Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to shrink bank accounts in a single bid.
Superman, that durable grandfather of super-heroes, has achieved yet another feat, this one having nothing to do with rescuing Lois Lane. A Los Angeles businessman announced Tuesday that he had brokered the sale of a copy of Action Comics No. 1, which marked the first appearance of Superman, for the record price of $137,500.
Industry sources believe it is the highest price ever paid for a comic book.
Action Comics No. 1 was originally published in June, 1938. There are believed to be about 75 copies in existence today, of which only a handful are in mint or near-mint condition.
Robert J. Roter, president of Pacific Comic Exchange in Los Angeles, said that he entertained bids from four or five interested parties after putting the comic book on the market in February. Roter said the seller and the buyer wish to remain anonymous, but he noted that neither lives in California.
Roter, who earned a 14% commission on the record sale, said the price was right considering the comic's historic value. The comic book he represented was in nearly perfect condition except for some slight rusting on the staples, he said.
"(This book) represents the first super-hero genre ever tried," he said. "Up until that point, most comics . . . had been reprints of Sunday funnies. This represented a whole new concept, one that helped spawn the golden age of comics and created a character that remains popular to this day."
The value of comic books as collectibles has soared in recent years. Last year, Sotheby's sold a copy of Action Comics No. 1 for nearly $55,000. All of the rare comic book art in that auction brought in a total of $1.7 million.
Area comic book dealers were impressed but not surprised by news of the Superman sale.
"That's an enormous amount for that comic, but they don't trade very often," said Mark Hennessey, owner of Hi De Ho Comics & Fantasy in Santa Monica.