The joke's on Batman as historic 'Detective' comic featuring The Joker's debut sells for record-setting price

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The joke's on Batman as historic 'Detective' comic featuring The Joker's debut sells for record-setting price
Graham Ingels (as Ghastly) Haunt of Fear #20 Cover Original Art (EC, 1953).

DALLAS, TX.- During the first 90 minutes of Heritage Auctions’ Nov. 17-20 Comics & Comic Art Signature® Auction, 66 lots of comic books and comic art realized more than $5.5 million, and an original 1987 Calvin and Hobbes tied the first Flash Gordon for the world’s most valuable newspaper strip. Things got only more exciting from there.

By Sunday night, every single one of the four-day event’s 1,404 lots sold to the more than 5,500 bidders worldwide who helped bring the auction’s total to $18,589,015. And several significant records were set, including one for Detective Comics No. 168 – the comic book that tells the origin story of The Joker, who's clearly having the last laugh.

An issue of Detective Comics No. 168 graded CGC Near-Mint 9.4 realized $324,000 to smash the previous record for the book. This historic book had never before been offered at auction in a grade higher than 9.0.

But the other half of the World’s Finest team carried his weight, too, when a copy of Superman No. 1 graded CGC Good- 1.8 sold for $288,000 to more than double the previous high for the grade ($132,000, which was set in November 2018 at Heritage).

There were some Marvel-ous results, too: Early comics collector Biljo White’s stunning copy of Spider-Man’s debut appearance in Amazing Fantasy No. 15 graded CGC Very Fine+ 8.5 sold for $552,000.

And, of course, the auction’s Top Five included a hand-colored Calvin and Hobbes Sunday strip from May 24, 1987, which sold for $480,000 to set a new auction record for Bill Watterson and his beloved creations. That price, from the collection of Watterson’s late editor Lee Salem, also tied the record for the most valuable original newspaper strip ever sold at auction.

But bidding wars were a constant throughout the four-day event, especially for horror-themed titles. A CGC Fine- 5.5 copy of 1945’s Punch Comics No. 12 sold for $90,000. A CGC Near Mint- 1953’s Chamber of Chills, featuring Lee Elias’ legendarily terrifying cover image, realized $72,000. And a CGC Very Fine+ copy of 1954’s Crime SuspenStories No. 22 scared up $52,800 after the dust settled.

“Bidders couldn’t get enough of these ghoulish titles,” says Heritage Auctions Vice President Barry Sandoval. “What’s especially gratifying is that 37 collectors saw their consignments to this sale top $100,000. And, of course, we were thrilled to see our company’s all-time highest prices for a number of artists, including greats like Jim Starlin and Graham Ingels.”

Indeed, in addition to Watterson’s record-setter, Starlin’s original cover for 1974’s Marvel Super-Heroes No. 47, featuring the beloved artist’s incredible Hulk, sold for $102,000. Ingels’ original cover for 1953’s Haunt of Fear No. 20 realized even more, fetching $114,000 after a heated bidding war for the work signed by the artist who earned his nickname “Ghastly.”

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