If one needed further proof that funny books have become serious business, look no further than the results from Heritage Auctions
July 16-19 Comics & Comic Art Signature® Auction.
The headline-making event realized $24,262,303, attracted nearly 4,900 bidders worldwide and was a near-complete sellout. This was among Heritages most successful Comics & Comic Art events in the auction houses 46-year history. The record was Aprils record-setting event that realized more than $27.67 million.
The $2.4 million realized for Frank Miller and Lynn Varleys original cover for 1986s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Book One garnered international headlines following its sale Thursday. The image is as simple as it is powerful a silhouette of The Dark Knight in front of a bolt of lightning, splitting a cobalt-blue sky. So immediately recognizable is the image it is instantly identified by readers
and often imitated by other artists.
This is an iconic piece of comic art, of comic history, says Todd Hignite, Vice President at Heritage Auctions. Even the most casual comic fan identifies this artwork right away; it is one of the most recognizable images of one of the most popular superheroes ever created.
Bruce Wayne continues to generate prices befitting his legend. Only last year, the finest known copy of Batman No. 1 sold for $2.22 million at Heritage to shatter the Dark Knights previous world record. The only two comic art lots that sold for more at Heritage Auctions were Frank Frazettas Egyptian Queen, painted for the cover of comics magazine Eerie in 1969, realized $5.4 million in May 2019, and Mike Zeck and Others Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #8 Story Page 25 Black Costume/Venom Original Art brought $3.36 million in January 2022.
The previous record for the most expensive Batman original art sold at auction belonged to Millers mentor, Neal Adams, and his 1973 cover for Batman No. 251. That beloved work sold for $600,000 at Heritage in November 2019. The cover for The Dark Knight Returns Book One is also the first work of art from a DC Comics title to sell for more than $1 million.
But the Dark Knight cover art was far from the only storyline coming out of the event, and not even the only lot to reach a seven-figure result. So, too, did All Star Comics No. 8 (DC, 1942) CGC NM 9.4 Off-white to white pages, featuring Wonder Womans debut, which drew 35 bids before finishing at $1.62 million. Heritage Auctions experts never have seen a blue label copy of this issue with a grade higher than VF 8.0 before the copy offered in this sale. In other words, this is one of the most important issues in DC's history it is tied for the No. 12 position on Overstreet's list of Top 100 Golden Age Comics and it is one of the toughest to find in high grade.
Batman made four appearances among the auctions top 10 lots, including two of the top three: After the Dark Knight cover, Jim Lee and Scott Williams Batman No. 619 Triple-Gatefold Allies Cover Hush Part 12 Original Art (DC, 2003) finished at $504,000, the highest price paid for a Lee original at auction. The story arc has been credited with rejuvenating the Batman franchise, in part through exploration of the romantic relationship between the Batman and Catwoman. Fans were treated to a handful of variant covers including this Allies scene that consists of three masterful pages.
Other Batman lots that finished among the top 10 included Jim Aparo and Mike DeCarlo Batman No. 428 A Death in the Family Part 3 Complete 22-Page Story Original Art (DC, 1988), which sold for $288,000, and Mike Mignolas Batman No. 428 Cover Original Art (DC, 1989). This iconic cover, from the A Death in the Family story arc, prompted 58 bids before ending at $228,000. This issue was notable for the fact that DC set up a hotline to allow callers the ability to vote for or against the death of Jason Todds Robin the results from the poll were printed in the issue that bore this art on the cover.
Batman appeared on a fifth lot in the auctions top 10: Detective Comics No. 29 (DC, 1939) CGC VF+ 8.5 Off-white pages, which drew a winning bid of $276,000. The second Batman cover is rarely found in such a high grade; this copy is by far the finest offered by Heritage Auctions. This issue, featuring the first appearance of Dr. Death, is ranked No. 14 on Overstreet's Top 100 Golden Age Comics list.
Two copies of the first Fantastic Four issue, which heralded the Marvel Age of Comics and bolstered Marvels stature in the superheroes wars, drew six-figure results: Three dozen bidders made a play for Fantastic Four No. 1 (Marvel, 1961) CGC VF/NM 9.0 White pages until it closed at $420,000, while more than 40 bidders went after a CGC VF+ 8.5 copy until it brought $240,000. A third Fantastic Four lot, Fantastic Four No. 5 (Marvel, 1962) CGC NM 9.4 Off-white to white pages, reached six figures, at $162,000.
Spider-Man swung into the events top 10 lots in Todd McFarlane Spider-Man No. 16 Cover X-Force Original Art (Marvel, 1991) X-Force Joins Spider-Man which ended at $408,000. McFarlane ended his time on Spider-Man and left Marvel with a unique offering: a crossover with Rob Liefeld's popular mutant super-team X-Force. But what makes it really special is that the book was created in a sideways landscape format. McFarlane's definitive look for Spidey, with his exaggerated pose and spaghetti webbing, is front and center, flanked by Warpath, Shatterstar, Boom-Boom and Cannonball, on this final Spider-Man cover by the fan-favorite artist.
The event also featured the first Bob Kane original cover Heritage Auctions has offered: Detective Comics No. 59 from 1942, featuring Batman and Robin. This work by Batmans co-creator and Kanes collaborator Jerry Robinson realized $180,000.
This auction also saw a new record for a 21st-century comic book: Gabrielle DellOttos variant cover for The Amazing Spider-Man No. 677, published just 11 years ago, is one of the rarest books of the modern era; only 200-500 copies were made available to comics retailers upon its publication in 2011. This 9.8-graded copy of the rare book climbed to a new high of $43,200, shattering its previous record of $33,600 set at Heritage one year ago.
Other top lots included, but were not limited to:
Amazing Fantasy No. 15 (Marvel, 1962) CGC VF- 7.5 Off-white pages: $216,000
Don Heck Tales of Suspense No. 39 Iron Man Story Page 13 Original Art (Marvel, 1963): $216,000
X-Men No. 1 (Marvel, 1963) CGC NM- 9.2 Off-white to white pages: $204,000
Todd McFarlane Spider-Man No. 16 Double Splash Page 21-22 X-Force Original Art (Marvel, 1991): $204,000
Bill Everett Daredevil No. 1 Story Page 5 Original Art (Marvel, 1964): $204,000
Superman No. 1 (DC, 1939) CGC FR/GD 1.5 Cream to off-white pages: $198,600
John Romita Sr. and Mike Esposito The Amazing Spider-Man No. 40 Story Page 6 Green Goblin Original Art (Marvel, 1966): $192,000
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles No. 1 Signed Copy (Mirage Studios, 1984) CGC NM/MT 9.8 White pages: $192,000