Friday, September 24, 2010

The Charlotte's Web Original Art Auction

As most of you know, I like to collect comic-book art. As hobbies go, it's a bit off the beaten path but pretty understandable since I grew up reading comic books and still read a few favorites. I think it's a pretty fun hobby. Some of the pages are a nice trip down nostalgia lane because I remember reading them in the original comic twenty-five or thirty years ago. Some of the pages are from new comics that I've enjoyed. And some of them just look cool.

I also like that it's production art. I've always liked things that are of use. And these pages are a tangible relic of the work, care, and creativity that went into what is generally considered to be a one-month-and-forgotten art form.

If you've never seen original comic-book art, the original pages often have a lot of detail that doesn't come out on the comic page, especially the pages of older comics published before digital printing came into vogue. Monique and I have framed a few of the best pieces and hung them on our walls at home. I've also taken quite a few in to work and put them up on my cubicle walls over the years. I like to rotate them in and out there. It ensures that I haven't just stored them away forever in a dusty portfolio book, and I think they look pretty cheerful in my cube.

It's a relatively inexpensive hobby as collector hobbies go. Most of the pieces I've bought have been in the $10-$25 range on e-Bay. I've gone up over $100 for a couple of particularly cool pieces that ended up on our wall at home, then reigned myself in for a few months afterwards to make up for it. That's not to say that you couldn't spend a lot more if you wanted to -- some of the truly iconic pages of comic-book history could easily cost upwards of $25,000. Honestly, though, for $25,000+ I'd rather have a nice, new boat.

In fact, I've never really felt the collector bug that says I should spend anything like significant money on what is, after all, a silly little side hobby.

Until now, that is.

That's because part of the estate of Garth Williams -- the illustrator of Charlotte's Web -- is being auctioned off on Oct. 15, and more than 40 of those original illustrations are up for sale. (Yes, most of my pages are from comic books, but children's book illustrations have much in common and many of the top illustrators worked in both fields. In any case, I suddenly find that my inner two-year-old collector has wriggled free, and to my annoyance it's yelling, "MINE!")

Alas that most of the pieces have opening bids of $750 or $1,000. The cover illustration is estimated to go for $20,000 - $30,000. Since Charlotte's Web is (I believe) still the top selling children's book in history, my guess is that the cover illustration may very well go for more than that. Doubly alas that all the free funds for a foreseeable future were frittered away frivolously on hooking our house up to the sewer. In retrospect, I'm sure we could've just rolled with a Port-A-Potty for the next few years, right? Triply alas that I just spent my bonus from work on ridiculous stuff like paying off the bills.

(Okay, full disclosure in the midst of my whine. Remember those truly iconic $25,000+ pages I mentioned a few paragraphs ago? I spent a wee tiny bit of my bonus on the cover art from Silver Surfer #7 by John Buscema. No, I didn't suddenly qualify for a ridiculous Wall Street bonus. It was a freshly inked reproduction that cost about 1/500th what the original page would've cost. But it looks cool, and I can put it up on my cubicle wall without worrying about locking it up every night.)

The original spectacular, iconic cover of Silver Surfer, Number 7 ... um, sort of.

So, despite the fact that my birthday is just a few months away and a truly loving blogosphere would understand my need, I've sadly concluded that the only way original illustration art with a pig gets up on my wall is if somebody puts a few pages from Peter Porker: The Spectacular Spider-Ham up on e-Bay. But in the meantime, I copied a few of my favorite Charlotte's Web drawings into my "Screen Saver Photos" folder, and I thought I'd share them with everybody, just for fun.

Fern with baby Wilbur. One of my favorites.

Well, of course he's terrific. Just look at him!

Charlotte checks out the competition at the fair.

"Some Pig." Kind of an odd one to be my favorite of all, but it is. Perhaps it speaks to my love of the written word, wherever it may appear.


  1. That was depressing to look at, only because they were all so wonderful...and expensive.

    In better auction news, the Gettysburg Family scored a cherry table and four chairs last Tues. I think I've fallen in love with the auctions.

  2. Darn that pesky living within our means.

    On the bright side, you can still find a hardcover copy of the book itself for $0.49 (+$3.75 shipping) on e-Bay.

    Or free down at the library, which is really the sweet spot in my price range in these sad "paying for the sewer hookup" days. (Maybe I'll go flush a few times, just to cheer myself up!)

  3. I think you might have my car replacement beat with your sewer replacement woes. These are some really fantastic pages, though. I gotta say, though, for the price...I love this farmhouse with all the cars and people crowded around:

    They've got a great high-res version of it too! Thanks for the linkage.

    ...and congrats on that surfer cover too! Pretty wicked.

    Ryan Claytor
    Elephant Eater Comics