A remarkable private collection of every single D.C comic book published from 1935 to 2014 has gone up for sale at Sotheby’s in London.
The collection of more than 40,000 comic books was assembled by the British DJ and music producer Ian Levine over the course of half a century,
Levine’s collection spans 80 years, from 1935 through to 2014, and includes complete runs of famous titles such as Action Comics, Detective Comics, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern.
“The Ian Levine Collection is the holy grail for comics collectors,” said Richard Austin, head of Sotheby’s Books & Manuscripts Department in New York.
“Amassed over decades of hunting, Levine’s collection embodies the passion and fandom that has defined comics culture for generations, which today is best encapsulated not through printed issues but popular superhero films that regularly break box office records.
“Featuring some of the most valuable individual books as well as extremely rare promotional issues, the Levine Collection includes all the DC heroes that are among the most recognizable and versatile pop culture touchstones in the world.”
Ian Levine’s lifelong passion for comic books began in 1960 at the age of eight, when he received a copy of The Justice League of America, but it wasn’t until 1972 that he evolved from an avid reader to a dedicated collector.
He tracked down thousands of old issues, but in a pre-internet age he struggled to find key titles and in 1987 he sold most of his comic books to focus on his incomparable collection rare Northern Soul records.
But he was unable to shake the D.C bug, and a few years later bought all his comics back (at a 50% premium!), and began building one of the most significant and comprehensive comic book collections ever assembled.
Along with superheroes, the collection overs every other genre of comic book published by D.C throughout their history, including humour, romance, science-fiction, crime and war titles.
The earliest comic book in the collection is New Fun: The Big Comic Magazine #1, published inlate 1934 by National Allied Publication, the company which went on to become D.C Comics.
The most significant books in the collections are the ‘Golden Age’ key titles featuring the debuts of Superman (Action Comics #1, 1938); Batman (Detective Comics #27, 1939); and Wonder Woman (Sensation Comics #1, 1942).
Levine’s collection also includes the first appearances of iconic characters such as Aquaman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Martian Manhunter and Green Arrow, supervillains Lex Luthor, the Joker, Two Face and the Penguin, and the first team-up of the Justice League of America.
As well documenting the history of comic books through the three ‘Golden’, ‘Silver’ and ‘Bronze’ ages, the collection features many of the most important titles of the ‘Modern’ age, such as Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen series, which helped reinvent superheroes for adult readers and changed the industry once again.
The Sotheby’s sale now offers a genuine, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire a collection that will likely never be replicated.
Levine’s dedication and passion has produced a museum-quality archive which is more than merely a comic book collection: it traces the evolution of a true American art form that forever changed the course of pop culture history.