Robert Cox is a British Comic art collector who has been collecting mainly 2000AD artwork since the early 1990s. Morgan Spiceman interviews him about his hobby…
Morgan Spiceman: Who is your favourite artist or artists?
Robert: My favourite artist is, unquestionably, Massimo Belardinelli. I’ve had a long-standing love of his artwork for over 40 years, so I guess if it was going to wear off it would of by now,
It was Massimo’s depiction of Dan Dare [for early issues of 2000AD] that first drew me to his artwork. I’d not seen anything like it before. I used to read comics like Victor, where the artwork was a bit more “formal”, for want of a better word, so when I saw Massimo’s Dan Dare with its fantastic living spaceships and grotesque aliens, it kind of blew my mind a bit!
Morgan: How did you get into art collecting?
Robert: A long time ago, in the very early 1990s, I had the idea to buy some artwork and found a shop in London called Comic Showcase [now closed – Ed]. I took a trip to London to visit it, and bought a piece of artwork. Whilst there, I picked up a magazine called Comics international edited by Dez Skinn. In that publication there was an advert for a company called Aargh!, who I later visited and got many, many pages of artwork from them. I also attended a comics convention at Birmingham NEC and met great guys like Dale Jackson and Pete Smith, who I also bought artwork off of as well.
I found Comics International a great help in locating artwork thanks to its directory of comic shops. I’d spend hours on the phone, calling each one individually, asking if they had or knew of any 2000AD artwork for sale. This was before the time of now widely-used internet, let’s not forget!
Morgan: What the first piece you bought?
Robert: When I first went to Comic Showcase, with the intention of buying some Massimo Belardinelli art or “Judge Dredd” artwork by Steve Dillon, there was none of that available, so I bought a “Judge Dredd” page by Mick McMahon instead, I honestly can’t remember which page it was but it was one of three.
On subsequent visits, I brought the other two pages and also a double page spread of “Nemesis the Warlock” by Kevin O’Neill, which I no longer own, unfortunately.
Morgan: What is your favourite piece of comic art you own?
Robert: Blimey, that’s a tough question! I suppose if the house was burning and I could only save one piece it’d be the “Meltdown Man” commission Massimo Belardinelli did for me, that above all else is my prized possession (best I throw in that obviously the wife and kids are already out the burning house by the way!
Morgan: How many pieces of art have you got?
Robert: 470 pages of original artwork or thereabouts. If you include prelims and prints, nearer 600. But it’s not just 2000AD artwork, included in this figure is artwork that Massimo drew before he started working for 2000AD, via the Giolitti studio.
But let’s not forget in the early days of artwork collecting, for me at least, some pages only cost £5 per page! Sure, some were more, but prices back then were nowhere near what prices have risen to today. Collecting art seems to have become more popular.
Morgan: How do you store them?
Robert: A select few are framed and displayed, but the majority are stored in A2 size folders, in plastic sleeves with acid proof tissue paper between the artwork and the plastic. Some of the Double Page Spreads pages are stored in bigger folders, loose.
Morgan: What do your friends and family think about your collecting?
Robert: Some think I’m mad, some understand it, some treat it with indifference! Probably the same as anyone with a hobby, it’s down to that particular individual to collect and collate what they like personally. For me, it’s stuff relating to 2000AD and Judge Dredd. And, unsurprisingly, that is reflected in the groups I follow and contribute to on social media. I guess a lot of the time that most likely applies to most people in general.
Morgan: Apart from comic art, what other types of art do you like?
Robert: Like most, I appreciate all types of artwork but I don’t tend to follow a lot of non-2000AD related artists on social media.
Morgan: Which comic creators, artists or writers, for example, have you met?
Robert: Surprisingly few! In the early days, I went to a few conventions and book signings, does that count? At a book signing I met Simon Bisley, Kevin Walker and Brian Bolland and at another I met Steve Sampson and David Millgate.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting writer Alan Hebden a couple of times, which has always been great. And via email several other 2000AD related artists. The internet has made them a lot more accessible to fans, which I think is mainly a good thing!
Morgan: What were they like?
