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"Batman" comic page worth half a mil

Posted by: James Lileks under Big media Updated: May 9, 2011 - 12:28 PM

The most expensive piece of comic-book art ever? Perhaps. Bleeding Cool says:

The iconic splash page of Batman and Robin from The Dark Knight Returns #3 , penciled by Frank Miller and inked by Klaus Janson, sold at Heritage Auctions just moments ago for a record $448,125. That’s the largest amount ever paid at public auction for any piece of original artwork from an American comic book. The sale surpassed the expectations of virtually all experienced observers by a huge margin. The public record for an American comic book cover was set last year with the $380,000 sale of the cover of EC title Weird Fantasy #29 by Frank Frazetta.

Tired of everything being "iconic"? Me too. Anyway, a description of the page from the auction house:

This gem has been locked away in a single collection since being purchased upon the series' original publication and is the definition of "fresh to market." And unlike many pages from the series, where differences between the original art and the published version are evident (as a result of Miller making changes on pasteovers), no changes were made to this artwork for publication, and the original contains no paste-ups or stats -- it's pure art, just the way it appeared in print.
Definitive is the only adequate description of this masterpiece, and as such, it was chosen to represent the entire time period in DC's recent 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking book, serving as the chapter heading for "The Dark Age: 1984-1998," and reproduced as a glorious color full-page image, leading off the chapter on page 556.

It is a nice piece of work, but you have to be amused by the fact that it led off a chapter on page 556. Anyway, the auction house expected it to get at least $100,000. Final bid?

$448,125.

Previously, this was the recordholder for a splashpage: page #8 from Spider-Man #50, which sold for $88,500. It’s like a middle-aged dork-identifier: I remember both the Spider-Man page and the Dark Knight page, right down to wondering exactly what Batman was swinging from. To say nothing of Robin, who was just hanging in space. Couldn’t have seen the original Spider-Man page, though - it came out in 1967, and I wasn’t reading comics yet. Which meant I read a reprint. You may say: so? Stop rambling. But there’s a point to all this:

One: in the olden times, back in the distant reaches of places like Fargo, there weren’t any comic book stores where you could get back issues from years past, and you couldn’t download a .cbr because such things did not exist. When a comic was gone, it was gone until it showed up in a yard sale, or in the stacks down at Dirty Ernie’s second-hand paperback store.

Two: while this was annoying and frustrating to those of us who wanted the future to arrive NOW please, thank you, at least it was part of a world that made lines on paper, not lines on screens. Will anyone pay a half a million for the monitor someone used to create the next comic masterpiece?

Anyway, it's a great illo, and I wish I had a loose half-mil, if only to say "I'm glad I have my half-million dollars instead of that piece of art, all things considered." There are other splash pages in the book some like better; Batman on horseback in the Napoleon pose would be my favorite. Are we done dorking out? Okay.

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