There are lots more sides to collecting comics than just bagging key issues in mint condition. Sure, historically significant comic books like Action Comics #1 and Amazing Fantasy #15 will always be the holy grails of collectors. But in recent years, what’s become the big-ticket items are the original artworks themselves, with many iconic works auctioning off for well over $2 million. From the original art used for covers and pages to the preliminary sketches of artists, these one-of-a-kind pieces have become highly sought after by many avid collectors.
Here is a look at some of the most expensive comic book art pieces auctioned off in history:
Sold in June 2022, this original piece is among the latest to join the $2 million club. Long-time comic fans will instantly recognize the iconic silhouette of Batman leaping in front of a massive lightning bolt. This striking piece is the original art used for the cover of The Dark Knight Returns #1. Aside from being one of the most expensive comic book art pieces ever sold, it's among the most recognizable comic book covers ever.
These panels feature the debut of Spider-Man’s beloved symbiote suit. The all-black design is one of the best looks of the wall-crawler, second only to the classic red and blue costume. Looking at this piece from a historical perspective, this moment also marked the first time Spidey went through a drastic costume change in comics. The costume is also very significant for fans because it eventually leads to one of Spider-Man’s most famous foes, Venom.
The Adventures of Tintin is arguably the most well-known European comic of the 20th century. The series was created by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi, more commonly known as Hergé. What stands out about this piece is that it was not art used for the comic strip itself but simply a collection of illustrations spread across a single page. Much like how an artist’s sketchpad would look, this page features Tintin, Snowy, and other characters in a bunch of action-packed scenes from the books. With some much going on in a single page, it's no surprise this is among the most expensive comic book artworks ever sold.
There’s no denying the cultural impact Tintin has had in the world of European comic books. This piece was supposed to be the cover art for the book The Blue Lotus, but it was rejected because its heavy use of colors made it too expensive to mass produce. Instead of doing away with the piece, Hergé gifted the original art to Jean-Paul Casterman, the then 7-year-old son of his editor Louis Casterman. The piece noticeably has folds in the paper because Jean-Paul Casterman folded it and supposedly kept it in his drawer for over 40 years. The work only resurfaced when Casterman approached Hergé to have it signed by the legendary creator.
Frank Frazetta was one of the most prolific comic book artists and is often called the “Godfather of fantasy art.” With such a strong influence in the industry, it’s no surprise that Frazetta’s work is at the very top of this list. The Egyptian Queen was the cover art for Eerie Magazine no. 23, published in 1969. The piece encapsulates Frazetta’s genre-defining art style with its rich colors, highly detailed line work, and imaginative composition. This piece will hold the crown for the most expensive comic book art ever sold for a very long time.