Most comics fans with even a passing interest in the medium and its history will be aware of how badly the industry has suffered from people stealing original art from publishers and selling it to collectors. The most famous case being that of Jack Kirby who throughout his career must have seen hundreds of pages ‘vanish’ only to have them reappear on the secondary market. There’s an excellent blog here detailing the issue, and it is one which a number of people really, really, really fucking hate talking about for all the reasons in the world popping in your head right now.
There was a few conventions in the 90’s in London where dealers from the US would have piles of art from the likes of Kirby, plus Neal Adams, Gil Kane, Steranko, and loads more for not insane prices compared with what any of those pages would go for today. The feeling at the time was many of these pages were stolen, or passed on from the original theif as after all, this was a goldmine of comics history being sold for a bargain. Just what you’d do if you want to shift hot goods quickly.
As mentioned before, this is barely spoken about because it involves picking a scab and what might come from it isn’t good. We know some artists,writers, editors (I’m not naming names, but the likes of Howard Chaykin have often over the years) and all and sundry would help themselves (struggling with rent? Grab a few pages, sell them to collectors and you’re back on track) so when Kirby had his art returned to him by Marvel, hundreds of pages ere missing. Other artists have seen pages for sale that they were told was lost while every now and then you’ll hear rumours of a black market of art thought lost but being traded by rich collectors. There’s a serious business now in collecting original art, and as everything is a one of a kind, there’s the fact it’ll never be replaced so next time you see a load of art on sale wonder where exactly that art came from and also ask if the artist/s are getting a penny from it?