The original "Argo" artwork created by the legendary Jack Kirby (1917-1994) has been consigned to Heritage Auctions' August 1-3 Vintage Comics and Comic Art Signature auction in Dallas.
The artwork, which comes with fantastic provenance from the collection of Marvel and DC Comics artist Jim Lee, is expected to realise $10,000+.
The piece was first purchased by Lee in 1993 at Sotheby's, where it was described as concept artwork for a never-realised film, entitled Lord of Light. Lee was simply keen to own some of Jack "The King" Kirby's art, unaware of the work's significance.
"Jack isn't called 'The King' for no reason," said Lee. "His work created the visual vocabulary of modern-day superheroes. He established the aesthetics for superhero action."
However, in 2007, Wired magazine published an article that told the story of how CIA operative Tony Mendez had created a phony movie production company in 1980 to help smuggle stranded Americans out of Iran.
To do so, he teamed up with his friend and Hollywood make-up artist John Chambers.
They would need a film to complete their mission, and Chambers, who had been hired to work on the abandoned Lord of Light, still had the script and Kirby's concept art. They renamed it Argo.
"I read that story in Wired and thought, 'Wait! How can this be unknown for so long?'" said Lee.
"Well, it was unknown because it was a secret mission for all those years. When I bought them, I thought they were just cool pieces from a failed animation project from the 1970s. At the time, the whole Argo mission was still a top secret."
The remarkable story of Mendez's CIA mission would later serve as inspiration for Ben Affleck's 2012 Academy Award-winning movie, Argo, forever cementing it in the minds of the American public.
"These are not only fantastic examples of Jack Kirby's art, but also pieces of American history and pop culture," said Heritage's senior consignment director, Steve Borock.
"Kirby was a patriotic American who fought in World War II and co-created Captain America. He would be proud to know his work helped bring those Americans safely back home."
The auction also features Frank Miller's original artwork for the cover of 1986's Dark Knight Returns #2, which is expected to see $500,000.