CGC-graded Superman #1 Stars in ‘Selling Superman’ Documentary

Posted on 11/1/2022

The poignant documentary will tell the story of a family's struggle living with their father's comic book collection, and now deciding what to do with it.

What would you do if you discovered your family had a comic book collection with many of the most expensive comics ever published? Filmmaker Adam Schomer of i2i Productions is developing a new documentary called “Selling Superman,” which follows a massive comic book collection that’s worth millions today, as well as the secret that a family kept hidden for 40 years.

Dale Watts collected more than 300,000 comic books during his lifetime. As boxes filled his family home, his collection became an obsession, fueled partly by his Asperger’s Syndrome, which made him emotionally distant and eventually tore the family apart. His son, Darren, wasn’t allowed to look at the books, and Dale’s wife, Celeste, became so frustrated with the clutter and boxes she eventually filed for divorce. Against her lawyer’s advice, she wanted no share of the collection, regardless of its possible monetary value.

“I didn’t realize he wasn’t super capable of showing those emotions,” Darren said. “I always thought he was just cold and removed and was socially awkward, but I didn’t really know until much later.”

The family kept Dale’s condition a secret while his collecting overtook the family house.

“My dad was extremely neurotic about the collection, and he didn’t just have comics. He has just as many sports cards. He was a big fan of World War II history, and then he got into the occult. He was just absolutely power-collecting, and at the time we didn’t really understand the contents because we really weren’t permitted to look through them,” Darren said.

Darren was childhood friends with filmmaker Adam Schomer, who said he had no idea the family was having problems.

“I knew his dad. He came to the soccer games. His dad was a nice guy. I just had no idea,” Schomer said.

After Dale passed away in August 2020, Darren finally began looking through the old boxes and found what might be considered one of the greatest comic book collections of all time, certainly worth millions of dollars. His childhood friend happened to be an avid comic book collector, and he began helping Darren sort through the collection. At the center of this collection was an exquisite copy of Superman #1 from 1939, which Darren submitted to the experts at Certified Guaranty Company® (CGC®) for authentication, grading and encapsulation.

The book was graded CGC 7.0 and has an estimated value of more than $3.5 million.

Darren Watts with his father's CGC-graded copy of Superman #1

“We knew about the bigger books like the Superman and Batman. But we didn’t talk about like, ‘Oh, you also have five copies of Fantastic Four #1, and you have 13 copies of Giant-Size X-Men.’ But at the time when we were growing up, those weren’t that huge,” Darren said.

Also, among the thousands of key issues found in the collection are:

  • an Amazing Spider-Man #1 graded CGC 8.0
  • an Amazing Fantasy #15 graded CGC 5.5
  • a Batman #1 graded CGC 8.0
  • an Incredible Hulk #1 graded CGC 7.5
  • a Journey into Mystery #83 graded CGC 8.0
  • a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 graded CGC 9.4
  • an X-men #1 graded CGC 7.0

While this might sound like a dream come true, it left Darren with a moral dilemma: What to do with it. He moved the comics to a secure location and set about having many certified by CGC before being appraised for his father’s estate.

“Once we began to see the comic books, we were stunned by their freshness and grade, bought directly from the newsstand and carefully stored away,” said CGC President Matt Nelson. “It's rare to discover vintage collections containing such powerful keys, but what made this particularly special was the condition of both, particularly the Superman #1, which received one of the highest grades CGC has ever assigned to that issue.”

Darren became emotional when he saw the grade and said it would have made his dad happy to know that the book earned a CGC 7.0.

“Matt met me in the CGC lobby, and he wanted to know right then and there if it was real. He takes a look at it and does his thing, and I was nervous as hell. He looked at me and said ‘this is a nice book’ with a smirk. I asked him if it was nicer than a 6.0 and we chuckled. He put his hand on my shoulder and said ‘let me clean it and press it up, but congratulations.’ I kind of knew at that point,” Darren said.

“I had a rush of emotion at that point, and I said ‘I wish my dad was there to see that.’ I would really have liked for him to know. I may not have had the best relationship with him, but dammit my dad deserved to know.”

Nelson said he was honored to be a part of the film.

“When I first met Darren and heard his story, it became clear how his father's collecting impacted the family, and the emotional weight of processing what he had amassed,” Nelson said. “As collectors, we sometimes lose sight of how our path of determination may be pursued at the expense of loved ones around us. I hope those who watch this movie will better understand the complex relationship between people and the things they covet.”

What would you do? That’s the question asked in “Selling Superman.”

“I’m just trying to do the best I can with this. That’s what this is about. My dad never would have done anything close to this. He would have been completely over-the-top uncomfortable, but this is what the stuff deserves. I’ve run into countless people that have acquired something from this collection that have been incredibly emotional about getting it,” Darren said.

He remembers a veteran who became emotional when he purchased a copy of Avengers #4 from Darren.

“I think the book was like a CGC 4.0, but it didn’t matter to him. He was just so happy to get it. He was looking me right in the eye and he said, ‘You just don’t know how special some of these characters are. I would read about them when I was overseas.’ I was just blown away,” Darren said.

With this incredible story to tell and question to answer, Darren and Schomer began documenting the experience for a new film. You can watch the sneak peek trailer, follow their progress and learn more at The film’s anticipated release is in 2024.

“We’re not being paid by someone like Netflix, so we get to tell the story we want to tell. To me, that’s a story about value and how we assign meaning, and our power to re-write our own story. Darren’s father put a lot of his own values in his head, as parents do, and I think it’s our choice to decide what is meaningful in life,” Schomer said.

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