$100k appraisal for single page of original art from Frank Miller's Dark Knight comic book


Heritage Auctions estimates that the art for page 10 from issue #3 of Frank Miller and Klaus Janson's The Dark Knight Returns (1986) will fetch at least $100,000 when it goes on the block on May 5.

Prior to the four-issue series of The Dark Knight Returns, Batman had lost his perch among the superhero elite. When Miller's masterpiece debuted it created an almost instant buzz and rejuvenated Batman as DC's most popular character. In the process it also helped revitalize the comics industry as a whole.
UPDATE: Nick Rallo, Dallad Observer Web Editor, says: "Saw your post about the Frank Miller Dark Knight original -- thought I'd pass along our visit to Heritage Auction to get an up-close look at the page. Super exciting for us nerds over here."

Frank Miller and Klaus Janson Batman:The Dark Knight #3 Batman and Robin Iconic Splash Page 10 Original Art (DC, 1986)


  1. That’s got to be one of the most valuable pieces of comic art out there.

    Anyone want to go in with me on it? We can take turns keeping it in our respective treehouses — what could go wrong?

  2. Mark’s headline makes it sound as thought they’re auctioning a page ripped out of one of the books rather than the original artwork.

    1. He says “the art for page 10” not page 10 itself. And with the black and white picture to go with it, it’s pretty clear.

      Anyway…it’s arguably THE iconic image of 1980s comics (along with a few others in that book). It still seems steep though.

    1. I paged past the headline so I didn’t know what this was from, exactly, but my first thought was, “wow, Robin is looking ’80s Nü-wave glam-tastic.”

    2. She’s not a hipster, she’s a girl.

      The image is (as I recall) when the new girl Robin (awesome!) and getting-too-old-for-this-Batman pull themselves together and head out to kick butt.


  3. I love seeing whiteout on old comic book original art, makes me feel better about my own drawing ability knowing that even someone like Frank Miller or Klaus Jansen messes up now and then.

  4. I mean, technically, it is a “single page,” but let’s be honest — it’s by far the coolest page in The Dark Knight Returns.

    Other than the page with like 12 panels of televisions with news anchors. I bet that one would go for like a million, easy.

  5. DKR is one of my favorite book ever. Still – I dunno if it’s worth 100K. I guess time will tell.

    Odd story – this weekend I went to a comic show and this old guy was selling books from when he was a kid. He had Green Lantern #1 and #2 just in plastic bags – no boards or hard cases. And they were just in a box on a table. Man… good thing I am not a thief because his stuff was just sitting there, asking for sticky fingers.

  6. Have you reread this recently? The art is most definitely still amazing, but the story itself does not hold up so well with time. It feels like an 80s vengeance-action movie.

    1. Miller’s sociopolitical themes are really overt in DKR, to be sure, and to many readers (then and now) they come across as crude and adolescent. That’s the basic Miller conundrum, which culminates in Sin City of course. The art is really creative, at times genius-level work, and certain of his set-piece sequences are amazing…but his characterizations, politics, and especially his treatment of women generally vary between being merely laughable and downright revolting.

      So you just have to take it as it is. As I mentioned in the Elektra post, I did just re-read it, and I agree that the story is just very crude in many ways. Nonetheless I enjoyed it.

      1. When Miller was actually really good, the qualities that you describe (politics,ect.) didn’t really deter from his work – they just made him a pulp writer in the Mickey Spillane/Dirty Harry tradition. Personally I think DNR’s unaffected, muscular pulp style has aged infinitely better than the stodgy dialogue and even more glaringly adolescent pretensions of Watchmen. But Miller did do better things than DKR – his early Samourai/sci-fi hybrid Ronin is a really interesting comic,and the Daredevil series he did with Klaus Jansen called Born Again is one of my favorites.

        1. When Miller was actually really good, the qualities that you describe (politics,ect.) didn’t really deter from his work – they just made him a pulp writer in the Mickey Spillane/Dirty Harry tradition. Personally I think DNR’s unaffected, muscular pulp style has aged infinitely better than the stodgy dialogue and even more glaringly adolescent pretensions of Watchmen. But Miller did do better things than DKR – his early Samourai/sci-fi hybrid Ronin is a really interesting comic,and the Daredevil series he did with Klaus Jansen called Born Again is one of my favorites.

