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Who Really Owns the Comico Art for Sale on eBay?

An alarming report has revealed the possibility that lost original artwork that was meant to be returned to its creators by defunct publisher Comico 20 years ago may have resurfaced in the form of a massive eBay sale. Eye on Comics’ Don MacPherson discovered the listing this week, which includes original artwork, printer proofs, color separation and color key printing sells and other materials numbered in the thousands. The Buy-it-Now price is a hefty $12,000. While it is possible that the artwork contained in the massive lot was legally retained by Comico, former editor Diana Schutz went on record as saying that some amount of artwork “disappeared” when the publisher went bankrupt in 1990, which casts suspicion upon this eBay sale.Based in Pennsylvania, Comico: The Comic Company was one of the movers and shakers of the independent comics movement of the 1980s, publishing such memorable works as Bill Willingham’s The Elementals and Mage and Grendel by Matt Wagner; acquiring licenses like Robotech and The Rocketeer; and launching the careers of two of American comics’ most influential editors, Bob Schreck (Madman, All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder) and Diana Schutz (Sin City, Concrete). The publisher also innovated a modern use of color in its books. Nevertheless, Comico shuttered in 1990, apparently leaving behind a huge amount of production assets.

According to an email from the eBay seller whom MacPherson’s identified as Greg J. Lignelli II of Phoenixville, PA, he has been housing thousands of pounds worth of old Comico material in a warehouse. Space considerations have necessitated the sale of these long forgotten assets, which are listed on eBay with sadly limited specificity (boldface emphasis ours):

HUGE collection of proofs, color separation & color key printing cells, art copy, original artwork, comic books, graphic novels, posters and advertising items. THOUSANDS OF ITEMS. Collection from the founder of Comico Comic Book Company.

Approximately 95% of this collection consists of THOUSANDS of color separation sheets/printing proofs. These are the original acetate sheets or “3-Ms” used to print the comic books. Many sheets have multiple pages on them. The rest of the collection is a mix of artwork, splash sheets, promo pieces, graphic samples, posters, signs, et al. Mostly all of the collection is from the 1980s.

THIS IS A MASSIVE AMOUNT OF MATERIAL. THE STACK OF ACETATE SHEETS IS ABOUT 3′ X 4′ X 8′ TALL AND WEIGHS IN THE THOUSANDS OF POUNDS.

The nature of Lignelli’s relationship to the Comico lot is unclear from the language in the eBay listing and in his email to MacPherson. We’re not sure whether he has been housing this material all these years as part of some business transaction or as a favor to the former Comico owners, whom Lignelli identified in the email as friends and neighbors from back in the day. It’s also unknown whether Lignelli himself owns this material or if he’s selling it on behalf of someone attached to Comico. An email from ComicsAlliance was not returned at press time.

Eye on Comics contacted Diana Schutz, who wrote, “If any of the original art up for sale on eBay is part of the stuff that ‘disappeared’ when Comico folded in 1990, then that art was not Comico’s, legally, to sell.”

Former Comico publisher Gerry Giovinco commented on the matter Wednesday on his and fellow ex-Comico principal Bill Cucinotta’s blog, CO2. Giovinco wrote that by the time Comico went bankrupt in 1990, he and Cucinotta were no longer involved with the company, which at the time was run by brothers Phil and Dennis LaSorda.

We have absolutely nothing to do with the possession and possible sale of the Comico materials in this listing and have absolutely no involvement, ties or dealings of any kind with Dennis LaSorda and ebay user coyotesurplus.

Given that Phil Lasorda is dead, the identity of the “Comico founder” referenced in the eBay listing would seem to be Dennis La Sorda, the only surviving Comico principal unaccounted for in this story. As we mentioned above, an email to the eBay seller about this very question was not returned.

With respect to the original artwork, Giovinco notes that some of the black-and-white pieces on display in the eBay photos may be photostats, and clarified Comico’s stance on original artwork.

It always was Comico policy to return all art to the creators. If there is art that was not returned, we are in total agreement that it should be returned to the rightful owners of the work. If you are a creator that believes your work could be among this lot, we would suggest you fight to get it back.

Like us, Gary Giovinco is confused about the ownership of this Comico archive and why so much of it remains warehoused, writing that any such materials would presumably have become the property of Andrew Rev when he purchased the bankrupt Comico in 1990.

In any case, Giovinco and Cucinotta agree the situation is a potentially unhappy one.

It is sad for us to see evidence of years of hard work, talent and aspiration heaped so randomly on a pile in some storage facility. Even sadder to consider that some of it may have been misappropriated.

We sincerely hope that that is not the case and that eventually this work will find its way into the hands of rightful and legitimate owners who will respect it and display it proudly for its valuable role in the history of comic art.

The eBay listing for this Comico material is set to close on December 3.

[Via Robot 6]

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