Robert: Every single one I’ve ever met or messaged or communicated with either via email or letter (before the days of the internet!) has always been very approachable. It still to this day amazes me that the artists and writers are incredibly humble. They always seem to have time for their fans and I’ve never ever had a bad experience with any of them, either in real life or on the internet!
Morgan: Who would you like to meet or have met?
Robert: Focusing on those that have unfortunately passed on, I’d have loved to have met Massimo. I did speak to him, but we never met face-to-face. That is a huge regret, but I count myself lucky to have spoken to him on the phone and communicated via letters (which I still have, and prize highly).
Another would be Steve Dillon. I adored his artwork and as I mentioned earlier, he was one of the reasons I first started buying artwork in the first place so he’d be on my fantasy wish list of artists to meet.
Also, Carlos Ezquerra, another of the old school 2000AD artists I never had the good fortune to meet.
Most of the other artists I’d like to meet are still alive and kicking so there’s still hope I’ll bump into them one way or the other!
Morgan: Do you draw or paint or do any type of art yourself?
Robert: That’s an easy one to answer – nope! I’ve not an artistic bone in my body, unfortunately. I do appreciate artwork and I certainly know what I like and dislike, but I’ve neither the skill or the patience to put pencil to paper!
Morgan: Do you own any Rogue Trooper or Slainé art?
Robert: Yes and yes! I have a Rogue Trooper 2000AD cover by Dylan Teague and a lovely sketch as well, and a Rogue page by the late Brett Ewins. I’m also fortunate enough to have quite a few of the American reprint covers for Rogue Trooper, as well.
The Slaine artwork I own is by Massimo Belardinelli. I guess there’s about 15 pages of that in total.
Massimo hardly drew Rogue Trooper by the way, in fact I can only think of once instance when he did, and that was for the cover of the 1986 2000AD annual.
Morgan: What piece would you like to own?
Robert: Blimey, there’s way too many to list but the one page I’d really like in my collection would be the front cover to 2000AD Prog 183, by Massimo Belardinelli.
That’s my grail page and one I’ve never been able to locate, in all the time I’ve been collecting!
Morgan: Are there any pieces you regret selling?
Robert: Several! But three spring readily to mind – an amazing “Judge Dredd” page by Steve Dillon; the cover of Prog 195 by Ian Gibson; and the afore mentioned “Nemesis the Warlock” spread. But while I do regret selling this artwork, it usually led to getting other comparable artwork – usually by Massimo Belardinelli!
Morgan: Talking more generally about comics, when did you start reading 2000AD?
Robert: Back in the late 1970s! I cannot for the life of me remember what was my first prog though. I know my dad used to get comics – Victor, Commando etc., and when 2000AD came out he used to get that as well, but I didn’t start reading them “full time” until, most likely, 1979 or thereabouts when I went through his back issues and started reading them then from Prog One, which is where I first found Massimo’s Dan Dare artwork!
Morgan: Which are your favourite 2000AD character, characters or stories?
Robert: Without a doubt my all-time favourite story is “Meltdown Man“, superbly written by Alan Hebden and drawn by Massimo Belardinelli. It ran for an epic 50 episodes, non-stop from prog 178 to 227. Massimo drew between four and six pages a week and did a couple of covers as well – an impressive output by anyone’s standards!
My favourite character is of course Judge Dredd, and my favourite story of his is “Block Mania”/”Apocalypse War”.
Morgan: What advice would you have for anyone who wants to collect art?
Robert: Erm, I’m not really an expert on giving useful advice, so I’d just say follow whatever you love and keep an eye open for deals! If you are after a commission from an artist always be polite. You may think it strange I mention this, but you’d be surprised what some people expect from artists and what they’re prepared to pay. I’ve several stories of fans wanting this, that and the other and not taking into account the artists time, skill and dedication that it takes to create such a piece.)
downthetubes would like to thank both Morgan and Robert for permission to re-publish this interview, first published on Facebook
• Robert Cox very kindly displays his comic art on ComicArt Fans, separated into galleries for different artists– he is particularly interested in buying art by Massimo Belardinelli, information here
2000AD and characters © Rebellion Publishing Ltd