A rare piece of original comic book art by the great Jack Kirby recently landed at auction, and while all Kirby art is worth celebrating, this one is a particularly interesting piece of Marvel Comics history.
Heritage Auctions is now taking bids on a beautiful splash page by Kirby from X-Men #4, published in 1964. Featuring inks by Paul Reinman, the uncolored page shows off the original X-Men team in the Danger Room, where Hank "Beast" McCoy is going through a training exercise as the rest of the mutants watch. It's a great piece for Kirby fans, but as Heritage Director of Comics and Comic Art Joe Mannarino told SYFY WIRE, this particular page from this particular issue is an especially rare find.
According to Mannarino, and Heritage's official description of the art, Kirby's packed schedule in the early days of Marvel superhero publishing meant that he only did full pencils for the first 10 issues of X-Men before shifting to breakdowns only and letting another artist handle the finishes. Plus, much of the art from those early issues was either given away or discarded entirely, which means this splash page is actually the first piece from X-Men #4 ever to arrive at auction.
As Mannarino explained, we have the piece now only because Stan Lee decided to give the page away to a potential buyer for Marvel Comics in the 1960s.
"So, in 1964, a guy comes in who is an executive for a company thinking of buying it and meets with [Marvel publisher Martin Goodman]. Goodman shows him the books and everything else, asks Stan to give him a tour, meets Stan," he said. "During that tour, Stan goes to the production department, takes the X-Men #4 splash and gives it to the guy as a gift."
Mannarino continued, "That guy went home, took the splash, rolled it up, put it in a tube for easy storage, and just put it in a closet. Eventually, they put it in the attic. Meanwhile, years later, as Marvel became more popular and everything else and his kids got older, he would tell his kids the story of his visit and that they almost bought Marvel Comics, and that somewhere he has a page of art that Stan Lee gave him, which they could never find."
After the unnamed potential buyer passed away, his children finally found the tube containing the original art, which was later sold to a dealer in New Jersey. Now it's headed to auction as a particularly intriguing piece of Kirby's Marvel work, and not just because of its backstory.
The X-Men #4 page is also a rare instance where the back of the art is almost as interesting as the front. This issue marks the first appearance of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, which means it also marks the debut of then-villains Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. On the back of the page, Kirby scribbled out various name suggestions in the search for the perfect supervillain name for the character who would become Wanda Maximoff. Among the possibilities were "Jinx," "Witch Woman," "The Sorceress," "Miss Witch," and more. If you look closely on the left side of the page, you can see where he finally landed on the right name, and wrote the whole lineup of the original Brotherhood down beneath the name of their leader, Magneto.
Kirby and Lee worked using the "Marvel Method," which meant they concocted an overall plot, then Kirby went off and drew the story, then Lee added in the dialogue after the art was delivered. That meant Kirby often had the ability to make suggestions in terms of dialogue and character names while he was drawing the story, and many of Kirby's notes in the margins of his pages have become well known over the years. According to Mannarino, these Scarlet Witch scribbles are among the earlier examples of Kirby's notes via the Marvel Method.
Bidding on this rare X-Men page is now open, and will continue through July 9. As of this writing, the bidding has reached $57,500, and according to Mannarino it should climb well into six figures.
"I would say $120,000 to $175,000, somewhere in that range," he said. "If you asked me for a single number, I would say $150,000."
So, if you've got that much spare cash lying around, head over to the auction page and see if you can snag a piece of Marvel Comics history.