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'Batman: The Killing Joke,' Jack Kirby original art help push Heritage Auctions event past $5 million mark
Jack Kirby and Paul Reinman X-Men #4 Splash Page Original Art (Marvel, 1964).

DALLAS, TX.- Heritage Auctions began its four-day Comics & Comic Art event with a first session full of slam-bang action that smashed most expectations and pre-auction estimates. After a mere 105 minutes had elapsed, the Platinum Session filled with historic titles and significant works of original art had tallied almost $3.3 million.

Session 2, which kicked off later in the day Thursday and featured more than 150 additional comics alongside rare Pokémon and Magic: The Gathering items, brought in an additional $1.7 million.

That pushed the first day’s total past the $5 million mark.

Tales to astonish, indeed.

Nearly every single page of original art sold for well beyond pre-auction estimates. Some doubled and tripled expectations.

Brian Bolland’s Page 2 from Batman: The Killing Joke, his 1988 collaboration with Alan Moore that has influenced almost every Dark Knight tale since, set the tone early. The nine-panel slice of noir -- featuring Batman and Commissioner Gordon striding past Arkham Asylum cells filled with villains, Two-Face among them – opened at $62,500. Then bidders tussled over the coveted page, pushing it past its $100,000 estimate to its final sale price of $156,000 – the highest Heritage has yet realized for a page from that influential book.

Two extraordinary offerings by Jack Kirby – the man who helped save Marvel Comics, and reinvented himself and the way comics looked over four decades – also hit six figures, including his splash page from X-Men No. 4, which sold for $132,000. This should not surprise: Not only does it feature the team’s original lineup in the Danger Room, but on the back are Kirby’s handwritten notes in which he brainstorms the names for a new character eventually called Scarlet Witch.

Kirby’s team-up with his longtime collaborator Joe Sinnott on the cover of Fantastic Four No. 95 sold for nearly as much: $114,000. And his work with Dick Ayers on 1962’s Strange Tales No. 101, two pages in which Kirby depicted the origin of his beloved Fantastic Four, sold for $96,000.

But not all the high numbers came from long-ago stories.

Joshua Middleton’s cover to Marvel’s NYX No. 3 – the first comic-book appearance of X-23, a clone of Wolverine eventually seen in the 2017 Logan – sold alongside the character’s concept art for $78,000.

Said Heritage Auctions Vice President Barry Sandoval, “That is now the highest price ever paid at auction for a piece of 21st century U.S. comic art.”

And the $72,000 realized for Harvey Kurtzman-Bill Elder work “Shermlock Shomes” was one of the highest prices Heritage has seen for a MAD offering. The eight-page, 8,000-gag tale opened bidding at $21,000, slightly higher than its pre-auction estimate. A flurry of bids later, and it found a new home for more than three times the expected sale price.

One of the nicest surprises of the first session came early, when it came time to sell Dave McKean’s original art to the cover of Sandman No. 6. Neil Gaiman’s heartbreaking work of fantasy from the late 1980s attracted countless new readers to the medium. This is where non-believers started referring to comics as literature.

And on Thursday, fine-art collectors met comics fans as they dueled over this mixed-media work that sold for $50,000, far more than twice its $20,000 pre-auction estimate. That’s especially rewarding since the art was originally given to the consignor by her boss as a sort of consolation prize as she was being laid off.

Other original art sold in the Platinum Session includes these highlights, among many:

• Neal Adams Batman No. 226 Cover Original Art, one for DC Comics in 1970, which opened at $20,000 and sold for $52,800.

• Robert Crumb’s Zap Comix No. 0 Complete Single-Page Story "Kosmik Kapers" Original Art, which began at $17,000 and sold for $43,200.

• Sal Buscema’s The Defenders No. 6 Cover Original Art, for Marvel in 1973, which sold for $43,200.

• Frank Miller and Klaus Janson’s Daredevil No. 184 Page 19 Original Art, done for Marvel in 1982, which sold for $33,600, almost three times its estimate

• Ross Andru, Neal Adams and Dick Giordano’s Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man Treasury Back Cover, which sold for more than twice its estimate at $33,600.

• And a Bill Watterson-signed lithograph of Calvin and Hobbes "The Last Sunday,” from Dec. 31, 1995, sold for $28,000. In the past they’ve usually sold for $5,000 to $10,000; Thursday’s sale suggests another bump in Watterson’s popularity.

Dozens of important comics likewise sold in Session 1 and 2, among them an issue of Wonder Woman No. 1 graded CGC VF 8.0 for $120,000. A Superman No. 1 in CGC VG/FN 5.0 condition sold for $360,000. And the finest known copy of 1940’s Batman No. 4 sold for $40,800.

Marvel’s debuts also exceeded expectations, including Journey Into Mystery No. 83, which, in 1962, introduced Thor. A copy graded CGC VF 8.0 sold for $31,200 – an extraordinary jump from those not-long-ago days when an issue in that grade typically sold for a fraction of that.

And during the second session, a surprise: A CGC Qualified (for cleaned staples) VF+ 8.5 copy of Fantastic Four No. 1 sold for $72,000, which is approximately the Overstreet value for an unqualified copy in that grade.

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