The original art for the cover of Action Comics #15 has sold at Heritage Auctions today for $286,800. The 1939 piece by Fred Guardineer was just the 5th Superman cover ever created (behind Action Comics #1, 7, 10, and 13), and is the earliest Superman cover known to still exist today.
This sale ranks as the 2nd highest price ever publicly paid for a piece of Golden Age (the period from the mid-1930s through the early/mid 1950s) American comic book art, behind the $380,000 sale of the cover of the Frank Frazetta Weird Science-Fantasy #29 cover in 2010. As Bleeding Cool also told you in 2010, the iconic Golden Age cover to Superman #14 reached $402,000 without meeting its auction reserve.
Of course, the highest price ever paid for a piece of American comic book art from any era remains the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #328 by Todd McFarlane, which sold for $675,250 in 2012.
The lucky winner of this spectacular piece is Richard Evans, well-known vintage comics expert and owner of the 4-store Houston-area Bedrock City Comic Company retail chain. Evans states that he intends to put the cover on display in one of his stores.
Fred Guardineer Action Comics #15 Superman Cover Original Art (DC, 1939). Offered here is the original art for only the fifth Superman cover appearance ever, as the Man of Tomorrow rushes to the aid of a distressed U.S. submarine. It's easily the earliest Superman cover art known to exist and quite possibly the earliest Superman art in existence.
The comic book issue for this key book is ranked #67 on Overstreet's Top 100 Golden Age Comics list, and valued at a cool $30,000 in NM- 9.2 condition. Fred Guardineer, a 20-year veteran of comics, delineated the covers of many of the early DC books, including this museum-worthy cover. Guardineer acquired a fine arts degree in 1935, then moved to New York City, where he drew for pulp magazines. The following year he joined the studio of Harry "A" Chesler, an early "packager" supplying comics features on demand for publishers entering the emerging medium of comic books. There he drew adventure features such as "Dave Dean" and the science-fiction feature "Dan Hastings" before going freelance in 1938. Guardineer was among the contributors to the future DC Comics' landmark title Action Comics #1, the famous comic that introduced Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's seminal superhero, Superman. For that title, Guardineer wrote, drew, and lettered the 12-page feature introducing his magician-hero creation, Zatara, a character remaining in the DC stable as of the 21st century. With his clean and uncluttered approach, Guardineer brought a dynamic zest to this super-undersea Superman piece.
It was apparent by this issue that Superman was selling Action Comics, evidenced by his more frequent cover appearances. This iconic Golden Age showpiece was drawn in ink on illustration board, and its image area of the cover measures 12.5" x 17.25". Aside from some glue staining and rippling to the original title logo stat, some overall paper aging, and edge and corner wear, the art is in Very Good condition.