Original Art Stories: The $50 Jim Aparo Cover vs the $10 Jim Starlin Page
It’s enough to make you break down and weep, that is if you’re a collector of original comic book art. I came into possession of a series of letters from artists to a collector/dealer, all written in the early to mid 1980s. As an archive it's amazing, letters and cards from Jim Aparo, Don Heck, Sal Buscema, Don Lomax, Murphy Anderson - it's a Who's Who of American comic book art. Also included in the archive were dozens of cancelled cheques showing how much those artists were often paid for their original art pages. John Buscema, Steve Bissette, Dick Ayers, Mark Bode, Frank Thorne - the list goes on and on.
There’s the usual letters detailing pages for the standard ‘Make an offer’ through to a series of letters from Jim Aparo to the dealer as they established a rapport and art, and money, began to exchange hands.
While it’s amazing how cheaply art could be bought back in the day, what is more incredible, and heartbreaking in its own way, is Aparo’s admission that he “…appreciates the fact that (you are) interested in my art.” The covers that Aparo was selling back in 1981/82 for $50 a pop would easily fetch four figures on the open market, if not more, depending on the content. Adventure Comics, Ghost, Batman, Detective, Brave & The Bold – they’re all here and at more than reasonable prices indeed - click and see for yourself.
It wasn’t just Jim Aparo who was selling his art for whatever he could get. Gary Kwaspisz was also offloading his pages in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s for a fraction of what they’d fetch now. In this deal Gary offered to dump 150 pages for a mere $6 each, with room for negotiation. Included in the deal were plenty of double page spreads, and art from Punisher War Zone, Conan and many more. All pages came signed.
Romeo Tanghal also made contact and was keen on selling his Teen Titans pages. Inked over the likes of George Perez, these pages were on the open market for around $50 to $60 each, and as an added bonus eighteen pages of Jim Starlin art was thrown into the deal for a mere $10 per page. $10 now wouldn’t get you anywhere near a page of Starlin’s original art. In fact, it would just about enablke you to buy a Starlin book to see the art in print. Ifd you were lucky.
And let’s not even think about the Alex Toth inked art that was up for grabs and the Mike Grell Warlord art that was also $10 a page, but only if bought in bulk, otherwise the price was $35 for each individual page. Still as bad as that sounds, consider that a dealer somewhere paid George Perez $20 a page for the entire contents to Teen Titans #1-12. Try getting that kind of deal today – someone is certainly sitting on a goldmine of original art somewhere, with some absolutely stunning examples of art by Perez, Aparo and many, many more.