Introduction to Batman Comics
The creative minds behind Batman: Vin Sullivan, editor of the National Comics that later became DC Comics, assigned cartoonist Bob Kane to conceptualize a new superhero following the success of Superman. Bill Finger was later brought in to write the stories. Kane and Finger worked on the artwork and stories for Batman #1, but only Kane was credited for the work. DC has recently added the phrase 'with Bill Finger' to any Batman property. Valuation of Batman #1 is pertinent as a collector's piece because it is the first issue solely devoted to Batman. It is also the issue where the Joker's villainous character is introduced and established. Likewise, the Catwoman is introduced in Batman #1, although she is named the Cat at first.
Brief History of Batman Comic Books
Batman had begun giving up his grime noir style by the time he received his own title. The addition of a young side-kick, Robin, helped soften the edges but not right away. Batman #1 has Batman using a machine gun from his Bat-Plane exclaiming "Much as I hate to take human life, I'm afraid this time it's necessary". But the last member of the Deadly Duo to take a life is Robin in Batman #6. After Batman slings a criminal from the top of an oil derrick, Robin bends the gun arm back on a gangster who shoots himself in the head. "The Batman is certainly right - crime does not pay" reflects Robin.
Although not as campy, Batman becomes more like the figure we saw on the 1966 Batman show, a well-respected member of Gotham City, seen frequently during the day, attending parades and ribbon cuttings. Most of Batman's rogue gallery first appeared in his sister title Detective Comics. Deadshot, a one-shot entry until revived in 1978, is the only significant villain to first appear in Batman (Batman #59) since Joker and Catwoman in Batman #1.
Enter Sputnik. All the editors at DC began to add a science-fiction element to their stories. Editor Jack Schiff really took this to heart. All of his titles reflected this which was fine for titles such as House of Mystery or Tales of the Unexpected but Batman and Blackhawk saw sales go stagnant as the Silver Age saw sales rise for most titles. With three stories an issue, almost every issue made room for at least one story to contain an alien or inter-dimensional threat. Batman had drifted far from his original concept.
In 1964, DC tapped the Father of the Silver Age, editor Julius Schwartz, to rework the flagging character Batman. Schwartz had revamped Golden Age super-heroes Flash, Green Lantern, Atom, Hawkman and the Justice Society (now called Justice League) with great success. DC hoped he could do the same for Batman. Schwartz swapped his titles Mystery in Space and Strange Adventures for Schiff's Batman and Detective Comics. He updated Batman with a new car, a direct line to Commissioner Gordon's office and stopped fighting aliens every month. This New Look was exemplified by Schwartz using talent from his stable of writers and artist namely John Broome, Gardner Fox, Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella. Bob Kane's ghost artist Sheldon Moldoff upped his game and drew Batman in a more realistic style as well to compliment this move forward.
A couple years later, the Batman TV show had an impact on the strip by making it campy for a few years. We saw the revival of Riddler and Scarecrow as well as the debut of Poison Ivy during this time. By the dawning of the Bronze Age, Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams brought back the moody noir feel by having Batman work almost exclusively at night. Back were the full moons and long shadows. This held until the mid-80s when Frank Miller took Batman into an even deeper dive with The Dark Knight Returns. Batman has had some great storylines since but remains The Grim Avenger to this day.
How much is Batman #1 worth?
According to the 2019 Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, a copy of Batman #1 in Good condition may be valued at $55,300 and double that at $110,600 in Very Good condition. The value skyrockets to $830,000 in Near Mint Minus (9.2) condition. Batman #1 is ranked 4th on Overstreet's Top 100 Golden Age Comics.
What is the most expensive Batman #1 sold at auction?
Belying the scarcity of Batman #1, there hasn't been a CGC 9.2 copy sold since 2013 and it went for $567,625. More recently, in September of 2019, a CGC 8.0 copy sold for $498,000.
What Batman comics are expensive?
Forty different issues of Batman in high-grade have sold for 5-figures making Batman one of the most expensive titles to collect.
Like most titles, early issues tend to be the most expensive. It's not surprising that high-grade copies of Batman #2-10 have all sold above 5-figures so let's look at some outliers.
Batman #11 Value
The Joker appears in Batman #1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9 before finally being featured on the cover of Batman #11. A CGC 9.4 copy of Batman #11 sold for $65,725 in August of 2016.
