot of shame, the largest shame is reserved for those who feel no shame, no guilt, no responsibility. If art is stolen from them they scream the loudest.

You buy or sell stolen art then you’re no better than the thieves that stole it in the first place. Even worse, if you knowingly own stolen art, such as the Kupperberg Dagwood, and rejoice in it then you’re a thief. Plain and simple. Justify it all you want, the truth is you’re not all that much better than a ground level criminal. You just wear better clothes.

So, to the person who owns that Dagwood illustration, just give it back. It’s not yours, it belongs to Alan Kupperberg. If it were a Warhol then you’d be forced to give it back. The name might be different but the principle remains. Stolen art is just that, stolen. Make the effort, take a stand.

Hand it back.

Today.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

An artist who doesn't make any reasonable effort (not just 2 or 3 phone calls) to go after payment or art that is owed to them gives up the right of that work or money. These artists know who owes them money but if they don't file police reports or legal proceedings to get what's theirs then why should they down the track demand their art back from a collector who is most circumstances buys the art in good faith? Its easy to pick on the collector instead of going after the publisher who stole or lost the art in the first place.

Danny said...

I'm not sure that you fully read the article in question, so allow me to clarify things.

In this case the artist, Alan Kupperberg, did go after the publisher but was shut out. Alan assures me that it was more than a few phone calls, there were visits, the lot. In this day and age yes, the artist would have more recourse due to knowledge and experience. However when this case happened Alan was a young artist and as he says, he had no idea that he could lay a police report - getting ripped off by publishers was the norm.

The insult is that the collector knows that the art was stolen from Alan and refuses to even give him the courtesy of having it returned.

Anonymous said...

If my next door neighbour stole my car and had it in his driveway for 15 years before he sold it and if i went over their regularly and asked for it back and returned empty handed, do i have the right to then go after the guy he sold the car to?

Being young and dumb is no excuse.

Danny said...

Using your argument - if I buy art that was stolen from the Jewish community in WWII, not knowing it was stolen, then can I keep it?

Great. Thanks for your simplistic view of the world. It might help your cause if you actually leave a name instead of hiding behind a cloak of anonymity.

Alan wasn't dumb - well no more dumber than any comic book artist of the same era, who are now fighting for their art from theives who keep selling it. Or was Jack Kirby dumb as well? He made the same mistakes - trusted a publisher, didn't file a police report etc etc, and he was hardly young in 1976.

Anonymous said...

It appears that you misunderstood the analogy regarding my pilfering neighbour; i know my neighbour has my car, yet i do nothing of legal substance to retrieve my car until it is sold, at a much later date. In your regards to your Nazi example, stolen Nazi art was stolen by the Nazi not from artists themselves but from the legal owners (we assume) of the art. In most cases the owners of this art is not well documented. Coupled with the sadly fact that in most cases many of the owners died making returning the loot harder because next-o-kin was difficult to establish. At this moment the German government and the Swiss banks are returning said treasures because they are responsible for the stealing; such that they may be paying restitution to some of the owners of these works.

The two examples do not match, and hardly a simplistic.

I'm not sure if you have Squatter's rights but i would contend that this would is relevant in this case for a number of years an artist has known who stole the art (possible not which individual but certainly at the publisher level) and did relatively nothing about it. In the case of squatting, if a person occupies a piece of land for a set period of time without the owner doing anything about it, the land changes hands to the squatter.

It is understandable that the artist doesn't take legal actions with the publisher in fear that they won't get future work, but i would say that made the situation even worse when they moan about art collectors 'stealing' their art and yet still not do anything about it. I would stand and applaud if legal proceedings were initiated just once, especially if it lead to the publishers who let the art get stolen in the first place. But for an art collector to feel obligated to return the stolen art and be out of pocket is incredibly simplistic and misguided.

I know you will correct me if I'm wrong but Jack Kirby's art was stolen before the concept of the police was invented, so even though he really wanted his art back he couldn't file a report. Hang on, that wasn't the case at all, Jack went after Marvel for his art; he didn't do anything against the collectors, there are even stories of him signing stolen art for fans.

In regards to my cloak of anonymity, this blog is liberally sprinkled with asides regarding unnamed artists stealing this, and editors who did that, art dealers who have done this, companies who have done that, if you lack the fortitude to name names why should I? Why does saying I'm John Smith from Staten Island change my point?

That's right because my argument is strong so you have to resort to 'Anonymous!' and 'Nazi' examples.

Danny said...

Seriously, if I thought you were winning the debate then I'd not bother posting your comments.

