LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A 1942 piece of Superman comic book cover art goes up for auction for the first time on Wednesday in a thriving collectibles market where old superheroes can change hands for more than $1 million.
The cover art for the Superman 14 issue, also known as the Superman Patriotic Shield cover, is described by auction house ComicConnect.com as "by far the single most valuable piece of original comic book artwork still in existence."
Illustrated by DC artist Fred Ray, the sketch shows Superman with an eagle on one arm in front of a stars and stripes shield and is regarded as defining the action hero's status as a 20th century American icon.
Steven Fishler, chief executive of ComicConnect.com, told Reuters the piece should conservatively fetch upward of $500,000 but that its eventual price was "pure conjecture" because it is so rare.
Earlier this year, two comic books featuring the first appearances of Superman in 1938 and Batman in 1939 set auction sales records of $1 million and $1.075 million respectively.
But the original cover art is an even rarer find.
The Superman 14 cover art in Wednesday's auction comes direct from the collection of Jerry Robinson, now 88, a member of the original Batman team and the creator of the Joker.
Robinson also is putting up for auction for the first time his 1942 cover art for "Double Guns" Detective Comics issue 69, which features Batman, Robin and a huge image of the Joker.
In the 1940s, most original comic art was destroyed by engravers hours after the printing presses finished their run.
"Thank goodness for Jerry Robinson," Fishler said. "He was one of the few pros of the era with the foresight to save these artifacts."
Both pieces of comic art will be auctioned by ComicConnect.com. Bidding opens November10 and closes on December 1.
Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte