Uncanny X-Men No. 268 cover and Spider-Man No. 1 splash page, offered at Heritage Auctions event

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Uncanny X-Men No. 268 cover and Spider-Man No. 1 splash page, offered at Heritage Auctions event
Todd McFarlane Spider-Man #1 Splash Page 13 The Lizard Original Art (Marvel, 1990).

DALLAS, TX.- Thirty years later, Jeff Nason can’t remember what he and his father paid for illustrator Jim Lee and inker Scott Williams’ original artwork for the iconic cover to The Uncanny X-Men No. 268, which comes to auction this month for the very first time.

Jeff can remember where they bought it: on the floor of the San Diego Comic-Con, where the artists were selling original art and offering private commissions to attendees. And, of course, he can remember why they bought it: Then just 16, Jeff was a big fan of Lee’s work on Punisher: War Journal. His father, too, was a collector of nice things – wine and rare books, mostly – and always told his son, “If you’re going to collect something, get the best."

Lee and Williams had brought to Comic-Con a portfolio full of original works – among them, their Uncanny X-Men cover featuring (“for the first time!") Captain America, Black Widow and Wolverine. The artwork eventually became so treasured Comic Book Resources in 2017 listed it as No. 3 on the list of The 15 Most Iconic Jim Lee Covers. The artists of course knew it was a special image and, accordingly, priced it higher than their other pieces. But Jeff and his dad bought it anyway. Because it was the best.

“But I don’t remember what we paid for it, because it wasn’t my money, to be frank," Nason now says with a slight laugh. “I was just a high school student, but my father was always big on: If you’re going to spend some money, spend it on unique stuff, and he recognized that comic art was pretty unique rather than the comics themselves."

But there is someone who remembers the price tag: Scott Williams. In a recent interview with Syfy about his work with Lee, the inker discussed the thinking behind the cover (“Never underestimate the power of looking cool"). Williams and the interviewer also discussed the fact that the original artwork for The Uncanny X-Men No. 268 is available in Heritage Auctions’ Nov. 19-22 Comics & Comic Art event, where it’s one of six modern masterworks being offered from Nason’s remarkable collection.

“I'm on record online saying that cover is going to sell for at least $250,000 at the auction," writer Mike Avila told Williams, “and I may be lowballing it."

“I think that's a very safe bet," Williams said. “And it brings home the fact that when I sold it for $650 back in 1990 or 1991, that it might've been a mistake."

Heritage’s upcoming Comics & Comic Art event marks the first time that Uncanny X-Men cover has changed hands since Jeff and his father bought it from Lee and Williams three decades ago. But it was merely the first essential piece of comic-book history father and son bought back then.

They also managed to track down Todd McFarlane, at the time a rising star for his work on The Amazing Spider-Man, and someone whose original comic art is now among the most sought-after in the entire hobby, says Heritage Auctions Vice President Todd Hignite. The Nasons discovered that McFarlane was also selling some of his original pieces – and not just any works, but, among them, the terrifying Page 13 from McFarlane’s Spider-Man No. 1, featuring The Lizard and those oft-repeated words “DOOMDOOMDOOM."

Of course, Spider-Man No. 1 became the first comic book to sell more than 3 million copies and, in 1990, turned casual readers into voracious collectors. But it also “made it clear how powerful creators were," Comics Alliance wrote in its 25th anniversary look at that influential issue.

Jeff and his dad also bought Page 17 from McFarlane’s turn on Amazing Spider-Man No. 328. It’s among the most beautiful pieces from that title’s storied run, from McFarlane’s trademarked knotted webbing to the seemingly elastic hero’s pose over Roosevelt Island, the East River and New York City.

Nason’s offerings in Heritage’s Comics & Comic Art event also include another Jim Lee work: the cover for Ghost Rider No. 5, featuring young Jeff’s favorite, The Punisher. There’s also Mike Grell’s original cover to Green Arrow No. 56, which Jeff wanted because he, too, was an archer at the time; and Ron Randall and Chris Warner’s double-page spread from Predator No. 4, another of the teenager’s favorite titles.

Nason can tell you why he loves each piece, and he still speaks with great passion and deep affection about that Uncanny X-Men cover. Now an engineer, Nason talks about Lee’s technical prowess, and how “his drawing was so action-packed and appealing." He recalls feeling “very special" the day he and his dad acquired that cover.

But like so many collectors Nason believes he was just the temporary guardian of that piece and so many of the others he and father bought 30 years ago. They’re no longer on display in his home, and have been set aside to make room for other memories. Nason brings them to market now, in the November sale with more to come at the Dallas-based Heritage Auctions in January, in order to share them with others who might feel as he did when he was a teenager first laying eyes and hands on such estimable pieces of comic-book history.

“They have been with me my whole life and had a place on a wall somewhere, but when I moved and went into the next phase of my life, I realized they weren’t being appreciated like they used to be," Nason says. “I know there are a lot of people who are big Jim Lee and Todd McFarlane fans. I look forward to helping out another collector and somebody who will appreciate them and put them on their walls to be admired."

Besides, Nason says, his work is done here.

Not long ago IDW Publishing went looking for all the essential pieces from Lee’s run on various X-Men titles for its book Jim Lee's X-Men Artist's Edition due out in February. A friend of Nason’s from high school found out about the book-in-progress, and directed IDW to his buddy with one of the title’s all-time greatest covers.

Nason allowed them to scan the piece, and IDW has made the original cover artwork for The Uncanny X-Men No. 268 the front of its book as well. And comic-book history repeats itself.

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