The creation of John Romita Sr, whose artwork for issues 39-95 had seen the character transformed from ”…a kind of nerdy high school kid to a more confident college student”, and Frank Giacoia, it was part of a Heritage Auctions (19.5% buyer’s premium) sale of February 22-24.
Surrounding Spider-Man (aka Peter Parker) are over two dozen other characters, villains and friends alike, executed in Marvel Comics’ popular “floating heads” style.
Signed, apparently at a later date, by Romita in the lower margin, it has at some stage been professionally cleaned, leading to some diffusion of the blue pencil lines. This led to the original condition report being amended from ‘Excellent’ to ‘Conserved Very Good’.
Not so far behind in price, at $360,000 (£257,140) was Frank Frazetta’s Tree of Death oil on board painting of 1970, which three years later was used as the cover art for a paperback, Flashing Swords #2. As the auctioneers helpfully and humorously explained, it features “…a sinewey barbarian rescuing a wizard from a horrific tree hell-bent on having a magical lunch!”
Among the comics themselves, one copy of the 1940 first issue of Batman with a CGC rating of 7 made $280,000 (£200,000) and another, rated just 3.5 reached $120,000 (£85,715). The record for a first Batman comic, however, is close to $1m.
‘Bat-Man’, as he was originally called, had made his first appearance in Detective Comics in May 1939, and in a March 13-15 sale Hake’s Americana of York (PA) will offer a CGC 5.0 copy with a high estimate of $1m.
Collectors at the Heritage sale were also keen on cartoon strips and among them original artwork for two of Charles Schulz’s much-loved Peanuts strips. One of two, dated from 1953, were bid to $95,000 (£67,855) apiece in this sale.
UK comics scene
Comics and comic artwork prices in the UK are by and large much, much more modest than those achieved in the US, and indeed France, but a March 1 sale held by Ewbank’s (27% buyer’s premium) enjoyed some success.
Most of the 40 odd lots offered were multiples of varying size but a copy of Marvel’s first X-Men comic of 1963 was sold at £1600.
This was a UK issue, priced at 9d, but in the recent Heritage sale, a 15 cent US issue was bid to $32,000 (£22,855). That one, formerly part of the legendary and complete Simi Valley Collection of Marvel comics, was sealed in its regulation CGC plastic box and carried a very high 8.5 (out of an effectively impossible perfect 10) rating.
The record for this comic, however, was set by a US issue CGC rated at an astonishing, near perfect 9.8 that in 2012 was sold by Heritage for $412,500.
The Ewbank’s sale also included a first issue of Marvel’s Daredevil of 1964, at £800, and, at £2000, Issue No 39 of Tales of Suspense, a 1962 Marvel comic that marked the first appearance of ‘Iron Man’.
In 2012, a 12 cent US copy of that same comic, CGC graded at 9.6, was sold for $375,000.
Also illustrated here is a 1968 first of Ted Hughes’ tale of The Iron Man: a Children’s Story in Five Nights, illustrated by George Adamson.
It made £460 in a February 20 sale held by Toovey’s (24.5% buyer’s premium), but on March 21, as part of a Bonhams sale of the superb Sylvia Plath & Ted Hughes collection, a dedication copy inscribed by Hughes for his son, Nicky, is valued at £1000-1500.