Come Up and See My Etchings?
Another look at BKV's original comic art hoarding
This week felt a month long, huh?
Brian here, grateful to all of you who kindly shared Monday’s collection of Spectators pages with so many of your fellow mature readers. Sure, maybe you were just after this Exploding Giraffe Prize Package…
…but you also helped bring a phalanx of new subscribers, so Niko and I are in your debt.
And if you haven’t yet forwarded that first act of our new graphic novel to one of your potentially appreciative weirdo friends, it’s not too late. For next Monday’s dispatch, we’ll randomly select one person who reported sharing those first thirty pages in our previous comment section, so please spread the word and tell us you did so at that link, and you could bring home the above treasure.
And our generous Founders should have gotten an email yesterday from our new mascot/intern Genesis the Exploded Giraffe, asking for your mailing address so we can send you your Prize Package, no contest necessary. If you’re a Founder who hasn’t yet heard from us for some reason, please reach out to Genesis at: ExplodingGiraffeSubstack@gmail.com.
Huge thanks again to Niko Henrichon, who continues to somehow create these incredible full-color sketches while also drawing some of the most luscious comic pages I’ve ever seen. Can’t wait for you to see Monday’s next installment.
Speaking of original art, it’s been a while since I showed off some of my collection, so today, I thought we’d take a little gallery tour of a few of my favorite recent acquisitions, starting with this masterpiece from one of my top ten graphic novels, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (forgive the glare):
I love this page, and not just because Alison Bechdel bafflingly personalized it to me “with great admiration.” This scene deals with her late father’s furniture collection, and closely mirrors MY family’s exhausted confusion with me and my relentless artistic additions to our home’s walls.
I got this page at the same place you can, right from Alison Bechdel’s website. A lot of comic art is sold at auction, and those sales rarely benefit the original artist, so I always try to buy directly from artists whenever possible (or from a trusted art rep like collecting legend and friend of Exploding Giraffe Felix Lu, who curates the innovative and influential Felix Comic Art).
Anyway, Alison “warned” me that her originals have an acetate layer with words and colors covering her original inked line art, but that was actually a huge selling point for me. I prefer my artwork with text, and getting to see an artist’s notes and doodles in the margins is an awesome bonus.
Speaking of acetate overlays (has a more exciting traditional phrase ever been typed?!), check out this next unbelievable piece I picked up, the original painted colors for the cover to Ronin #2 by master Lynn Varley:
Varley accomplished this by hand coloring on top of a reproduction of Frank Miller’s inks, before another copy of Miller’s line art was then placed over that as one of those aforementioned acetate overlays.
This comic-book shit was much more complicated in 1983!
Ronin is probably my favorite Miller/Varley collaboration, so it’s beyond an honor to get to stare at this image every day. “Groundbreaking” is an overused accolade, but Varley’s striking palette, particularly on those covers, was so unlike anything any of us had ever seen on comic shelves.
And as long as we’re talking about pioneers, here’s the oldest piece of original art I own, which I was shocked to find for next to nothing on eBay, a gigantic 1928 (!) strip of Cap Stubbs and Tippie by fellow Ohio native Edwina Dumm:
Cap is the kid and Stubbs is the dog, and from what few early examples of this strip I’ve been able to find online (before bulldog Tippie became a terrier), this duo was originally a little bit like Charlie Brown and Snoopy…only if those characters had both been violent assholes. Absolutely splendid.
Dumm was America’s first full-time female editorial cartoonist, and the first woman to win the National Cartoonist Society’s Gold Key Award. She worked on various versions of Tippie for 48 years straight! Gangster.
Edwina Dumm also doubtlessly helped pave the way for countless other creators, including a legendary cartoonist who had a significant impact on my own career, Lynn Johnston:
People often describe Saga as “Star Wars meets Game of Thrones,” but it was co-creator Fiona Staples who nailed my influences dead to rights when she pointed out that our book is actually “Starship Troopers meets For Better or For Worse.”
Reading the entire comics page of The Cleveland Plain Dealer every single day of my life from early literacy until pretty much the day I left home for college made more of an impression on me than any of those global news articles I probably shouldn’t have been skipping past. And while FBOFW wasn’t the first comic strip to have its characters age in more or less real time, I’d argue that it remains the best, and it was definitely the one that taught me how serialized graphic storytelling could uniquely capture a family’s passage through time.
Okay, I’ll leave most of you here (and we’ll meet again on Monday for a couple of game-changing new pages of Spectators), but for our generous paid subscribers in The Tower, here’s one last piece from my collection, something I’ve been quietly hunting down for years, my very first piece of original artwork by Fiona Staples, a deep cut I haven’t even told her I finally acquired…
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