A frenzy of eager bidders drove Frank Brunner’s Doctor Strange No. 1 Cover Original Art (Marvel, 1974) to $408,000,and an important collection kept its Promise of spectacular results to lead Heritage Auctions’ near-sellout Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction to $17,823,949 (£13,316,362) last weekend.
When Doctor Strange was published in 1974, he was not yet a major Marvel character, but he has evolved into a major figure in the Marvel Comics Universe in the nearly six decades since. The Master of the Mystic Arts has solidified his stature through his role in MCU movies, as a character in Strange Tales and ultimately in his own title, with this image fronting the premiere issue.
“For original art from the 1970s to top $400,000 is incredible,” says Heritage Auctions Senior Vice President Ed Jaster. “Frank Brunner’s Doctor Strange covers set an unmatched standard for the character’s artwork.”
Meanwhile, 355 lots from the historic Promise Collection Pedigree found new homes in the 18th – 21st November sale, reaching a total of $4.69 million. The collection earned its moniker because the young boy who assembled the collection went off to war and never returned. For decades, the books were kept safe by his brother, who promised to protect the collection if anything happened to his brother on the battlefield. The lots in this sale represent the third installment from this extraordinary trove to be offered this year through Heritage Auctions.
Highlights from the Promise Collection included, but were not limited to Captain America Comics No. 1 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Timely, 1941) CGC VG- 3.5 Cream to off-white pages drew 44 bids to soar past its pre-auction estimate and bring $240,000. The issue, which currently is ranked No. 7 on Overstreet’s list of Top 100 Golden Age Comics and has been chasing Marvel Comics No. 1 for the status of the most valuable Timely issue of all, includes the origin and first appearances of Captain America and Bucky, as well as the first appearance of the Red Skull.
Bringing the same $240,000 was Batman No. 1 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1940) CGC GD 2.0 Cream to off-white pages. It took just one year for the Dark Knight to get his own title after first appearing in Detective Comics No. 27. The issue includes the first appearances of the Joker and the Cat (a.k.a. Catwoman).
Sitting second on Overstreet’s list of Top 100 Golden Age Comics, Detective Comics No. 27 (DC, 1939) CGC Apparent FN/VF 7.0 Extensive (A-5) White pages drew 18 bids before closing at $336,000. The issue includes the first comic appearances of both Batman (Bruce Wayne) and Commissioner James “Jim” Gordon.
A restored copy of Action Comics No. 1 (DC, 1938) CGC Apparent FN+ 6.5 Slight/Moderate (A-2) Slightly brittle pages, with the first appearance of Superman, drew a winning bid of $300,000. The most coveted of all comics, it is credited with launching the Golden Age of Comics.
A third issue from the Promise Collection reached six figures when Batman No. 49 from The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1948) CGC NM+ 9.6 White pages rode three dozen bids to $132,000, more than tripling its pre-auction estimate. This copy is just the second sold by Heritage to earn a grade above VF/NM 9.0. This issue features the first appearances of Bruce Wayne’s love interest Vicki Vale, as well as the Mad Hatter. The Joker cover, by Bob Kane, foreshadowed the “Batman’s Arabian Nights” story inside.
Top lots from the Promise Collection also included, but were not limited to, sold for $87,000, Captain America Comics No. 37 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Timely, 1944) CGC NM- 9.2 Off-white pages; and, for the same amount, Batman No. 37 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1946) CGC NM+ 9.6 White pages; for $78,000, Batman No. 25 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1944) CGC NM 9.4 Off-white to white pages, and Captain America Comics No. 28 The Promise Collection, Pedigree (Timely, 1943) CGC NM 9.4 Off-white pages; and, for $69,000: Batman No. 62 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1950) CGC NM/MT 9.8 Off-white to white pages.
Brunner’s Doctor Strange No. 1 cover art had plenty of company on the wish lists of many collectors who took part in the auction., including John Romita Sr.’s Origins of Marvel Comics Cover (Simon & Schuster, 1974), which also soared to $312,000, more than six times its pre-auction estimate.
Also in the sale was Don Heck’s Tales of Suspense No. 50 Complete 13-Page Story “The Hands of the Mandarin!” (Marvel, 1964), sold for $210,000. This story includes the first appearance of the evil scientist known as The Mandarin, one of Iron Man’s first and most dangerous foes.
Carl Barks’ A 1934 Belchfire Runabout! CB-OIL 127 Painting (1984), created to celebrate Donald Duck’s 50th birthday and starring a cast of characters that includes A-listers Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto and Uncle Scrooge, as well as Daisy Duck, Grandma Duck, Gladstone Gander, Gyro Gearloose and Horace Horsecollar, brought $162,000.
Barry Windsor Smith’s Conan the Barbarian No. 15 Cover (Marvel, 1972) drew a winning bid of $150,000, while Al Feldstein’s Panic No. 1 Cover Original Art (EC, 1954) reached $132,000 against a pre-auction estimate of $10,000.
Three other lots of original art yielded six-figure results: Dick Giordano’s The Joker No. 1 Cover (DC, 1975) brought a winning bid of $120,000 against an estimate of $20,000, Herb Trimpe’s The Incredible Hulk Marvelmania Poster Illustration, signed by Jack Kirby (Marvel, 1970) more than doubled its estimate when it finished at $108,000 and Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers’ Journey Into Mystery No. 93 Splash Page 1(Marvel, 1963) drew 27 bids, before closing at $105,000.
Other top comics in the sale included, but were not limited to, for $204,000, Amazing Fantasy No. 15 (Marvel, 1962) CGC FN/VF 7.0 Cream to off-white pages; at $168,000:,The Amazing Spider-Man No. 1 (Marvel, 1963) CGC NM- 9.2 Off-white to white pages; for $144,000, X-Men No. 1 (Marvel, 1963) CGC VF+ 8.5 Off-white to white pages.
“There was a lot to like in this sale, part of which was the fact that 18 lots brought in $100,000 or more,” said Barry Sandoval, Vice President at Heritage Auction, the world’s largest comics auctioneer. “But even better was the fact that 10 consignors took home a quarter of a million dollars or more. When we can do that for consignors and their families, that is as gratifying as anything we do.”
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The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.