Collector Spotlight – B. Carter & Mel C.
This week we’re thrilled to present a delightful conversation with husband and wife OA-collecting team, B. Carter & Mel C.! Their heartwarming banter provides an enthralling insight into how comics and art can bring people together, and contribute to strengthening that bond over time. When viewed in this light, the couple’s OA collection takes on a whole new level of beauty and depth, whilst highlighting once again the myriad joys that comic art brings us!
Please introduce yourselves!
Mel C. (“MC”): My love of reading comics came before the art collecting began. In college the first few comics I got a hold of were Alan Moore’s Miracleman; Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Black Orchid, and Death; and Garth Ennis’ Preacher — which is funny since I own very little art from any of them! Well, except for good ‘ol Arseface here…
Preacher #40 (1995), page 9 by Steve Dillon
B. Carter (“BC”): Yeah, we used to pass books back and forth in my dorm room, back when we were “just friends”. Then, when you finally landed me–
MC: Hrrrm… (said like Rorschach)
BC: –we used to sit together and read stuff side-by-side. I think we read all of Strangers in Paradise and Powers that way. Awww. We’re so adorbs.
MC: By the time we got to the mid-2000s, we were both very well read. We’d hit the comic shows in the NY area to dive for $1 books… that’s where my love for the ‘80s indies sprung up — books like Nexus, Jon Sable…
BC: Concrete and Ms. Tree, for me. Finally, finally, finally picked up a wonderful Concrete piece this week!
Concrete convention drawing (1991) by Paul Chadwick
What type of OA do you collect?
BC: Mostly 1980s through 2000s DC and indie stuff. I have a nostalgia period of mid-‘80s DC that I don’t think you have as much. So my Ordway/Byrne/Gammill/Jurgens Superman want list keeps getting pushed down past… what exactly?
MC: Bermejo. And… Bermejo. C’mon, we both have veto power on purchases. I think that’s a good thing though. We are less susceptible to impulse buys.
BC: For the most part our tastes overlap because we read and liked the same books. We have a few rules and preferences; no pencil pages, for the most part. We try to stick to inks, with a few exceptions.
MC: I prefer word balloons on my pages, but it’s not a deal-breaker on modern pages.
BC: And I don’t get the stigma against inks over blueline copies. But I know we have not bought a couple of things because we were worried about them retaining their value.
MC: Let’s see, other rules… we will occasionally pick up a really nice commission on the secondary market, but tend to shy away from commissioning directly. It’s just too risky for us. We’ve heard too many horror stories. Scheduling problems aside, I’m afraid of being disappointed when it arrives. I’d prefer to cherry pick the best stuff after the fact from other collectors, even if I end up paying a little more than they did.
How did you start collecting OA?
BC: We actually got into fantasy and illustration art for a time. Hit up the Frazetta Art Museum, Norman Rockwell Museum, and Spectrum Fantastic Art shows. We bought a few illustrations from the ‘20s, ‘30s, and ‘50s, but the buy-in for that hobby was getting too expensive for us circa 2008. My one regret is that we couldn’t snag an Alan Lee at that time.
MC: Love him. I think we have most of his prints. Though I can count the Alan Lee originals I’ve seen on one hand. After we moved away from illustration art, we started to look more into comic OA and got into it in earnest in 2015.
BC: I had picked up a couple of things in the early eBay days. Back when you had to mail a money order and sacrifice a chicken. I think our first OA purchase was at a terrific, small show up in White Plains in the early 2000s.
MC: I remember that! We hit up some great panels that day… Marv Wolfman talking about how he rescued Shuster Superman pages out of the trash at DC. He was ordered to destroy the old OA, but instead cut between the panel borders to piece back together later. Roy Thomas was there. Infantino. And a couple of the Studio guys were there: Barry Smith and Berni Wrightson.
BC: I brought my giant Frankenstein poster for him to sign. I think we got to meet Kaluta at a MoCCA show with Charles Vess not long after that.
MC: But back to White Plains… we had one of those magical con days and wandered, penniless, over to Spencer Beck’s booth to see what all of these piles of paper were about.
BC: We picked out our first piece of OA. And I even think we were about $13 short. Spencer took a look at our sad faces and relented.
