The Magical Mystery of the Toth Romance Page that Wasn't and... Jerry Iger
It's 1993 or '94. My career as an inker is going pretty well. I've inked a bunch of different books for DC, including some that included the then-hot character, Lobo. At the Chicago Comic-Con I made a deal with a typically scuzzy art dealer. He received a splashy Lobo page I had for sale at my table for $75, and I got what was purported to be an Alex Toth romance page. I was excited to get the page because I had passed up an earlier chance to get a Toth page for $50. Sigh. Those were the days.
Sadly, I was young and dumber than I had a right to be and, of course, the page wasn't by Toth. It took me a few years to realize as much, but realize it I eventually did. Still, I didn't feel too victimized because it was only a trade deal (not cash), and because this page came with a bizarre bonus. More on that later. For now... the page.
I know... it's clearly not Toth. Again, I was young and dumb. Hey, at least I was smart enough to hope it was Toth! I figured early on that the page was inked by Ol' Vinnie Colletta, but I never knew more than that. I showed the page to Kevin Nowlan last weekend and he wondered if it could have been pencilled by Ric Estrada. Based on some web searching for this issue (Young Love #165), it appears that he was right. The man is a wizard when it comes to such things. He probably told me who lettered it, too, but I've forgotten.
But... a mystery remains. It's about what fills the back of the page. Namely...
That, my friends, is the autograph of a man named Jerry Iger. And, looming over said autograph is a drawing which we might assume was done by Mr. Iger. Let's take it as a given that both are authentic because, if not, what's the point of this exercise in the first place?
You can check out the Wiki entry for Mr. Iger here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Iger
He was a contemporary of Will Eisner's. Together the men formed one of the key studios that provided content to publishers not yet ready (or willing) to produce their books in-house. By the time my Young Romance page was published, Iger was in his later sixties and was either working as a commercial artist or retired. According to Wiki he was a guest of honor at the New York Comic Convention in '74. More on that in a bit, after we talk about a fundamental component here; the paper.
As you can tell by the (Awesome!) logo in the upper left corner, this page is what's called cover stock. It was intended for use as a cover. We have to assume that Mr. Estrada was out of regular paper, or maybe he just preferred the cover stock (papers that should be the same, from the same publisher, often vary enough to make a real difference to finicky artists), or maybe the supply guy at DC had over-ordered on the cover stock and they were trying to use it up. I would say that maybe the inker preferred this paper, but we all know Vinnie didn't give a shit. Anyway, the paper isn't a major part of the mystery, but it does add to the head-scratching.
It seems relatively clear that whoever had possession of this original art at some point presented it to Mr. Iger for an autograph. It was an odd choice. Why not a notebook or a sketchbook or... damn near anything besides the back of a page that Iger had nothing to do with?! I don't know. And who was this person who collected the autograph. How did they acquire this page in the first place? This was at the end of the era where art was handed out willy-nilly to whoever happened to be taking a tour of the office that day. By 1969 some dealers were starting to sell pages, but that mainly applied to older, more noteworthy art. This was a forgettable page from a forgettable story in a forgettable comic. It seems unlikely that any retailer would have had this for sale, either at a con or in a shop. Maybe Ric Estrada or Vinnie Colletta themselves wanted to grab Jerry Iger's autograph, and then the page ended up shifting around and being available for me to acquire some twenty-five years later. Your guess (and I'd love to hear it) is as good as mine.
Finally, there's the matter of the drawing. Was Iger drawing himself? Was this his standard way of signing things? Was the drawing an exception... a nod to a peer (Estrada or Colletta or maybe even the book's editor or writer)? I have no idea. Again, if you have thoughts, shoot 'em at me. You'll find my email at the bottom of the page, or feel free to tag me on Twitter: @andeparks