Frank Frazetta’s painting Dark Kingdom (1976) fetched some $6 million at Heritage Auctions on Thursday, becoming the world’s most valuable work of comic book or fantasy art. It broke a record that had stood for three years—set by the same artist at the same house.
Showing a buff, ax-wielding warrior wearing a winged helmet, striding over human skeletons, with what appears to be a dragon’s tail wending into the foreground, the image has been emblazoned on prints, posters, coffee mugs, and T shirts, placing it among the artist’s most reproduced works, according to the auction house.
The painting appeared on the cover of rock band Molly Hatchett’s double-platinum 1979 record Flirtin’ with Disaster, the title single of which reached no. 42 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1980. It was also on the cover of Karl Edward Wagner’s fantasy 1976 novel Dark Crusade.
“It’s extraordinarily rare whenever an artwork universally considered the best in any genre becomes available on the open market,” says Heritage Auctions executive vice president Todd Hignite. “We’re excited—and proud—that today’s record-setting result reflects that status for this immediately recognizable image, which is burned into the consciousness of several generations of Frazetta fans.”
Frazetta’s Egyptian Queen (1969), which appeared on the cover of Eerie Magazine no. 23, previously held the record, after selling at Heritage for $5.4 million. The auctioneer has sold several Frazetta works in excess of $1 million, including Death Dealer 6 (1990) for $1.7 million and A Princess of Mars (1970) for $1.2 million.
Fantasy art is having something of a day in the sun. In 2020, Taschen published the 532-page, illustrated book Masterpieces of Fantasy Art, which discusses artists ranging from Old Masters like Hieronymous Bosch to Frazetta, H.R. Giger, and Boris Vallejo. A boom in film and TV adaptations of comic books has also led to a bustling comic book market, as Artnet News reported in 2022, with dealers making six-figure sales at events like Comic Con.