The original cover art for Watchmen #1 – the issue that began the most influential graphic novel series of the 1980s – is expected to bring $100,000+ as part of Heritage Auctions’ Comics & Comic Art Signature® Auction Feb. 21-22 in New York. The cover art for issues #2 and #3, along with a color cover guide for issue #1, are also featured in the grouping, which comes to auction from The Shamus Modern Masterworks Collection.
The auction at Heritage will mark the beginning of the sale of all 12 covers from the series in calendar year 2013, with original cover art for issues #4, #5, and #6 in May, #7, #8, #9 in August and #10, #11, and #12 in November.
The 12-issue series by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons was originally published by DC Comics in 1986-87 and revolutionized the medium of comics with its intricate re-examination and deconstruction of the entire concept of the superhero.
“This artwork represents some of the absolute best from not only the period, but from all of comics’ history,” said Steve Borock, Senior Consignment Director, Heritage Auctions. “To be entrusted by the Shamus family to bring the covers to auction is something we’re incredibly excited about and we take the honor very seriously.”
“The impact Watchmen had on the history of comics cannot be overstated,” said Todd Hignite, Vice President and Comic Art expert at Heritage. “Gibbons’ artwork for the series is as groundbreaking as Moore’s narrative, unprecedented in its seamless use of symbolism, sophisticated layouts, and pacing for brilliantly dramatic effect.”
Cover art from the Watchmen series also functioned as the first panel of each chapter, surpassing the artistic expectations of a typical comic book. As a result, Watchmen has come to represent the graphic novel’s highest achievement and stands as a touchstone for generations of readers as well as comic writers and artists.
Time magazine included the series in its list of the top 100 English-language novels published from 1923 to the present and described it as “a landmark in the graphic novel medium” and a “masterpiece.” The series was adapted into a major feature film in 2009.
The three covers to cross the block in New York feature some of the most iconic art from the series:
Cover art for Watchmen #1 is Gibbons’ opening shot of a bloody badge, worn by Edward Blake, The Comedian, which also doubled as Moore’s “smiley face/doomsday clock” symbolism following Blake’s murder, which is the catalyst for the entire story. The cover is widely considered one of the most important covers in comics history and is instantly associated with the Watchmen series.
Cover art for Watchmen #2 focuses on the Blake’s burial and a series of flashbacks to advance Moore’s, tale which deconstructs the traditional superhero mythos in concert with Gibbons’ moody and somber art.
Cover art for Watchmen #3 shows Gibbons’ evocative and ominous Fallout Shelter trefoil symbol, representing the rising fear of nuclear war while the nation’s “heroes” get mired in their own complex relationships, including the imminent exile of Doctor Manhattan, one of the most intriguing comic book heroes ever introduced to readers.
The auction also will feature colorist John Higgins’ Watchmen #1 cover color guide original art used during the series’ production. The blue line production art was selected for the original color version of the cover.
All four landmark Watchmen works come from the Shamus Modern Masterwork Collection, which has set a number of records in the last year, notably with the sale of Todd McFarlane’s cover art from Amazing Spider-Man #328 for $657,250 in August of 2012, the highest price ever paid for a piece of American comic artwork.
In addition to the Watchmen works, Heritage’s Feb. 21-22 Comics & Comic Art Signature® Auction also features John Romita Sr.’s historic The NIght Gwen Stacy Died original cover art from The Amazing Spider-Man #121 and a rare Calvin and Hobbes daily comic strip by Bill Watterson.
Reporter’s & Editors: Gareb Shamus, the consignor of the artwork, is available for interview. Please contact Noah Fleisher at NoahF@HA.com if you would like to schedule a time.
Heritage Auctions is the largest auction house founded in the United States and the world’s third largest, with annual sales of more than $800 million, and 750,000+ online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and receive access to a complete record of prices realized, with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit HA.com