Batman: A Death in the Family, house ads by Jim Aparo
BC: This is a huge piece for me. I’m very grateful I got to meet Jim Aparo before he passed. Also, it’s a bit of comics history. The death of Robin and the 1-900 phone number stunt was a MASSIVE media event at the time. Jason Todd died!
MC: Did you call? I imagine little you sitting by the phone, ready to execute the poor kid.
BC: No, I couldn’t get permission to dial the 1-900 number in time. There was a phone bill charge. But I’d like to think I would’ve saved him. Still, it led to some great stories later.
MC: Speaking of Robins, how about proto-Damian Wayne? Do you remember your surprise birthday present a couple of years later?
MC: You were drooling over three oversized 15”x20” Jerry Bingham pages from Batman: Son of the Demon, one of your favorite books. I contacted Tom Horvitz and secretly scooped the pages. But then YOU reached out to him and learned he had sold them mere days before. You were so upset that you started scouring the web for a “consolation prize”. And I was getting nervous because I had already dropped a pile of cash on these!
BC: Yeah, you had to give me the pages two months early to stop me from buying recklessly.
Batman: Son of the Demon (1987), page 55 by Jerry Bingham
What are some of your other favorite pieces?
BC: All I can ever get you to buy is Batman art. Why is that, when you love so many other books?
MC: Who? Me?
BC: Never mind… I forgot your other obsession. Steve Rude’s Nexus.
MC: The Dude is the best! Clean lines, dynamic composition, insane world-building. Dramatic use of blacks and contrast. Not to mention his ability to depict both drama and comedy.
Nexus #19 (1986), page 10 by Steve Rude & John Nyberg
Nexus: Executioner’s Song #3 (1996), page 22 by Steve Rude & Gary Martin
MC: Bechara Maalouf had this and I made an offer at the Big Apple Con. He replied, “Are you trying to bargain with me? That’s so cute.”
BC: I thought I was going to have to call security.
MC: You hear that, Bechara? I’M COMIN’ FOR YOU! LOL.
BC: It worked out with no bloodshed. I ended up getting it for your birthday this year. Bechara = No Bargain. But a really, really nice guy.
MC: Yeah. I always enjoy chatting with him. He’s a peach!
BC: In terms of purchasing art, as exhilarating as buying at auction can be, I think we both prefer to buy art at fixed price lately.
MC: It’s easier to plan our purchases that way. Often, we try to buy more than one piece at a time to get a little discount, hopefully.
BC: We don’t do too many artist direct purchases, but I’d like to try to do that more in the future. You feel like you’re supporting your favorite artists more. We got these direct…
Batman: Earth One #2 (2015), page 56 by Gary Frank & Jonathan Sibal
Batman: Earth One #2 (2015), page 146 by Gary Frank & Jonathan Sibal
BC: I still want a Frank Superman as that was my first exposure to him. Hit me up people!
MC: No, it wasn’t. We read Supreme Power first. You know, with old and wrinkly “Wonder Woman”? Nothing wrinkly about Jimenez’s Wonder Woman though…
Wonder Woman #165 (2001), page 4 by Phil Jimenez & Andy Lanning
BC: This might be my favorite piece in our modest collection. The layout, the detail, the hair!
MC: And my favorite is…
Detective Comics #617 (1990), pages 17 to 19 by Norm Breyfogle & Steve Mitchell
BC: Batman again, what a surprise.
MC: Shhh, just go with it.
What are you on the lookout for now?
MC: Bermejo. I have a kidney up for auction on the dark web. Help a sister out.
BC: I have a big want list on CAF, but right now, looking for some first-run Maguire Justice League International and some Bair Secret Origins pages.
MC: And we’re always open to new talent, like this unreal painting from João Silveira…
Swamp Thing illustration by João Silveira
What’s next on your OA collecting journey?
BC: We are starting to participate a little in the selling side of the hobby in order to upgrade our collection.
MC: And I think it makes us better buyers too. Sharpens the eye. I’m learning a lot and gaining an appreciation of what other people like. It’s been pretty eye-opening.
MC: Also, come see us at the NYC Comic Art Expo in May 2018! We may have a table with a few things out.
You can view more of B. Carter’s & Mel C.’s collection here in their CAF Gallery.
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