Not long ago I was cruising the 'bay' for SW related items. I came upon an auction for a McQuarrie print. I read through the item description and read some reference to a comic shop that George Lucas had ownership in. Right away, it sounded a bit odd, and figured "ah, this seller is probably just trying to make up an interesting background story to help sell his stuff". Then I noticed whose auction it was. One of the best, most reliable sellers I've had the pleasure of dealing with (and a darn nice guy). He's also an editor of The Star Wars Collector's Archive. So I was intrigued.
The Supersnipe Comic Art Gallery
I did some basic online searching and found relatively few references at first. But I soon established a few basic facts:
'Supersnipe Comic Art Gallery' was a store in New York city on the corner of 83rd and 2nd (some references indicate the address differently). It was apparently both a comic shop, which were few & far between back then (mid-late 70's), and a gallery that sold illustrators artwork, and prints of their work. The man who owned the shop was named Ed Summers, and George Lucas was more of a silent partner. From what I've gathered so far, Lucas wasn't a partner in the whole operation, but more the gallery part of the 'emporeum', that sold illustrators original artwork & prints. Both Ed and George had been students of film, so I'm guessing here, maybe they met in film school?
Roy Thomas, a comic book writer & editor, who worked for Marvel and worked on the Marvel adaptation for Star Wars, has a terrific article called 'Star Wars: The Comic Book That Saved Marvel'. I'll link to the article on StarWars.com. On page 2 of the article Roy gives up some great information about Supersnipe and the George Lucas connection.
I had become friends with Ed Summer, bearded proprietor of the Supersnipe Comic Art Emporium, a comic book store on Second Avenue in Manhattan, just a couple of blocks away from our apartment on E. 86th Street. Ed was a former film student who often discussed with me a documentary he planned to make about such comic book luminaries as Jack Kirby, Carl Barks, and one or two others, and I occasionally gave him encouragement and advice over dinner or his shop counter. I also learned, somewhere along the line, that George Lucas was a silent partner of Ed's -- not in his comics store, but in the comic art gallery aspect of the Emporium. This news, of course, was not for public consumption, and I kept it secret.
I've located a number of other online articles related to other sorts of collectibles that reference 'Supersnipe'. Interstingly, most of these references mention Lucas being involved in the business, though not necessarily having an 'in person' experience with him. My guess is that Ed mentioned his partner. One reference even suggested that Lucas was somewhat involved in the sourcing of talent/products for the gallery, though probably not 'in person'.
For instance, this reference related to animation cel artwork:
Around that same time, Ed Summers interviewed my father for a television segment for a local New York program. Ed came to Hollywood with his crew and shot the interview in the offices of Chuck Jones Productions, Tower Twelve, in the Sunset Tower building at the corner of Sunset Blvd. and Vine Street. During a break in the shooting, Ed talked about his little gallery/memorabilia store in New York on Lexington called Super Snipe Gallery. He and George Lucas were cwners and were constantly on the look-out for interesting and unusual additions to their inventory.
'Supersnipe' obviously had many connections to different sort of collectors. General art collectors, comic collectors, comic art collectors, animation cel collectors, etc, etc. I imagine there's probably more info out there floating around in the heads of people related to these various forms of collecting.
If anyone has more insight, personal experiences, third party stories,etc, please share them here. I'd love to learn more about the 'Supersnipe Comic Art Gallery'. Would love to hear from people who had been there, or if anyone knows when the shop opened its doors, when it closed (assuming it did), and more about the Ed Summers - George Lucas connection.
Star Wars Artwork
Getting back to the whole iniital reason for my interest in 'Supersnipe', its apparent that sometime after the success of Star Wars, the gallery was featuring/offering Star Wars related artwork to collectors. I don't have a lot of info in this department yet, and I'm really hoping that other collectors here can shed some light.
What I do know, is that Supersnipe was at one time selling a set of Star Wars prints by Ralph McQuarrie & Joe Johnston. (Edit correction: we're learning below that while the gallery exhibited the original art of Ralph McQuarrie & Joe Johnston, the four print sets of their artwork associated with Supersnipe, some signed and some unsigned, were actually contest prizes, and not merchandise sold to customers). Some were more limited in number and signed by the artists, and others were unsigned. (Edit correction: a later sources indicates approximately half were signed, half unsigned). I believe there were four prints, two from each artist. It's been suggested to me that Supersnipe was the only operation offering these prints back then, but that later on some of the remaining Supersnipe prints were offfered for sale on shopstarwars.com, and that they didn't last very long.
The two McQuarries are my favorite McQuarrie illustrations of all time the prototype x-wing, and Prototype Vader & Luke Starkiller duel. The Joe Johnston prints features his fantastic x-wing & y-wing sketches, and his Tie Fighter & Death Star sketch.
For those that don't know the connection between these two artists, Joe Johnston and Ralph McQuarrie; both were involved in producing concept artwork for the production of Star Wars. Also, both Ralph McQuarrie's & Joe Johnston's artwork was featured in the portfolio that was given to 20th Century Fox Studio execs, while pitching Star Wars. This is supported by the publication 'The Making of Star Wars'.
"It was decided to give the film the green light. Though each board member had been given a portfolio made by Lippincott containing artwork by Ralph McQuarrie and Joe Johnston, according to Hellman, Ladd's backing was the key."
- 'The Making of Star Wars', page 93 (hardcover edition)
Here's my two unsigned McQuarrie prints. I'm very impressed with the quality of these prints. They are way better than the mass produced McQuarrie portfolio prints that are all over eBay. The paper is a heavy stock with textured surface. They measure 18" x 24". One of mine is slightly water damaged along one border, but I plan to frame them with mats.
If anyone has more specific information about these prints offered by Supersnipe, including limit numbers, print runs, etc, please post here, or PM me.
I also located this other thread here on RS, which features a poster designed to advertise/commemorate the Supersnipe presentation of the artwork of Ralph McQuarrie & Joe Johnston. The poster seems to indicate their art was featured at Supersnipe from June 27th to August 19th, 1978. I also notice that poster listed the Supersnipe address as '252nd E 84th Street (Second Avenue)'. (Edit: We later learn that the art gallery was a separate store front and location, around the corner from the comic shop). Very cool poster. I've obtained permission from the owner to post his picture of the poster here as well. Interestingly, the poster has been signed.
Accompanying the poster is a COA, also signed by Ed Summers. The owner has given me permission to relate the information on the certificate, but I won't quote it in full. In total, less than 500 of these posters were produced, advertising what the certificate calls "the world's first exhibit of original artwork used in the production of the motion picture Star Wars". They were printed by Simon Deitch (who we later learn, ran the art gallery). Of the approximate 500 posters produced, more than 250 were pasted on walls or given away to customers for the exhibition in 1978. The certificate indicates that many of the remaining posters were signed & authenticated by Ed Summers, sometime in the 1990's. I'm guessing they were being sold as collectibles by that time. It states "Of the balance, only those signed on the front by Edward Summer and accompanied by this signed certificate"... "can be considered authentic". So an unsigned poster was probably either distributed in 1978, and would need solid provenance, or is fake. Given the rarity of this poster, its probably best that more specific details of the posters nature (dimensions, etc), and the exact wording of the COA, remain unpublished. Someone can always PM me if they need help getting authentication.
Speaking of posters, I've also heard that Supersnipe was selling the famous Howard Chaykin poster.
I'd like to use this thread to collect all the info I can about Supersnipe and the Star Wars prints/posters sold there. So, if you have any info at all, please post or PM me. Thank you.