Nicolas Cage and the return of the $1m comic

 

Los Angeles

Clark Kent wouldn't necessarily rush to a telephone box to change into superhero garb, but he'd probably put a call in to The Daily Planet after learning that a copy of the comic in which he made his fictional debut has turned up safe and sound, more than a decade after being stolen from the home of Hollywood actor Nicolas Cage.

An original copy of Action Comics No 1 – the 1938 publication which introduced Superman to an unexpecting world – was being pored over by detectives yesterday after apparently being discovered among the contents of a disused storage locker in the San Fernando Valley, just north of Los Angeles.

The comic, which features on its front cover a picture of the all-American superhero lifting a car above his head as he foils an attempted kidnapping of his girlfriend Lois Lane, was originally sold by newsagents for 10 cents. But today, with around only 100 copies still in existence, its value to collectors is upwards of $1m (£615,000).

It tells the story of how the superhero was born on a dying planet called Krypton, but sent to Earth by his parents to grow up. Cage brought his copy from Stephen Fishler, a New York comic dealer in the mid-1990s, only to have it taken during a raid on his Bel Air home in 2000. Police are now attempting to establish how exactly the stolen comic came to be in the hands of a local collectibles expert called Mark Balelo.

He insists that an anonymous client found it inside an abandoned storage locker which was bought during a liquidation auction some time in early March. Mr Balelo said he advised his client to have the comic valued by Mr Fishler, a well-known expert, who duly recognised it as the stolen publication.

"Stephen is extremely knowledgeable," Mr Balelo said. "He compared the markings to photographs and it was the one he sold to Nicolas Cage." Police are refusing either to confirm or deny whether Mr Balelo is now considered a suspect in the original theft.

"I don't want to prejudge anybody," Detective Donald Hrycyk, of the Los Angeles Police Department's (LAPD's) art-theft detail, told yesterday's Ventua County Star. "But it's just too bad that Balelo with his big mouth thought it was necessary to contact the media." Cage, who was once hired to play Superman in a sequel directed by Tim Burton which never got off the ground, said in a statement: "It is divine providence that the comic was found and I am hopeful that the heirloom will be returned to my family."

That will not necessarily happen, however. The Oscar-winning actor, who is facing severe financial difficulty and has been forced to sell most of his homes – and the rest of his antique comic-book collection – in order to avoid bankruptcy, accepted an insurance payout to compensate for the loss of the antique comic several years ago. The comic is therefore officially now the property of an insurance company.

Industry protocol suggests it will first offer Cage the right to buy the comic back for the cost of his payout (plus inflation) before offering it for sale at a public auction to regain the money they lost because of the theft. For now, though, it remains in police hands.

"We have it protected in a safe and it isn't going anywhere until we finish our investigation," added Detective Hrycyk. "Whether he will regain legal title or not is between Cage and the insurance company."

Holy heroes! It's the top five most expensive comics!

1. Detective Comics, No. 27

Estimated value: $1.38m (£850,000)

Published in 1939 with a cover price of 10 cents, this was the first issue of the popular monthly series to feature 'The Batman'. Fewer than 200 copies exist, one of which was sold for a record $1,075,500 in February 2010.

2. Action Comics, No 1

Estimated value: $1m

Dubbed the 'Holy Grail' of comic books, the first issue of this American series introduced Superman to the world when it was published in April 1938. It became the first million-dollar comic book at auction last year.

3. Superman, No. 1

Estimated value: $671,000

The first comic book dedicated to just one superhero was published in 1939 due to popular demand.

4. All-American Comics, No. 16

Estimated value: $430,000

Fanboys everywhere are gearing up for the release of the new 'Green Lantern' blockbuster later this year. It stars the hero who made his first appearance in this issue of 'All-American Comics'.

5. Detective Comics, No. 1

Estimated value: $405,000

Featuring appearances by Superman and Batman, one of America's longest-running comic series began with this issue in 1937.

Enjoli Liston

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence