Saturday, December 3, 2016

Ugly Times

OK the season has passed but since I'm on a roll with my research on the free-lance artists hired by Topps back in the vintage days, Hallowe'en 1966 is going to get a looksee today with a peek at Ugly Buttons, a set of 24 metal pinback buttons with superb artwork by Wally Wood. Actually I think the set was designed to last past the traditional end of October as it doesn't have spooky theme but one of humorous monsters instead.

What piqued my thoughts about today's post was a just ended Hake's auction that moved a piece originally from a 2005 REA auction. namely a full proof sheet of all 24 button artworks. REA also had a half sheet I'll show two halves of it first as there's something else I want to tell you about as well.

The proof sheet is a full one but clearly segregates the buttons into 12 unit groups:

This is the top half of the sheet- don't you just love the artwork? Some of the color backgrounds look a little raggedy but they would be excised in the final production.

The bottom half is just as sweet:

Some of the backgrounds look cut off at the extreme edges but again, production would deal with that.

Now, here is something I haven't seen before (probably because I wan't paying attention!), namely information on how big a proof run was produced.  Check this baby out:

26 proofs, which I cautiously assume are full color finals but also consider that count could include partial color progressions and the like.  The population of most Topps proofs in the hobby is essentially hidden. So I guess the question would be: were roughly 25 full proof sheets printed for the press runs of every Topps product or series?  While you can never figure what survived, it would be nice to know what kind of numbers are in the potential universe for each run.

Here's what the finished product looked like:

It's an unfortunate fact that people like Wood, one of the great comic book and advertising artists of all time, were paid mere pittances for their artwork and often lived hand to mouth.  Even the great Norm Saunders, a Topps mainstay and " art fixer" for many years, received single digit sums sometimes for each piece he worked on.

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