John Ostrander: The Comix4Sight Auction

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Saturday Night at Chicago Comic Con saw the gathering of a great many friends and "friends they haven’t met yet" all in support of one of the comics most solid and good-humored individuals – John Ostrander. By now many will have heard about Ostrander’s battle against glaucoma. In addition to donations, the Comix4Sight committee arranged an auction for Saturday night at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago to raise money to help Ostrander pay for the expensive treatments to save his sight. A great many people chipped in to help make all this possible, including Hero Initiative (which donated use of some of its equipment to help with the bidding process), ComicMix, and the Point radio – which broadcast the auction live.


The auction itself featured some amazing, beautiful and unique pieces, as well as pieces which held a special place in the history and career and Ostrander himself. The two top sellers for the evening, though, were something quite special. The first item was not physically present but Ken Levine stepped up to the microphone to describe it and give a little backstory. Levine was one of those involved with the torturous past of the Marvelman character and reminded those present that, years ago, famed statue sculptor Randy Bowen had created a limited edition Marvelman (Miracleman) statue with input from Neil Gaiman. Bowen, who never gives away or sells the artist proofs created for his statues, had made an exception and given the artist proof for this statue to Alan Moore. This item had, eventually, made it into the hands of Levine, who was holding it for Moore.


During the recent negotiations for the rights of Marvelman Levine had reminded Moore of the existence of the artist proof and Moore had said that he had no place for it and asked Levine to "do something nice with it". Levine’s response had been to donate the item for this auction. The lucky bidder would receive not only the artist proof but also a certificate of authenticity from Neil Gaiman’s company stating that this was Randy Bowen’s artist proof which had been given to Alan Moore as well as an autograph from Gaiman signed on anything and in any way the winner chose. The bidding was quite intense and in the end the entire package netted $1225 for the charity. The second high selling item was an original Joe and Andy Kubert sketch of Batman and Hawkman in battle. Again, bidding for this item was fast and competitive and in the end the piece went for $1300.


While those two pieces were the highlight of the evening there were a great many other brilliant pieces of art and generous donations which displayed the impact Ostrander has had on the lives of many comics professionals. Jill Thompson of Scary Godmother fame, for example, had missed the deadline for providing a piece of art for the auction and so instead put up for auction that she would do a watercolor painting of any character of the winner’s choosing. Artist Gene Ha, who was present at the auction, even spontaneously announced that he had his art tools with him and would do a free sketch for whoever won the piece he had donated to the auction (the rough pencils and final art for the cover to The Spirit #32).


Hero Initiative donated a T-Shirt which had been signed by nearly all of the professionals who had gone to last year’s Wizard World Chicago. Some of the names included Andy Runton, Dan Didio, and Geoff Johns and a number of the artists had done little head sketches on the shirt along with their names. Two Mike Grell pieces also there was even a bit of local color involved as an autographed T-shirt from Chicago, campy late night TV horror movie host Svengoolie (Rich Koz) was part of the auction.


Of course all of this was for Ostrander, who was present at the auction. While Ostrander was mostly content to sit at a table toward the back of the room and watch the proceedings he did occasionally get into the act – at one point pretending to swipe an original, color painting of Concrete by Paul Chadwick and then holding it high above his head and telling the audience that if they weren’t willing to bid on it then they were crazy. At another point, as bidding on one item became competitive, Ostrander stood and cried "I’m blind! I’m blind!" as a joke about attempting to prick the audience’s conscience to increase the bidding price.


At the end of the evening, however, time round out with many items still left waiting in the wings and it was announced that Comix4Sight would continue the auction online. There was also a reminder that any money raised over and above Ostrander’s needs would be given to the Hero Initiative – that organization which helps comic book creators in need with medical bills and other financial aid.


At the end of the evening, as time ran out, Ostrander himself came to the microphone and gave a touching and heartfelt speech on how much all of the outpouring of support has meant to him. It was quite apparent that the feeling was mutual as everything Ostrander has done over the years has meant quite a lot to those in the comic book community.


For more information on how you can make a donation to help John Ostrander check out the Comix4Sight website.


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  • Eric Lindberg

    Eric Lindberg Aug 12, 2009 at 9:10pm

    Thanks for covering this, Tonya. I wish I could have been there but my schedule and the car-full of people I was ferrying about at the con precluded it. Sounds like it was quite an event. I hope they will be able to raise enough to help Mr. Ostrander.

  • Tonya Crawford

    Tonya Crawford Aug 13, 2009 at 9:09am

    At the auction they said that they have already raised something in the neighborhood of $15,000 on donations alone. And there was a LOT of stuff at the auction they couldn't get to so when they put it up online it's liable to fetch some nice prices.

    When I got there I found out that they DID charge $40 to attend (despite the fact that the WWC PROGRAM said it was free. Wizard REALLY needs to get their act together on that) BUT since I was doing press coverage they let me in for free. The real highlight of the evening was Ostrander himself. He truly seems like a warm, funny, lighthearted guy.

    I not only hope they raise money to cover his treatments, I hope the treatments continue to WORK. I'd hate to think of him going through all this; fighting so hard to keep his sight, only to lose it in the end.

  • Andy Oliver

    Andy Oliver Aug 13, 2009 at 10:17am

    The two or three times (over several years) I have ever interacted with John on his message boards he's always come across that way to me as well. Generous with his recollections and friendliness personified. The man has given me so much reading pleasure over the years - I can remember where and when I bought and read every single issue of SUICIDE SQUAD - that it's only right we, as a community, should be repaying that. Long since overdue for a Squad collection from DC.

  • Eric Lindberg

    Eric Lindberg Aug 13, 2009 at 2:13pm

    Yeah, someone mentioned that at the DC Nation panel. With all this going on, I'm surprised that DC doesn't release a Squad trade and donate some of the proceeds to Mr. Ostrander. Maybe they don't want to be seen giving preferential treatment, in case other creators are in need in the future.

  • Tonya Crawford

    Tonya Crawford Aug 13, 2009 at 5:54pm

    As I understand it, there WAS a tentative schedule on a "Showcase Presents: The Suicide Squad" volume but the plug got pulled reportedly over the very generous reprint terms CEO Jeannette Kahn had instituted at DC at the time of the original stories. Essentially what I heard was that paying the required royalties would be almost guaranteed to make the edition a money loser no matter what.

    Still, it would be nice to see DC do the Suicide Squad some justice and do a multi-volume re-print in color. I like the Showcase volumes, don't get me wrong, but some stuff just deserves the royal treatment.

    Also, over on her You'll All Be Sorry MB's gail Simone just announced that, between auction and donations they have raised over $31,000 for Ostrander! AND they still have a TON of material for the online auction!

    This shouldn't discourage anyone who can to not donate or bid on stuff, however, because, remember, whatever is left over STILL goes to a good cause -- namely the Hero Intitiative.

  • Andy Oliver

    Andy Oliver Aug 14, 2009 at 3:35pm

    Yes there were a number of SHOWCASEs pulled a few years back. Thanks for the info Tonya. Interesting if that's the case for the Squad one - though it doesn't explain the GREAT DISASTER one or CAPTAIN CARROT as material contemporaneous to those titles *has* been published. But , anyway, moving back on-topic it's fantastic to hear so much money has already been raised. Brilliant!

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