You know my name, you have strong opinions, yet you hide behind anonymity - just an observation. That normally means that someone has something to conceal.

Why don't I name the people involved? Hey - the dead ones, why not. Gil Kane is the artist who used to lift stuff as it being statted. The others are alive and frankly I don't need the headache of having some people really attack me - they know who they are, they can live with the guilt, if they have any. Plus which anyone who can read between the lines will soon work out who stole what from where and when.

Often, in fact frequently, I'm handed certain information and asked that I not reveal the source, or the person/people involved. Do you think I did the Colletta interview? I'm not telling anyone where that came from, but it is genuine and I have the original tape. It's called 'confidential sources' - look it up sometime. Everyone abides by those guidelines, if you don't then you'll have a very short career doing any form of journalism. Mate, the stories I could tell about artists like John Byrne are legion, but I wouldn't tell you who told me because I've been asked not to. I respect their wishes.

Your points: Yes a lot of the Nazi art was stolen from the legal owners, some of it was stolen from museums and the artists themselves. The same art resides in galleries all over the world, people say they bought it in good faith. If I bought art in good faith, no matter where it came from originally, can I maintain ownership, or can I expect compensation?

Jack Kirby's art was systematically stolen from Marvel from the 1960s through to the mid 1980s. Kirby knew it was being stolen because he'd see it for sale at conventions during that time. Even after the return of art from the major companies Kirby knew his art was being stolen, yet he never filed a police report. So, is Kirby as dumb as you say Kupperberg is?

Kirby was never happy with people showing him stolen art. It's well documented that he'd refuse to sign such art at conventions, and he made his displeasure known more than once, both publicly and privately. Kirby explored the possibility of filing police reports but didn't - I suspect that he felt that if he got police involved he'd no longer get work and might not get any remaining art back from Marvel. Kirby was ripped off and didn't know what he could do about it - hey - thgat's novel, Kirby was in the same boat as Kupperberg! In fact the only artist I can think of that did file a police report was Neal Adams when he discovered that someone at DC stole his art. It did him no good though and even he gave up trying to track it down. That doesn't make it right.

Go up to Brian Bolland with a page from 2000AD that hasn't been signed in red marker pen and see what he does. In fact I'll tell you - he'll tell it was stolen and that it's his and then he'll take it from you. Argue the point with him.

Your stolen car. In this case the publisher didn't have the art sitting in plain view. Kupperberg was refused entry to the building and they refused to take his calls. He wasn't aware of what he could do - hindsight is a wonderful thing isn't it? However a more sound anaology would be you offering to hire your car, the guy taking the car, not paying you and then hiding it for 20 years and then selling it.

As for artists moaning, you're attacking Kupperberg for actually taking the stand that you demand and saying, "I think you should return that art as I consider it stolen." Isn't that what you want to see?

Allow me to ask this - if YOU owned the art, and for all I know you might well do, and you got that email from Kupperberg, what would you have done? Told him to piss off? Offer to return it? Hey - here's an offer - I'll pay you $100 for that Dagwood illo - then I'll hand it back to Kupperberg.

Call my bluff. My email address is on this site.

Put yourself in his shoes, what would you want the collector to do? And be brutally honest.

Danny said...

To further my point. This is from Bolland's recent The Art Of Brian Bolland book, and I quote;
"I was a bit busy, so I made a deal with Mike Lake at Titan for him to catalogue my pages (there were about 280 of them), pay for the trannies, collect the artwork and sell it for a commission. After a while he came back to me with news that he'd taken possession of about 160 pages, but the rest were missing.

"Fortunately, I'd recently borrowed my favorite 10 pages - including the "Gaze into the fist of Dredd" one - for an exhibition in Angoulem and hadn't got round to returning them - they're still safe with me - but unfortunately the remaining miss¬ing pages had been stolen. People from Titan, and more recently Quality Comics, had been given ac¬cess to the artwork in order to reproduce them in their editions, so Fleetway had been used to people walking off with them. What they didn't know was that 110 pages of what they, at the time, considered to be their property had been lifted and had made its way into the hands of American art dealers. To me, it was the theft of artwork, some of which I would have kept, amounting to quite a few thou¬sands of dollars.

"I was furious. I talked to people in the London comic shops. One told me: Yes, he had seen some of those pages on US dealers tables, but when I asked him which dealer's tables he developed surprisingly developed abrupt amnesia and couldn't remember. Over the next few months I detected strands that stretched between UK publishers to people working for them and finally to their friends in the US, who just happened to be artwork dealers. And I developed the distinct impression that many of the people around, some of whom I considered friends, who inhabited various corners of the comic world, knew part or all of the story, but had friends they wanted to protect.

