Superman and Batman might have overpowered the first session of Heritage Auctions
' three-day Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction, with their respective debuts realizing a combined $1.653 million. But the duo known as the World's Finest weren't the only heroes flying high during Thursday's spectacular kick-off, which realized a total of $5.89 million in just one hour.
In fact, two world records were set Thursday by some unlikely names.
One of the breakout stars of the auction was "the most supernatural superhero of all," the soul-swapping, motorcycle-riding, skull-blazing Ghost Rider. His debut in 1972's Marvel Spotlight No. 5 became by far the most expensive comic book of the 1970s when it sold for $264,000.
And another champion of this first session was a renowned comic-book artist who singlehandedly took on the Ku Klux Klan: Wally Wood, whose original cover for 1952's Shock SuspenStories No. 6 sold Thursday for $840,000. That set a world record for the highest price paid at auction for American comic book cover art. Just as it should have.
"This is nothing less than one of the most remarkable pieces of comic art we've ever offered in our history," said Heritage Auctions Vice President Barry Sandoval when introducing Wood's landmark achievement during the live auction.
Wood's work was among myriad pieces of original art to sell in the six figures during just the first session, with hundreds more iconic items to come over the next three days. Among the top lots Thursday was one from another revered art titan who holds some world records himself: Frank Frazetta, whose peak-period original cover for the 1969 Popular Library paperback Outlaw World sold for $408,000.
Two Jack Kirby masterpieces also sold for six figures during the three-day event's first hour: Page 21 from The Avengers No. 1, featuring Loki among the marvelous icons, realized $180,000; and a September 1966 illustration made for Esquire featuring Spider-Man, Captain America and the roster of Marvel heroes brought $168,000.
Steve Ditko original Spider-Man pages are about as rare as radioactive spiders. So it's no surprise Page 17 from Amazing Spider-Man No. 34 sold for $144,000. But you didn't have to be a superhero to get in on the action Thursday: Dan DeCarlo and Rudy Lapick's five-page story introducing Sabrina the Teen-Age Witch, which appeared in 1962's Archie Madhouse No. 22, realized $114,000.
All told, those 60 minutes offered a thrilling kick-off to a star-studded event that will feature on Friday morning the debut of the pedigreed Promise Collection, one of the most historic comic-book discoveries of the last 25 years and one of the greatest Golden Age offerings ever brought to auction.
The $1.125 million paid for the Detective Comics No. 27, graded CGC VG/FN 5.0, would have set a world record not too long ago.
On Nov. 19, 2020, Heritage sold an unrestored copy of Detective Comics No. 27 graded Fine/Very Fine 7.0 by Certified Guaranty Company for $1.5 million. At the time, not only was that a world record for the comic, but it was the highest price ever paid for any Batman book. (That title would fall only months later, when, on Jan. 14, the auction house sold a Batman No. 1 for $2.2 million, a price tag befitting its status as the sole copy ever to receive a 9.4 grade from the Certified Guaranty Company.)
Not surprisingly, Detective Comics No. 27 has only increased in value in recent years, no matter the condition. Only 11 years ago, on Feb. 25, 2010, Heritage sold for $1,075,500 a Detective No. 27 graded CGC VF 8.0. That sale held the record until November 2020's auction.
Superman's first flight in Action Comics No. 1, graded CGC Conserved FN- 5.5, sold Thursday for $528,000, an extraordinary sum for a conserved book. But Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne don't walk away as the stars of the show. That honors belongs to the late motorcycle stunt rider named Johnny Blaze.
Even before live bidding began at noon CDT on Thursday, Ghost Rider's first roar through Marvel Spotlight No. 5 had more than doubled the previous auction record for a 1970s book set by X-Men No. 94, which Heritage Auctions sold on April 1 for $63,000. Final bidding for the book, graded at an astonishing CGC NM/MT 9.8, ended at more than quadruple that previous highwater mark for a book from that era.
"As soon as we saw this one, we thought it had a great chance to set a new high for a 1970s comic, but we didn't expect it to more than double the previous record," Sandoval says. "To find this black cover in an unblemished state is rare, which is why CGC has certified 3,500 copies of the comic to date with only four making it to 9.8. For those of us who are passionate about 1970s comics, it's a validation of sorts to see one join the $100,000 club."