It’s a sad truth that the term Finders Keepers is still a law of the land in the comic book industry, especially when it comes to original art. I thought that this had changed during the 80’s when creators had fought long and hard to insure that their work was returned to them. By then we had already watched too many old timers find their work for sale in dealer rooms at conventions around the country.
Those old guys who had given us the Golden and Silver age of comics created their comics for companies that bought it as “work for hire.” The artists handed in their work and never saw it again until it would come to market selling for grand prices valued far greater than what they had originally been paid to do the work. Those creators watched the dealers make big money while they struggled to pay healthcare bills because comic companies offered no benefit packages. They never saw royalties either and cringed every time the publishers made big deals with their characters while they looked for ways to feed their families.
One of the primary goals of the independent publishers of the 80’s was to change this situation. Indy publishers proudly proclaimed the comics they published as “creator owned” and struck deals with comic creators that included royalties, copyright ownership, and returned artwork so the creators could bolster their income by selling the works in the growing, secondary, collector market. Soon even the major publishers began doing the same, even creating benefit packages that included healthcare!
As one of the publishers of Comico the Comic Company, a brief juggernaut in the industry during the mid-eighties that paved many roads for future indy publishers before its demise, I was proud to have been on the forefront of such a great movement that seemingly impacted the future of the industry forever. Now as a publisher of CO2 comics those same principals of creator’s rights remain the highest priority to myself and Bill Cucinotta who has partnered with me in both publishing ventures.
It is a matter of history that Comico had a very tragic ending from a stellar run as one of the great independents of its time. What is a dirty secret is that Comico was often a very hostile work environment where the threat of verbal, mental and physical abuses were real and frequent. It was this caustic atmosphere that destroyed the relationships in the partnership and drove first Bill and eventually myself to leave Comico. We have both taken great pains to remain focused on positive accomplishments of our experience when we blog about Comico here on the CO2 Comics site, especially since we know that we do have a lot to feel proud about.
When it became news late last year that huge archives of old Comico production material which vaguely stated it included original art of which little was shown was for sale on ebay, Bill and I made sure to be clear that we had no involvement in the auction and to state that we felt any original art should have been returned to the creators as was always the policy when we were part of Comico. Personally and regretfully, the emotional scars of my Comico experience ran too deep for me to take a more proactive role in retrieving the material and insuring that if there was original art it would be returned to its rightful owners.
This week I was contacted by Rick Funk owner of Collector Haven Comics who purchased the archives which includes a number of original pieces of art and plans to inventory it and sell it on ebay. The auctions have already begun.
I know that Rick is only doing what dealers do, hunt and acquire treasured collectibles then capitalize on them. Maybe I’m too idealistic but I had hoped that somehow the “Ruins of Comico” would not result in a creator who trusted Comico with their creation finding their work lining the pockets of somebody else when they never had the opportunity to sell it themselves.
Rick claims to have “Saved the Comico Production Art,” possibly from rotting, lost in some storage facility outside of Norristown, PA but the
principals that Comico were founded on and recognized for are so totally disregarded in this situation that it is hard for me to consider any of that original art “saved.” Rather it is damned to resurrect demons of a bygone era that we had all hoped would never be seen again.
The following is correspondence between Rick and myself. I believe it is very civil on both sides yet clear as to what I would like to see done with the material:
First and foremost I want to state that Justice Machine, Elementals and Mage were the Comico titles that I followed. so yes I was a Comico fan.
I have read all your comments about the ebay auction that appeared in the last part of 2010 from Coyote storage.
I have researched the history of that ebay listing and I am aware that a couple of art dealers expressed an interest in it, and it attracted a
couple of phone calls too. However when faced with the fact that this accumulation of material that seemed to have once belonged to Phil, was not the original line art and was a large volume of production material, they all passed on it.
I did not.
To be honest we purchased it with the intention of bringing it to market.
We have had experience handling large amounts of material before. In 2000 we purchased the back stock of Passiac Books, one of the original comics dealers from the 60s and we also had a hand in bringing the Jack Adler art collection to market.
This turned out to be about 2500 lbs of material that we are just now starting to inventory and list on ebay.
More of the story will come to light with the upcoming publication of a Comics Buyers Guide article. In comic book culture Comico is a signicant contribution made by you.
I personally wanted to close the loop on the internet story for you, in regards to the original ebay auction.
Here is the arrival of the collection at our store, Collector Haven in Mesa Arizona.
Collector Haven Comics
PS: I read your articles about the color production process, however I have a couple of questions about that process and how some of these production pieces fit into that.
I appreciate that you wanted to “close the loop,” for me and I know that you made a significant investment acquiring the material but I still have personal and professional issues with the fact that much of the material should not have been available for sale in the first place by anyone other than the actual owners of the individual pieces, the creators.
The images of the early inventory that you have sent me clearly show original art that in my opinion belongs to the creators of the works. I saw three pieces that were actually mine.
Phil’s or Dennis’ possession of the works, at any time, is in question to me since it should have been returned to the creators immediately after its publication which was the long standing policy of Comico.
Also, as I mentioned in my blog, I would have expected that Andrew Rev would have taken possession of the production proofs when he bought Comico. I would have expected them to have been part of the deal.
Phil’s passing does not make the situation any different besides I am sure that his brother, Dennis, would have been quick to take charge of his estate, especially if he felt it had value.
Regardless of how Coyote came into possession of the material, the right thing would be for at least the original art to be returned to the creators. I know I would like mine returned.
You and Collector Haven have a unique opportunity to do something that publishers like Marvel and other dealers who have sold art that they acquired from publishers like Dell and Gold Key have historically declined to do. Do the right thing and help place those works where they should have been a long time ago, back in the hands of the creators to which they belong.
I think that as another option, if you worked closely with The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund or the Heroes Initiative and used this material to help raise funds for these great organizations in the name of the creators you may either be able to negotiate your investment back or at least write it off.
Regardless of how you might proceed in righting this situation the benefit would be a huge Good Will return to you and your company for setting a remarkable example that I believe would be applauded tremendously throughout the industry.
I will be happy to help you do this I any way I can and I will be your biggest supporter for championing the rights of the creators without whom we would not have a comics industry to feed off of.
I will not, however, be able to help you in any way to sell and profit from these works and I will remain a vocal supporter that they should be returned to their rightful owners.
I hope you understand that as a publisher of Comico and now CO2 Comics, I and my partner Bill Cucinotta have always placed the rights of the creators as our highest priority. It is against everything we have stood for our entire careers in the industry not to take a stand on this issue.
I hope you appreciate our position and will work with us to make an important and valiant statement.