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The Dark Knight Returns’ Graphic Novel Cover Art Transformed Comics—And Now Could Fetch Millions At Auction

Topline

The original cover art from comic book writer Frank Miller’s influential 1986 graphic novel Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is estimated to sell for millions at auction next month, a testament to the series’ lasting impact on the Batman character and the comic book industry as a whole, the auction house said.

Key Facts

The cover art is poised to break the record for the most expensive American comic book cover to sell at auction, according to Heritage Auctions, which estimated the work will fetch $2 million, according to Bloomberg.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is credited with helping to transform the titular character from a campy superhero back to his roots as a dark vigilante, an interpretation of Bruce Wayne that resonates today and as recently as this year’s box office hit The Batman starring Robert Pattinson.

Miller and colorist Lynn Varley opted to begin the graphic novel with a silhouette of the Batman character leaping with a single bolt of lightning striking in the background, with the original work being made with ink over graphite on Bristol paperboard with some airbrush color work, according to Heritage Auctions.

The four-part series is still widely considered one of the best graphic novels ever published and helped propel Miller’s career, which went on to include major franchises like Sin City and 300.

Big Number

$2.2 million. That’s how much a copy of Batman No. 1 from 1940 sold for in 2021, which broke the record for the highest price ever fetched at auction for a comic book featuring the titular character. The comic features the debuts of both the Joker and Catwoman.

Key Background

Batman is among the most popular characters of all superhero media, a genre that has exploded in popularity over the past decade. Rising auction prices for vintage comic book covers have followed that trajectory. In September, a copy of 1962’s Amazing Fantasy No. 15—featuring the first appearance of Spider-Man—sold for $3.62 million, the most expensive comic book ever sold at auction.

Further Reading

First Comic Book Featuring Captain America Sells For Over $3 Million At Auction (Forbes)

First ‘Fantastic Four’ Comic Sells For $1.5 Million (Forbes)

Batman’s 1986 Dark Knight Cover Has a $2 Million Auction Estimate (Bloomberg)

Box Office: Why ‘The Batman’ Stands Out From Its Superhero Competition (Forbes)

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