A long time ago, when comic book creators handed their artwork into comic book companies, they never got it back. Some of it was stolen, some of it was given away, some of it was destroyed.
After a particularly fine meeting with Neal Adams' lawyers, when it was pointed out that if companies were buying the goods from artists rather than the service of reproducing the artwork, then they should be liable to government for paying sales tax on those goods, everything began to change and artists began to get their art back, retrospectively. A state that has continued to this day.
On his Facebook page yesterday, comic creator Karl Kesel posted about what happens when that doesn't go smoothly.
He talks about an Art Adams-written-and-pencilled story for Challenges Of The Unknown which he inked back in the year 2000. Inkers usually receive a percentage of the finished original art pages back, the penciller keeps the majority.
But he never got any pages. Four years ago, he contacted Art, who also didn't get any pages back. But that the pages were being sold online by art dealer Rich Donnelly. Karl contacted Rich telling him the pages were stolen, and he took them down from sale. But that was that, telling Karl "Sorry to hear that Art and you apparently had a problem with DC art returns" and that he bought the story from a reputable dealer. Karl believes him.
In subsequent messages, Karl stated
DC's lawyers have nothing to say except: not their concern. DC did pay Art and me a "lost art" fee (equal to our page rates)— but when I got that check I didn't realize what it was for, assumed I was being paid for inking the story. I probably figured I'd forgotten to voucher it originally (have no distinct memory of the payment— like I said: my life was topsy-turvy at the time).
We're going to go down the rabbit hole on this one and see where it takes us. We've contacted Rich Donnelly at Coollines Artwork and will see how far we can take this back to its original source. Indeed, looking at his Art Adams page, Donnelly himself was the victim of theft of Art Adams pages, the original art to the cover to X-Men Annual #10, stolen from their booth at San Diego Comic Con in 1990, to which they offer a $1000 reward for its return.
But for now, here are the Challengers original art pages from Art Adams and Karl Kesel. Just in case you know more – or someone tries to sell you pages from it.