Comic Character Collectibles
By J.C. Vaughn
Heritage Auctions has continued to find fertile ground in the world of pop culture, as witnessed by their July 28-29, 2018 Movie Poster Auction and their August 2-4 Comics & Comic Art Auction.
The company’s Movie Poster Auction totaled over $1.6 million when all was said and done, and the results were nothing if not interesting. Among the high sales was the rare The Empire Strikes Back concept poster by Roger Kastel that sold for $26,000. Not only was it well over the $5,000 to $10,000 estimate, it set a world record as the highest selling poster from the Star Wars film series.
“This poster is considered to be one of the more rare posters in the entire Star Wars trilogy,” said Grey Smith, Director of Vintage Posters at Heritage Auctions. “This poster is unique as it features the complete Kastel artwork in the original color palette for the second in George Lucas’ trilogy.”
The concept poster is one of only a handful known to exist. Kastel mirrored the style of the Gone with the Wind poster, replacing the romantic embrace of Scarlett and Rhett with Princess Leia and Han Solo. They are surrounded by a large Darth Vader helmet, Luke Skywalker, and other main characters. This version was likely a test printing for the international poster, which includes images of Lando Calrissian, Boba Fett, the Cloud City, and more. The final version is edited with revisions that remove those additional elements and switched to darker colors.
One of the auction’s major sales was the framed mixed media original art for Bob Peak’s Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, which realized $46,800. Done on illustration board and mounted on foamcore, the large, highly detailed piece measures 40″ x 57-1/2″ and is signed by the artist.
“Bob Peak’s work is very popular right now among movie posters collectors,” Smith said. “He has designed posters for some of the most popular movies of all time, like My Fair Lady and Camelot, and then Star Trek, Apocalypse Now, and several James Bond films. His extraordinary talent and his impact on the evolution of movie poster design has caught the attention of a lot of serious collectors.”
A Regeneration stone lithograph three-sheet saw competitive bidding push it to $40,800 – three times more than the pre-auction estimate. Two lots featuring Casablanca each sold for $26,400. One included Italian photobustas for the 1953 rerelease and the other was the first post-war release German A1 painted by Hans Otto Wendt.
Other top sales included a Superman cartoon stock one-sheet for $24,000, Swedish Casablanca insert for $22,800, Creature from the Black Lagoon one-sheet for $19,200, Help! set of four door panels for $19,200, and The New Adventures of Batman and Robin six-sheet for $18,600.
The auction house’s next movie posters offering is scheduled for November 17-18 in Dallas. The consignment deadline for that one is September 25.
Comics and Comic Art
A week after the movie poster bidding stopped, the spotlight stayed in pop culture but turned to the four-color world of comics. Superstar artists and superhero comic books were the stars in Heritage’s Comics & Comic Art Auction, held at their Dallas headquarters, which brought in a total of $6,670,739.
Fantasy master illustrator Frank Frazetta’s original painting for Escape on Venus took the top spot with a total of $660,000. The piece served as the cover for the 1974 reissue of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Escape on Venus.
“The result for this painting continues a trend of Frazetta paintings that have enjoyed enormous success in our auctions,” Heritage Auctions Senior Vice President Ed Jaster said. “Frank Frazetta was known for painting strong, sensuous women in fantastic environments. Escape on Venus is a prime example of his ability to paint in a way that directs the focus of those viewing his paintings to a specific place. In this painting, the trees and plants around the borders of the painting are done in subtle, muted tones, sending the focus back to the tiger and the woman in the center of the image.”
In the realm of original comic book art, Gene Colan and Bill Everett’s cover for Iron Man and Sub-Mariner #1 closed at over twice the pre-auction estimate when it realized $240,000.
Among the other noteworthy transactions for original comic art were John Romita, Sr.’s cover art for Amazing Spider-Man #55 (with a close-up of Doctor Octopus), which sold for $105,000, Jack Kirby and Chic Stone’s page 1 splash from the Captain America story in Tales of Suspense #60, which hammered at $96,000 (nearly double the pre-auction estimate), and Wally Wood’s cover for EC’s Weird Science #22, which came to a stop at $90,000.
Jack Kirby and Paul Reinman X-Men #1 page 5 sold for $72,000, an unused piece by Bernie Wrightson intended for his illustrated version of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly’s Frankenstein, hammered at $60,000, and Barry Windsor-Smith’s (then merely Barry Smith) original cover art for Conan the Barbarian #5 finished at $60,000.
A CGC-certified 9.0 copy of The Incredible Hulk #1, which featured the origin and first ppearance of the Hulk, topped the comics when it closed at $264,000, and the CGC-certified 9.2 Larson pedigree copy of Detective Comics #35 reached $66,000.
New Overstreet Star Wars Price Guide
Since the first film debuted in 1977, Star Wars has dominated the collecting landscape like no other franchise. With record prices set in the world of action figures, and the spirited pursuit of movie posters, comic books, video games, novels and other niches showing no end in sight, the team behind The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide has turned its attention to The Overstreet Price Guide To Star Wars Collectibles. In addition to detailed pricing, this volume will be packed with insights and collecting tips from experienced enthusiasts, dealers and more.
The book is written by Amanda Sheriff and Robert M. Overstreet. Sheriff has previously authored The Overstreet Guide To Collecting Movie Posters, The Overstreet Guide To Collecting Concert Posters, and The Overstreet Guide To Collecting Horror. Overstreet, of course, launched The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide in 1970 and has delivered it every year since. The book will hit stores in November 2018.
Frank Frazetta’s original painting Escape on Venus took the top spot in Heritage’s August 2-4 Comics & Comic Art Auction when it hit $660,000. The piece served as the cover for the 1974 reissue of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Escape on Venus. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions.
J.C. Vaughn is the Vice-President of Publishing for Gemstone Publishing. Gemstone’s Amanda Sheriff also contributed to this column.