Hard-core comic collectors may well sneer at the likes of jolly, saltless Biffo the Bear in the light of Viz's relentless ridicule, but no one can deny that Biffo has his place in classic comic history, right alongside other British comics like the Beano and Dan Dare.

These, as well as American superheroes Superman and Batman, are part of an awesome collection of vintage mint condition comic artwork being auctioned at Christie's on Thursday. Most covetable of the collection are the Action Comics no. 1,which introduced Superman to America, and the Detective Comics no. 33, where Batman makes his debut. Both original comics are expected to fetch between pounds 10,000 and pounds 20,000.

The squeaky clean superheroes were the models for the characters in the Sixties camp TV series. But from the 1970s onwards, comics left behind innocent kitsch and went dark and fatalistic. Original artwork for Judge Dredd, the hero of 2000AD, is also up for auction. These strips were markedly different from early Biffo or Batman: grainy drawings with incredible detail and pencilled-in refinements. The violence in these comic strips is shown in detail, tinged with a spiteful tongue-in-cheek black humour. They paved the way for later Batman comics, and were the foundation for the Dark Knight, which followed in the same vein.

These drawings alone are worth a trip to Christie's, even if you don't want to giggle at the bygone tameness of the adventures of Biffo.

Christie's Comics and Comic Artwork Auction, 85 Old Brompton Rd, SW7 (071-581 7611) Thur 4 Aug at 10.30am, viewing from 9am-5pm on Wed and 9am-12noon on Thur

(Photograph omitted)