One of the trailblazers of science fiction as we know it, Flash Gordon is now a world-record-holding comic strip. Tuesday morning, the original artwork behind Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon #1 sold at auction for nearly half a million dollars, setting a world record for the most expensive comic strip artwork. The Golden Age grail features the first appearance and origin of the eponymous character. In a press release from Profiles in History, the auctioneer behind the piece, it was expected the piece would fetch anywhere between $400,000 and $600,000. The original artwork for Jungle Jim #1 was also a part of the same auction. That sold for $90,000.
The first Flash Gordon strip was published on January 7, 1934 and by the end of the decade had been added to the comic strip pages of 130 newspapers around the world. At one point, the strip had been translated into eight different languages and had a global reach of upwards of 50 million people.
As you know by now, the strip has also spawned a handful of adaptations throughout the years, from Universal's serials in the late 1930s to live-action television in both the mid-50s and as recently as SYFY's take on the character in 2007. Both Gene Roddenberry and George Lucas have attributed the character as a major influence on their respective franchises.
"Alex Raymond's realistic style and skillful use of feathering (a mid-tone shading technique using a series of parallel lines to give form and volume to objects and figures) influenced comic luminaries such as Jack Kirby, Russ Manning, Bob Kane and Al Williamson, just to name a few," the auctioneer says in a statement. "Flash Gordon is regarded as one of the best illustrated and most influential of American adventure comic strips. Siegel and Shuster based Superman's uniform of tights and a cape on costumes worn by Flash."
While $480,000 is a world record for comic strip artwork, it hardly puts a dent in the highest-selling comic book. That record currently belongs to a CGC-graded 9.0 copy of Action Comics #1 that sold for $3.2 million in 2014.