Sunday, July 29, 2012

Comics Art Prices Follow Up

Robert Boyd

Two weeks ago I reported on some auction prices for original comics art that I found outrageous. That auction,  the Heritage Auctions 2012 July 26-28 Vintage Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction- Beverly Hills #7063, has now ended, and in the fairness, I will now report how much those pieces finally sold for.

artwork sold price realized
Frank King Gasoline Alley Daily Comic Strip Original Art dated 9-24-21 (Chicago Tribune, 1921) $322.65
Gary Panter Facetasm Illustration Original Art (Green Candy Press, 1998) $1,015.75
Jack Davis and Harvey Kurtzman Frontline Combat #1 "Enemy Assault" Title Page 1 Original Art (EC, 1951) $2,390.00
Harold Gray Little Orphan Annie Daily Comic Strip Original Art dated 4-9-27 (Chicago Tribune, 1927) $8,663.75
E. C. Segar Popeye Sunday Comic Strip Original Art dated 8-14-38 (King Features Syndicate, 1938) $8,962.50
Charles Schulz Peanuts Daily Comic Strip Original Art dated 1-7-65 (United Feature Syndicate, 1965) $15,535.00
Todd McFarlane Spider-Man #1 Cover Original Art (Marvel, 1990) $358,000.00
Todd McFarlane The Amazing Spider-Man #328 Cover Original Art (Marvel, 1990) $657,250.00

Todd McFarlane, The Amazing Spider-Man #328 Cover Original Art (Marvel, 1990)

Yes, this stupid piece of crap by Todd McFarlane, doing his rehash of other people's ideas--ideas that had long since been beaten into the ground through inane repetition--sold for more than half a million dollars. I can't imagine what hopeless philistine would spend $657,250 for this.

Frank King, Gasoline Alley Daily Comic Strip Original Art dated 9-24-21 (Chicago Tribune, 1921)

Compare that to this timeless piece of Americana from the comic strip Gasoline Alley, by one of the greatest cartoonists ever, Frank King, a genius whose portrait of America in the 20s through the 50s was an unmatched real-time comic novel. Whoever got it for $322.65 got it cheap in my view. I hope that despite the pittance they paid for it, they will treat it as if it were a priceless cultural object.

I know many of you who read this blog for its fine art news must be scratching your head a bit. It may help you understand if you substitute "Damien Hirst" for "Todd McFarlane" and "Paul Klee" for "Frank King."



  1. See, I'm torn here. While I agree with everything you wrote, Todd McFarlane's over-the-top artwork got me back into (mainstream superhero) comics in my late teens. Later, after he had begun Spawn, I actually traveled from College Station to Fort Hood to attend a signing he was at. I had just had a piece of fan art published in the back of Spawn, and I showed it to him. He said it was cool (he better have -- it looked just like his own work as I was proficient in emulation) and signed that page and a few other items. This only fueled my short-lived desire to become the "Next McFarlane."

    I like the comparison to Hirst. Others came before them, but they were some of the first in their respective fields to completely monetize their product and brand. (Hell, McFarlane had enough in the bank to pay almost $3 million for a baseball a while back --

    I will always have a soft spot for McFarlane, and perhaps for Hirst, too. How else would I have ever known that shimmering black canvas of hundreds of thousands of dead flies could be art? (Todd would have made that a killer two-page spread.)

  2. No, you're absolutely correct, Robert. This is pretty disgusting news.

  3. $322 is a steal for that strip. Is that how much early 20's Frank King originals are going for? Geeeze. I'm not rich, but I'd write a check for three or four of them.

  4. That was about average for a 20s-30s Gasoline Alley in this auction (11 were sold). A 40s-50s Gasoline Alley could be gotten even cheaper. I'm still shocked by these numbers.

  5. I don't understand the surprise. We're talking about a society in which a movie like "Transformers 3: Dark Side of the Moon" has made over a billion dollars in worldwide box office receipts. Yes, some rich guy paid over a half-million for the McFarlane cover, but that buyer probably has no personal connection to Gasoline Alley, Frank King, or the heritage of the comics medium that you champion Robert. I suggest you just look away...

  6. I can't look away because I think these prices reflect the value we, as a nation, place on these artworks. There are a few small museums of comic art in the U.S., but none has (AFAIK) a permanent structure or a large endowment. I may be wrong, but I feel that if these this art were valued by collectors more highly, we would see better and more collecting museums. Furthermore, I worry that because collectors don't value the greatest examples of original comics art highly--in my opinion--that there won't be the kind of care and conservation done with these pieces of irreplaceable art that is done on work that is known to be worth more. That guy who just spent $657,250 will certainly have cover it with insurance, and the insurer will require that he have security and other loss-prevention in place for it. In other words, artwork that is worth money is artwork that survives.

  7. As disgusting as the $675,000 paid is, it shrinks in comparison to the millions of dollars people pay to see superhero movie. It's the same mind set with a lower admission price.

    Patrick Ford

  8. That doesn't bother me because a movie is ephemeral, and sometimes people are willing to pay $9 just to get out of the heat, to hang out with their friends, or to kill a couple of hours. In other words, that $9 doesn't represent a powerful commitment to bad movies. Wheras if you pay $675K for something, you are advertising how very very important this particular thing is. A movie ticket can be bought casually; $675 for a piece of art is dead serious.