Collector Spotlight – Michael OML
Hi everyone, today I’m honoured to welcome well-known mega collector Michael “One Minute Later”! Michael’s love and dedication to OA collecting, which shines through in his epic feature below, is renown within the community. I’d like to sincerely thank Michael for dedicating so much thought and effort to this article – he really poured his heart into it, all for our enjoyment. You can’t ask for more from one of the pre-eminent collectors and best ambassadors of our hobby!
Hi folks, my name is Michael and I’m probably best known for my “One Minute Later” commissioning theme, which I’ll get to another time! I started reading comic books way back in 1972 when I was six years old – my older cousin had a small pile of comics with romance, Sad Sack, Archies and two superhero comics, both missing their covers. One of the comics was Justice League of America #101 written by Len Wein with art by Dick Dillin and Joe Giella. This issue kicked off a three-part story which had a team-up of the Justice League of America and Justice Society of America, as they together searched for the lost heroes from the Seven Soldiers of Victory. This comic had a seminal influence on me. Who were these heroes? How did they get lost in time? And could they be saved? I was amazed, impressed, inspired and thus began a life-long love of comic books!
From there, there was no stopping me. What did I read? Easy, every single comic I could get my hands on – my younger brother would get different titles from me (I focused on Marvel) and my good friend Danny would buy DCs and we’d swap and read each others’ books. So, my favorites were Captain America, The Invaders, Nova, the X-Men, FF, Thor, DD, etc. I also bought all the reprint comics so I could read the past histories: Marvel Triple Action, Marvel’s Greatest Comics, Marvel Tales, etc. I loved and read them all! Every so often, I’d also buy a Batman or a Legion of Super-Heroes or a Justice League and then I’d be hooked for 6 or 8 issues or more.
Original Art Collecting Journey
This is supposed to be a story about my art collecting so let me start with that! In 2001, my beloved grandmother gave each of her 5 grandchildren a small bit of money (our inheritance) and asked that we use it to buy something that we would always remember her by (that we not save it, not use it for travel but instead buy something that would remind us of her) – she wanted to do it while she was alive to share in our joy. For me, I hired Gene Colan and had him draw the Invaders versus the Red Skull. I love this piece – it is oversized and hangs in my study. I think of Grandma Pearl every day when I see it. Roy Thomas loved it as well and made it the cover to Alter Ego #70.
Over the next few years, I bought a few more pieces here and there, often from Mike Burkey over at Romitaman, including the cover to Sub-Mariner #72 and the cover to Marvel Premiere #37 featuring 3-D Man.
From the Donnellys, I bought this page from Avengers #16 where Captain America is told the founders are leaving and he meets the new team for the first time.
I then moved to England, where I used the Comicart-L Yahoo Group to let folks know I’d moved to London and was an art collector. My first friend there was Joseph Melchior, who remains one to this day, and Malcolm Bourne. Through them, I met several UK artists and other collectors including Garry Leach, from whom I obtained this great Avengers #4 painting. For those who know Garry, this is how I came to own it. He brought it to the office – I said I really wanted it; his price was too high. So, he said, why don’t I leave it here for a few days and you can see how much you really love it. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. Of course, I loved it! I bought it, and the painting hangs on the wall of my comic room to this day.
And, I’d be very remiss if I didn’t mention one of my closest friends, artist Barry Kitson – I spent many a day at his studio looking at art and hanging out. Once, we missed my train home and had to race in his car into town, to a stop where I could get back on the train! Going through Barrry’s art was always a joy and I purchased many pieces including this one, which is the original art to a limited edition poster Barry made to sell at a Bristol show in the UK. Most recently, I bought all 5 of his covers to the new Marvel Avengers mini-series.
As a side note, I also became legal counsel for multiple UK (and American) comic artists and writers including: Garry Leach, Alan Davis, Jon Totleben and Rick Veitch. In fact, all of them combined together to do this wonderful jam as a gift to me, which Marvel also used as a wraparound variant cover to Miracleman #1. It was a treat to see the email traffic going back and forth between these stellar illustrators as they discussed the cover and how to work on a jam piece together. One interesting thing we did was to have the cover emulate the actual art teams that worked on Miracleman – the first artist was Garry Leach penciling and inking himself (Warpsmith), followed by Alan Davis pencils with Garry Leach inks (Young Miracleman vs Young Nastyman), then Alan penciling and inking himself (Miracleman), moving to Rick Veitch (Gargunza), and lastly Jon Totleben (Miraclewoman & Johnny Bates). I thought that it was really fascinating to mimic the actual art teams in a jam piece.
Back to the subject at hand – what art do I collect. In terms of published artwork, I prefer to buy covers/splashes, focusing on pieces that have some nostalgia for me if possible. Second, I like to have terrific examples from multiple artists. Let me walk you through a few of the pieces and you’ll have an idea of what I like!
Ok first up, the title-splash page from Justice League of America #101 – the book that I opened this article discussing. This is the first page of the first superhero comic I ever read! How many collectors can say that? Even better, this splash was the cover to me, since my cousin Brian’s copy had no cover. Owning this is one of the high points of my collecting life, as I remember being 6 years old and reading it over and over on my cousin’s waterbed. Here it is!
More recently, I bought the key splash to Justice League of America #102 – a dream come true for me. Here is page 18 featuring the JLA, JSA and Seven Soldiers. Frank Giella was kind enough to sell both these JLA pages to me and I’ll be forever grateful.
