Mick Austin‘s Marvelman cover for Warrior Issue 16 – published back in 1983 – is up for auction on Heritage Auctions, with the lead bid currently at over $2,200 – but that might prove a fraction of what it finally sells for, given the artist’s current standing in the art world.
Marvelman was first created in the 1950s, when British publisher L. Miller and Son fell foul of a copyright battle in the US between Fawcett Comics and National Comics (now DC Comics) claiming plagiarism of their Superman character – and Fawcett ceased publication of Captain Marvel rather than risk huge legal bills.
With no new Captain Marvel stories available, publisher Leonard Miller needed to find a replacement character for their hugely popular superhero comics – and asked artist and writer Mick Anglo, one of very few British comic creators running an American-style studio in the 1950s, to create a replacement.
“One day Leonard Miller phoned and said he wanted to see me urgently. His supply of the American material for the Captain Marvel series had suddenly been cut off,” Anglo recalled in Warrior Issue One. “Had I any ideas? … So I quickly told him I had plenty of ideas, and for my trouble I received a regular supply of work for the next six years.”
Alan Moore‘s “Marvelman” tales, created for the anthology title Warrior edited and published by Dez Skinn, initially drawn by Garry Leach, were all-new stories of the character but as Pádraig Ó Méalóid has recently documented in Poisoned Chalice, his brilliant account of the history of Marvelman, conflicts with Marvel forced the change in the character’s name to “Miracleman” when the strips were re-published in the United States by Eclipse.
Mick Austin’s cover painting captures the magic and sparkle of this man-with-God-like-powers.
The issue of Warrior mistakenly gave cover credit to Steve Parkhouse, but it is clearly signed by Mick Austin in the lower left of the 12.5″ x 17.5″ gouache image area.
While $2,200 might sound like a fair chunk of change for a stunning Marvelman image, that pales into insignificance when compared with the prices Mick Austin’s paintings command today.
Now known as Michael J Austin, and currently working on some paintings for a new exhibition in London later this year, he’s been a professional artist since 1981, who started his career in comics, where he produced artwork for Marvel and 2000AD, and was also a features artist for the Sunday Times from 1985 -92.
As his painting style developed with the use of oils in the late 1980s, he began to take on more painterly illustration work with book covers and several film posters.
His career took a turn in the 1990s, when he began to paint more seriously and was offered a one-man exhibition with the Jonathan Cooper Gallery, London in 1997; followed by exhibitions most years for the same gallery as well as being represented by other galleries around the world. In 2003, HRH The Prince of Wales took an interest in his work and Michael subsequently accompanied the Prince as tour artist on an official visit to India and Oman.
In November 2016, Michael again accompanied HRH Prince Charles, together with HRH the Duchess of Cornwall, on a tour of the Middle East, visiting Oman the UAE and Bahrain.
Working wet-in-wet with just the three primary colours from his studio in South West England, he paints mainly in oil and attempts to maintain a fluid style with expressive brushwork. His paintings are sold and collected internationally and currently works with several galleries in the UK and the US.
• The auction runs 21-23rd February 2019 and you can view and bid on the artwork here at Heritage Auctions
UPDATE 18th March 2019: The Marvelman artwork sold for $9000 (just over £6800)
With thanks to Richard Sheaf | Marvelman © Marvel Comics