Dark Horse comics like Star Wars: Heir to the Empire and Star Wars: Legacy are burning up the hot lists on GoCollect. And I don’t dismiss the fandemonium for Marvel Star Wars offerings. After all, decades ago Marvel rather than Dark Horse scripted and illustrated these tales of the force. Authors Matt Tuck (Mandalorian Keys) and Norman Robinson III (Unlocking the Force of Star Wars) and others have documented the Star Wars comic book potential well. In this first article, I’ll look at the art of Star Wars, Dark Horse style.
Star Wars Shadows of the Empire cover art by Ken Steacy. Comic included with Kenner action figures. Art sold for $1,195 in 2012.
The Industry George Lucas Built
George Lucas and friends, not only created my favorite film, they also built an empire based on a simple story. One that could have been written forty years before. I started to say a marketing empire, but Star Wars mania is not simply clever marketing now or forty years ago. The diverse multitude of Star Wars collectibles spawned from the 1977 film provides ample evidence of that. Much has been said in print, digital, and video forms about the cultural influence of Star Wars. While I could talk about toys, licensed products, books, comics, posters, signed photos and a plethora of other interesting collectibles, today I’ll focus on art. In fact, today’s discussion focuses on Dark Horse comic art. But in later conversations, we’ll draw attention to Marvel 1st trilogy art and other epochs along the way.
The Art of Star Wars Dark Horse Style
Creators and fans alike feel intense passion for Luke, Leia, and the host of characters in a galaxy far, far away. So, it’s not surprising that story and artistic quality rarely disappoint. First, let’s start with a cover from Dave Dorman for Dark Empire II. Apparently George Lucas appreciates Dorman’s works enough to buy them himself. Dorman’s painted a good portfolio of superhero, fantasy, Aliens, Star Trek, and other works. A quick review of Heritage Auction sales indicate that his art prices have not exploded, but not too many of his Star Wars works show up. This piece sold for about $750 but that was fifteen years ago. Expect art like this to be significantly higher in the 2020s.
Several pages of panel art for Dark Force Rising came to auction in 2019. The panel pages by artists Terry Dodson and Kevin Nowlan ranged in price from $144 to $456. Panels featured Luke, Leia, and Han along with all the endearing accessories. Pages like this can be a core part of one’s collection or investment portfolio. They feature enduring characters by solid and respected artists. They also shouldn’t require a second home mortgage.
Ken Kelly knows how to make his painted covers pop. Paintings form the Star Wars series and Prelude to Rebellion enjoy across the room visual appeal. Two covers sold on HA for under $1,500 each in 2017. Unfortunately, neither cover included a grade A character from the Star Wars universe. I surveyed Ken Kelly art on HA.com and found high prices of roughly $25K for King Kong and Abominable Snowman paintings. His works include a plethora of sword and sorcery paintings with Conan among his top sales.
Unpublished But Appealing
While reviewing Dark Horse Star Wars art, my eyes gravitated to a cover featuring Boba Fett. Rick Hoberg’s unpublished cover from Classic Star Wars Early Adventures expressed drama simply. Besides a multitude of superhero credits, Hoberg worked on the Star Wars comic strip in the early 80s. He succeeded comic strip legend Russ Manning. One note on unpublished art. It rarely sells for a price close to what similar published pages sell for. In this case, the Boba Fett cover sold for $1,035 in 2004.
Navigate the Meteor Field of Dark Horse Art
I like the collectability and investment potential of early works. In this case, Star Wars art from the seventies comic book and comic strip series enjoy the solid foundation of longevity. However, from a purely artistic point of view, I believe the Star Wars art featured in Dark Horse comics stands out. Coupled with reasonable auction prices, I would not hesitate to encourage fans, collectors, and investors to take advantage of the opportunities. That said, I always prefer grade A characters with wide spread recognition over specialty characters that only the deepest of Star Wars geeks can properly pronounce their names. Again, I say this only from an investment perspective, fans should always enjoy what appeals to them personally.
Next time I might look at modern Marvel/Disney art, or possibly go back a long time ago.