I said I liked nostalgia – well, Invaders was one of my favorite titles and I’m privileged to own both Giant-Size Invaders #1 and Invaders #6. Invaders #6 was probably my all-time favorite comic cover as a child, as it features the Invaders fighting the Liberty Legion. I left some very kind words about this cover on Glenn Brunswick’s CAF page and then, whammo, he called me out of the blue to tell me he was selling it, and would I like it as he remembered my CAF comments. Yikes, I’m on a cruise ship in Europe that is pulling out of port, with no internet or connectivity! I phone my friend, collector Ben Friedman – check out his CAF – and as the connection is falling apart, I implore him to get in touch with Glenn to let him know that I’ll take it. I really wasn’t sure how to pay for it back then as I was in a different stage of my career, but my Dad (I sure miss him) said to me: it’s only a few cents per day for the rest of your life for your favorite cover, how can you say no? It was a great piece of advice from my Dad, whose other famous comic quote occurred when my brother and I both read and loved a particular comic, Red Circle’s Mighty Crusaders #1, and thought we should go back to the comic store so we could each have a copy. Overhearing the two of us, my father (a decided non-comic person) announced that, “One Mighty Crusaders #1 is enough for my family.” Good thing we didn’t listen and, to this day, we each have a copy of Red Circle’s Mighty Crusaders #1 (hey, we were young)!
Speaking of friends, I have to say I’ve made some really great ones in the hobby and they always help me with my spending. In San Diego 2016, I was lucky enough to find myself along with my friend Ron Sonenthal in front of Mitch Itkowitz’s booth as he was putting his art out for sale. It was there that I purchased what I think is my most published piece – the Captain America and Falcon Jack Kirby corner box illustrations – each is 7”x9” and signed by the King himself. These were published 48 times by Marvel! I thought for about 10 seconds, checked with Ron and received his sign-off and, KA-POW, into the collection they went.
Occasionally, I find myself with a chance to buy something that I think I can show off to non-art friends (yes, there is such a thing) to help them understand a bit about comics. That is the case with my Gene Colan and Tom Palmer Tomb of Dracula #67 cover, where I purchased Gene’s pencils and also Tom’s inks (via lightbox). I like having them side-by-side as it allows me to explain the pencil and ink process to people.
I could go on and on, such as how I loved the Marvel Team-Up storyline where Spider-Man ended up at the Salem Witch Trials and I am honored to have one of those covers, or how I loved Nova and have two Nova covers, or the story behind almost every piece. But suffice to say, they are in my CAF gallery and you can find them there!
One strange theme to some of my buying seems to be ‘unwanted’ pieces which somehow become wanted as soon as I buy them. Two of my favorite examples are below.
I mentioned previously that I loved to go to Barry Kitson’s studio and go through his art files and just hang out for hours. One time, I found a piece featuring Triplicate Girl in which Barry had not inked the head on two of her bodies. I said “what is this?”, and Barry explained it was the cover to Legion of Super-Heroes #3 but he had photoshopped the heads on the two bodies. I then asked why super Legion collectors (Miki Annamanthadoo, Aidan Lacy and Dave Rash) had not purchased it, as I knew they were buying all of Barry’s Legion art. Barry said “they didn’t want it” and so I bought it. Barry was even kind enough to ink in the two missing heads. I love this piece and would never part with it (sorry Miki). Of course, as soon as I posted it, the Legion collectors swarmed and said they’d always wanted it and somehow had overlooked it every time they spoke to Barry or looked at his art!
Another time, I was at the Comic Art Con and saw one of the most recognizable FF covers of the Bronze Age – the John Romita Sr. cover to Marvel Treasury Edition #2. Albert Moy told me that nobody had wanted it and he’d had it at several shows. I bought it immediately and couldn’t be happier. Once up on CAF, it started garnering offers right away but, again, I loved this book as a young boy and there is no way I’m ever selling!
While not an ‘unwanted’ piece, I did try for some time to purchase a few covers from Al Milgrom. Al is a super nice fellow and I sure did enjoy our email correspondence. I asked him about two covers I’d loved when I was younger – a Nova cover and also a Captain Marvel cover featuring the Watcher, #36. I’d bought that one at 7-11 off the racks and it stuck with me forever. I love this cover and remember reading it at my friend’s house. Al’s eventual response was that he’d gone down into his basement and, unbelievably, was able to find it!
My Want List
Here’s what I’m on the lookout for now:
- Fantastic Four #158 cover by Rich Buckler – This is one of my favorite covers from back in the day, it’s also one of the first comic books I remember reading. If anyone has any idea where it is, I’d sure love to know.
- Captain America #156 cover – My holy grail! This storyline featuring the Cap of the 1950s is my favorite storyline. I’d love to have this cover. I don’t even know if it exists.
- Sal Buscema Captain America cover – I’d love a Cap cover from #150-175, especially one by Sal. Sadly, Nick Katradis has almost all of them, but you never know!
- Legion of Super-Heroes – Another nice Legion cover would fit superbly into my collection.
- Golden Age superhero covers and splashes – I’ve been really into the Golden Age patriotic heroes of lesser companies, and would be highly interested in any covers or splashes that become available. Here is one I recently obtained – Speed Comics #38 (Harvey Comics 1945) by Al Avison.
You can check out Michael’s CAF gallery here.