A Killer Record: Frank Miller's Original Art Depicting Joker's Death In "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" Realizes $550,000

Dave Gibbons' "Watchmen" Also Sets Record At $115,000 During $3.6 Million International Original Art And Anime Sale

November 17, 2023

The Dark Knight returned to set another auction record. A killer sequence from Frank Miller's 1986 comic book "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns," the two-page artwork spread during which the Joker snaps his neck to make it look like Batman killed him, sold at Heritage for $550,000. Those are now the most expensive story pages from the book that, in Miller's own words, "slapped the genre awake." These pages depict one of comicdom's most horrific and controversial episodes: that moment in "The Dark Knight Returns" where Batman paralyzes the Joker but resists the urge to kill him. Ultimately, the Joker finishes the job "With a devil's strength ... he twists ... and twists" to make it appear "The Dark Knight" committed the unthinkable. There's been a long-held fan theory that Batman finished the job and only imagined Joker taking his own life. The artwork was during day two of Heritage's $3,596,570 International Original Art and Anime Signature Auction, and wasn't the figment of anyone's imagination. Only the cover to the first issue of "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" has sold for more. The Oct. 6, 7, and 8 auction was a sold-out affair, with more than 3,600 bidders worldwide competing for 964 lots that featured some of comicdom's most influential artists and most consequential moments. "We knew the moment we saw those 'Dark Knight Returns' pages that we had something likely to set an auction record; they're as stunning as they are significant," said Olivier Delflas, Heritage's director of International Comic Art and Anime. "We were honored to offer them in an auction that proved to be our most successful since this category debuted in 2018. It's always a thrill to be a part of comic-book history." Indeed, another landmark moment from another milestone book exceeded pre-auction estimates, when the Comedian's murder depicted in the first issue of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' 1986 "Watchmen" realized $115,625. Initially bought in 1988, this page was thought to be lost until its recent discovery in Paris. It, too, set a record for a story page from Moore and Gibbons' murder-mystery dressed up in superhero tights. Only the cover to "Watchmen No. 1" has ever sold for more at auction. And then there was your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, who swung into action with two six-figure sales during the event. A page from 1967's "Amazing Spider-Man No. 52," in which John Romita Sr. and Mike Esposito pit the web-head against Wilson Fisk's "Kingpin," realized $137,500. And another page from "Amazing Spider-Man No. 36" by the legendary Steve Ditko realized $100,000. The latter is historic, not just because it pits the web-slinger against the Looter in an epic rendering, but because it dates from the end of Ditko's 38-issue run on Spidey. Another marvelous Marvel likewise topped its pre-auction expectations, deservedly so, when John Byrne and Terry Austin's Page 7 from "X-Men No. 129" sold for $90,625. This was the start of the Hellfire Club storyline that led to the Dark Phoenix Saga. For further information, visit www.HA.com.


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