Research for Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story has dug up a lot of long-forgotten dirt, but here’s a particularly sad one: Marvel selling art by Romita, Sinnott, Kane, Sal Buscema, and more to a Winnipeg art gallery for $1000:
Marvel began returning current pages to artists sometime in 1974, and eventually worked retroactively back a few months, to comics cover-dated from January 1974; among the earliest issues from which art was sent back were Avengers #119 and Amazing Spider-Man #128.
But a year earlier, Marvel sold the covers to these issues, cover-dated January 1973, to the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Seven covers, plus progressive proofs and color guides for each, for a total of $1000.
Back in 1986, Irene Vartanoff (who began managing artwork return in 1975) told The Comics Journal that Marvel would occasionally send artwork to exhibits. But as far as I know, this is the only evidence that exists of Marvel actually accepting money for pages of original art.
Ownership of Marvel’s artwork was a huge issue throughout the ’70s, with most being returned to the original artists after they signed a release, but only after 1000s of pages had been stolen, lost, or…maybe even sold.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.