DALLAS – A hand-colored Calvin and Hobbes Sunday strip from May 24, 1987, sold for $480,000 at Heritage Auctions to set a new auction record for Bill Watterson and his beloved creations. That price also ties the record for the most valuable original newspaper strip ever sold at auction.
This stunning work, from the collection of Watterson’s late editor Lee Salem, sold on the morning of November 17 during the first session of Heritage Auctions’ Nov. 17-20 Comics & Comic Art Signature® Auction.
This was only the second hand-colored Sunday strip by Watterson ever to appear at auction. It shatters the previous Calvin and Hobbes auction record set in September, when Heritage sold a February 1992 hand-colored daily strip – signed by Watterson to his friend and Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau – for $216,000.
Only one other original comic strip has ever realized $480,000: Alex Raymond’s very first Flash Gordon, published on Jan. 7, 1934. Calvin, the owner of a lucky pair of rocket-ship underpants, would be proud to join that company.
A second Calvin and Hobbes illustration, also from Salem’s collection, sold on the same day at Heritage for $120,000.
“All of us here, and every collector we’ve talked to, feels ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ is at the very top of the entire history of newspaper-strip art, so it’s very gratifying to see the final prices reflect that,” said Heritage Auctions’ Vice President Todd Hignite. “Not only were these extraordinary works, but they belonged to the man who discovered and nurtured Watterson, and we’re thrilled we could represent Watterson and Lee Salem’s family in this history-making sale.”
The 1987 Sunday strip is quintessential Calvin and Hobbes, beginning with the boy and his best friend perched atop a hill, hoping their red wagon will hurtle them into a time warp and a future filled with “flying cars and cities built on clouds, maybe!” Calvin, forever the only child looking for a way to escape into a different time or a better, more exciting place, instead finds himself at the bottom of the hill – two minutes into the future, better than nothing. “Things haven’t improved,” says Hobbes. “I’m disappointed.”
Watterson left a note in the title panel for his editor: “For Lee with best wishes — BILL.”