In Collecting International Comic Variants, Tony Pomilla shared his expertise and experiences in the comic hobby niche of foreign variants. While surveying past sales, I encountered many examples of comics distributed in the UK and other locations outside the U.S. I didn’t need to study at Oxford to figure out comics once sold for 9 pence fetch a pretty penny today (actually “pounds” of them). For this article, I want to focus on original art featured in foreign variants. I think you’ll agree that premiere art by well-known artists may offer some beautiful bargains, even though they were created for the international market!
Super Spider-Man #170 cover art by Dave Hunt and Frank Giacoia. The UK edition re-created John Romita, Sr.’s classic Amazing Spider-Man 121 for “The Night Gwen Stacy Died”. This art sold for a slight discount to the first one: $8,963 for the Hunt version in 2017 and $286,800 in 2013 for the Romita version. Unlike typical recreation art, this cover appeared on a published comic. Obviously, few artists compare to John Romita, Sr. for Spider-Man originals. However, for thousands of UK readers, Hunt’s art presented the first impression for one of Spider-Man’s most important tales.
Just Who Are These FAMOUS Artists?
Admittedly, Dave Hunt’s fame grew out of his contributions inking Marvel and DC art. Just who are these famous artists I promised? Let’s start with art by ‘Junior’. That would be John Romita, Jr., son of the famous one. Though this splash page hails from Mighty World of Marvel rather than Incredible Hulk, it holds many distinctions. First, JR Jr. indicated it was possibly his first Marvel work. That’s not a bad start. Second, there’s a guy with Adamantium claws laying on the ground behind the Hulk.
Anyone getting the picture of what story this splash was grafted into? Yes, that would be a reprint of Wolverine’s first full story, Incredible Hulk #181. While not Herb Trimpe and Jack Abel, Romita, Jr. created an original page to fit into a landmark Marvel story! Just weeks ago, the page from Mighty World of Marvel #199 sold for $18,000.
More Original Art for Foreign Variants
If Kirby is number one and Romita is number two, John Buscema makes an awesome number three. And no inker compares to Tom Palmer on Buscema pencils. I’m not sure when they would have had time, but the two collaborated on original cover art for Mighty World of Marvel #222. Speaking ofpounds’, Buscema did tons of Conan art. Though prolific, that left less time to do superhero work on characters like Daredevil. Therefore, I would expect to pay a premium for a Daredevil cover. Not so here–the 2019 sale for the UK cover only fetched $5,040. Again, though not published in the U.S., it is published COVER art by a legend!
Let’s do one more of these before I switch to some other nuances in the foreign variant original art niche. This one blew me away. Would you say Mark Bagley has a few fans for his Spider-Man art? I’m going to say upfront, GET his cover art while it’s cheap: American or Foreign! Lots of Bagley art sells for fractions of his peers. But, I think someone ‘stole’ the cover art of Spider-Girl #2 (1998 Marvel/Panini)! Bagley created the original cover art for distribution in Germany. Many German collectors must have drooled when they pulled this incredible Spidey and Spidey-Girl comic from the shelf. The awesome cover art sold in 2019 for $1,320 (or fewer if paying in Euros!).
Not Really a Foreign Variant
Every country takes pride in its home-grown successes. Among the greatest heroes to come from the United Kingdom, surely Doctor Who ranks high. Marvel UK produced a four-issue limited series in 1994, Doctor Who: Age of Chaos. Unique among all Doctor Who series, it featured a story written by Doctor Who himself! More correctly, Colin Baker, the sixth Doctor, wrote the original story-length graphic novel. For added local flavor, UK artist Alan Davis illustrated the series. The cover art sold for $6,000 a few weeks ago.
Besides Davis, another subject of the queen, Dave Gibbons illustrated many Doctor Who pages for Marvel UK. Those works by Gibbons sell for a fraction of his Watchmen covers and panel pages.
Cautions When Buying Foreign Variant Original Art
When the hammer price falls lower than expected, look for the reasons. With original art for international variants, collectors are fewer and demand lower. Many times, though published, the art has a re-creation feel. Further, though new art and original, the publishers typically created the art for reprints. Even original work for American reprints does not sell with the same vigor as the first version. All that said, I have a greater caution.
Frequently, the artists associated with the foreign works may be “Marvel Artist” or “DC Artist”. I want to know who illustrated the art on my wall. Most people feel the same. Since the “name” of an artist is one of two big factors driving price, only buy art by “Marvel Artist”, “DC Artist”, “Harvey Artist”, and “Dell Artist” if you love the characters and enjoy the art.
As a side note, historically significant art and pages related to special first appearances sell high regardless of the artist. I personally think $3,600 may be a reach for this art from 1974 without the positive ID of the artist. The cover sold in January.
In case you are curious about the price growth on foreign variants original art, we’ll calculate CGR for one example. The most recent sale of cover art from Mighty World of Marvel #65 by Ron Wilson sold in August 2019 for $2,280. Previously, it sold in February 2016 for $1,793. By a simple formula, the compound growth rate for the 3 and half year holding period comes to 7.1%. A reasonable return, but it is just a single example.
The normal rules apply to investment potential. Is the artist renowned? Did significant events occur in a story or for a character? What makes the art stand out to crave the attention of a potential buyer? Again, be careful if the significant event occurred a decade earlier in America. However, if the variant cover was produced at the same time as the American version, it may garner even greater interest.
Opportunity awaits, if you like the character, artist, or story, chances are good the original art for an international variant sells lower than the American version.