"One or two Americans have informed me they bought some of the hot pages in good faith from people who were also squeeky¬-clean innocent parties. Recently, I heard a story that a page of my artwork has turned up in the vaults, but if I were to ask for it the vault keeper would know who had told me and it would compromise that person's special access privileges. Kafka-esque, or what?

"All of the pages that were returned to me and sold were signed by me. If you own one without my signature it was stolen and I want it back."

So, is Brian Bolland an idiot? He knows who stole the art, and if you read what he wrote carefully you'll soon work it out too, but he hasn't named names either - is he lacking fortitude as well? Is Bolland moaning about stuff that he has no right to? Bolland has told people at conventions that art has been stolen and that he wants it back, he's very public with it but he also has yet to file a police report.

I'm interested to see what your response.

Anonymous said...

Good story, it doesn't add anything to the argument except give another example of an artist becoming some sort of gentleman vigilante, politely asking for his art to be returned and then befuddled when it isn't.

If he serious about wanting his art back he'd file a police report or sue the publishers whose lax security allowed the art to be stolen.

If a bank is robbed and my security lockbox is stolen, it's the banks insurance that covers it, not mine, unless I've signed a contract saying otherwise. I can tell everyone else that my stuff has been stolen, blog that its been stolen, wear a sandwhich board saying "I've had lockbox stolen", do interviews where i'm asked "have you had a lockbox stolen?" to which I can answer "Yes" but nothing will happen until i make a police report or insurance claim.

Its easier to go after the little guy who for the most part has bought goods in good faith, than the publisher who did the wrong and damage relations between artist and publisher. Easy doesn't mean its right. If people now are buying art without Bolland's signature knowing that it is stolen then shame on them.

I've never called anyone an idiot yet, dumb yes - dumb in a 'ignorant of the law' kind of way. And like you, i don't need the headache so i'll stay anonymous since it doesn't make a difference.

I would never knowingly buy stolen art. If it was discovered that art was stolen I would then discuss the matter with the artist; provide names and details of who sold it to me. Help in any manner to make sure he was compensated. Maybe depended on the deal and circumstances. Would I give it back, and be out of pocket? Only if a court of law deemed that I had to, I would then take the dealer to court.

I see original art as a commodity and do not think it should be elevated to anything more important than any other commodity. Subsequently rules of law should be followed so its fair for everyone, and those parties responsible for the art loss be held liable, not the guy at the end of the line.

Danny said...

It sounds more and more like we're on the same page here. And yes, I was the one who used the term 'idiot', but it was more to illustrate a point - you refered to Kupperberg as being 'dumb', I took that to mean dumb in the same sense as idiot - ie: ignorant.

Bolland didn't file a police report, or go after the publishers for the same reason that Kirby didn't and probably Kupperberg didn't - at the time they didn't know who physically stole the art and when they found out they couldn't prove it. I could tell you that a certain Editor In Chief at Marvel has long had the finger pointed at him as being a serious art theif during the early 1980s, but no-one would ever stand up in a court of law and say it.

The Dagwood is stolen in Kupperberg's eyes, same as those 2000AD pages are stolen in Bolland eyes, and a lot of the Kirby Marvel art was stolen in Kirby's eyes (and remember - Dick Ayers once went after an auction house for selling art that was never returned to him - not legally, but morally, and he got the art back). The Dagood might have been bought in good faith, but to refuse even the courtesy of having it returned is a low act. For all we know Kupperberg might have said, "No, it's fine, you keep it," or offered restitution in return - but we'll never know because the offer wasn't made.

Again, the analogy you use isn't quite the same - same as the squatters rights. Why? Because those acts are clear in the eyes of the law. Sadly, in the eyes of the law, original comic book art is just a drawing of Spider-Man on a page and as such fairly worthless. It's only now, in this day and age, that people are realising it's true value and worth.

You're right - those who stole the art should be held responsible, but they won't be. Still, if you had art and found out it was stolen then you do the right thing and offer it back - not send a whining email saying that the art doesn't belong to the artist and wasn't stolen because you believe that the artist merely, 'gave it to them (the publisher)'. That's a piss weak excuse at best.

