Let’s be Frank — there are few investments better than comic-book or fantasy original artwork, especially if the signature on the bottom is Frazetta or Miller.
That was proved with two recent sales: Frank Frazetta’s original 1955 artwork for Weird Science-Fantasy No. 29 been sold in a private treaty sale for $380,000 — a price that is reportedly the largest ever paid for a single page of American comic-book artwork — and Frank Miller’s 1982 cover image for Daredevil No. 188 sold for $101,575 on May 21, a somewhat startling number for a piece from the 1980s — it’s the most ever paid for a single-page piece from that decade, by some estimations.
At the center of both sales was Heritage Auction Galleries of Dallas. The Miller cover sold at the auction house’s Signature Comics & Comic Art sale (which dropped the gavel on $3.5 million in sales). The Frazetta piece was bought outright by Jim Halperin, the co-founder of Heritage, and a collector devoted to the gruesome and grand legacy of EC, the comics company that gave the world Tales from the Crypt and showcased the talents of artists such as Wally Wood, Jack Davis and Al Williamson.
“Knowing I’m a huge Frazetta fan, and a rabid EC collector, Stephen Ferzoco and Rob Pistella, the agents for the family, approached me as soon as they asked them to sell this piece,” Halperin said in a written statement. “I was thrilled to pay their asking price, which, although it set a new record by a wide margin, actually seemed quite fair for the ultimate EC cover … Frazetta did a total of 42 comic-book covers, many of which are no longer thought to exist as original art, though WSF No. 29 is by far his most famous.”
There’s an interesting back story to that Frazetta cover: It was drawn in 1954 and conceived as a Buck Rogers cover for Famous Funnies, but Eastern Color Printing didn’t use it. Instead, the company picked it up in 1955 and, after a few alterations, it finally hit the stands. The final result was called “the most outstanding cover ever put on a comic book,” by Russ Cochran, the noted EC historian and archivist.
According to Heritage, the previous record for a single piece of American comic-book art was the $200,000 paid for Wood’s cover to Weird Science No. 16, another EC classic, which Heritage sold via private treaty in April 2008. With the surging state of the market over the last few decades, I doubt the new record will last too long. I also wonder if there may have been some unpublicized artwork with a signature image by Jack Kirby or Neal Adams — or perhaps a key artifact from some Golden Age artist’s drawing table — that has quietly sold for a six-digit total that comes close or even exceeds these Heritage numbers.
— Geoff Boucher
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