Most of the time, when original comic book artwork goes up for auction, it’s because it has great historical value. But occasionally, sometimes a piece of comic book art has historical value not necessarily for contributing anything great to the medium. Such is the case with this original uncolored piece of Captain America art from artist Rob Liefeld. Boing Boing reports this piece is going up for sale via Heritage Auctions. It’s currently going for north of $8,000. But what’s so special about this one promo image of Marvel’s Sentinel of Liberty? In a way, this one illustration of Cap, which you can see below, encapsulated an entire era of “extreme” ’90s comics.
So, a little background on this particular image, and why it sums up a whole decade of comics. In the early ’90s, artists like Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee, and Todd McFarlane became superstars for their work at Marvel Comics. Books like Spider-Man and X-Men, which showcased their art, sold better than ever before. But in 1992, they and several other artists left Marvel to form their own imprint, Image Comics. Although a success, the glut of comics led to a speculator boom. And eventually, that led to a cratering of the entire comic book industry in 1994. Marvel Comics was in such dire straits that it canceled almost every ongoing title that wasn’t Spidey or mutant related. The outlook for Marvel at the time was bleak.
So in 1996, Marvel came to their former superstar artists with an idea. They’d allow Image Comics, specifically Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld, to take over four of their once most famous series for one year. These series were Fantastic Four and Iron Man by Jim Lee’s Wildstorm Studios, and Avengers and Captain America by Rob Liefeld’s Extreme Studios. They named this publishing initiative Heroes Reborn, and fans were legit excited.
Marvel released an early example of what Captain America’s redesign from Liefeld would look like. Let’s just say that actual human proportions for Steve Rogers were not a concern. His manly chest was so ridiculously inflated that this one image seemed to sum up everything wrong with ’90s superhero media. And it became almost instantly infamous. Even Liefeld himself has poked fun at it in recent years. And this is exactly why this one piece of art is a true piece of comics history. Marvel would find a way to reboot their line in a better way in the 2000s, with the Ultimate line. But this one image really is the symbol of an era.