In the final CAT Eyes on Original Art preview of the September Heritage Auctions Signature event, I want to cover some cool pieces by artists that paid their dues. We’re talking legends like Steve Ditko, Don Heck, and Jack Kirby. I’ll also cover some covers from the independent Ruse, but more on this seeming disconnect later.
Steve Ditko Spider-Man: Bring Your Wallet
Steve Ditko didn’t just luck upon illustrating Spider-Man in Amazing Fantasy #15. Ditko is among many artists that paid their dues. In particular, he studied under Jerry Robinson and worked in the Simon and Kirby studio beginning in 1953. Besides co-creating Spider-Man, he also boasts Captain Atom, Doctor Strange, and the Creeper on his early days’ resume´.
Six Ditko pieces enhance this Signature Auction. Tons of collectors will be drooling over Amazing Spider-Man #18 Page 1. At $195,000 now, it still has room to run considering the title page from Spider-Man #37 sold for $336,000 in January. The current piece is better than the former with respect to age and villainous co-star, the Green Goblin. I grade the one for sale CAT S4 and the one from January, CAT S3.
Artists That Paid Their Dues Bonus Ditko
The fun doesn’t stop there! An early Doctor Strange piece from Strange Tales #117 will command good money. The hero is in only one panel, so it grades CAT R3. One could argue that Mordo makes the page interesting. I want to hear your thoughts. In 2019, this page sold for $45K, less than many other pages from this same issue that also sold in 2019.
A page from Creeper 3 may have the best combination of action and price, in the inimitable Ditko style! It’s not as historic as the other pages, but the visual elements of the Creeper in action and the aghast faces of the bad guys make this page pure Ditko. Obviously, my first choice would be Spider-Man, but if you want to enjoy Ditko’s artistry, this page offers a lot.
1st Appearance Don Heck – Iron Man
Certainly, Don Heck was an artist that paid his dues. Before co-creating Iron Man in Tales of Suspense #39, Heck labored at less-known works for Harvey, Comic Media, Quality Comics, and Atlas in the Fifties. Interestingly, the cover art for Tales of Suspense #1 from 1959 stands out among Heck’s better illustrations.
Don Heck contributed hugely to the Marvel Silver Age. Black Widow and Hawkeye have played huge roles in the MCU. Working so long on the Avengers, he penciled most of Marvel’s heavy hitters.
Back to the current auction, TOS 39 Page 12 (page 11) will command a shiny iron penny. Let’s see what it has going for it: 1st comic appearance of Iron Man (iconic), original suit, CAT R5 with Iron Man in 2/3 of the panels. And in case Irving Forbush fell on your head and you forgot, this page comes from the comic that introduced Iron Man (iconic)!
Also, Page 13 from the same book sold in June for $210,000. Page 12 sold in April for $168K. I think this page is slightly better than the two prior sales. If page 11 sells for less than $200K, it might say something about a cooling market. If it busts through that record Heck price for HA, then maybe the art market is still super strong.
Check out Tales of Suspense #60 Page 6 for a more economical Iron Man page.
Jack Kirby Crushed It from BEFORE the 1940s
It goes without saying that Jack Kirby leads the pack of artists that paid their dues. Only the sheer volume of his work makes it affordable for the rich and the well-off. Otherwise, it would only be owned by the Super-Rich. The title splash from Captain America #101 falls in the category of affordable for the rich. The current bid is $80 grand. It won’t sell for the $630,000 paid by someone for the title splash of Tales of Suspense E59.
In 2014, the current offering sold for just under $57,000. There’s not a great recent comp, but some other title splashes have sold recently in the $130s.
For people in the well-off category, consider Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth 19 cover art. The cover for Issue 32 sold for $40,800 in April.
Issue 19’s cover sold twice before: In 2018 for $15,600 and in 2016 for $11,600. If someone asks, I’ll calculate the CGR (compounded growth rate) for Kamandi #19 cover art with a projection…but only if someone asks.
That was Fun, Now the Ruse
I called for people to make suggestions. John Stuart requested that I review some covers he has for sale in this same auction. I’m not receiving any money for these articles or getting paid to promote anyone’s stuff. This blog is a service that I hope will encourage people to investigate my CAT Price Guides. And of course, I welcome your advertisements. John is in my Comic Art Trends Advisors Facebook group, so I opened the floor for him to “analyze” the art he has for sale. Certainly, you are welcome to make suggestions, too. Here’s John’s take (mildly edited):
In 2000, Crossgen entered the comic book market with a mandate to challenge the big two – DC & Marvel. The company helmed by Mark Alessi hired the best artists, inkers, writers, and colorists in the business and burst onto the scene with titles such as Sigil, Mystic, Sojourn, The Way of the Rat, and Ruse. Ruse, written by Mark Waid and brilliantly rendered by Butch Guice and Mike Perkins was an instant success.
Three covers from the Sherlock Holmes-inspired steampunk, gothic detective series are featured in the Signature Auction. Each is by the team of Guice and Perkins. Ruse #4 features some stellar good-girl art with protagonists Simon Archard and Emma Bishop in a magical battle with the arch-villain Miranda Cross. Ruse #10 depicts Simon and Emma portrayed as puppets under the control of the evil villain Malcolm Lightbourne. Finally, Criminal Intent, though unpublished, provides a breathtaking, highly detailed gothic cover.
[Back to Pat] Jackson Guice has done a ton of work for DC, Marvel, and the independents. Covers from independent comics generally offer a chance to get good art at lower prices. In my CAT guide, lesser-known characters are graded lower. However, one key to my scale is to ALWAYS compare like items by one artist.
More Talk About Artists that Paid their Dues
Check out my other 3 articles in this GoCollect exclusive series as I preview Batman, Marvel Bronze Age Art, and Comic Strip art in the September HA Signature Auction. My next series will focus on the September ComicConnect auction, specifically art by Rich Buckler.