By Dennis J. Stokes, Curator, SEKOTS studios
I begin with a quote from page #34 of the 3rd edition of Jerry Weist’s The Comic Art Price Guide…
“Remember that the standard comic strip results in some 312 daily strips and 52 Sunday pages a year. Those numbers are part of the reason for a relatively high survival rate for the original art.”
Unfortunately, this is a common and sadly accepted untruth or misconception which has plagued the original comic strip art market for several years.
Now, before you rabid original comic art collectors send me hate mail and death threats let me state for the record that I applaud both the efforts and contributions of the late Jerry Weist to our hobby.
That being said, consider this…
The average comic book being 24-28 pages, published monthly produces almost exactly the same number of “examples” in a single year as does a daily comic strip and… splash pages and covers relate equally well to the limited availability of a comic strips Sunday examples.
But Batman isn’t in every panel on every page you say? Well, neither is Snoopy.
It is important to remember that comic strips came first, many years before the comic “book” format was even conceived.
In the early days of both vocations, the process of creating the original art was considered “just a job”. Little to no credit was ever given and in many instances even wanted by those whose talents were on display.
In those days, there was a common belief that if you were a comic artist, books or strips, obviously that meant you were not very good… you simply couldn’t cut it as a “real” artist. And that same mentality plagued the writers of comics as well.
Also, consider this… neither original comic book or strip art was spared during the paper drives of World War II, both were thought of as juvenile and childish in content, and both were attacked by the U.S. Senate Subcommittee hearings of the 1950’s as being almost solely responsible for the decadence of the American youth.
Once the artwork was published, that was that. There were no comic conventions, no collectors or dealers, hence no secondary market, and of no value. Being a comic artist or cartoonist in those days was merely a job, a means to a payday.
As a result, many prime examples of early original comic strip art met the same fate as its original comic book art counter-part. Lost or destroyed, unintentionally and sadly, in many instances intentionally.
Therefore, I would argue that the true survival rate of original art from either comic strips or comic books prior to the Silver-Age (pre-1956) mirrors each other more closely than most collectors realize.
Still have doubts? Let’s make it easy!!! Conduct a quick online search of available original art on eBay, Heritage Auctions, or your favorite original comic art dealers website.
How many Tillie the Toiler daily examples do you find available? How about Dumb Dora? Freckles and His Friends? Dixie Dugan?
What’s that you say… too early??? Then how about Hi and Lois, Hagar the Horrible, or Dennis the Menace?
Okay, now let’s look up Spider-Man, Superman, or Batman? Please be patient while all examples load.
I know, but everyone wants a Spider-Man page from Amazing Spider-Man by Steve Ditko or John Romita, Sr. right? I get it. I want a Peanuts Sunday example from the 1950’s with Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and Lucy by Charles Schulz. The point is this…. with original comic book art, unlike original comic strip art, you have other choices.
Maybe you can’t get your hands on a great Amazing Spider-Man page by Ditko or Romita, Sr. but, how about a nice example by Ross Andru, Mark Bagley, or John Romita, Jr.
For that matter, maybe you can’t find an Amazing Spider-Man page that suits either your taste or budget. Okay. How about a nice page from Marvel Team-Up, Peter Parker, the Sensational Spider-Man, Web of Spider-Man, or Spidey Super Stories (to name a few)?
See, there is no Hagar the Horrible Team-Up, no Dumb Dora Returns, or Beetle Bailey: Year One. If you want a Tillie the Toiler daily with the title character in all panels, you will be shopping for a Tillie the Toiler daily with the title character in all panels.
The bottom line here, if I may be so bold, is simply this…
Prime examples of original comic strip art is just as rare as prime examples of original comic book art.
So, stop undervaluing these examples just because you believe there are thousands or even hundreds of them available.