I am the Spider-Man in Black–art illustrated by Mike Zeck for Secret Wars 8 Page 25 shocked the world last Thursday. When the Washington Post, Huffington Post, and even the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette feel the need to report on comics, you know something big happened. Big has a number; $3.36 million for the original art that debuted Spider-Man’s alien costume (seven months late).
The spider-MAN IN BLACK
Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there’s a reason for the things that I have on.
Johnny Cash, the original Man in Black, and Men in Black Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones have nothing on Spider-Man after last week’s Heritage Auctions sale. With 2022 marking sixty years of Spider-Man, it’s hard to believe that the black costume introduced in Amazing Spider-Man #252 (1984) has been around for more than half that existence.
Of course, Spidey’s alien symbiote black duds have rocked the comic industry since Venom’s first full appearance in ASM #299 (1988). But Peter Parker and his costume suffered through a four-year love-hate relationship before things really got wild for the web-slinger.
Don’t Bury the Lead or Ultimate Wardrobe
I’m taking my time providing specifics of an art sale that everyone has already heard about. Maybe because I’m still disgruntled from falling short in my bid to own Amazing Fantasy #15 as part of a bound collection. That miss on a beautiful Spider-Man artifact is nothing compared to the collectors who fancied the possibility of owning original art from Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars featuring the origin of Spider-Man’s black costume.
I can imagine the first fans to notice the upcoming auction thinking to themselves, “hmmm, $50 grand will stretch me, but I think I can do it!” Of course, fifty grand is WAAAY more than other Mike Zeck interior pages had previously sold for. Then as bids came in, think of the alarm as the half-page splash kept escalating past 100 grand, past 200 grand. Some people probably thought, this is ridiculous, but I could go half a million, no, one million dollars for this picture of Spider-Man wearing the costume that Venom will make famous! You already know the heartbreak hotel felt by the little guys who dreamed in the thousands when at least two high rollers ran the price well beyond any previous Heritage Auctions comic art sale.
Black Costume First Appearance
Counter to conventions, the monster Zeck art sale for the Spider-Man in Black did NOT correlate to a first comic appearance. Secret Wars 8 hit the newsstand 7 months after fans saw the cover of ASM 252. And check out the awesome page 4 for the TRUE first interior appearance.
So, is it mind-blowing that the origin of the costume garnered such interest with so many prior costume appearances? Or, maybe the owners of ASM 252 cover and interior art are already increasing home security and contacting their tax accountants.
By the way, I’m no Venom-ophile. If you know the history and rationales for Venom collectors, feel free to comment on why this page stood out. I’d also like to know if the Marvel editors had a grand four-year vision for the alien costume. I suspect it was a simple marketing ploy to update the character.
More Mike Zeck Art including Spider-Man in Black
I alluded to previous Zeck art sales. Prior sales prices are solid, but not phenomenal. Fans appreciate Zeck’s skills, especially for his work on Captain America and Punisher. I checked past sales for Zeck art at HA, ComicConnect, and ComicLink.
- Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #8 page 25 (half splash CAT score R7) – 1/14/2022: $3,360,000
- Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #8 page 24 (first contact with black orb CAT R6) – 1/14/2022: $288,000
- Spectacular Spider-Man #132 cover (Spider-Man in Black Costume CAT C7) – 4/2020: $51,600
- Spectacular Spider-Man #132 page 4 (ComicLink Black Costume CAT R7) – 5/2018: $19,015
- Captain America #268 cover (ComicConnect features Defenders CAT C7) – 2014: $10,400
Note the Grand Canyon-sized divide between last week’s sales and prior sales. Like Spidey at the end of ASM #251 getting sucked into some “futuristic version of Stonehenge”, I don’t know where this will lead. Safe to say, it’s ‘Beyonder’ me.
The Tease for Here and Beyond
Danny Fingeroth teased the new costume in the letter column of ASM 251. “But you will discover what happens to Spider-Man when he returns, complete with a new outlook on life and a new…but that would be telling!” That’s one time when the editorial tease REALLY paid off.
I can’t wait to see what ASM 252 cover art by Ron Frenz and Klaus Janson could bring in now. Also, Spider-Man in Black art abounds for interior pages by Frenz and Brett Breeding from the same issue, they should be a nice addition to someone’s Zeck art.
Meanwhile, Venom is the source of these speculations. Consider articles by Norman Robinson on Venom Keys and Matthew Williams on Venom’s first appearance in Amazing Heroes. And if you want to listen to Johnny Cash the Man In Black, try out the classic and punk version.