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Detective Comics

Comic Books

Publisher: DC

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Introduction to Detective Comics

Detective Comics was first published in 1937 as an anthology full of various hardboiled detectives. As rare and valuable as is that premiere issue, the crown jewel of the series is Detective Comics #27 from May 1939. It is generally considered the second most valuable comic book of all time, second only to Action Comics #1. The issue marked the first appearance of Batman, who, along with Superman is the most enduring and popular superhero in comic annals. Created by artist Bob Kane with writer Bill Finger, Batman, like Superman before him, proved so popular that his own self-titled was spun off within a year, the two titles running concurrently until today!

Brief History of Detective Comics

Detective Comics was the last title created by National founder Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, debuting with the March 1937 issue. This was the first comic to contain single-themed material and later its initials (DC) were used to identify the company. Editor Vin Sullivan drew the cover to Detective Comics #1, Ching Lung (a Fu Manchu-style "Yellow Peril" villain). Slam Bradley debuted and became the longest-lasting original feature running until Detective Comics #152. Other early features include Speed Saunders, created by E.C. Stoner, one of the earliest black comic creators; Cosmo, Phantom of Disguise; Bart Regan, Spy created by Siegel & Shuster. Detective Comics #17 saw the start of Fu Manchu and Shadow knockoff hero the Crimson Avenger debuts in Detective Comics #20.

This first Batman story in Detective Comics #27 sets up all of the key aspects of the character. Within "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate", Batman clears the name of a young man who is unjustly accused of killing his father, and then he stops the corrupt businessman responsible for the murders. This story is a classic that establishes Batman as a vigilante who seeks justice for the downtrodden and stops corruption when the police are unable to do anything. At the end of the story, Batman is revealed to be Bruce Wayne, who seemed to be an idle and lazy millionaire playboy. Detective Comics #27 is also where Commissioner Gordon first appears, a key character in the Batman comics, as part of the Gotham City Police Department, who in the early days of the series regularly tries to capture Batman for operating outside of the city's laws. Both Wayne Manor and Gotham City are shown for the first time within this story. Other key issues in the series include #38 (first appearance of Robin, the Boy Wonder), #40 (first appearance of Clayface), #58 (first Penguin), #66 (first Two-Face), #140 (first Riddler), #225 (first Martian Manhunter), #233 (first Batwoman), #359 (first Batgirl), #400 (first Man-Bat) and #411(Talia, daughter of the Demon)

Some popular features to appear in this anthology include Slam Bradley, created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster beginning in Detective Comics #1 through Detective Comics #152. He has also reemerged in recent decades as a guest star in many stories. The third longest-running series would be TV detective Roy Raymond from Detective Comics #151 to 292. Alien detective J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter began plying his craft from Detective Comics #225 until #326 before moving to the pages of House of Mystery. Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man took his place as the backup feature as part of the new look in Detective Comics #327 and solved crimes until #383. Batgirl may have the most back up stories from this point forward but she shared that spot with Robin, Hawkman, Elongated Man, Man-Bat, Slam Bradley, and others.

Batman has been the most adaptable character DC has ever had. This dark and mysterious character was a vigilante in the beginning but lightened up when young Robin joined the team. He also became a respected member of the community. When Sputnik was launched, aliens seemed to always find their way to Gotham City. After a brief attempt with the New Look to modernize Batman, he went camp with the TV show. Another decade and one half as the well-respected community member and The Dark Knight Returns re-directed Batman once again to his almost vigilante style. Taking him through all these changes is quite a team of creators. Writers such as Bill Finger, David V. Reed, Gardner Fox, John Broome, Denny O'Neil, Max Collins, and Grant Morrison. Some artists you may know also took their turn starting with Bob Kane, his un-heralded ghosts Jerry Robinson, Jack Burnley, Dick Sprang, and Sheldon Moldoff. Once off the contact to suppress those who drew Batman we have Carmine Infantino, Neal Adams, Irv Novick, Marshall Rogers, Don Newton, Jim Aparo, Norm Breyfogle, and J.H. Williams.

Characters from Detective Comics #27

Young Bruce Wayne and Commissioner Gordon appear when we open up the comic before we turn the story over to Batman. Detective Comics #1 original tenants Speed Saunders, Buck Marshall Range Detective, Bruce Nelson, Cosmo Phantom of Disguise, and Sam Bradley were still on hand. Also appearing were Fu Manchu and Crimson Avenger.

