Spider-Man's black costume origin sells for $3.36 million at Heritage Auctions to shatter comic art record

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Spider-Man's black costume origin sells for $3.36 million at Heritage Auctions to shatter comic art record
Mike Zeck and Others Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #8 Story Page 25 Black Costume/Venom Original Art (Marvel, 1984).

DALLAS, TX.- Spider-Man was already the star of the most expensive comic book ever sold at auction. As of Thursday, the Web-Slinger is also responsible for what is now the world's most valuable page of original comic book artwork.

Page 25 from 1984's Secret Wars No. 8, which tells the origin story of the Web-Slinger's now-iconic black costume, sold Thursday at Heritage Auctions for $3,360,000. Live bidding opened at $330,000, but it quickly became clear several bidders coveted Mike Zeck's artwork as it soared past the million-dollar mark. When it hit its final price, shattering all previous comic art records, the auction gallery erupted with cheers.

Marvel Comics' Secret Wars might have been created to sell toys, but this week it forever altered the comic-art landscape, as Page 24 from the same book sold moments earlier for $288,000.

That's $3,648,000 total. For two pages of art from one 1980s comic book.

"We could not be happier, especially for our consignor, who bought the art in the late 1980s and treasured these pages ever since," says Joe Mannarino, Heritage Auctions' New York Director of Comics & Comic Art. "Today's results prove what we've long been saying: Comic book art is as beloved and valuable as anything put on canvas."

Moments later, the Dallas-based auction house sold one of the few surviving copies of Action Comics No. 1 for $3,180,000. That makes this CGC Fine 6.0 copy of Superman's debut the second-most-expensive comic ever offered by the auction house, behind only the finest-known copy of Spider-Man's first web-sling through Amazing Fantasy No. 15, which sold for $3.6 million last year to become the world's most valuable comic book sold at auction.

It's also the most expensive copy of Action Comics No. 1 ever sold by an auction house.

Those were but two highlights from the first session of Heritage's Jan. 13-16 Comics & Comic Art Signature® Auction — a session that realized $12,990,840 in just 90 minutes.

Here, too, was a new auction record for the legendary artist and comics creator Steve Ditko. His splash page from 1966's Amazing Spider-Man No. 37, which featured the first named appearance of Norman Osborn (the Green Goblin, natch), sold Thursday for $336,000.

Dave Cockrum likewise reached a new auction record, as his action-packed, star-studded original cover for 1977's X-Men No. 107 opened bidding at $80,000, only to spark a bidding war that drove the final price to $360,000.

Not so far behind, Ed Hannigan and Klaus Janson's original cover for Marvel's G.I. Joe No. 21 sold for $312,200. The title character might be the Real American Hero in this book from 1984, but it was Snake-Eyes making his solo cover debut who stole the show here.

This first session also included another million-dollar-plus comic book: a CGC Very Good+ 4.5 copy of Detective Comics No. 27. Batman's debut shows up at auction as infrequently as Superman's first flight, which explains why this copy sold Thursday for $1,140,000.

It should not come as a surprise that Spider-Man's black costume is now responsible for the most expensive work of original comic art. The two pages from Secret Wars that tell the backstory of this living outfit — this symbiote, in the parlance of True Believers — also changed the course of Spider-Man, as the black costume slowly morphed into the villain (and anti-hero) known as Venom. And until Thursday, they had never before been available to the public.

The Action Comics No. 1 that sold Thursday was known as the "Rocket Copy" of Superman's 1938 first flight, given the playful moniker because of the red spaceship stamped on its cover by its first — and, until Thursday, only — owner, whose family kept the historic issue in an envelope meant to preserve important documents. This book is as consequential as it gets: Action Comics No. 1 is the palladium title of the Golden Age, the book in which Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster introduced readers to Clark Kent and Lois Lane and ushered in the Era of the Superhero.

"I am very pleased the book sold for so much, in part because it's certainly one of the coolest items I've handled in my 20 years with Heritage," says Heritage Auctions Senior Vice President Ed Jaster. "But it gives me even greater satisfaction to have brought a life-changing windfall to the four siblings who put their trust in Heritage and our team to sell their family's copy of Action Comics No. 1."

Certified Guarantee Company knows of only 77 copies of Action Comics No. 1 in existence in any condition and of just two graded CGC FN 6.0 — one of which is this copy full of white pages. Well before Thursday's live auction, collectors made it abundantly clear they were prepared to tussle over this extraordinarily vibrant example: Shortly after the auction launched in the hours before Christmas Eve, bidding on the comic book — and rocket-ship stamp itself, included with the book — rocketed past the $1.5 million mark. Bidding had surpassed the $1.9 million mark just hours before live bidding began.

This was the first original-owner copy of Action Comics No. 1 Heritage Auctions has offered since 2012, when a CGC GD/VG 3.0 book from the Billy Wright Pedigree sold for nearly $300,000. In fact, Heritage has offered only a handful of Action Comics No. 1s over the last decade, with none ever breaking the million-dollar barrier (one copy came close in 2016).

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