The $3.4 million sale of an original drawing from a 1984 Spider-Man comic has set a new record for the most-expensive piece of interior comic art, at Heritage Auctions in Dallas on Thursday.
The work by Mike Zeck sparked a heated bidding war, opening at $330,000 and quickly escalating into the millions. The previous record for a page of original comic art—not a piece of cover art—was set in 2014 with the $657,250 sale, also at Heritage Auctions, of The Incredible Hulk, No. 180 (1974) by Herb Trimpe, which introduced Wolverine.
The three-panel Spider-Man drawing is page 25 from Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars No. 8, which explains how the superhero had gotten his cool new black suit some months earlier, in Amazing Spider-Man #252—which, as comic book fans know, becomes a pivotal moment for the character.
The Symbiote costume, as it is now known, was eventually revealed to be a symbiotic life-form that ultimately moved on to a new host, Eddie Brock, to become the villain Venom.
Spider-Man tried to create the suit after damaging his disguise in battle, using what he thought was a futuristic fabric replicating device. He was shocked when a black sphere emerged from the machine and engulfed his body in goo, forming the new outfit.
“That glob just—just spread out and became a costume—and dissolved away the tatters of my old one in the process!” Spidey exclaimed as the striking black suit was revealed.
The previous page, where the transformation begins, sold for $288,000 in a separate lot just moments before the new record was set—together earning a total of $3.7 million for two pages of comic art.
“We could not be happier, especially for our consignor, who bought the art in the late 1980s and treasured these pages ever since,” Joe Mannarino, Heritage’s New York director of comic art, said in a statement. “Today’s results prove what we’ve long been saying: Comic book art is as beloved and valuable as anything put on canvas.”
The record-setting sale prompted a round of applause from the crowd—but it was only the first sale of the day to top the $3 million mark.
Superman’s debut in Action Comics No. 1, one of the most coveted comics in history, sold for $3.2 million soon after, setting a new auction house record for the title. Called the “Rocket Copy,” this particular book has a rocket stamp on the cover put there by its original owner as a 13-year-old. It had been with his family ever since.
Because of condition issues, the comic was graded just a six out of 10—illustrating the desirability of the title, even with flaws. Another copy of the rare book fetched $3.2 million on eBay in 2014, and a private sale conducted by collectibles auction firm Comic Connect was reported at $3.25 million last April.
But it is Spider-Man who holds the current record for a comic book issue at auction, with the $3.6 million sale of Amazing Fantasy No. 15 (1962), the web-slinger’s first appearance, at Heritage back in September.
The Belgian cartoonist Hergé takes the honor for the most expensive work of art from a comic book at auction, meanwhile, with a 1936 gouache painted for the cover of The Blue Lotus, his fifth Tintin comic. The artwork, which sold for €3.2 million ($3.8 million) at Artcurial in Paris last January, had too many colors to be mass reproduced, and the artist ultimately used a simplified version for publication.