11 Most Expensive Comic Illustrations Auctioned in the Last 10 Years

This article reveals the eleven most expensive comic illustrations sold at auction over the past ten years. Read on to discover more about these interesting pieces of art.

Jan 15, 2021By Mia Forbes, BA in Classics
comic illustration
Le Garage Hermétique by Moebius, 1976; with Nikopol – Tome 2 by Enki Bilal, 1986; and Spirou Et Fantasio – Tome 8 by André Franquin, 1956


Comic illustration books may not receive the same level of literary respect or regard as the novel, and those who admire the oil paintings of the Old Masters are likely to look down on them as inferior forms of art. This has not prevented the trade of vintage comics and illustrations from booming in popularity and value over the previous decade. The creation of specialist departments at Artcurial in 2005 and Christie’s in 2014 both responded to and generated increased interest in the niche genre. The auction results over the past ten years demonstrate how lucrative the comic illustration market has proved to be. 


This article lists the most expensive comic strips and illustrations sold under the hammer over the last decade.


A Background On Comic Illustrations

asterix comic strip
Astérix – Tome 30 by Albert Uderzo, 1996, via Artcurial


It is a truth universally acknowledged that saying something in French automatically makes it sound twice as sophisticated. ‘Bande dessinée’ is therefore often used in the world of art to refer to comic strips, specifically those of Franco-Belgian origins, which have proved most popular among collectors and enthusiasts. 


Although bandes dessinées, comics, and graphic novels vary in their technical definitions and features, all are forms of visual art that tell a story. They are typically structured in sequences of panels, the illustration of characters and objects is simplified and often exaggerated, and the action is generally explained by accompanying text. 


Get the latest articles delivered to your inbox

Sign up to our Free Weekly Newsletter

It is easy to see why this simple style has long appealed to children, but recent auction results have shown that the love of comic illustrations is not limited to kids. In fact, eager buyers have parted with millions to get their hands on rare and prized editions of certain comic illustrations. Read on to find out which 11 pieces have attracted the highest auction results over the past ten years.


11. Hergé, Les Aventures De Tintin L’Étoile Mystérieuse, 1941

Realized Price: EUR 234,750

tintin l'etoile mysterieuse comic
A page from L’etoile mysterieuse, one of the adventures of Tintin, via Le Progres

EUR 220,000 – 240,000
Realized Price: EUR 234,750
Venue & Date: Sotheby’s, Paris, 04 July 2012, Lot 06

About The Artwork

Belgian artist Georges Prosper Remi created the iconic French-language comic illustration series, The Adventures of Tintin, under the pen name Hergé. The series was published from 1929 to 1940 in Le Petit Vingtieme, a newspaper supplement aimed at children, and then from 1940 to 1944 in Le Soir, Belgium’s leading newspaper. From 1946 to 1976, Tintin received his own eponymous magazine, as such was the popularity of Hergé’s work. Its stories tell of the travels and encounters of the brave young reporter and his faithful dog Snowy.


In October 1941, the tenth volume of The Adventures of Tintin told the story of L’Étoile Mystérieuse, which saw Tintin undertake a scientific exploration to the Arctic to find a fallen meteorite. 72 years after its publication, a page from L’Étoile Mystérieuse sold at Sotheby’s, yielding the incredible auction result of €234,000.


10. Osamu Tezuka, Astro Boy, 1956-57

Realized Price: EUR 269,400


astro boy tezuka
This page from Tezuka’s Astro Boy is the only comic strip in this list not to come from a French-language comic


Estimate: EUR 40,000 – 60,000
Realized Price: EUR 269,400
Venue & Date: Artcurial, 05 May 2018, Lot 447

About The Artwork

Hailed as the father of manga, Osamu Tezuka started Japan’s manga revolution in 1947 when he published New Treasure Island, which was soon followed by a number of series aimed at both children and adults. Among the most popular was Astro Boy, which ran from 1952 to 1968, and follows the adventures of an android who lives among humans after he is saved from a robot circus. Astro Boy became one of the most successful manga franchises in the world, with three anime series and translations into numerous languages. 


In 2018, an extremely rare page showing Astro Boy in action was sold at Artcurial for €269,400, marking the successful introduction of manga into the bandes dessinées department. The sequence, which had first appeared in 1956, was reissued in a 2015 prequel entitled “Atom the Beginning.”


