The top end of the original comic art world has gone through a series of major level-ups over the past two years. In May 2011, market watchers were stunned when a Dark Knight Returns interior splash by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson sold for $448,125. Even in that new market reality, they were stunned again when Todd McFarlane‘s cover for Amazing Spider-Man #328 sold for $657,250 in July 2012.
Which brings us to today’s auction of the Dark Knight Returns #2 cover by Miller. It’s the first time a DKR cover has been sold at public auction, and it has just hammered at Heritage Auctions for $478,000. While not a record, that currently places it as the 3rd highest price ever paid in a public sale for a piece of American comic book art (as always, the original art market disclaimer applies: many high-end sales take place privately in closely-held transactions).
Frank Miller Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #2 Iconic Cover Original Art (DC, 1986). While we’ve sold a number of stand-out pages from this legendary series — including a splash page from issue #3, which achieved a record price, for a piece of American comic art, of $448,125 in 2011 — we don’t have enough superlatives to describe this jaw-dropping cover, the first ever to appear at auction. This is the only cover from the four-issue series to be rendered in pen and ink completely by Frank Miller, with no significant painted elements or overlays, and in our mind is artistically the best of the four.
Batman’s gritty resolve in the face of overwhelming adversity blazes through in this iconic image. In short, this is one of the greatest pieces of comic art to ever be offered at auction; not only does it represent one of the most memorable images from the decade, but from Batman’s entire illustrious history. Miller’s revolutionary Dark Knight radically altered the direction of comics with its prestige mini-series format, combined with the fact that it was one of the first modern mainstream features to put a gritty noir patina on the squeaky-clean Silver Age hero mythos previously exemplified by DC. The series has since been celebrated as among the most important and influential stories ever published.
The Bristol board, with an image area of approximately 12.75″ x 17.75″, shows evidence of being lightly sun-struck, though Miller’s bold inks are entirely unfaded and unaffected. His initials in the lower middle of the image and signature on the lower right have faded, and the art is in Very Good condition.