Two unrelated auction sales – one in Dallas, Texas, and the other in Rome, Italy – signaled an unintended connection. Receipts also looked to be absurd.

I’m talking about the 1984 black and white drawings of Spider-Man that fetched a whopping $3.4 million. At the same time, a 1597 mural painting by Caravaggio didn’t get any bids at all. Not a one.

Why did a colorless inside page from a Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars comic book by Mike Zeck set an auction record as the priciest cartoon ever at Auctions in Dallas?

And why did a painting by a 16th-century superstar emblazoned with vivid color describing the Roman gods Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto garner zero interest?

It’s anyone’s guess. These sales may simply be outliers with no particular significance. Or the oddness of this news has meaning. I vote for the latter possibility.

Virtual reality

It comes down to a Covid-weary world needing the fantasy of superheroes. While the Roman gods had superpowers, they looked like us and looked human – far from fantastical.

The Roman gods even had families like us with siblings, parents, and spouses. Many members of these families were famous in their own right. Jupiter’s children included Mars and Hercules. Pluto’s brother was Zeus. Among Neptune’s brothers were Jupiter and Pluto.

By contrast, everything about Spider-Man is out of this pandemic-plagued world as the Superhero comments about his spiffy new black costume created by goo that spreads over his body: “Not bad!

Different, but not bad!”

The costume switch was so far-out that even Spider-Man could hardly believe it giddily, saying, “That glob just spread out and became a costume and dissolved away the tatters of my old one in the process!”

Of course, one might say that the extraordinary sale price for the Spider-Man drawings and the failed sale of Caravaggio’s mural were anomalies and say further that they had nothing to do with one another.

But wait, other examples suggest a pattern. I’m thinking of the new movie, “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” making a killing at the box office, while Stephen Spielberg’s new movie “West Side Story” was tagged a box office bomb.

A world too much with us

Again, I submit that for moviegoers weary of real life as we know it at the moment, there’s too much here and now in West Side Story’s gang war between whites and non-whites.

Spider-Man remains the great escape.

And talk about gritty, despite the Roman god theme in Caravaggio’s mural, the artist’s face is painted on all of them. He clearly used himself as a model.

Caravaggio also had a way of creating an in-your-face kind of immediacy from which there is no escape. As in all his works, you get jarring lighting and upending arrangements of figures.

As historian Edward Lucie-Smith pointed out in his 1992 book “Art Anecdotes,” Caravaggio wouldn’t make a single brushstroke without close study from life.

The success of the fantastical Spider-Man comic book and movie and the failures of the representational film "West Side Story" and the Caravaggio mural appear to have everything to do with our current state of mind.