Batman #1 Sets New Record
Comic Book Characters and Collectibles
By J.C. Vaughn
The ups and downs and more importantly the uncertainty of the mainstream economy persist. When there’s good news (unemployment is reported as being down), it’s usually tempered with bad news (many have been unemployed so long that they simply don’t count in government speak as unemployed anymore).
While the collectibles world is certainly not immune to this climate, we also have seen that rare, vintage, high grade pop culture items have encountered no overwhelming impediments to the setting of record prices.
The latest testament to the strength of the demand for high end comic books came February 15, 2015 at Lynbrook, New York-based Philip Weiss Auctions when a CBCS-certified 7.5 copy of Batman #1 sold for $237,300 with the buyer’s premium. While Weiss consistently turns out a potpourri of pop culture heirlooms and artifacts – and frequently sets record prices – they haven’t been known in recent years for comic books.
The buyers of the record-setting Batman #1, familiar to regular readers of this column, were Stephen Fishler and Vincent Zurzolo’s Metropolis Collectibles. While best known as record-breaking sellers, they also set the record for the most ever publically paid for a comic with the $3.2 million they spent for a CGC-certified 9.0 copy of Action Comics #1 in mid-2014.
Philip Weiss said that the copies offered proved that there were still as-yet-unseen great comics and collections out there to be found, while Vincent Zurzolo said his firm is bullish on the comic book market.
“Batman #1 is one of the most in-demand comics in the vintage comic market. The price for this book keeps going up and up and we see no end to this in the near future,” said Zurzolo, Chief Operating Officer of Metropolis.
A CBCS 9.2 Batman #2 went for $38,605 with the BP in the same event.
Batman Strong at Heritage As Well Just a few days after the sale at Philip Weiss Auctions, Batman showed up in a big way in Heritage’s Comics & Comic Art Auction on February 19-21, 2015 with total sales reaching over $3.2 million.
A CGC-certified 7.5 restored copy of Detective Comics #27, the first appearance of Batman, sold for $98,587 (a significant price for a restored comic), a CGC 4.5 copy of Batman #1 realized $77,675, and Frank Miller and Klaus Janson’s original comic book art for page 44 of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #2 brought $33,460.
The Caped Crusader was by no means the only superhero to attract attention among the offerings.
“Fresh material always gets attention, and the likes of never-before-offered Bernie Wrightson stories and Bill Everett art made for a lot of interest on lot-viewing day and strong bidding,” said Barry Sandoval, Director of Comics Operations at Heritage.
A CBCS 8.5 Fantastic Four #1 hit $65,725, a CGC 5.0 All Star Comics #8 totaled $28,680, and a CGC 3.0 Action Comics #10 featuring the third cover appearance of Superman reached $23,900.
The comic art component of the auction appears to have generated a number of strong results, led by Frank Frazetta’s depiction of Ghost Rider or the cover of Tim Holt #17. The piece sold for $71,700 with interest from 13 bidders.
Frank Miller and Klaus Janson’s original cover art for Daredevil #186 realized $38,240 ahead of the title character’s April 10 debut on Netflix.
Other top-selling original comic art in the auction included Curt Swan and George Klein’s original cover art for Action Comics #350 ($35,850), Todd McFarlane’s original cover art for Marvel Tales #234 ($31,070), and Barry Windsor-Smith’s page 4 splash from Marvel Comics Presents #78 featuring Wolverine in “Weapon X” ($31,070).
Original comic strip art also did well. George Herriman’s Krazy Kat Sunday page dated November 11, 1934 sold for $28,680, the Sunday strip for July 31, 1932, hit $25,095, the Sunday original dated Oct. 27, 1918, closed at $20,315. A Peanuts Sunday comic strip by Charles Schulz, dated Nov. 28, 1954, brought $26,290.
A Joe Shuster Original
Along with his childhood friend, writer Jerry Siegel, artist Joe Shuster (1914 – 1992) co-created Superman. If you have any affinity for superhero comics – including the very term superhero – then we share a debt in common to this frequently overlooked Golden Age great. Shuster’s art was typically not as solid as some of his top peers, but his shining moments remain impressive, and perhaps more importantly he helped define the visual language of the superhero adventure story for all the practitioners who followed.
More than a decade ago, Geppi’s Entertainment Museum founder Steve Geppi, the President and CEO of Diamond Comic Distributors, first showed me what I believe is the finest sketch Joe Shuster ever did of the Man of Steel, and it’s actually spectacular for multiple reasons.
Previously unpublished and done circa 1941 (it is undated, so the estimate is based on other work by Shuster from the period), the original depicts Superman, hands on hips, in a typically heroic pose. There are a number of similar Shuster sketches that utilized this pose, but the execution of the figure, the fluidity of the line work, and the depth added by the shading are unmatched. This figure is not a distant cousin to the wonderful Fleischer cartoon Superman; it’s that version captured on paper.
The piece was created and signed to Lefty Gomez of the New York Yankees, a Hall of Famer a number of whose post-season pitching records from the 1930s still stand. It is signed by both Shuster and Jerry Siegel, inscribed “From one Superman to another.”
So beyond the beautiful and powerful illustration itself, it has added historic appeal to both comic book and sports aficionados in addition to those who collect Superman specifically.
Here’s where this gets personal: From the moment that Mr. Geppi and former Diamond International Galleries President John K. Snyder, Jr. first showed me this Superman piece, I wanted it to be the cover of The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. When my office was in the Gallery (pre-Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, it was simply the finest showplace for comic books and original comic art), I would look at it every day.
And then it was sold, and I knew that I’d never get to have it on our cover.
Years later, when its owner consigned it to Hake’s Americana & Collectibles. Hake’s President Alex Winter arranged for them to make a high resolution scan, DC Comics gave us permission, Alex Sinclair, one of the top colorists in the comics industry, colored it, and we suddenly had our cover.
The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide #45, with Superman as one of its covers, goes on sale on Wednesday, July 8, 2015, along with more than a decade’s worth of dream fulfillment.