Comic Book Creator Frank Miller Sues Publisher’s Widow For Refusing To Return Valuable Batman Artwork

Comics writer and illustrator Frank Miller. (Photo by Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images)

Amid an increase in the value of comic books and collectibles, comic book creator Frank Miller is suing the widow of an independent comic book publisher for refusing to turn over two of Miller’s illustrations.

The comic book collectibles market soared in 2021, with Heritage Auctions sell $181 million in Rare Comics and Original Comics, a 117% increase over the previous year. In June, one of Miller’s illustrations sold for $2.4 million at auction. The cover of the first issue of Batman: Return of the Dark Knightcreated with colorist Lynn Varley, is today the “most expensive mainstream American comic book cover sold at auction”, according to a Press release of Heritage.

Cover of Batman: The Dark Night Returns Book One depicting Batman and a lightning bolt
Batman: Return of the Dark Knight Cover of the first book. Heritage auctions

miller suit is for artwork created for David Anthony Kraft, writer and editor for DC and Marvel who also published Comics Interview magazine. Miller, who went on to create city ​​of sin and 300, was featured occasionally in the magazine throughout the 1980s and created designs featuring Ronin and Batman comic book characters for Kraft to use as the cover.

This final illustration is of particular value as it was one of the first Batman pieces done in the distinctive style Return of the Dark Knight style, in addition to portraying the character Carrie Kelley, who became the first female Robin, according to the Aug. 8 lawsuit.

Miller and Kraft agreed that the work would remain Miller’s property, but requests to return the works failed and the comic book creator eventually assumed they had been lost.

Upon Kraft’s death in 2021, the cover passed into the hands of widow Jennifer Bush-Kraft. In May Miller learned that they were not in fact lost but were being auctioned and demanded their return, which Bush-Kraft refused. Both coins are currently held at the auction house.

The lawsuit says the amount in dispute exceeds $75,000, but does not specify how much Miller is seeking in damages.

Neither Miller nor Bush-Kraft responded to requests for comment.

One of the illustrations depicts the “peak” of Miller’s career

The 1980s and early 1990s comic has seen the biggest increase in value, according to Heritage Auctions vice president Todd Hignite, in part because of collector nostalgia and its relevance in movies and current TV shows. In particular, Miller Black Knight the work is one of the most valuable of this era, he said.

“That time when Frank Miller was doing the Black Knight run is considered the pinnacle of his career, the most desirable period of his work,” said Douglas Gillock, vice president of auction site ComicLink. “There are only a limited number Black Knight rooms.”

However, Gillock believes that artwork created for an independent magazine like Comics Interview would not be considered as valuable or desirable as Miller’s comic book cover artwork.

Gillock attributes the growing interest and value of comic book art to a burgeoning market of consumers. According to Gillock, the early generations of collectors from the 1970s to 1990s are now entering the late phase of their collecting period, but the explosion of media franchises featuring comic book characters has introduced a wave of younger collectors.

In addition, the pandemic has played a role in the price increase. “People were at home, not using vacation money and looking for alternative investments,” said Gillock, who believes the increased value of comics and collectibles means the market is catching up. other art forms. “The comic seemed really cheap for a while. Now more people have recognized its importance.

Comic Book Creator Frank Miller Sues Publisher's Widow For Refusing To Return Valuable Batman Artwork

Daniel K. Denny