The Definitive Artist: Remember When “Insert Name Here”

by Patrick Bain

Spectre-1-4th-Series-199x300 The Definitive Artist: Remember When "Insert Name Here"Remember when Ryan Sook was the definitive artist for Spectre?  Someone slightly older chimes in.  “Excuse me, the definitive 3rd Series came out in 1992 featuring the artistry of Tom Mandrake.”

A Gene Colan fan pops his head up from the digital version of Iron Man and Sub-Mariner 1.  “That would be Gene Colan on the 2nd Series from 1987.”

“Well, actually”, an old guy says, “you obviously haven’t seen the wrath of Spectre as depicted in Adventure Comics 431 – 440.  Now, Jim Aparo, he was the definitive Spectre artist!”.

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Spectre 3 from 1968 with art by Neal Adams

Momentarily, everyone turns at the sound of an approaching golf cart.  A distinguished elderly gentleman pokes his head out and points a putter at them.  “I remember when Neal Adams took over in Spectre issue 2, first series.  No one can argue that he wasn’t the one and only definitive Spectre artist.”  His dad, sitting next to him in the golf cart, immediately pops him on the head with his cane.  “Son, you and these other kids aren’t old enough to know.  But Murphy Anderson, there’s never been a Spectre artist like him, and it all started back in Showcase 60!”

Disgusted, Bernard Bailey turns over in his grave and yells out.  “I’m Bernard Bailey.  I co-created the Spectre in 1940 in More Fun Comics 52I am the definitive Spectre artist!”  Quietly, everyone looks around thinking they heard the wind.  Because they sure didn’t hear anyone else’s opinion about the definitive artist.

The Many Incarnations of the Spectre Illustrates the Point

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More Fun Comics 52 Art by Bernard Bailey

The above fictional conversation and debate simply illustrates our human nature.  Each generation tends to  latch on to the creative team that introduced them to a specific character.  And generally, it’s difficult to accept changes introduced by a different artist.  After all, my definitive version is the best, right?

For me, the Spectre as depicted by Neal Adams and later Jim Aparo resonates.  Bernard Bailey and Murphy Anderson works appeal to me as historical items.  Works after 1985 act as reference materials rather than reading materials.  Certainly, I don’t diminish anyone’s work.  All are talented and all are someone’s favorites.  So, I think there’s nothing wrong with having your favorite version.

The Spectre is simply one example.  Any character with a long history morphs throughout the years.  Sometimes, the transformation is related to a new creative team.  An editor may initiate the change based on the progress of pop culture.  And, probably sometimes the change is to spark sales by rebooting a series.  Batman is a prime example.  Certainly, his evolutions through the decades fall into each of those categories.  I’m wondering when the sixties Batman will be in vogue again!

How Does a Definitive Artist Affect the Price of Original Art?

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Showcase 60 Art by Murphy Anderson – 1st Silver Age Appearance Spectre

Given that artists change, characters morph, the whims of the buying public never stay static, what does that mean?  If someone wants to commission a picture of the Spectre, a million artists could draw the character.  See my cheesy example for proof.  Though a million artists could draw the Spectre, most people have a favorite.  In their mind, that artist is the best to draw the character.  Thus, a commission or original published page by Ryan Sook is best for some.  Neal Adams may be the top choice for others.  Murphy Anderson and Bernard Bailey also pique a lot of interest among others.

Here are examples of the outstanding prices paid for Spectre art:

  • Eight pages from the first Silver Age Spectre in Showcase 60 fetched $90,000.  Art by Murphy Anderson.
  • Cover art from Adventure Comics 440 by Jim Aparo grabbed $52,280.
  • The cover from Spectre 1 (1987) by Mike Kaluta sold for $8K in 2006.  It would sell much higher now.
  • Title splash page from Spectre 3 (2001) by Ryan Sook sold for $384.

Though the Ryan Sook art seems cheap by comparison, no doubt a generation of Spectre fans will someday value his rendition the best.  When that happens, demand drives higher prices.  Young artists can take heart in knowing their fans could make them the “definitive” some time in the future.

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Ryan Sook Specte 3 Page 1 from 2001

So, take heart young artists, you can be the one true artist for the next generation of fans.  And for older artists who have been there and done that, you will always have your fans as well.

Sometime we feel so strong , we say…

Going back to the fictional discussion beginning this blog, we don’t always heed the opinions of others.  That is, we are so set on who is the best for us personally, that we can’t hear the opinion or see the aesthetics of another’s art.

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Readers’ Rendezvous in Spectre 4 (1968)

I was amused by the opinions of some letter writers commenting on their disgust for the Neal Adams’ artwork of Spectre issue 2 compared to the work of Murphy Anderson in Spectre 1.  Check it out and be cautious of what you post on social media (or write in letters to the editor).

If you have never bought original comic art before, you may want to check out my simple original art investment plan blog.

 

 

 

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1 comment

patrickbain2012 November 21, 2020 - 9:59 am

For people who want to see a higher resolution picture of the letter column, https://www.facebook.com/ComicArtTrends/photos/gm.3591784947511476/577093189758615/

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