And I think you'd find that most artists, if offered art back, would either refuse or offer something back in return as a reward/thanks. There'd be very few artists who'd insist on the art being returned for no compensation, so I doubt anyone would be out of pocket. I've known collectors and dealers who've returned art with varying results. It's a two way street though, and if you read the article you'll see that the bulk of my venom is indeed reserved for those who stole the art in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Laws do not come from nothing; they are set from precendents and precednts are based on court action. Court action is based on police reports and civil actions. Laws also come from lobbying by relevant parties; unions, companies, etc

Essentially if no one hires a lawyer or files a complaint, there is no action nor any automatic right for artists to have their art returned.

Here, http://twomorrows.com/kirby/articles/19hour25.html
Kirby talks about using lawyers against Marvel. It would have been nice if other artists had joined in. But they didn't. Artists seemed to be more afraid of ruining their relationship with publishers than going after their art until its in the hands of fans. Fans who did not steal the art but will suffer the most if they have to give it back.

Just because there was one case, Adam's, where the police did not file a warrant doesn't mean its not a valid action. Its like saying since those Jack the Ripper murders were never solved its stupid to report the case of that bloody corpse on the porch.

Danny said...

Kirby indeed spoke about lawyers but like a lot of things he spoke about during that bad time period he didn't do it. However he could have gone after Marvel when the pages came back and came up very short, but he didn't do so then either. A lot of artists looked towards Neal Adams for inspiration and leadership in the '70s - so if he couldn't get the police interested, or his art back, I expect that a lot of artists wondered what chance would they have had.

Precedents are set, and are being done so all the time. Hiring a lawyer to get art returned when the art has been lifted from the company would be a mere waste of time, effort and ultimately money - most artists of that generation weren't rich by any means.

Allow me to clarify, once more. If you're a dealer/collector who knowingly bought and sold stolen art then you should hand back what you have left and apologise. If you stole the art then you should be handing it all back and offering restitution. If you believe you bought art in good faith and are caught out then it's up to you to decide what the right thing to do is. In this day and age (for example if I were offered a Kirby I'd be talking to the likes of Evanier or Theakston, the latter has a list of what was stolen from Marvel, or the Kirby estate) it's easy to check on the jistory of a piece. There's plenty of people in the know and they're more than accessible.

Really, it's as easy as that.

Alan Kupperberg said...

Daniel,

Please allow me to clarify and expand upon my earlier account. I did not pursue You Magazine in civil court because it was not cost-effective. I was contracted to do the work and to be paid $300 for same. But I was not out $300 out of pocket. Legal representation would require an outlay of hard cash. As a freelancer working hand-to-mouth, I could neither afford that nor any lost income if there were to be court hearings, depositions, etc.

Just one of the many reasons that Jack Kirby didn't snatch his artwork off dealer's tables was because eventually he'd find himself in police custody, even if he were 100% in the legal right, for as long as it took authorities to so determine. Lawyers would become involved. Lawyers suck tremendous amounts of money from your wallet. Kirby wanted a financial legacy for his family. That was why he wanted his artwork back. Marvel had a fleet of lawyers on retainer, just sitting around twiddling their thumbs. For Jack Kirby, just as for me in 1976, it is a classic case of "Catch-22." If you rob Peter to pay Paul, someone's still been robbed. If Marvel had chosen to tie Jack Kirby up in court, they could have waited for him to be bled dry by his lawyers and give up, or given his health, merely wait for him to die.

People who do business in an unscrupulous manner count on this and take advantage of people in the same situation that Jack Kirby and I were in. If I had known other people in the same situation as regards You Magazine, we might have been able to make common cause and go after the swindlers legally. Enough people and you've got a class-action.

In the final analysis, please bear in mind, concerning the person currently holding my stolen Dagwood artwork; I demanded nothing of him. I did not volunteer an opinion, until he asked, "what to do with it?" And then I merely told him what I would do. I actually suspect that the person had hoped I'd make him an offer for the piece, even after I'd informed him of its history.

Finally, and for what it is worth, if anyone is ever tempted to buy the Dagwood artwork, I ask you to contact me. I will do a re-creation of the same piece for you for substantially less than whatever price is being asked by this person. And with thirty-odd years more experience under my belt, I can guarantee that I'll do better job! Perhaps if I do thirty re-creations of the Dagwood piece and put them up for sale I can reduce the re-sale value of the 1976 original to virtually nil.

But I cannot imagine why anyone would ever want to purchase the original Dagwood piece. And I imagine that is why I was approached to begin with; as a potential buyer.

If that were so, it just might become the new standard definition of the word "chutzpah."

As ever, just my opinion.

Best,

Alan K