You can imagine what it must have been like in the wild west, during the gold rush, or when silver was discovered near what would be Tombstone. In those days you had to seek out and pursue your fortune. It was hard. Now there is no way to equate that life and death pursuit with chasing down original comic art but sometimes the correlation fits. Anyone who has used the word “grail” to define a piece of black and white artwork on an 11×17 piece of art board knows of that which I speak.
Recently I was fortunate enough to finally run down one of my grails. Thanks to Spencer Beck over at The Artist’s Choice and more importantly thanks to Steve Epting. Captain America has long been my favorite character right next to Spidey. My grandmother made me a Captain America costume one Halloween for me to march in the Bay Ridge’s Ragamuffin Parade in Brooklyn, NY. This was in the late 70’s so while her work was outstanding (she made the shield and all) let’s just say nobody would mistake me for Chris Evans stunt double.
My pursuit of Epting’s brilliant masterwork cover to the Captain America Omnibus was a 5 year process. I researched, sought out, made impassioned pleas, and finally when I had just about given up I found out Steve was ready to part with it. I moved mountains to get it to. Trading away art and comics from my long time collection. But when you find something that is special and that means so much to you personally you do what you have to do. It is why we have this collecting bug and it is the defect we must live with when we collect for the love of this hobby of ours.
Steve’s piece long reverberated with me because I read the series he and Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark and Mike Perkins and Butch Guice so masterfully crafted into an Eisner award-winning opus of super hero espionage as it came out. Then I bought the Omnibus and read it again. And again. It is that good and then some. Some critics (and sadly some writers) have miscast Cap as a Man Out Of Time who cannot be relevant for today or whatever modern era he is written in. I say that is the copout of a lazy unimaginative writer. The type of writer who would use a supporting character to chastise Captain America for not knowing what Facebook is or what an ipod is during Marvel’s much ballyhooed event of a few year’s ago – Secret Invasion. It was a lame lambasting of one of the best, and most enduring comic characters of all time. What Brubaker and Epting did was to blow that tired assessment up. Cap can and has evolved but he still clings to the time he was from, the simpler era where at least in our four-color world we still say in black and white instead of shades of grey. Cap has always been about right and wrong and those ideals are not exclusive to any era. Somethings never change and when it comes to Captain America I am glad for it. Brubaker showed a steely Cap who did not suffer from bygone naiveté and Epting’s art was dark, somber, moody and film noir yet vibrant and electric. It was cinematic. It was not hyperealistic nor Alex Ross-like but rather the perfect melding of real world imaging with our comic book mind’s eye vision.
It has been a pleasure chasing this piece down and I look forward to the joy of owning it for years to come and all that is left now is to move on to the next chase.
As a footnote to this posting I wanted to add the fact that this posting of the piece on CAF was dedicated to my dad who we just found out will be undergoing treatment for colon cancer. My dad took me to all the comic conventions as a kid and stayed the long hours, watching and helping me to wheel and deal, and would hunt down comics for me as gifts. He always supported and encouraged my insane love of Marvel Comics. In little league if I had a great game it often resulted in my being rewarded with several issues I needed to complete my run of G.I. Joe. My dad has always done his best and that is what he preaches. It is his mantra and not much different from something Cap would say.