Home Comics Art The mystery of the AMAZING FANTASY #15 donation

The mystery of the AMAZING FANTASY #15 donation

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It was big, big news recently when the entire original art for Amazing Fantasy #15, the origin story of Spider-Man himself, was presented to the Library of Congress by an unidentified donor. An incredible story. But who was that masked donor? Charles Yoakum looks at the evidence:

While I’m missing the attribution, it has been said that the donor asked Steve Ditko’s blessing before making the donation, so the question is, who is the donor? Or should we say, who isn’t the donor? And I certainly, with no other information other than real, true fanboy supposition, have to say: is there anyone in the world other than Stan Lee that could be the donor?

Lets use a little logic here. Artwork from that era is rare, and having an entire story together speaks volumes over who might have had their hands on the originals. Fantastic Four pages from a similar time frame have hardly shown up even after Jack’s death, and when they do, they are split up and scattered across the world.

Who do we know that was around the office back then?


You may find Yoakum’s logic unpersuasive, but it’s an interesting line of inquiry.

  1. going to have to agree with R. Maheras on this one. Time and time again in interviews Stan mentions how he hardly kept anything from the early days (usually commenting on this in a self-deprecating manner).

  2. It could’ve been Ditko himself…I know he’s also legendary for not wanting that stuff in his own life, but anonymous person with Ditko’s blessing? Just saying.

  3. X-Men #1, up until recently, was a complete book in private (non Marvel insider) hands. It was listed in JP the Mint’s catalog in like 2002. It’s since been broken up. The long-time owner was definitely NOT a marvel insider.

  4. X-Men #1, up until recently, was a complete book in private (non Marvel insider) hands. It was listed in JP the Mint’s catalog in like 2002. It’s since been broken up.

  5. I agree it’s not Stan, unless that’s the only way Ditko would let him do it. I’m Stan’s friend on MySpace. I get like 9 bulletin posts a day through the guy. He’s not exactly the kind of guy who doesn’t put his name on things.

  6. So if those 11 or 12 pages were to actually come up for public auction, how much would they sell for? 1 million? 10 million? More?

    This is also a major clue. It’s obviously some individual or group that is not worried about cash. Far as I can tell, Steve Ditko could use the money. And as it has been noted, Stan would have put his name on the donation. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I mean its Stan freakin’ Lee. Nuff said)

    Maybe it was a famous person that loves comics…like a Nick Cage or the Wachowski brothers. That actually makes sense, with the Speed Racer box office bomb, they couldnt go public with the donation and it was too late to pull the offer off the table. (yes, I’m a knuckehead)

    PS–Love you Heidi!!!!

  7. The batman 11 cover sold for 195,500, so seven figures for one of the most important sequences in superhero comics is easy to imagine.

  8. Yeah, Stan Lee hasn’t done anything anonymously in decades. I don’t doubt he has enough money by now to not necessarily care abut donating the pages if he had them, but he would certainly do so at a well-publicized press conference and have some upcoming project to plug at the same time.

  9. The initial report of the donation said that the donor had gotten the pages as a gift from someone other than Ditko, so it’s not necessarily the case that the donor is wealthy (although certainly he seems to have at least one wealthy and generous friend). And it makes the donation more understandable. Having gotten it as a gift, and knowing it’s of questionable provenance, the most logical things to do are return it to Ditko (which, given reports of his treatment of originals, you might be reluctant to do) or, with his blessing, donate it to a public institution.

    As to the value of the pages, the interior art to #10 sold six years ago for $161k (and a few of those pages have come up for sale individually since). An individual page from #29 has sold for about $40k last year. So yeah, well into seven figures for all of AF#15 is easy to imagine (if it were split up, I’d guess over a million each for the splash and the first page in costume, maybe for the last page, and well into six figures for the other Spider-Man pages, especially those in costume, maybe low five figures for the non-Spidey stories).

  10. Steve Geppi came immediately to mind but I don’t recall Steve donating other stuff out of his personal collection before…hmmmm…

  11. Most seem to be judging Stan Lee on his public circus-barker persona. But he is also a man — a regular man with a private life and feelings and sentiments he keeps to himself. We may never know who the donor is but he’s a really solid bet.

  12. Were the pages held by a Marvel staffer? Maybe, maybe not. It could have been an intern, or a visitor to the Bullpen.

    I know a few guys who worked at Marvel in the 70s … and I think this has been written elsewhere … BUT the original art pages were not secured in a vault. I’ve heard that they were kept on metal shelves, in a hallway with a nearby service elevator. When the prices began to rise in the late 1970s, the number of thefts probably escalated as well.

    So, who knows where these pages were hidden?

  13. the Marvel art was stored in a warehouse in the 1960s. The Amazing Fantasy book was not one of the items listed on the inventory when it was done in 1970 (said list is on the web). Marvel was still giving away important art circa 1969 – when they gave away the first Thor story to a fellow that was producing t-shirts and posters. I would suspect the original giftee was probably someone in the same type business.

    (for those who find this amazing, the first major art sale was around 1970 when DC auctioned off at a con a Neal Adams cover. the cover sold for more than DC paid Adams – prior to that companies didnt consider the art too valuable, certainly not as valuable as stats….)

  14. Steven, do you have a link for the Marvel art inventory from the 1970s?

    Regarding Marvel giving away art, I have a vague memory of an interview with someone who was at Marvel in the 1960s talking about a lot of early art being given away when Marvel was pursuing its early animation deals, as well.

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