All around the world comic fans in general and superhero fans in particular have a history of arguing about the things that matter: Who’s fastest? Who’s strongest? Who can beat whom in a fight? Such questions have fuelled countless heated debates in schoolyards, cafeterias and pubs over the years. Mostly these queries lack any real concrete answers. Who Superman or The Hulk can beat in a fight is largely reliant on who is writing the story and what they want the outcome to be this time, but there are some questions that do have more definitive answers and these are kinds of questions that Guinness World Records has made its business answering, indeed, it was an argument about the fastest game bird that provided the inspiration for the first Guinness Book of World Records, nearly 60 years ago.
Each year since, the Guinness World Records book, as it is now known, has provided answers to all manner of superlative questions, from the fastest man over 100 m (Usain Bolt) through to the top grossing film franchise (Harry Potter), on up. Each year the book features a slightly different array of topics in its pages and this year comics got their turn in the record-breaking spotlight with two whole pages of comics-related achievements. What’s more, I was lucky enough to be tasked with updating the comics-related records on GWR’s fabled Records Database and with coming up with holders for comics records GWR had never delved into before.
Regular readers will know Rich likes to keep abreast of the most expensive comic sold at auction , and that very record gets a mention, but do you know which artist is responsible for the single most expensive page of comic art sold at auction? It isn’t Frank Miller, but Belgian Georges ‘Hergé’ Rémi. A page from The Castafiore Emerald featuring Hergé’s most famous creation, Tintin, the boy reporter, fetched 312,5000 euros in 2009 – and Hergé’s cover art has recently sold for over 1.3m euros (£1m; $1.6m). How about the first superhero? If you thought Superman, you might have overlooked The Phantom, a costumed comic strip star from 1936 who predates the man from Krypton.
One of my favourite featured feats runs against the modern trends for renumbering comic series and for more first issues so favoured by Marvel and DC these days. The record for the highest issue number (or most editions, as it is termed in the book) is claimed by a Mexican publication called Pepin, which published 7,561 editions, many of them on a daily basis, until it ceased publication on 23 October 1956.
Of course, I’m not going to tell you the whole story of all the featured records here – you’ll have to buy Guinness World Records 2013 for that – but I will say that there are plenty of interesting facts and one or two surprises that will be sure to interest comic readers.
Guinness World Records 2013 isn’t available in comic shops, but it is on sale pretty much everywhere else books are sold.