9. Moebius, Le Garage Hermétique, 1976

Realized Price: EUR 278,960


le garage hermetique moebius
A vivid page from the French version of Moebius’ The Airtight Garage


Estimate: EUR 480,000 – 650,000
Realized Price: EUR 278,960
Venue & Date: Artcurial, 05 October 2015, Lot 18

About The Artwork

Another creator of bandes dessinées was Jean Henri Gaston Giraud, who worked under the name of Moebius. Although his most famous work was a Western comic series entitled Blueberry, his most valuable illustration sold in recent years featured the protagonist of his whimsical science fiction series, The Airtight Garage, called Le Garage Hermetique in French.


The hero of the series, Major Grubert, is an immortal earthling who travels around space fighting his opponents with various fantastical weapons. In this illustration, he is shown sitting with one such weapon in hand, a huge defeated monster in the background. In 1976, the plate was used as the front cover of an issue of Métal Hurlant, an anthology of comics created by Moebius and several other writers and artists. The vivid and dramatic piece sold for a huge €278,960 at Artcurial in 2015. 


8. André Franquin, Spirou Et Fantasio – Tome 8, 1956

Realized Price: EUR 281,800


spirou and fantasio comic
One of the eponymous characters from the beloved Spirou & Fantasio comics


Estimate: EUR 200,000 – 250,000
Realized Price: EUR 281,800
Venue & Date: Artcurial, 18 November 2017, Lot 508

About The Artwork

One of the most popular Franco-Belgian comics, Spirou & Fantasio was first published in 1938 and is amazingly still in print today. Over the decades, a number of different artists have put their pens to the task of portraying the title characters’ pranks and adventures. It was the third artist in this succession, André Franquin, who developed the comic strip from short jokes into long adventures with more sophisticated plots. Franquin was also responsible for the popular comedy series, Gaston.


Being one of the most important artists to work on Spirou & Fantasio, Franquin’s illustrations are consequently of the greatest value, with one selling at Artcurial in 2017 with an impressive €281,000 auction result. It was the cover art for the eighth issue in the series and shows Spirou and his pet squirrel Spip confronted by a huge image of his own head. In the story, the hero finds himself framed for the theft of a precious Egyptian relic and is forced to flee from the police.


7. Enki Bilal, Nikopol – Tome 2, 1986

Realized Price: EUR 361,750


nikopol la femme piege
Certainly not aimed at children, Bilal’s Nikopol trilogy forms an important part of the history of the graphic novel


Estimate: EUR 700,000 – 1,000,000
Realized Price: EUR 361,750
Venue & Date: Artcurial, 05 October 2015, Lot 6

About The Artwork

Yugoslavian-born French artist, Enki Bilal, published three graphic novels between 1980 and 1992, which were brought together in 1995 as The Nikopol Trilogy. Set in 2023, the story follows Alcide Nikopol, a man who has just been released from a 30-year sentence which he spent cryogenically frozen, as he attempts to navigate the new world of post-apocalyptic, fascist Paris.


The second novel in the series centers around a female journalist named Jill Bioskop, who takes memory-erasing drugs after her friend is killed. This scene, in which Jill is shown naked, attracted huge bids when the page came up for sale at Artcurial in 2015. The final auction result was an astonishing €361,750.


6. Hugo Pratt, Corto Maltese – Les Ethiopiques, 1979

Realized Price: EUR 391,840


corto maltese
The Corto Maltese series is widely regarded as one of the most artistic and literary works of its kind


Estimate: EUR 100,000 – 150,000
Realized Price: EUR 391,840
Venue & Date: Artcurial, 22 November 2014, Lot 344

About The Artwork

The eponymous hero of Hugo Pratt’s Corto Maltese comic series is a fearless sailor whose adventuring gets him into a number of tricky spots, during which he encounters a wide range of characters, including real-life figures such as Ernest Hemingway, Hermann Hesse, and Butch Cassidy. In one adventure, he is even saved from ruin by none other than Stalin!


Ten years after Pratt’s death in 2005, a collection of his finest watercolor illustrations was compiled, including the iconic portrait of Corto Maltese from one of his most popular adventures. In Les Ethiopiques, Maltese travels across the Middle East and Africa, standing up for the rights of the suffering native peoples he finds there. The image sold at Artcurial in 2014 for the princely sum of €391,840.


5. Hergé, On A Marché Sur La Lune, 1953

Realized Price: EUR 602,500


tintin marche sur la lune auction
An action-packed page from another of Tintin’s adventures


Estimate: EUR 350,000 – 400,000
Realized Price: EUR 602,500
Venue & Date: Christie’s, Paris, 19 November 2016, Lot 75   

About The Artwork

Another of Tintin’s adventures to attract huge bids at auction was from a story entitled On a marche sur la Lune, in which the reporter and his pet pooch take part in humanity’s first mission to the moon, sixteen years before such an event actually occurred. The page, which sold for just over €600,000 at Christie’s in 2016, shows the moment that their rocket returns to earth, landing in the fictional country of Syldavia. 