          Not at all. Maybe before he became as prolific as he is today his themes could find some sanctuary under the guise of satire, but in retrospect it is really ugly stuff. I’ll grant you that Watchmen is maudlin, but adolescent (especially in comparison to DKR)? I don’t see it. Ronin is about the only Frank Miller work I can stand, and even then its still for the art more than anything. The only reason that Born Again and Batman Year One are any good is because Miller lucked into a collaborative relationship with David Mazzucchelli and Richmond Lewis.

  7. I re-read DKR recently and noticed something I missed before: it has almost the exact same ending twist as Elektra: Assassin. I don’t know the spoiler policy on this site so I won’t get into what I mean but if you read both, you’ll figure it out.

    DKR came out slightly before Elektra as I recall, but they were both conceived over the prior years, more or less concurrently, it sounds like…my impression is that Elektra had been gestating longer in terms of the specifics but I’m not hardcore enough to track down the details.

    FWIW I enjoy Elektra much more than DKR. Just my opinion but I think it’s superior on every front: plotting, details of execution, and art. I know everyone just adores these pencils and I do too but Sienkiewicz’s impressionistic watercolors are a level beyond, in my eyes…

    I am not trying to run down DKR at all here, I definitely recognize it both as great on its own merits and (more importantly) as a seminal pivot-point moment in comics history…my point is that Elektra doesn’t get much love these days and I think it’s well worth your time. It got a lot of fanboy hate for being “non-canon” which for me personally is probably the least significant fact imaginable about the book.

    Check it out if you haven’t.

  8. DKR started (or at least gave a huge shot in the arm to) the trend towards mature, more adult themed comics. . .a very good thing.

    Is it perfect? Of course not, what graphic novel is? But: no Dark Knight, no Sandman.

    ’nuff said.

  9. What is the triangular thing on Robin’s shirt just opposite the “R”? And isn’t part of Batman’s left boot missing?

    1. @ Anon: It’s a slingshot.

      Hate DC, love Dark Night Returns. I reread it every five years or so. I think it still holds up. You do have to have perspective on the time it was written though. Both what was happening in comics and socio-politically. I was working in a comic shop when it came out.

      Also the girl makes for a great Robin. I loved her stoner parents, “Hey, didn’t we have a kid?”

  10. “Anyway…it’s arguably THE iconic image of 1980s comics (along with a few others in that book). It still seems steep though.”

    Really? I can think of about a dozen from The Watchmen that stand out in my mind more and overall, had a much more far-reaching and more deeply felt effect on funny books than Dark Knight did. I love DKR and it was important to rejuvenating the franchise and DC’s stock, but I don’t find this image very memorable…although it sure is purty.

    1. I think DKR had a further reaching audience than Watchmen because of the established, and recognized character. Thus I would recognize it as more iconic.

      Also – I think we should tip a hat to Lynn Varley, whose colors I think could have made or break the book. I really can’t imagine it done by anyone else.

  11. What MrCompletelly and Bionicrat2 said. Subtlety is not among Miller’s gifts. As a Superman fan, I hate the third act of DKR. Kal-el taking orders from Saint Ronnie? I don’t think so.

    That might be the best page, but IMO the best panel is the one of Joker with the batarang in his eye.

    1. Joker with the batarang was a good one, to be sure, but I thought the one with Robin embracing Batman when he emerges from deep inside the cave was something special. I thought it was pivotal, absolutely essential to the story.

      I also thought that panel made it impossible to make the movie. There’s no way that anyone will include in a movie any scene of an approximately-tween-age girl enthusiastically embracing a nude old man.

      While I’m reminiscing, this was the book that broke me of collecting comics. I was an enthusiastic collector at the time but I always had an odd feeling about the way the business was conducted. Comic book shops were the only businesses I knew of that put out inventory and, when that inventory proved to be total crap and didn’t sell, then stored the books in the back room for a couple of years. After that passage of some time, the crap that didn’t sell the first time around got dragged back out and put on the shelf for two or five times the price as a “collectible.” Store owners were constantly directing conspiratorial whispers to the young men who frequented their shops, something similar to “It might turn out to be the next Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!”.

