Creation of Re-Creations: One Man's Collecting Passion
CREATION OF RE-CREATIONS
ONE MAN’S COLLECTING PASSION
By Jon Berk
I am JBComicbox@aol.com and I am a comicbook fanaddict.
Okay- I said it. I love this stuff. I have loved this stuff since I was a kid. I have found that as time goes by my interests- fueled by additional knowledge and appreciation of the art form- have grown and evolved.
Correspondents to this magazine have often requested glimpses and accounts of what people collect and why. I have decided to take on one aspect of my collecting passion- finding/commissioning recreations of Golden Age covers.
I have been collecting for thirty years. It was only toward the end of my first decade of collecting when this self-confessed “Marvel Zombie” finished that task and looked for grazing in other pastures. At a comic show, nearing the end of my Marvel quest, I saw and purchased a copy of Human Torch 14. Neat! Heck, I found a whole new world to be discovered or, as one most often finds, treading trails forged by other earlier explorers/fans of this age.
So I got into the Golden Age via Timelys….got a number of these….but through the education process I discover that the early Timelys had been produced by a comic shop called “Funnies, Inc.” Well, you mean I could track down early renderings by some of these artists like Bill Everett or Carl Burgos? So the wonderful and esoteric world of Centaur comics opened up for me….But the bug continued…Before “Centaur” in March 1939, these titles were published by another company…and that leads to McMahon and Cook. And the “discovery” that these ex-DC employees actually used parallel DC stories in their early titles. Back…back…determined I was to find the source of the magic of comicbooks.
The evolution took me to the pre-hero world of New Fun, New Comics, Detective Comics and early comicbook titles such as Famous Funnies, Popular, etc. Bouncing back from 1933 and the start of the “modern” comic, I got into the quest of non-DC and non-Timely esoteria. Whirlwind Comics, Banner, Rocket- I found myself mesmerized by the vitality, energy- and derivative nature of the explosion of this story-telling medium. I enthusiastically collected across a wide range of Golden Age gems in the time period of 1938-1943. I then treaded into the wild world of collecting (if you can find them) art from this time period.
But for me something was missing---yeah it would be great to have a GA cover (if you can find one, let alone afford one). Yes, I love the stark beauty of the inked page before diluted and emasculated by the coloring process. However, at its base, comicbooks are four colored wonders. As kids (and adults for that matter) we were drawn to those books by their garishly colored covers. It was the intention of the publisher to grab the attention (and thus the dimes) of the American children by the visual feast for the eyes. The cover was the first advertisement for their attention. Content and color were the tools to attract and divide dime from child. So---what about color covers of these books? Tough task indeed. I think my real introduction was at the first Sotheby auction in 1991. I was going to bid on some comicbooks. I was invited to the opening and as I walked up the stairs, there it was- Marvel Mystery Comics 15 by Alex Schomburg. Well, it nearly jumped off the wall at me. Boldly colored and oversized it just overwhelmed me. At that auction, I “digressed” and diverted from my “focused collecting agenda, and became the proud owner of this treasure.
I never gave obtaining cover recreations much thought. It was during my years at San Diego Con starting in 1992 that I met some of the GA legends. It was here that I found many of the shining stars of the Silver Age of Comics had distinguished careers as young kids in the Golden Age. Slowly, almost as a non-conscious thought, I would note that the Jim Mooney of “Supergirl” and Marvel fame produced early work- and, yes, covers in the Golden Age. Okay, while Super-Mystery Comics, Banner Comics, Our Flag Comics and Lightning Comics for Ace Periodicals may not be remembered well these days, but Jim did some wonderful work as a novice nineteen and twenty year old. Over several years, I had Jim “re-create” for me classic covers such as Our Flag 2, Banner 3, Super-Mystery 2/5 and Lightning Comics 3/1 (yes, Lighting Comics).
The problem with ‘collecting’ golden age art is that you do not so much ‘collect’ it but ‘find’ what is available. Does it exist or not, who knows? Indeed, I was not the first to commission cover recreations from the golden age. Sure the Schomburg covers produced for Collectors Showcase in the early 1980s are well known, as are Beck recreations of his own work and others and Flessel recreations. Shelly Moldoff has been a regular factory making, oft-times, multiple copies of covers. Frankly, once I got bit by the bug, it was anyone’s guess what is out there. Got a Ed Ashe Top Notch Comics 3 (poster size) through the comic grapevine, as well of a true gem of Dan Zolnerowich recreation of his Planet Comics 14, far surpassing his original. Fortunate to obtain Al Avison recreation of All Winners 4. The secondary market purchases can be fun as one obtains CC Beck doing not a Timely or Silver Streak cover but his own recreation of Whiz Comics 1
But the true joy- started far too late- is stalking (as my son puts it) octogenarians such as Joe Simon (Champion Comics 8 and Mystic Comics 7), Bob Lubbers (Arrow Comics 1 – yes a Centaur cover, Wings Comics 87 and 89), Bob Fujitani (Pep Comics 34, Hangman Comics 8)…….to do commissions for me. Part of the challenge is not only finding the artist, but the covers he did. I have had George Tuska do Bulleye 12 and Jungle 13 for me. Keeping my ears open I learned by chatting with old time artists that attribution of Mystery Men Comics 6 and Weird Comics 1, long attributed to Lou Fine, were actually done by a young George Tuska. George not only confirmed that they were indeed his covers but he looked forward to working on them. His pleasure became my treasure.
In all cases, I found the artists gracious and flattered to do the work. In fact, artists such as Tuska and Mooney took pleasure in revisiting and re-creating their golden age work, rather the multiple requests for their more well-known silver age work.
I have a number of the Lou Fine cover recreations done by Murphy Anderson. Mystery Men Comics 3 (my favorite cover of all time), Wonderworld Comics 7, Fantastic comics 3 and Science Comics 1. These are obvious labor of love, as Murphy pays homage to his idol. The painstaking attention to detail and the nuances of the colors ranks these recreations as some of the most finely produced recreations ever produced. Murphy was so flattered by my early acquisition ( and “suggestions’ of Fine covers) that he asked if “I would mind” if he could stop by my house when in the area so that he could personally inscribed them to me. (“If I would mind….!!! Yup got pictures of the event)
Take a step back and think actually what these works are. These young men- often teenagers- were there at the dawn of comics, as the art form and story-telling medium was groping for form and substance. Bristling with unbridled energy, many of these covers reflected the oncoming storm of World War II. Sixty years later these “creators” filled with the same special energy that got them into this industry in the first place are only too happy to conjure up memories of this bygone area that was part of their youth.
Recreations are often times overlooked and viewed as some sort of gimmick, many questioning the manner and process that leads to their creation. Poppydoodle! Joe Simon doing Joe Simon. Alex Schomburg doing Alex Schomburg. Mooney, Tuska, Lubbers, Fujitani doing their thing with covers classic unto themselves. I do not care what the process of creation is. It does not get any better than this than to have these greats impart a bit of comic history to me.
So for your consideration, you may want to “re”-consider recreations.
©Jon Berk, 2009, All Rights Reserved.