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Most importantly, Neal has advocated on behalf of creators rights since the early 1970s. He led the fight to get original art returned to the artists, and led the lobbying efforts to get Siegel and Shuster financial remuneration from DC for creating Superman. In 1987, both he and Jack Kirby were returned a large portion of the art they had created at Marvel, but the pages he illustrated for DC had long ago been discarded, sold or stolen. His assertion that his unreturned artwork is stolen artwork was controversial for a long time–especially at comic book conventions where there were dealers in possession of that artwork for sale, sometimes priced for hundreds of thousands of dollars. As such he has never authenticated that work.
Now we take it for granted that the art remains the property of the artist, but for decades publishers kept and sometimes threw away the original art pages, which is why Golden Age art is so extremely rare, much of it having been recycled in paper drives for the war effort. It was a conversation with Neal Adams in my formative years (and with Jack Kirby a few years later) that helped establish for me the importance of creator's rights.
This month, a milestone of comic art sales is happening: Neal Adams is validating the sale of one of his most iconic covers:
"The Green Lantern Green Arrow #76 cover (and subsequent series of books) changed the direction of comics when it was first published. That first cover set the tone of that change and is easily recognized by everyone in our industry around the world.
Now with that same cover at this auction, I would like to announce a New and Historical game-changer for collectors, historians and fans alike. Please let me be very clear. Whatever the origin and history of this cover has been since I first drew it, I'm here now announcing that, at the completion of this auction and during the auction I, Neal Adams, its creator and artist,...100% approve of this auction, the sale and subsequent ownership of this cover.
That since the proprietor of the cover has agreed to equitably share the income of the auction with me and my family I hereby validate sale and ownership of this piece and I will, in fact, supply a Certificate of Authenticity to the highest bidder of the auction, and the ownership of this cover will never be questioned by me. This sharing of profit with the creator, of the sale of artwork produced back in those days when ownership has ever been in question, will in this case and may in all cases go far in bringing underground artwork into the light of a fair and open marketplace.
To all of you who participate in this auction, I wish you well. The highest bidder of this auction will own a cover that changed an industry.... For the Better!
Best regards and good will to everyone,
In the last few years we have seen judgments in favor of the return of paintings, sculpture and textiles to the estates of Jewish families whose collections were confiscated by the Nazis in WWII. In many cases, those artworks are in museums, but a major private collection in Austria was recently seized and is being cataloged for return as well. This would seem to set the precedent for the return of artwork kept by publishers, or stolen by office clerks at those publishing houses and therefore never returned to artists who illustrated them.
On the other hand, the only resale statute in the Unites States, which required a 5% royalty be paid to an artist for any sale of their artwork in excess of $1,000 if sold for more than the original purchase price, has expired. And it was only on the books in California.
The more things change, the more they stay the same, I guess.
As I write this, the current auction price on the original artwork for the Green Lantern Green Arrow #76 cover is already above $250,000. but you've got until Saturday to outbid them.