Superman to Captain America: Seven comics that fetched more than $2 million

Action Comics No 1, marking the first appearance of Superman, is the most expensive at $6 million

Comics often rake in a fortune at auctions. Photo: Marvel / DC Comics
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A 1938 comic that marks Superman’s first appearance sold for $6 million at auction this week, making it the most expensive comic book ever.

Action Comics No 1 has been described by US-based Heritage Auctions, which oversaw the sale, as the “most important, impactful comic book ever published”. It was released in June 1938, and originally sold for 10 cents. More than 200,000 copies of the issue were printed, of which only about 100 are believed to have survived.

The comic’s cover features Superman, in his idiosyncratic blue and red caped costume, hoisting a car above his head as people scurry around in panic. Written by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the comic delves into Superman’s origin story as an alien child being sent to Earth ahead of his planet’s destruction. It also introduces Lois Lane, Superman’s love interest.

The book is particularly noteworthy because it signals the beginning of the “Golden Age of comics”, Barry Sandoval, vice president of Heritage Auctions, said ahead of the sale on April 4.

“Without Superman and Action Comics No 1, who knows whether the medium would have become what it is today,” he said.

Superman has become a pop culture staple over the past 86 years, and is one of the most recognisable superheroes. He has been featured in several films and TV series, being famously portrayed by Christopher Reeve and more recently, Henry Cavill. As such, due to his popularity and cultural significance, it is no surprise that the original Superman comic books have raked in a fortune.

Here we look at seven of the most expensive comics, with the Man of Steel making more than one appearance.

Superman # 1

In 2022, a copy of Superman No 1 sold for $5.3 million.

Published by DC Comics in 1939, it marked the first time a comic was dedicated to an individual hero. The book was conceived following Action Comics No 1, which more than vouched for Superman’s public appeal. The series would go on to be published consistently until the mid-1980s, with about 400 issues released. This first instalment has been a favourite under the hammer, often fetching millions depending on its condition.

Action Comics No 1

Action Comics No 1 is also a consistent name in the list of most expensive comic books. Even before fetching $6 million, the comic already had a track record of fetching millions at auction. A copy sold for $3.56 million at ComicConnect in 2023 – despite not being in as brilliant a condition as its current record-breaking sibling.

Amazing Fantasy No 15

Amazing Fantasy No 15 is to Spider-Man what Action Comics No 1 is to Superman. The comic, published in 1962, marks the first appearance of the web-slinging teenage superhero. Surprisingly, Stan Lee had to convince Marvel Comics to feature the hero in the final issue of Amazing Fantasy. The comic went on to become a bestseller for Marvel, which went on to give Spider-Man his own series. The rest, of course, is history.

In 2021, a copy was sold by Heritage Auctions for $3.6 million and it briefly became the most expensive comic at the time.

Captain America Comics No 1

Captain America Comics No 1 was published in 1941, at the height of the Second World War, and we can only imagine the enthusiasm felt by young readers when they first saw the cover.

The gleefully chaotic comic shows Captain America punching Adolf Hitler, a bullet ricocheting off the Captain's signature shield. Nazi soldiers are either rushing to come to their Fuhrer’s aid or stand around somewhat flabbergasted. Bucky, meanwhile, salutes the reader at the bottom and is introduced as “Captain America’s Young Ally”.

The work was published by Marvel Comics, which was then known as Timely Comics. A copy sold for $3.12 million by Heritage Auctions in 2022.

Marvel Comics No 1

Published in 1939, the first Marvel Comics featured an anthology of stories that introduced a menagerie of superheroes. Though most of them didn’t stand the test of time, the comic is still significant for being the foundation of the Marvel universe. In 2022, a copy sold for $2.4 million at ComicConnect.

Batman No 1

Batman’s first dedicated comic also introduced some of his most famous counterparts, including Joker and Catwoman. The book was published in 1940 and features both Batman and Robin on the cover. The artwork is relatively restrained and merely features the duo swinging above Gotham.

The issue sold for $2.22 million at Heritage Auctions in 2021.

Tales of Suspense No 39

Iron Man’s first appearance was in this 1963 comic. The character was conceived by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Larry Lieber and Don Heck as a means to explore the Cold War. The cover of the comic features the superhero decked in a suit that is unlike the red and gold iteration we’ve become used to. In fact, the drab armour is likely the aesthetic inspiration to the one featured in the 2008 movie Iron Man, where Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) developed the first Iron Man suit while in captivity.

Tales of Suspense No 39 sold for $2 million at ComicLink last year.

Updated: April 07, 2024, 4:08 PM