Original Art, Classic Titles Take Flight at Heritage Auctions
Dallas, TX – From a 1908 Little Nemo in Slumberland Sunday comics strip to beloved images by the influential artists whose superheroes revolutionized comic books, there was something for every collector in the Platinum Session that kicked off Heritage Auctions’ April 30-May 3 Comics & Comic Art Auction Thursday afternoon, and when final hammer fell in the first of five sessions, the haul was $3,648,300.
Results from the second session, which began immediately after the Platinum wrapped and included everything from collectible comics to Star Wars action figures, pushed the first day’s total pull past the $5.1 million mark.
“The bidding was as deep and as active as we’ve ever seen in one of our Platinum Sessions,” said Todd Hignite, Vice President of Heritage Auctions. “Prices were strong across the board, and there were a handful of lots that nearly doubled our pre-auction estimates.”
And not a single lot went unsold – no surprise when the offerings included Frank Frazetta's The Serpent, painted for a 1967 paperback novel, and the original front endpapers for Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein by the legendary Bernie Wrightson.
The Serpent – referred to by the Frazetta family as “Aros” – sold for $300,000. That it sold at all was extraordinary: “Frank would never part with it while he was living,” Heritage Auctions Comics & Comic Art Director Joe Mannarino said. “It was always greatly appreciated by the fans.”
And, now, its new owner.
Wrightston’s front endpapers for Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein sold for $240,000 – by far, the highest price Heritage Auctions has realized for a piece by the artist best known for his work on Swamp Thing. Bidding opened at $75,000 Thursday and quickly skyrocketed toward the final sale price.
Frankenstein’s opposite – Carl Barks' 1994 Surprise Party at Memory Pond, a painting done to commemorate Donald Duck's 60th anniversary – was another big hit at the Platinum session. It sold for $156,000.
One of the runaway hits of the Platinum session came from Barry Smith – otherwise known, now, as Barry Windsor-Smith, who, in 1969, channeled his inner Jack Kirby for the cover to X-Men No. 55. The piece, featuring Havok front and center on an issue that told Alex Summers’ origin story, sat at $17,000 when the auction began – then slowly climbed toward $55,000. The bidding appeared to die down, nearly closing the auction, at $55,000 – only to wind up closing at $132,000.
Another piece that saw heated bidding was John Romita Sr. and Mike Esposito’s splash page for Amazing Spider-Man No. 41, which sold for an extraordinary $180,000 – higher, even, than many of Romita’s Spider-Man covers that have come to auction in recent years. Published in 1966, the piece features Spidey and The Rhino and the promise of "a great new era" in the life of the "amazing web-spinner."
Speaking of Spider-Man …
Amazing Fantasy No. 15, that web-spinner’s very first appearance, sold for $180,000 – well above book value for an issue graded CGC VF 8.0, and Amazing Spider-Man No. 39, published in 1966, sold Thursday for $31,200 – which almost tripled the previous record brought for this issue.
Those titles were among many to outperform market value Thursday. For instance, a Batman No. 1 from 1940 graded CGC FR/GD 1.5 sold for $78,000.
Almost all the lots saw heavy bidding, from the website and phones, during the two-hour event. Every piece was significant; every sale, too, no matter the artist or origin – whether it was Bill Everett’s complete 10-page story “Into the Dimension of Death” from Strange Tales No. 152 or Bill Elder’s eight-page “Dragged Net!” parody from MAD No. 3, each of which sold for $78,000.
Page 10 from Watchmen No. 10 by Dave Gibbons, featuring a twisted back-and-forth between Nite Owl and Rorschach, sold for $31,200 – in part because it served as the basis for the acclaimed HBO mini-series, in part because it's signed by Gibbons and writer Alan Moore and in part because it’s The Most Influential Comic Book of the last 40 years, alongside …
The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson was represented in this auction by Page 24 from Issue No. 4. The page upon which Batman convinces the Mutants to help save Gotham City – because of "community spirit" – sold for $66,000.
Only 20 years ago, in his film Unbreakable, M. Night Shyamalan made the comic-art gallery owner the story’s strange, silly outsider. Time would prove Elijah Price’s character only prescient – the fanboy collector is now a legitimate curator of serious and valuable art, which should come as no surprise. The items in Thursday’s Platinum session are the raw, handmade images that sparked countless kids' imaginations, those singular moments before they were mass-manufactured for spinner racks and comic shops.
“More so than many areas of the larger art market, comic art appeals to collectors on so many levels, often based on a strong emotional investment," Todd Hignite said. "There's a nostalgic attachment to those stories and images that have now become important cultural touchstones."
And, of course, they're the golden building blocks of now-inescapable movie and television franchises. What was once a hobby has become industry and investment, at the very moment when comic conventions have been put on hold.
Heritage Auction’s April 30-May 3 Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction continues with its third session at 11 a.m. C.S.T. May 1, with collectible video games heading to the block. The auction continues through Sunday afternoon. The full schedule is available here.
Visit Heritage Auctions’ Sunday & Monday Comics, Animation, & Art Weekly Online Auction #122018 May 3-4 to browse high-resolution images of the auction’s 684 lots of comic books, original comic book art and memorabilia. Bidding opens at 6 p.m. (Central Time) on HA.com.