Batman #23 Value
The ever-popular Joker is featured on this classic cover by Dick Sprang. A CGC 9.6 copy checked in at $43,020 in 2015. Other Joker covers sold for 5-figures as well.
Batman #47 Value
The first full origin story of Batman appears in Batman #47. By this time Bob Kane had handed over most art chores to his assistants but Kane did the cover and story. In 2016, the Crowley Copy in a CGC 8.5 holder sold for $10,251.
Batman #121 Value
The origin and 1st appearance of Mr. Zero (nee Mr. Freeze) gives the cold shoulder to his nearby issues by selling at auction a CGC 9.4 copy of Batman #121 for $80,000 in 2018.
Batman #171 Value
The Riddler makes his return in his first Silver Age appearance in Batman #171. A CGC 9.6 copy sold in February of 2020 for $41,000. This issue also contains the plot that was loosely used for the premiere episode the of 1966 Batman TV show.
Batman #1 Cover Art
The cover art for Batman #1 was penciled by Batman creator Bob Kane and inked by his first assistant, Jerry Robinson.
Characters from Batman #1
Batman #1 is ripe with enduring characters. The issue contains the first appearance of both the Joker and Catwoman (as The Cat). It also has a Hugo Strange story without Robin that was presumed to be originally intended for Detective Comics #38. Batman, Robin, and Commissioner Gordon are on hand as well.
Content Summary of Batman #1
Batman #1 is arguably the finest 1st issue ever made. It begins with a classic, simple, uncluttered classic cover. Inside, the issue begins with the two-page origin of Batman (new splash panel) taken from Detective Comics #33. The first story introduces Batman's greatest arch-nemesis, The Joker. Playing the Joker on the big screen has led to the only Oscar given to a comic book character adapted for film, not once but twice! The second story features Hugo Strange, Batman's first recurring villain. Batman is forced to fight the giant human monsters created by Strange. Two one-page text stories are next. The second text story is of particular interest, "Meet the Artist", a brief biography of Batman creator Bob Kane. With Batman as the mouse, Catwoman makes her debut as The Cat in the third story. It only took about 80 years for these two to get married. And while we've been reading, the Joker has escaped. A second confrontation fills out the final story. But we are not done. The back cover is a pin-up poster of Batman and Robin, completing the best 1st issue ever made!
How rare is Batman #1?
It is difficult to determine exactly how many copies of Batman #1 are still around today due to many of these comics being part of private collections. The CGC census indicates they have certified over 270. The real trouble is affordability. Batman is perhaps the most desirable character in the DC Universe. You can find Batman #1 occasionally in Heritage Auctions but can you afford it?
Original art to Batman comics
No art to the first issue of Batman has ever turned up. The earliest art known to survive is to "The Four Fates" from Batman #9. The splash to the story sold in 2014 for $50,787.50. Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson team-up for the art with George "Inky" Roussos filling in the blacks.
Batman has a rich history of artist. Best known are Jerry Robinson, Dick Sprang, Sheldon Moldoff, Carmine Infantino, Neal Adams, Jim Aparo, Frank Miller, Norm Breyfogle, J.H. Williams and too many others to list. Heritage Auctions has sold seven pieces by four different artists for over $100,000. Neal Adams take the top prize of $600,000 for the cover of Batman #251. Frank Miller has the next two, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #2 cover selling for a cool $478,000, inching out is Dark Knight splash page from issue #3. The team of Jerry Robinson and Fred Ray produced the cover of Batman #11, selling back in 2005 for $195,500. Last, but certainly not least, is Brian Bolland cracks the century mark three times. Leading the way is his splash page to the classic Alan Moore tale, Batman: The Killing Joke bringing in $120,000.
Why sell your vintage comics and original comic art with Heritage Auctions?
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Reputation can make or break your sale. Heritage Auctions has a 60% market share in comics and comic art - three times the volume of any other comic auctioneer, and our record-breaking comics and comic art auctions speak for themselves:
- 2019 was a record year with $79 million-plus sold, topping $58 million in Comics and Comic Art sold in 2018; triple all other comic auctioneers combined!
- World's Most Valuable Auction of Comic Books, Comic Art and Related Memorabilia: $15.121 million (May, 2019)
- World record for comic artist Robert Crumb - Fritz the Cat Cover, $717,000.
- The world record for comic artist Frank Frazetta - Egyptian Queen, $5.4M
- World record for comic artist Neal Adams - Batman #251 Cover, $600,000
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