      So the business was sleazy. I knew that.

      DK, though, taught me just how sleazy.

      You could pre-order a signed, hardback version for $75 list. Lots of people did. Unfortunately, by the time the books actually started arriving in the stores, the hype machine had done its work. Second-hand copies were immediately re-selling for $300.

      Every single comic book store in Houston (that I could find out about, with just one exception) told every one of their customers “Sorry kid, your hardcover never arrived. Here’s your $75 back. Get lost.”

      Some of those shops didn’t wait a week before putting the books in their “special collector case” with a $500 price tag. If customers complained, the shops all said the same thing – “No, kid, that’s not the book you ordered. We had to buy it on the secondhand market.”

      “A Few Books and Records”, a marvelous shop owned by a man named Spencer Few, was different. Spencer refused to deliver the books to the two kids who ordered from him until they brought in a parent. He then carefully explained to the parent how much the book was worth before wrapping it in acid-free paper and handing it to the kid with a heartfelt congratulations.

      Every other dealer in town was slime. The scales fell from my eyes and I realized that the comic book business was mostly run by old men who liked to rip off little boys.

      I stopped buying. My collection, all wrapped in expensive sleeves with acid-free backer boards, is sitting somewhere in the back of a closet here. One of these days, I’ll have a garage sale and my number 1 of The Nam and my multiple sets of whatever reboot Supes was going through at the time will be given as gifts to whatever kids are motivated to paw through the boxes. I couldn’t feel right selling them.

      Fuck those comic book dealers who soured me on a hobby I once loved. Fuck ’em.

  12. Dark Knight Returns was a real groundbreaking comic in almost every way. For me, Miller’s real insight into the Batman mythology was that Batman, being psychologically traumatized as a child, was deep down somewhat of a sociopath and not all that different from the psychotic evil guys he fought. At least that was the subtext I got from the series.

  13. I’ve read some online analysis of DKR and other Miller works that always want to paint Miller as the misogynist totalitarian he comes across as in his later work. I’m not so sure it’s that simple, but a lot of art critique is in the eye of the beholder.

    I agree with Pato in that the DKR and Born Again (the artist was the great David Mazzucchelli)showed that the super hero and the super villain are slightly different manifestations of PTSD induced psychosis. When you think about it, most superheoroes and villains act in a pretty crazy way that has its genesis in a traumatic event.

    Both Born Again and DKR have a pretty strong anti-government bent that lauds the strong individual. At the same time the strong individual can act in a pretty fascist-like manner. A lot of American fiction has a similar theme of the strong individual breaking the rules to do the “right thing”, making a great personal sacrifice to save the day while the bureaucrats twiddle their thumbs. I once wrote an essay linking this idea of the heroic American individual with the acceptance of the unilateral foreign policy of the Bush Administration. Going it alone fit the heroic narrative that has been fed to the American public for a long time, and perhaps explained why the media wasn’t as critical as it should have been.

    When I was 12, I used to think that Miller was critiquing this narrative, showing that violence begets violence, and the good guys can descend into fascism just as surely as the bad guys. A great example being the reaction of one of the public in DKR to Batman’s return: “great, I hope he goes after the homos next”. Now days, I just think Miller is a bit of a homophobe. I also used to think that his work highlighted the fallacy of the distinction between the good guys and the bad guys. Now days I just think that Miller sees that good guys have to “get their hands dirty”.

    Still, great art.

  14. Wow, this brings back memories. I remember a friend handing me the compilation and saying “Read this before you buy anymore comics.” DKR really opened my eyes to what could be done in terms of visuals storytelling.

    I think it was around 1998 or so when I stumbled upon the series again. I was searching comic book bins and found the original four comics. As they were the same amount as the compilation, I picked it up (I couldn’t find my compilation to re-read). When I got home I opened up and to my surprise found out that these were first-printings in near-mint condition. I do still have them along with the rest of my collection. I don’t know how much they’re worth at this point and don’t care. I’m a collector and will probably never part with my collection.