Plot Summary of Detective Comics #27

Bruce Wayne is visiting his pal Commissioner Gordon when Gordon gets a call. Industrialist Lambert is murdered at his home and the police are holding his son. Bruce rides over with Gordon and finds young Lambert pleading his case, saying he found his father stabbed with the safe open. The only people young Lampert can think of are his dad's partners, Steven Crane, Paul Rogers, and Alfred Stryker. Gordon takes a call from Crane, who lets the Commissioner know he too was threatened. Gordon tells him to sit tight, the police will be right over. But before he can get there, Crane is shot and robbed. Escaping to the roof, the criminals encounter Bat-Man and lose a brief battle. Bat-Man recovers the stolen papers and departs the scene once the police show up. Meanwhile, Rogers has gone to Stryker's place to confer on what must be done when he is attacked by Jennings, Stryker's butler. Placing Rogers in a gas chamber, Bat-Man arrives just in time to enter the trap with Rogers. Escaping death with Bat-Man's help, Rogers reports to Stryker his butler attempted to kill and Stryker, upset Jennings didn't do the job, attempts to kill Rogers himself. Bat-Man subdues Stryker and explains to the pair he's figured it all out. Stryker sought to be the sole owner of their enterprise but didn't have the money to buy out his partners so he thought he'd kill them. Enraged once again, Stryker makes one more fatal attempt at Bat-Man. Rogers is left to explain what happened to Commissioner Gordon as we learn in the last panel, surprise, surprise, Bat-Man is Bruce Wayne.

How much is Detective Comics #27 worth?

According to the 2019 Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide a 9.2 copy is valued at $2,800,000. Detective Comics #27 is ranked 2nd on Overstreet' s Top 100 Golden Age Comics. But don't be dismayed, perhaps you can pick up a copy in 2.0 for the Overstreet value of $193,000.

What is the most expensive Detective Comics #27 sold at auction?

Way back in 2010, a copy of Detective Comics #27 in CGC 8.0 sold for $1,075,500 at Heritage Auctions. The value of the issue has risen incessantly over the years and virtually month to month. In 2015 a coverless copy went for over $35,000, a VG 4.0 brought for $475,000, and a FN+ 6.5 realized for an astounding $725,000!! There's only one known nicer CGC-certified copy at NM- 9.2, and estimating the value of that one requires some New Math.

What Detective Comics issues are expensive?

During the long history of Detective Comics, it would be impossible to list all the expensive Detective Comics but here are a few.

Detective Comics #31 Value

A copy of Detective Comics #31 in CGC 6.0 sold for $175,000 in 2017. Just imagine what a high-grade copy of this classic cover could get.

Detective Comics #33 Value

The Allentown pedigree copy of Detective Comics #33 in CGC 8.0 comes in at a cool $167,300 in 2017. Featuring the 1st brief 2-page origin of Batman.

Detective Comics #38 Value

Selling back in 2005, the origin and 1st appearance of Robin helped propel the Allentown pedigree copy of Detective Comics #38 to a sale price of $126,500 in CGC 9.4.

Detective Comics #35 Value

The hypodermic needle cover and Batman handling a smoking gun in Detective Comics #35 saw a CGC 7.5 copy sold for $119,500 in 2019.

Detective Comics #29 Value

Batman's 2nd cover falls just short of six-figures with a $95,600 sale for a CGC 5.0 copy in 2018.

Detective Comics #27 Cover Art

The cover art for Detective Comics #1 is done by his creator Bob Kane. This art has never surfaced. 

Other valuable Detective Comics art

Detective Comics #67 was snatched up for $239,000 in 2011. It was done by Bob Kane's first assistant, Jerry Robinson. Let's jump to the Bronze Age for Neal Adam's 1971 Detective Comics #407 at $54,970 for our next highest sale at Heritage Auctions. Marshall Rogers' Detective Comics #473 cover during his popular run comes in at $50,190. Bob Kane with inker Charles Paris takes the top price for an interior page with Detective Comics #122, page 4 selling in 2019 for $38,400.

How rare is Detective Comics #27?

Fewer than 100 copies have been certified by CGC, unrestored, or otherwise. This book would be difficult to put into any collection in any grade. And that's before discussing the cost.

Best known quote from Detective Comics

"Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot..." From the origin story in Detective Comic #33.

Why sell your vintage comics and original comic art with Heritage Auctions?

Our marketing reach and a huge base of members mean more bidders and higher realized prices for your collectible comics.

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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