4. Hergé, L’Îsle Noire, 1942

Realized Price: EUR 1,011,200


herge tintin l'isle noire
L’Isle Noire tells the story of Tintin’s journey to a criminal lair on the Black Island in Scotland


Estimate: EUR 600,000 – 700,000
Realized Price: EUR 1,011,200
Venue & Date: Artcurial, 24 May 2014, Lot 2   

About The Artwork

The Artcurial bandes dessinées auction of 24 May 2014 resulted in not one but two sales of over €1m! The first of these was the comic illustration cover art for Tintin’s adventure in L’Isle Noire, which follows the reporter and his dog as they travel to a small Scottish island in search of a gang of criminals. Hergé’s illustration was used as the front cover of the volume from 1942 to 1965, but the black and white edition is extremely rare and therefore extremely valuable.


3. Hergé, Le Sceptre D‘Ottokar, 1939

Realized Price: EUR 1,046,300


le sceptre d'ottokar herge tintin
The final page from Le Sceptre d’Ottokar, a children’s comic but also a topical political satire


Estimate: EUR 600,000 – 800,000
Realized Price: EUR 1,046,300
Venue & Date: Artcurial, 30 April 2016, Lot 157

About The Artwork

One of Hergé’s most politically charged comics was Tintin’s journey in the fictional kingdom of Syldavia, under threat from an evil dictator. The artist constantly, and disingenuously protested political naivete in his work, but it is plain to see that many of Tintin’s adventures reflect the worrying developments of Europe from the 1930s onwards. The story of Le Sceptre d’Ottokar sees the hero successfully warn the current King about the plot to overthrow him, before escaping from the state himself.


In 2016, the comic illustration of the final page from the volume sold at Artcurial for €1.6m, doubling its upper estimate. Part of the value of the piece was bestowed by its impressive provenance, having belonged to the distinctive French singer, Renaud


2. Hergé, On A Marché Sur La Lune, 1954

Realized Price: EUR 1,537,500


tintin on a marche sur la lune
Hergé’s depiction of Tintin and Snowy’s spacewalk preceded the first canine space mission by three years


Estimate: EUR 700,000 – 900,000
Realized Price: EUR 1,537,500
Venue & Date: Artcurial, 19 November 2016, Lot 498

About The Artwork

Another comic illustration from Tintin’s adventure on the moon, this page beat the price paid for the rocket-landing sequence by almost €1m when it was sold at Artcurial in 2016, yielding a €1.5m auction result. 


It shows Tintin, Snowy, Captain Haddock and Professor Tournesol discovering the effects of zero gravity during their moonwalk. During this excursion, Snowy slips into an ice-covered chasm but is rescued by his diligent master.


1. Hergé, Pages De Garde Bleu Foncé, 1937

Realized Price: EUR 2,654,400


herge tintin pages de garde bleu fonce
The most expensive piece of bande dessinée ever sold at auction embodies the style and spirit of Hergé’s work


Estimate: EUR 700,000 – 900,000
Realized Price: EUR 2,654,400
Venue & Date: Artcurial, 24 May 2014, Lot 1

About The Artwork

It is interesting that the most valuable of all of Hergé’s incredible comic illustrations is not one of his iconic comic strips, but instead a collection of drawings. Sold at the same auction as the front cover of L’Isle Noire, this print from 1937 displays 34 vignettes of Tintin and Snowy in various situations from The Adventures of Tintin, including flying planes, riding bulls, and narrowly escaping bullets. 


The piece was won for four times its estimate at Artcurial in 2014, where it was sold for the unbelievable sum of €2.5m, proving once and for all that comics are not only for children.


More On Comic Illustrations And Auction Results


These eleven comic illustrations represent a fun new trend in art collecting. While auction house records were previously dominated by Old Master oil paintings and fine sculptures, recent years have seen a growing interest in many different genres and media. For more incredible results, click here: Modern Art, Oceanic and African Art and Fine Art Photography

Author Image

By Mia ForbesBA in ClassicsMia is a contributing writer from London, with a passion for literature and history. She holds a BA in Classics from the University of Cambridge. Both at work and at home, Mia is surrounded by books, and enjoys writing about great works of fiction and poetry. Her first translation is due to be published next year.