The comic strip featuring the very first appearance of Flash Gordon, the 1930s sci-fi hero that launched movie and radio serials and even influenced the creation of Star Wars, sold for almost half a million dollars at an auction Tuesday.
The pencil-and-ink art by Alex Raymond, the creator of the strip, sold for a muscular $480,000, a record for comic strip art. Certainly adding to the appeal of the art was its historical significance.
Flash Gordon was created by Raymond as his newspaper syndicate’s answer to Buck Rogers and came during a period that saw the creation of enduring pop culture heroes such as Batman and Superman. The strip, launched in January 1934, soon surpassed Buck Rogers in popularity and launched movie and radio serials, TV shows and other media adaptations. Raymond went on to influence many artists, including Marvel Comics co-creator Jack Kirby, while filmmaker George Lucas used Flash Gordon as a model for his own film franchise, Star Wars, the space opera he created after failing to acquire the movie rights to the strip.
Prior to Tuesday's auction, there were questions as to how high the piece would sell for. The auction was held as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, with businesses remaining shuttered, unemployment skyrocketing and the stock market quite volatile. The sale price fell in its expected range, but those estimates were generated several months ago. Still, the acquisition clearly shows a continued demand for A-class items for those who can afford it.
Also gaveled in the same auction, run by auction house Profiles in History, was the original art for the inaugural strip of Jungle Jim, a Tarzan-like strip also created by Raymond. Jungle Jim was introduced the same day as Flash Gordon and ran until 1954. The piece sold Tuesday for $90,000.
While the Flash Gordon artwork set a record for a comic strip, the high water mark for comic art technically remains the 2019 sale of Frank Frazetta’s The Egyptian Queen, a painting that served as the cover for the horror comic magazine Eerie. That item sold for $5.4 million.