An unidentified bidder’s Christmas shopping got off to a superhuman start yesterday with the close of an auction for a preserved Action Comics #1, DC Comics hero Superman’s first appearance.
At final sale, the issue reached a price of $2.16 million-£1.4 million. This is the first time a comic book has sold for more than $2 million. Even more remarkably, the issue was stolen in 2000, and not recovered until it was found in a Californian storage shed in April of this year.
The issue was graded for quality by industry experts Comics Guaranty LLC. New York-based ComicConnect, the online house that handled the auction, has a history of high profile sales. ComicConnect CEO Stephen Fishler commented, “Not in my wildest imagination could I have predicted that this legendary, stolen Action Comics #1 would be found, graded at 9.0 and break the record.”
Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1938 and released through DC’s predecessor, National Allied Publications. The character defined superheroes in popular media, and the titanic price makes Action Comics #1 the world’s most expensive comic book. When the issue hit newsstands it would have cost 10¢.
This week’s sale isn’t the first time the Man of Steel’s debut has exchanged hands for a lot of money. Another copy of Action Comics #1 – thought to be among around 100 that remain, and one of the few in well-preserved condition – was the previous record holder and sold for $1.5 million last year via ComicConnect.
The copy of the issue sold yesterday has set the record for world’s most expensive comic twice before: selling for $86,000 at Sotheby’s in 1992 and $150,000 in 1997. Neither the previous owner nor the buyer have been made public, but there is speculation that the comic was put up for sale by actor, geek demi-god and possible immortal vampire Nicolas Cage. Cage’s graded Action Comics #1 was stolen in 2000 along with a high-graded copy of Batman’s first issue, Detective Comics #27.
Cage is a well-known comics fan. Born Nicolas Coppola, Cage’s pseudonym is partly inspired by Marvel superhero Luke Cage, and he named his son Kal-El after Superman’s Kryptonian identity. The actor was considered for the role of Superman in a Tim Burton-directed, Kevin Smith-scripted movie that never got off the ground, but later played Big Daddy in 2010’s Kick Ass.
Pannapictagraphists, or comics collectors, were spurred on in September this year when DC’s New 52 launch reintroduced its entire comics universe with #1 issues, including the first new Action Comics #1 since 1938. First printings of the #1 issues saw eBay speculation. One variant of flagship title Justice League #1 was listed by Pyramid Comics of New Jersey with a starting bid of $1,199.99 – around £763.
As well as introducing Superman, Action Comics #1 was also the first appearance of other DC characters. Among the eleven stories in the issue was Zatara, the father of magician Zatanna – a cosplay-favourite currently starring with Hellblazer‘s John Constantine in Justice League Dark, and famous for her role in DC’s controversial 2004 event Identity Crisis.