A perfectly-preserved copy of Marvel's first-ever comic book was sold to an anonymous buyer for a record $1.26 million by Dallas-based Heritage Auctions on November 21, 2019. Published in 1939 by Timely Comics, which later became Marvel Comics, it features an android superhero called The Human Torch, a costumed detective known as Angel, and a mutant anti-hero dubbed Namor the Sub-Mariner.
The graphic novel was first purchased in 1939 for a mere 10 cents by a Uniontown, Pennsylvania, mail carrier, well-known for his penchant for buying first issues of comics and magazines. Though it has changed hands a few times since, the issue is in "outrageously" good condition, scoring 9.4 on a scale of one to ten. According to the auctioneers, only two other known comic book copies compare with scores of over 9.0.
"This is a historic copy of a historic comic book," Ed Jaster, Heritage Auctions senior vice president, said of the graphic novel. "Without question, this is the granddaddy of all Marvel Comics, without which we would not have the characters and stories we enjoy in today's comics and feature films."
As the name indicates, the android Human Torch, created by fictional scientist Professor Phineas Thomas Horton, had the ability to surround himself with fire and control flames. Initially portrayed as a science fiction horror, he soon becomes a hero and even adopts a secret identity as a police officer.
Though reminiscent of the Fantastic Four member with similar powers, the original Human Torch was the brainchild of American comic book artist Carl Burgos. Similar to many other superheroes created at the time, he fell into obscurity by the 1950s. In 1961, legendary comic book creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby repurposed his name and bestowed his powers on the modern-day Human Torch, a human mutant named Johnny Storm.
Though the latest sale surpasses the $1.1 million paid in 2011 for a Marvel Comic featuring the first Spider-Man, it is not the most paid for a graphic novel . That honor belongs to the first issue of "Action Comics." Published in 1938 by DC Comics, the graphic novel, which debuted Superman, sold for a mind-boggling $3.2 million in 2014!
Resources: independent.co.uk, comics.ha.com