PHILADELPHIA — A comic collector has been caught in Spider-Man's web, paying $1.1 million for a near-mint copy of "Amazing Fantasy" No. 15 that features the wall-crawler's debut.
The issue, first published in 1962, was sold Monday by a private seller to a private buyer, ComicConnect.com chief executive Stephen Fishler told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
It's not the highest price ever paid for a comic book, an honor that goes to "Action Comics" No. 1 with Superman on the cover, which went for $1.5 million.
But Fishler says the price paid is the most for a book from the Silver Age, the mid-1950s to about 1970.
"The fact that a 1962 comic has sold for $1.1 million is a bit of a record-shattering event," he said. "That something that recent can sell for that much and be that valuable is awe-inspiring."
Usually, it has been comics from the Golden Age – typically from the late 1930s to the early 1950s – that draw seven-figure sums.
In March 2010, a copy of the 1938 edition of "Action Comics" No. 1 sold for $1.5 million on ComicConnect's website. That issue features the debut of Superman and originally sold for 10 cents.
In February 2010, Heritage Auctions in Dallas sold a rare copy of "Detective Comics" No. 27, which featured the debut of Batman, for $1,075,500. Fishler said the same issue had initially sold for just $2,500 in 1985 and for $140,000 in 2000.
"Over the last decade it has become a rather legendary copy because it was in the hands of a collector and no one thought he would sell," Fishler said. "The owner came up with a figure that he didn't think anyone would pay, and it was paid."
"Amazing Fantasy" No. 15 has long been prized by collectors because of Spider-Man's debut. It has been reprinted and made available as a hard-cover, too.
The cover, drawn by Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, shows Spider-Man clutching a villain in one arm and swinging from his web with the other. It originally sold for 12 cents.
Writer Stan Lee and Ditko co-created the web-slinger and his alter ego, the awkward but educationally gifted Peter Parker, who was bitten by a radioactive spider.
"Spider-Man is one of Marvel's flagship characters so, yeah, I'd say 'Amazing Fantasy' is very important," said Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Axel Alonso. "Funny thing is, the series – which was formerly titled 'Amazing Adult Fantasy' – was scheduled for cancellation before issue 'Amazing Fantasy' No. 15 hit stands. It ended up being one of Marvel's highest sellers at the time, and paving the road for the 'Amazing Spider-Man' series that's run monthly ever since."
It also helped pave the way for Spider-Man adventures on the radio, television and the movie screen.
Lee worked for Marvel for decades, eventually becoming its editor-in-chief, and then starting other businesses, including most recently POW! Entertainment.
He said, given the price paid for the issue, "I wish had saved my old Spider-Man books."
Back in the early 1960s, there was never any thought of saving extra issues or the original artwork that made up comics because there was no space to store the artwork or books sent back by the printer.
"So if someone came to deliver our lunch or sandwiches or something, before he'd left we'd say 'Hey, fella! You want to take these books with you or this artwork with you?'" Lee said. "We were giving all that stuff away. Nobody thought to save these books."
Lee said there is more to the price tag than just money.
"I think it's just wonderful that these old books are now considered, in some way, ancient treasures and are thought of so highly that people would give so much money for them," he said. "I would never have believed it, but I am very impressed."