PARIS (AFP) - An original drawing from the popular Tintin adventure “Explorers on the Moon” sold for a record 1.55 million euros ($1.64 million) at a Paris auction on Saturday, auction house Artcurial announced.
The 50-by-35-centimeter drawing in Chinese ink by the Belgian cartoonist known as Herge shows the boy reporter, his dog Snowy and crusty sailor Captain Haddock wearing spacesuits and walking on the Moon while looking at Earth.
It had been expected to sell for between 700,000 and 900,000 euros.
“It’s simply fantastic! It‘s an exceptional price for an exceptional piece,” said Artcurial’s comics expert Eric Leroy.
He described the “Explorers on the Moon” as “a key moment in the history of comic book art ... it has become legendary for many lovers and collectors of comic strips.
”It is one of the most important from Herge's postwar period, on the same level as 'Tintin in Tibet' and 'The Castafiore Emerald,'" he added.
Later in the day, another drawing from "Explorers on the Moon" sold for 602,500 euros at rival auction house Christie’s, also in Paris.
The 1954 book is viewed as one of Herge's masterpieces. Saturday’s sale was a record for a single cartoon drawing. In 2012, the 1932 cover illustration of "Tintin in America" fetched 1.3 million euros.
Herge already holds the world record for the sale of a comic strip.
A double-page ink drawing that served as the inside cover for all the Tintin adventures published between 1937 and 1958, sold for 2.65 million euros (some $3.6 million at the time) to an American fan two years ago.
Original Tintin comic book drawings have been fetching millions at auctions over the last few years.
In February 2015, the original cover design for "The Shooting Star" almost matched the record when it was sold for 2.5 million euros.
The rare drawing made a record sale for a single cartoon drawing. (Herge/Moulinsart2016)
In May, the original artwork for the last two pages of the "King Ottokar‘s Sceptre" book sold for $1.2 million while in October of last year a double page slate from the same Tintin book fetched more than 1.5 million euros.
That same month, an Asian investor paid $1.2 million for a drawing from "The Blue Lotus" book, published in 1936, of Tintin and Snowy in Shanghai.
Alongside the moon drawings, Artcurial also sold 20 ink sketches Herge created for a series of New Year’s greeting cards known as his "snow cards."
The drawings, including Tintin and Snowy skiing, or hapless detectives the Thompson twins ice-skating, brought in 1.5 million euros.
In total, the sale of cartoon drawings at Artcurial fetched 4.45 million euros on Saturday.
Prices for cartoon art have multiplied tenfold in the last decade, according to gallery owner Daniel Maghen, who also works with comic art.
As well as the "Explorers on the Moon" drawing sold by Christie's -- on which neither Tintin nor any of Herge’s other characters feature -- another rare Herge strip was snapped up.
A page from the unfinished story "Tintin and the Thermozero" -- which Christie's said was the first ever to come to market -- brought in 230,500 euros.
The sketch shows Tintin, Snowy and Captain Haddock helping victims of a road accident.
It was one of only eight drawings Herge did for the unfinished work, six of which are now housed in the Herge Museum in Louvain-la-Neuve, south of Brussels in Belgium, while the other was given by the artist to his Tintin collaborator Bob De Moor.
Why the artist never finished the tale of espionage and a terrifying secret weapon set against the backdrop of the Cold War, is one of the great mysteries for Tintin-ologists.
"Explorers on the Moon" completes the lunar adventure started in "Destination Moon" (1953) and features several hilarious episodes including Haddock getting drunk on whisky and floating off into space to briefly become a satellite of the asteroid Adonis.
It turns on Tintin foiling a plot to hijack the rocket by the evil stowaway spy Colonel Jorgen, who is backed by a mysterious foreign power.
The sales come as Tintinmania again grips the French capital, with Herge currently the subject of a huge retrospective exhibition at the Grand Palais.
Herge sold some 230 million Tintin albums by the time of his death in 1983.