COMIC-BOOK CREATORS ASSEMBLE TO HELP ED ASNER FAMILY CENTER RAISE FUNDS FOR AUTISM PROGRAMS
By Robert Wilonsky
In the spring, there was no choice: The Ed Asner Family Center had to close its doors, the result of the global pandemic that turned an entire world upside down. Matt Asner, son of the center’s namesake and its president and CEO, turned to his wife and the center’s executive director and co-founder, Navah Paskowitz-Asner, and asked, “What are we going to do now?”
Since its founding in 2018, the center has provided support for thousands of individuals with special needs, everything from therapy and counseling services to vocational instruction to art and cooking classes. More than anything, the Los Angeles-based center provided a community for families impacted by autism and other special needs, and Covid-19 suddenly rendered that gathering space off-limits.
In short order, the center pivoted, like so many others, to the online world. But it was not an easy transition nor an inexpensive one. Which only makes Heritage Auctions’ third annual Inktoberfest: The Ed Asner Family Center Annual Comic Art Auction that much more imperative.
The event, one of the center’s key annual fundraisers, takes place at HA.com on Oct. 28 and, once again, features original artwork from some of the comic-book industry’s best and best-known names. Some pieces were specially commissioned for this event; others are sought-after variant covers or unused pieces making their first-ever appearances at auction.
“The people we serve are people in desperate need of something to do and some hope to hang on to,” Navah says.
“I think it’s an incredibly important thing,” Matt adds. “And this year’s auction is the most important one we’ve done, for sure. We thought this year would be incredibly tough with the pandemic. But the amount of people who did chip in and who did send us stuff has overwhelmed us.”
“Comic books influenced us in our childhood and into adulthood,” says Ed Asner, beloved by generations raised on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Lou Grant and the Pixar film Up. “It happened with me, and it happened with Matt. And now, comics are a wonderful contribution to this very special cause.”
More than 55 comic-book creators have donated fresh-to-market work for this auction, among them Neal Adams, Mike Mignola, John Cassaday, Jim Lee, Dan Jurgens, Jill Thompson, Tim Sale, Eduardo Risso, Aaron Kuder, Arthur Adams, Phil Hester, Bill Sienkiewicz and Kevin Nowlan.
“This will be Heritage’s third year partnering with the Asners on this charity event, and, as always, it’s our pleasure and privilege to help them to raise money for a program that’s appreciated and beloved by so many in the comic-art community,” says Jim Halperin, co-chairman of Heritage Auctions.
Mignola offers one of the event’s highlights: the unpublished cover to 2018’s monumental Hellboy Omnibus Volume 4: Hellboy in Hell, featuring Satan himself. That massive Dark Horse Comics tome collected the character’s adventures from 1994 to 1997 and is a must-own among fans of Mignola’s character, who has been to hell – and Hollywood – and back.
Adam Hughes, one of DC Comics’ most popular cover illustrators (and an occasional artist on Hellboy titles), has contributed an original Captain America for this auction. Neal Adams, whose work on Batman titles over the last 50 years impacted generations of readers and creators, offers in this sale an original Dark Knight illustration. Batman: The Long Halloween’s Tim Sale also contributes a very special take on the Caped Crusader high above Gotham City.
Sienkiewicz, who has been instrumental in helping the Asners assemble this and previous auctions, has brought two to this event – among them, a piece featuring the mutant Sydney Barrett, played by actress Rachel Keller, from FX’s Legion. This is Sienkiewicz coming full circle, as the series focused on a character central to the New Mutants book he made a must-read during his run with Chris Claremont.
Nowlan, who also helped gather artists for this charity auction, is contributing one of his most famous pieces in recent memory: the variant cover for Venom No. 6. That’s the coveted cover created for the Memphis Comic Expo featuring Knull, the God of the Symbiotes. Aaron Kuder offers another arresting variant cover: the Symbiote Spider-Man: Alien Reality No. 1, featuring Spider-Man and Deathlok posed in a knowing nod to Erik Larsen’s Spider-Man No. 21 from 1990.
From an early Bud Fisher Mutt and Jeff strip to a Jill Thompson Beast of Burden original, there’s something for everyone. And to think, when Matt began preparing for this year’s event, in the midst of this tumultuous year, he feared he’d get nothing at all.
“When we started out on this journey for our third year, I said to my dad, ‘I am not going to hold out much hope here because of the situation,’” Matt says. “I told him, ‘I just think people are in a different world and not concentrating on this kind of stuff,’ and I was really wrong. They came out. They helped. And they were extremely generous.”
ROBERT WILONSKY is a staff writer at Heritage Auctions.