Secret Wars #8 Spider-Man Black Costume/Venom Art Hits Record $3.36M

This just might be the most shocking auction result I've ever witnessed (and that's saying something):  The original artwork for story page 25 of Secret Wars #8, the interior page which serves as the origin of Spider-Man's symbiotic black costume, has just sold for an incredible $3,360,000 at Heritage Auctions.  Spider-Man's black costume was originally revealed in Amazing Spider-Man #252 (cover-dated May 1984), but with little explanation or backstory.  The events that explained the change happened in Secret Wars #8 (cover-dated Dec 1984).  The saga of Spider-Man and the symbiote unfolded over several subsequent years, and this particular story page from Secret Wars #8 can ultimately be considered as the origin moment of Venom. The page is credited by Heritage as by Mike Zeck "and others", as inkers John Beatty, Jack Abel, and Mike Esposito all worked on this issue, and it is unclear which among them worked on this page.  The story was scripted by Jim Shooter.

Secret Wars #8 Interior Art page by Mike Zeck.
Secret Wars #8 Interior Art page by Mike Zeck.

This is the highest price ever paid for an interior story page (not a cover) of original comic book artwork.  It could also conceivably be argued that it's the highest price ever paid for any piece of original comic book artwork — depending on how you count some other notable sales.  There are a couple of other noteworthy contenders for highest price ever paid for a piece of original comic book artwork:

  • Frank Frazetta's Egyptian Queen, which was the cover of the comic book magazine Eerie #23.  This sold in 2019 for $5.4M.  Is this comic art?  That's a good question.  Eerie #23 is indisputably a comic book, and this piece by Frazetta was commissioned specifically to be its cover.  Frazetta was often inspired by an interior story concept for his covers for Warren Publishing, and Egyptian Queen appears to be a fit for the concept behind the story "Beyond Nefera's Tomb" by Ernie Colon and Bill Parente from that issue's contents.  Aside from the fact that it's a painting and not pencil and inked line work, it's hard to exclude Egyptian Queen from being "comic art" on a technical basis.  But the fact that it's a painting is undeniably an important factor.  Many original comic art collectors consider painted artwork as a separate category of sorts.
  • Tintin flyleaf plate artwork by Herge sold in 2014 for $3.41M.  This one is also somewhat complex to explain. There are a number of different descriptions about the usage of this piece out there, but it appears to be flyleaf art that was used in Tintin albums printed between 1937 and 1958.  That is, art meant for the inside front and back pages of a book (or in this case, a graphic album).  It is essentially a number of Tintin illustrations on one artboard. So, not cover art, and also not interior story art.  But certainly, "comic art" by most technical definitions.

For more apples-to-apples comparisons, previous record prices for comic book interior story artwork include the May 2014 sale of the final page of Incredible Hulk #180 featuring the debut of Wolverine for $657,250, and perhaps the inside back cover of Your Hytone Comix by Robert Crumb, which sold for $690,000 in November 2019.  As for the last time I was this shocked by an auction result, that would be the May 2011 sale for $448,125 of the iconic splash page of Batman and Robin from The Dark Knight Returns #3, penciled by Frank Miller and inked by Klaus Janson.  That was a stunning and game-changing auction result over a decade ago, and today's result for this Secret Wars #8 page is an even more incredible hammer price. This Secret Wars #8 page also sold back to back with the Action Comics #1 CGC 6.0 Rocket Copy for $3,18M during today's opening Platinum Session at Heritage Auctions, which serves to launch the 2022 major auction season with a big bang indeed.

Secret Wars #8 Interior Art page by Mike Zeck.
Secret Wars #8 Interior Art page by Mike Zeck.

Mike Zeck and Others Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #8 Story Page 25 Black Costume/Venom Original Art (Marvel, 1984). This page was the big reveal teased on the cover! This is where Peter Parker actually got his spiffy new black costume. But… it's a costume with a secret! Because it very soon turns out to be alive and have its own agenda. This is the origin of the character Venom!
The costume first appeared months earlier when characters from this series returned to the Earth. But there was no explanation for Spidey's new duds. …Until this page seven months later!

Oh yeah, Professor X, Captain America, Mr. Fantastic, the Hulk, and Thor are in the last panel also. But it's really all about that huge splash panel costume reveal! There were three inkers on this issue, so it is unclear which one(s) worked on this page… John Beatty, Jack Abel, and Mike Esposito. Ink over graphite on Bristol board with an image area of 10" x 15". The lower corners are trimmed, and the paste-up "continued…" strip is missing. Very light toning and in Excellent condition.

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About Mark Seifert

Co-founder and Creative director of Bleeding Cool parent company Avatar Press. Bleeding Cool Managing Editor, tech and data wrangler. Machine Learning hobbyist. Vintage paper addict.
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