“Spider-Man” among auction comics

Comic book fans mark the history of the medium through the ages. The golden age is heralded with the first appearance of Superman in 1938 and the current modern age is marked by greater creative freedom and the permeation of comics in every corner of pop culture. But if recent sales of comic book collectibles are any indication, a subset of today’s fans could be living in the Golden Age.

In August, a near-pristine copy of “Action Comics” # 1, in which the Man of Steel debuted, was auctioned for $ 3.2 million. In May, an original art page from 1974 featuring Wolverine’s first appearance, sold for $ 657,250. Unlike comics, which are usually in color and printed in the thousands, the original black and white illustrations are unique.

“One thing about the original art is that it’s a bit messy: you see notes; you see word balloons stuck on them, ”said Steven Payne, author of“ Grail Pages: Original Comic Book Art and the Collectors ”in 2009. The unpolished look of the pages – ink stains, erasures, logos stickers or word bubbles – adds to their appeal as something behind the scenes. And comic book publishers have taken note. DC Comics and Marvel Entertainment often print special editions of comics that feature the illustrations in black and white, and IDW offers an “Artist’s Edition” series that features the pages in their original size (typically 11 “by 17”).

Mr. Payne, 52, bought his first piece of art – a page from “The Savage Sword of Conan,” illustrated by John Buscema – in 1979 for around $ 20. Those good days are over. A search of the Heritage Auctions website found similar Conan pages ranging from $ 59 (the artwork does not depict the hero) to $ 11,352.50 (which showed Conan in a fierce battle) .

Some fans have become successful professionals, Mr. Payne said, who are quick to buy pages, whether their price is $ 5,000 or $ 50,000. Artists today are also aware of the resale value. Some pages appear to be drawn for this aftermarket – “Everything looks like a poster,” he said – and many illustrators work with merchants to sell their work.

Here is a selective guide for where to buy original comics.

HERITAGE AUCTION (comics.ha.com) recorded record sales for original art. The Wolverine page, drawn by Herb Trimpe, and a 1990 cover of “Spider-Man”, illustrated by Todd McFarlane, sold for $ 657,250. Another work by Mr. McFarlane will be up for auction November 20-22: the 1988 cover of “Spider-Man” # 300, which features the hero in his black suit. The final price is expected to be over $ 300,000.

COMIC STRIP SPLASH PAGE (www.splashpageart.com) features over 50 artists, including biographical information for many creators. A 2013 page from the comic book “The Walking Dead”, the basis of the television series, was drawn by Charlie Adlard, inked by Stefano Gaudiano and is sold for $ 875.

ROMITAMAN (www.romitaman.com) is spoiled for wealth. The homepage has a carousel of clickable images, highlighting some of the artwork for sale. There are also good search options and the results can be sorted by price. A 1966 Green Lantern page by Gil Kane costs $ 14,000.

SCOTT EDER (www.scotteder.com) has an exhaustive list of artists, but some links lead to dead ends or works of art that have been sold. A never-before-seen cover by designer Chris Ware sells for $ 9,000.

THE ART OF ANTHONY COMIC STRIP (www.anthonyscomicbookart.com) has works by over 1,400 artists and includes useful links like “featured”, “new” and “covers”. The drawing of Princess Leia from “Star Wars” was made to order by artist Chris Sprouse and retails for $ 125.

COMIC LINK (www.comiclink.com) has a great selection of artists and useful subcategories (“pin up pages”, “stories”) which can be sorted by price. John Byrne’s 1996 cover of “Amazon”, available for $ 18,500, was part of a publishing gimmick that combined DC and Marvel heroes into new characters. In this case, DC’s Wonder Woman + Marvel’s Storm = Amazon.

GRAPHIC COLLECTIBLES (www.graphiccollectibles.com) lists around 70 artists, but some of the searches are empty. Looking by price, however, a 1966 “Fantastic Four” page ($ 20,000) by Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott and a 1972 “Adventure Comics” cover ($ 10,000) by Bob Oksner, in which Supergirl informs the Justice League that Superman is a traitor!

THE ARTIST’S CHOICE (www.theartistschoice.com) offers work from illustrators for sale, and a handful of this group can be commissioned to draw anything buyers want. June Brigman, the artist behind Marvel’s “Power Pack,” has an alternate cover of this series for $ 1,000 and custom sketches starting at $ 30. She offers recreations of published covers for $ 450.

ALEX ROSS ART (www.alexrossart.com) has examples of Mr. Ross’s highly rated work and pieces available for purchase, including this year’s “Justice Inc.” cover. N ° 5, from Dynamite Entertainment, which combines three champions of the golden age: the Shadow, Doc Savage and the Avenger. The price: $ 6,000.

Daniel K. Denny