The comic book cover illustration inextricably tied to one of the most calamitous events in our nation’s history, artist Curt Swan’s original cover art for Action Comics #309, was sold by Hake’s Americana & Collectibles for $112,015.75 on Thursday, November 21, 2013, one day shy of 50 years since the sad moments of November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. The price includes a 15% buyer’s premium.
The piece was the top item in Hake’s Auction #210, which garnered the best results in the company’s 47-year history and it is the second highest price realized for an item they have offered.
The assassination of President John F. Kennedy by the Marxist Lee Harvey Oswald traumatized the nation, and of course the psychological wounds were still fresh the following week when DC Comics’ Action Comics #309 hit the stands.
Why the two events are related is something no storyteller could have ever foretold.
The cover features Clark Kent seemingly standing right in front of Superman, which is the story’s great mystery since the two are one and the same.
In the issue’s lead story, Superman revealed his secret identity to President Kennedy in order for JFK to impersonate Clark Kent and help Superman maintain his façade. So "Clark" on the cover is really JFK. The issue was too far along in the distribution channel for DC Comics to recall following the President’s death.
The piece is otherwise celebratory and of note as well since it also features Lois Lane, Perry White, Supergirl, Batman, Robin, Jimmy Olsen, Lana Lang, Saturn Girl, Element Lad, Chameleon Boy, Police Chief Parker, and Lori Lemaris.
“As striking as this piece is to look at online, it’s even more impressive in person. It features so many characters depicted in bold, strong, clean line work. At this time in our culture, the word ‘classic’ is certainly suffering from overuse, but this is classic Curt Swan,” said Alex Winter, General Manager of Hake’s Americana & Collectibles. “This piece has been privately held for more than 40 years by the same consignor who placed Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four #95 in Hake’s Auction #208, where it sold for more than $95,000.”
While he started working on other characters for DC Comics, Curt Swan’s work defined Superman for many fans in the Silver Age. Beginning with Superman #51 in 1948 and Superboy #5 the following year, his association with the character spanned decades, hundreds of covers, and thousands of story pages.
During his tenure, Swan’s Superman became the company’s definitive model of the character. His crisp, clean art was infused with a subtle yet distinctive sense of nobility that deliberately embodied the familiar phrase “truth, justice and the American way.”
His work on the Man of Steel was featured in Action Comics, Superman, Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, and Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane, among other publications, as well as the Superman newspaper comic strip. He also illustrated the adventures of Superboy in Adventure Comics.
Swan had many career highlights, including "Superman’s Race With The Flash!" in Superman #199 and in 1986 he illustrated Alan Moore’s acclaimed tale "Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow?" in Superman #423, effectively closing the chapter of Silver Age Superman. His last work, published posthumously, was a contribution to the 1996 special Superman: The Wedding Album.
Hake’s Americana & Collectibles auction #210 concluded on Tuesday, November 19 and Thursday, November 21. Extensive coverage of the results will be featured in Scoop next week, but we also have items in our Auctions-Prices and Main Event sections this week.