The original cover art for the first issue of Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns sold for $ 2.4 million at a Thursday Heritage Auctions sale, making it the most expensive mainstream American comic book cover art sold publicly.
The cover art was a collaboration between Miller and his then-wife Lynn Varley, featuring Batman silhouetted against a sky split open by a lightning bolt. Check out the cover below.
When talking about the iconography of the cover itself, Todd Hignite, the vice president at Heritage, said, “It is easily one of the most famous comic-book covers from any era, and it defined the superhero genre from the 1980s to this very moment.” Further adding: “It’s also long past due for comic art to be treated like the classic American art that it truly is.”
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Though Heritage refused to disclose the identity of the buyer and seller, they did say that they had lots of interest in the piece – attracting 90 bidders, on-site and over the phone, during the auctions’ four-day sale of comics and comic art held last Thursday through Sunday.
Written by legendary Batman comic writer Frank Miller (Batman: Year One, All-Star Batman & Robin, The Boy Wonder), The Dark Knight Returns is one of the most beloved, influential pieces of Batman media, being credited as the direct inspiration for Zack Snyder’s take on Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
The four-issue comic miniseries tells an alternative tale of a Batman who returns from retirement to fight crime and faces opposition from the Gotham City police and the US government. It puts Batman head to head with classic foes like Two-Face and the Joker and culminates with a confrontation with Superman, who’s a government pawn.
According to Heritage, the first issue of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is the first work of art from a DC Comics title to sell for more than $ 1 million US dollars. The previous record for most expensive Batman original art sold at auction belonged to Neal Adams’ 1973 cover for Batman No. 251, which sold for $ 600,000 US dollars at Heritage in November 2019.
In 2012, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns was adapted into animation and divided into two parts. Both are seen as successful adaptations of Miller’s work, and you can check out IGN’s review of both parts of the animated adaptation here.
Diego Ramos Bechara is a Freelance writer for IGN.