  15. Worth every single penny. Beautiful and a gamechanger for super heroes both in content and visuals.

  16. Hey, Miller’s a good artist/storyteller…

    And it’s like some of you hate him just ’cause you don’t like his politics/viewpoints…

    My exposure to him was complete accident. As a grade school lad I was given a birthday present of a comics subscription, and so I ended up picking it off a checklist. I ended up getting DareDevil during Miller’s legendary run!!! If I didn’t read the comics apart, I’d have had a small fortune, but it was worth it.

    Reading about the incident, it was amazing the strange alchemy that took place. Miller had wanted to re-do “Crime Comics” and went to Stan Lee since he’d “Cracked the Code” but of course Stan Lee considered himself lucky he wasn’t forced to commit seppiku in front of the Marvel office, and that they loosened it enough for cool stuff like “Tomb of Dracula”, “Werewolf by Night” etc… and didn’t want to rock the boat too quickly. So, he put him on a superhero that fought gangsters and they were about to cancel, the ultimate “Prove yourself and you are in, kid” and “This’ll keep the scamp busy till he catches wise”…

    Well, the comics he wrote got me liking superheroes. Not just aloof aliens that are nigh invulnerable or rich elite beating up the desperate poor in homoerotic fetish costumes. This guy lived in the real world, in some of the worst parts of it. He lived in not quite Hell but it’s “Kitchen” the slumming out NYC during the worst times of economic despair, mafia saturation, drug abuse, emerging sexual exploitation.

    Daredevil had something like 5x human strength, advanced martial arts training, his “Radar” sense — but his real “Super Power” was that he was BLIND. That he could not SEE the world he was in and be so disgusted he’d either join the evil or leave it.

    And he didn’t just “Save the day” like some “Captain Virtue” wrapping things up every issue. His actions, good and bad, had consequences. And his ideals COST him dearly. The most impressive thing was that he still stood by them despite the pain it caused him.

    Liked all the “non-PC jokes” in it:-) Like, his most frequent “Stoolie” Turk one time pretended to be a blind man for spare change. Or, he got the Kingpin’s “Files” but they were just newspaper put in manilla envelopes and since he didn’t have time to read with his fingers/light he took them right to the police chief who went “Whadda you, BLIND?”

  17. That thing is ugly. U-G-L-Y !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You may like Miller’s design work, but his drawing ability is for shit. Poor faces (what’s with the enormous top lips he does?), poor anatomy, confused layouts- he hides behind huge blocks of black ink (and believe me, I love Alex Toth, so I have nothing against huge blocks of black ink). What are these two doing- bouncing? Were they shot from a cannon?
    That “Dark Knight” series- we all waited with such high hopes- was a piece of crap. I felt soiled after reading the first issue. It was SO BAD that it impelled the great writer Alan Moore to counter the growing trend toward ugly, brutish comics with his creation/ pastiche, SUPREME (as well as others).
    Unfortunately, many “writers” and “artists” even less talented than Miller followed his lead and we had years of ugly, poorly done, nihilistic superhero comics.
    I don’t think I read another Batman story since this garbage.

  18. Thanks for the great conversation, everyone.

    To be clear, I *do* like some of what Miller has done, in spite of his ‘politics’ – though perhaps ‘philosophy’ is a more accurate term really. My reaction to his work hasn’t been consistent: some of it I don’t care for at all, some I have mixed feelings about (Sin City, DKR) and some I absolutely adore (Elektra and to a lesser degree Ronin).

    As for critiques of his drawing style, I think they are both valid and yet missing a key point. It’s simply a matter of taste. Miller was a leader in the move towards modern stylization, both in his own pencils and in his collaborations, again e.g. Sienkiewicz in Elektra. Are they anatomically accurate? Good lord no. Are they expressive? Hell yes. However, liking or disliking this style is a purely subjective thing, of course. You don’t have to agree it’s good, but it certainly was influential, and I find it a lot more interesting 25 years down the line than more “realistic” styles, in general…

    No reaction to the fact that he used the same ending in 2 books in (approximately) the same year? I thought that was pretty interesting, and I’ve never seen it pointed out before.

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