A near-mint copy of 'Captain America Comics' No. 1 storms hstoric comics auction this April

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A near-mint copy of 'Captain America Comics' No. 1 storms hstoric comics auction this April
Captain America Comics #1 San Francisco Pedigree (Timely, 1941) CGC NM 9.4 Off-white to white pages.

DALLAS, TX.- The first issue of Captain America Comics, which introduced super soldier Steve Rogers, his sidekick Bucky and their Nazi nemesis Red Skull, sold nearly 1 million copies upon its publication at the beginning of 1941. But few copies Captain America Comics No. 1 are in better condition today than the one that serves as a centerpiece offering in Heritage Auctions’ superpowered April 7-10 Comics & Comic Art Signature® Auction.

The copy of Cap’s debut featured in the April auction hails from the historic San Francisco Pedigree Collection and bears a grade of Near Mint 9.4 from Certified Guaranty Company. It’s the finest copy Heritage Auctions has offered in two decades.

Yet that platinum piece from comicdom’s Golden Age isn’t the lone Cap capstone available in this auction.

For the first time at auction, here, too, is the entirety of Captain America’s first solo Silver Age story – all 10 pages of original art, offered separately, from August 1964’s Tales of Suspense No. 59. This is the only time in 20 years when every single page of a truly key Silver Age story has been offered for sale at the same time.

“We couldn’t dream up two better auction lots if we tried,” says Heritage Auctions Vice President Barry Sandoval. “It’s the best of the Golden Age meets the best of the Silver Age bound up in the red, white and blue of one of comics’ most beloved characters – a near-mint copy of one of the most important comics ever from one of the most famous pedigreed collections, and the fresh-to-the-market original art of a story everyone remembers.”

It doesn’t get more historic than this: “Stan Lee, Author. Jack Kirby, Illustrator.” And there’s Cap crashing through the splash page that heralds, “The Marvel Age of Comics Reaches a New Peak of Glory with Captain America, The Most Enthusiastically Requested Character Revival of All Time!”

The story involves Cap fending off a gang of intruders looking to ransack Avengers Mansion – easy work for the man who took on Hitler on the cover of his first issue. But he was a little rusty by the mid-1960s, having been out of commission for a decade: The super soldier was last seen in 1954’s Captain America No. 78, billed as a “Commie Smasher,” before Marvel, then called Atlas Comics, retired Steve and Bucky. Cap finally returned to comics in January 1964, discovered in a “frozen, petrified” state in The Avengers No. 4, whose cover blared that “Captain America Lives Again!”

With The Avengers and the solo stories that followed, “the Star-Spangled Sentinel of Liberty set off to the races,” Marvel’s Jim Beard wrote in 2017 to commemorate King Kirby’s 100th birthday. “It seemed like Jack had never stopped drawing him in action.”

Captain America’s debut, the handiwork of not-yet-legends Kirby and Joe Simon, hit newsstands shortly after the Christmas blitz on Liverpool by the German Luftwaffe. The United States was still almost a year away from entering World War II. But there was Cap on the comic’s iconic cover delivering a right cross to Hitler in the sock heard ’round the world.

“The team of Simon and Kirby brought anatomy back into comic books,” cartoonist Jules Feiffer wrote in his 1965 book The Great Comic Book Heroes, which for many fledgling fans served as introduction to and explanation of the medium’s Golden Age.

“Not that the other artists didn't draw well ... but no one could put quite as much anatomy into a hero as Simon and Kirby,” he wrote. “Muscles stretched magically, fore-shortened shockingly. Legs were never less than four feet apart when a punch was thrown. Every panel was a population explosion — casts of thousands: all fighting, leaping, crawling. ... Speed was the thing, rocking, uproarious speed. Blue Bolt, The Sandman, The Newsboy Legion, The Boy Commandoes and best of all: Captain America and Bucky.”

The issue’s storyline, in which a “frail young man” named Steve Rogers is injected with a serum that gives him “the strength and the will to safeguard our shores,” is familiar now even to someone who has never picked up a comic. It has served as template for a tentpole franchise; made a modern star of a World War II hero; and remains as timely as the name of the comic company that published Captain America’s stories before it was made Marvel.

Cap has been many things in the 80 years since his debut: Sentinel of Liberty, Commie Smasher, Invader, Avenger, time-traveler, agent of S.H.I.E.L.D, pawn of Hydra. But in the end ...

“Captain America isn't a man. It's an idea,” Mark Waid wrote in 2019's Marvel Comics No. 1000, which celebrated the company's 80th anniversary. “It's a commitment to fight every day for justice, for acceptance and equality, for the rights of everyone in this nation.”

And it all began in Captain America Comics No. 1, only to be continued decades later in Tales of Suspense No. 59. He was a man of out time, perhaps, but seldom out of step and never, ever out of fashion.

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