Daredevil, The Man Without Fear, a timeless teen adventurer named Tintin and a Krazy Kat made history over the weekend, as they set new auction records during Heritage Auctions’ latest, completely sold-out International Original Art & Anime Signature Auction.
More than 3150 bidders worldwide participated in the highly curated three-day event, which realised $3,155,731 with just 814 lots. None was more popular than Frank Miller’s iconic cover for 1982’s Daredevil #85, which, not surprisingly, sparked one of the most ferocious bidding wars of the weekend to realise $225,000.
That cover is now the most valuable Miller work outside of his storied run on Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.
Before Miller’s star-making turn on The Dark Knight Returns, the writer-artist rescued Daredevil from Marvel’s margins – and the brink of cancellation – with what comics historian Les Daniels called “terse tales of urban crime.” DaredevilNo. 185 was the first issue where Miller handed the pencils to Klaus Janson. But Miller still wrote the story and drew the cover, which featured two images of Daredevil – the heroic rendering that fills the page and the smaller icon leaping out of the corner box.
“It’s no surprise that a uniquely American creator like Frank Miller should set a world record in an International Comic Art and Anime auction, as his creations are among the most admired and imitated worldwide,” says Olivier Delflas, Director of International Comic Art & Anime. “It was an absolute thrill to see collectors vie for this work alongside those of Hergé and Osamu Tezuka.”
This Daredevil cover, signed by Miller and Janson and Marvel’s then-editor-in-chief Jim Shooter, remains one of the highlights of Miller’s historic run on the title.
Another Marvel-ous offering could also be found in this auction: Page 11 from Amazing Spider-Man #69, in which John Romita Sr. and Jim Mooney pit the Wall-Crawler against the Kingpin. This slice of gold from the Silver Age sparked a brawl between bidders, resulting in a final price of $143,750.
And moments after his Daredevil cover sold for $225,000, a double-page spread from 300 No. 4 realized $62,500, setting a Miller record for his work on the Eisner Award-winning mini-series.
Belgian artist Hergé caused a stir during this sale with two extraordinary images of Tintin, the orphaned kid reporter-turned-world adventurer with a tuft of upswept hair.
One of the works served as the cover for 1961’s Album à colorier No. 5 and is instantly recognizable to Tintin fans as a modified rendering of the cover to 1941’s collection The Crab with the Golden Claws, among the volumes Steven Spielberg used as inspiration for his 2011 film The Adventures of Tintin. Hergé took the original image featuring Tintin and Captain Haddock and erased a few things – shards of glass from an exploding bottle, bandits just over the dune, the camels’ shadows – to make it easier for children to color the work.
That coloring-book cover sold for $175,000, making it the most valuable Tintin piece that didn’t first appear in a comic book.
Moments later, collectors tussled over one of the most coveted Hergé originals to auction in years. For the cover of 1963’s Album à colorier No. 6, Tintin is surrounded by the series’ six most essential characters, including his dog sidekick Snowy and Haddock. This illustration was also used as the front of the commercial brochure used when Little, Brown and Company brought Tintin to US shores in 1974. For many Americans, this image was their introduction to the kid Spielberg eventually fell in love with, despite not understanding a word of his adventures. The cover for Album à colorier No. 6 opened live bidding at $10,500, only to close at $43,750.
Hergé was joined in this auction by venerated comic-strip pioneers Winsor McCay and George Herriman, each represented by their most famous creations – Little Nemo in Slumberland and Krazy Kat, respectively. McKay’s Nemo from Jan. 24, 1909, sold for $109,375, making it the third-most valuable original Nemo Heritage has ever sold. But another record was set Saturday when Herriman’s Krazy Kat Sunday strip from 16th October 1938, sold for $71,875, a new auction record for the artist whose work continues to influence generations of cartoonists, chief among them Chris Ware.
The strip itself is quintessential Krazy Kat, which, in 1946, Coulton Waugh rightfully deemed “the maddest, merriest of ‘the funnies’” – Krazy Kat getting a brick to the head thanks to Ignatz the mouse, same as it ever was. But this strip isn’t like most Herriman originals available at auction: It’s personalized and includes a thank-you to Elmer Raguse, the eight-time Oscar-nominated sound engineer at Hal Roach Studios, and it’s among the rare Herriman-hand-colored originals known to exist.
The first bidding war of Saturday’s session came with Juan Gimenez’s title splash page for 1992’s Metabarons No. 1. This dizzying space scene featuring the Metabaron’s impregnable and imposing Metabunker opened live bidding at $19,500 but quickly shot past its high estimate to sell for a spellbinding $81,250.
Paul Pope, the Eisner Award-winning American artist whose work combines “the adventure and action of American comics with the philosophical concerns and nuanced characterization of European comics,” per Publishers Weekly, was another breakout star in this auction. This event offered the furiously paced first four pages from what’s easily Pope’s most famous work: the first issue of 2006’s Batman: Year 100, an Elseworlds tale set in Gotham City 2039, where Commissioner Gordon’s grandson wants a descendant of Bruce Wayne’s for murdering a federal agent. The four-issue series ranks among the most influential Batman stories since Frank Miller’s first shot at The Dark Knight and sold for $71,875.
Another Batman work caused a commotion among collectors when Enrico Marini’s double-splash page from Batman: The Dark Prince Charming No. 1 realised $37,500.
Jean Giraud (better known as Moebius) was, again, a standout in a sale of international comic art: Page 20 from his masterpiece The Airtight Garage realised $65,625.
Jean-Claude Mézières’ original cover for the 1976 edition of Valerian, The City of Shifting Waters, wasn’t far behind, selling for $57,500.
An exceedingly rare rendering of a beloved kid robot likewise soared to epic heights when an original illustration of Astro Boy by his creator, Osamu Tezuka, also sold for $57,500. This epic scene is rendered in the kamishibai format, a form of storytelling incorporating Japanese street theatre famous in the 1930s.
As the theme song says, Astro Boy may be small, but only in size.
• Click here for complete results from Heritage’s March 10-12 International Original Art & Anime Signature Auction
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, Chicago, Palm Beach, London, Paris, Geneva, Amsterdam, Brussels and Hong Kong
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