More than 30 collectors made a play for Dave Gibbons Watchmen #1 original cover art at the weekend’s Heritage Auctions’ Comics & Comic Art auction in Dallas – before it finally sold for $228,000 (£171,383) – but it was not the top-selling item.
The cover of the first Watchmen issue remains one of the most recognizable images in the series, in part because the drip of blood on the smiley face button is reminiscent of the hands of a clock striking 12; “time running out” was a recurring theme throughout the series.
It was original Buck Rogers comic cover art by legendary artist Frank Frazetta that soared beyond its pre-auction estimate, claiming top-lot honours.
Frank Frazetta’s Famous Funnies #209 Cover Original Art (Eastern Color, 1953) drew bids from two dozen hopeful collectors before it closed at $552,000, surpassing its pre-auction estimate of $300,000 by 84 per cent.
One of just eight Famous Funnies covers the famed artist ever did, it features Buck Rogers and his trusty Sonic Ray Gun, and Wilma Deering, Rogers’ equally smart and assertive adventurer, facing certain peril by space goons blocking the only exit from a cave. The image is considered one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful and graceful full-figure images of a woman ever to grace a comic book cover, and justified and cemented Frazetta’s legendary status as one of the greatest artists of the female form of all time.
Heritage Auctions says the auction – which saw $9,432,650 spent in total on comics and comic art – boasted sell-through rates of 99.5 percent by value and 99.6 percent by lots sold through the world’s largest comics auctioneer.
“The results of this auction are a reflection of not just the exceptional quality of lots we offer, but also the clients’ base of knowledge,” Heritage Auctions Vice President Todd Hignite said. “That the exceptional lots inspired so many to bid aggressively came as no surprise, and that surge of bidding goes a long way toward explaining these results.”
Similarly competitive bidding also drove sales of a 1939 copy of Superman #1, the issue that marked the first time a character created for comic books was given his own title, beyond its estimate before it sold for $336,000.
An exceptionally popular issue, it is the first in one of the most popular titles in comic history; this copy is a rarity in exceptionally high demand, because it is one of few known copies that has not undergone any restoration.
Unique in the fact that it was both penciled and inked by Steve Ditko, the splash page of Strange Tales #117 (Marvel, 1964) more than doubled its $100,000 pre-auction estimate when it finished at $228,000. Like several of the other top lots, it was heavily pursued, with 33 collectors submitting bids. The issue features Doctor Strange and his own Astral Projection, adding to the demand among collectors.
An extraordinary copy of the second-most valuable Silver Age issue, The Incredible Hulk #1 (Marvel, 1962) sparked more than 20 bids before it realized $216,000. An absolute rarity in this grade, this issue features the origin and first appearance of the Hulk and supporting characters Rick Jones, Betty Ross and Thunderbolt Ross, with art and cover by Jack Kirby.
Other top lots included, but were not limited to: Journey Into Mystery #83 (Marvel, 1962), $144,000; Robert Crumb Help! #24 “Fred the Teen-Age Girl Pigeon” complete two-page story original art (Warren Publishing, 1965), $120,000; Amazing Fantasy #15 (Marvel, 1962), 120,000; John Romita Sr. Amazing Spider-Man Annual #7 Cover Original Art (Marvel, 1970), $87,000; and a Pokémon First Edition Base Set Sealed Booster Box (Wizards of the Coast, 1999), $78,000.
While not record breaking, cover art created for Marvel UK title’s in the 1970s fared pretty well, too: among others, a Jim Starlin and Joe Sinnott for The Mighty World of Marvel #5 soldfor $6,600; a Hulk versus Quicksilver image for The Mighty World of Marvel #185, attributed to Ron Wilson and Mike Esposito, sold for $2,8800 and Al Milgrom’s The Mighty World of Marvel #216 cover(Marvel UK, 1976) for $3,840; a Green Goblin dominated Spider-Man Comics Weekly #133 attributed to Dave Hunt and Mike Esposito (Marvel UK, 1975) for $3,600.
Heritage Auctions is the largest fine art and collectibles auction house founded in the United States, and the world’s largest collectibles auctioneer. Heritage maintains offices in New York, Dallas, Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Chicago, Palm Beach, London, Paris, Geneva, Amsterdam and Hong Kong.