Has it really been seven years since a standalone Batman movie? That feels like forever. Sure we’ve had ‘Batfleck’ appear in several underwhelming DCEU Zack Snyder summer films, but given the stature of this character, I can’t help but think that, if it hits the right tone, Matt Reeves’ upcoming ‘The Batman’ film (set for a 2021 release date) will reinvigorate desire for Batman comics.
Let’s put this in perspective. Batman is one of the oldest and, to my mind – without a doubt – the most popular superhero out there. Few come close to his level of popularity, despite the love and enormous fandom shown to other seminal characters, including Superman and the many popular Marvel heroes (Spider-man, Hulk, Captain America, etc.). One for one: none comes close to the fandom for the Dark Knight Detective.
Batman has always been the most popular superhero because he is easy for everyone to identify with. Batman’s appeal is his lack. He has no powers he is a lone adventurer using nothing except his mind and well-honed body as his basic weapons. What’s that, I hear some cynic murmuring: ‘Yeah, those and a few millions of dollars’ worth of gadgets’. Yes, he has tools and money, but focusing on that misses the soul of the character.
Batman, in essence, is the spirit of self-reliance come to life. He is a hero because he stands up for the weak and does what is right because no one else will. At his gritty best, what is appealing about Batman is his ability to inspire. As Jenette Khan, one-time editor of DC Comics, once put it:
“Batman is an ordinary mortal who made himself a superhero…Through discipline and determination and commitment, he made himself into the best. I always thought that meant that I could be anything I wanted to be.” (see here).
So if the past of superhero pop culture in any way resembles the present and future: Batman will be a part of it. In the remainder of this post, I’m going to look at the performance of various hot and actively traded Batman books for various eras. The order will be modern to Golden Age:
Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo created a real stir for this book, mainly it was for the big reveal of Batman’s private parts. What most people who read this also realized however, is that this is a great story. The question long-term collectors have to ask themselves about this book is: will it retain value? Well, this is Batman. Batman done well tends to be sought out and this is well done. Looking at sales values over the last few months shows that the hype of the novelty feature (let’s call it ‘the Batwang effect’) has flooded the market with copies. Seriously: 2, 506 units on the CGC census for a book that came out less than a year ago? Not surprisingly, the returns are mixed at best: of the 221 sales of 9.8 copies, overall returns are down negative -21% over the last eight and a half months. This is uplifted by the positive returns on 9.6 and 9.4 grades but those, again, have to be balanced with negative numbers at the 9.9 and 10 grade sales (Yes, this is a modern book). I’m not even going to look at the variant covers. Only time will tell regarding its future value but the weaknesses are more related to it being a modern rather than a Batman comic.
Let’s jump to the Bronze Age. Besides the enormous popularity of Batman, we must also take a given character’s rogues’ gallery into account to accurately gauge their popularity. In the case of Bats, he is in no danger, since it’s safe to say that he has one of, if not the best, rogues’ gallery in all of Comicdom. The hottest Batman Bronze Age comic features his biggest villain on the cover and currently has a FMV of $5, 750.00 in 9.8 grade. There are a total of 1, 957 of these on the CGC census and long term performance shows excellent returns but with mixed numbers over the last three months. Best grades in the short term have been 9.0 after 2 sales, with a positive +20.3% [last sale: eBay on 05/13/2019 for $1, 095.00] and 8.0 with a positive 18.4% roi after 5 sales [last sale: eBay 04/27/2019 for $546.00]. Did I mention a Joker movie is coming out soon?
Since Batman has such a long history, most of his major and even minor character first appearances came out in the Golden Age. When we deal with major characters in the Bat-mythos, there are however, a few that premiered closer to the modern age. Poison Ivy is one. If we exclude Harley Quinn one of the most popular modern characters in the Bat-universe, then one of the hottest Bat-books is issue #181 for its first appearance of Poison Ivy. This is the most actively sold Silver Age Batman book and it currently has 1, 572 copies on the CGC census. Long term returns on this are all positive. Although hard to find in high grade, in a respectable 8.0 condition it is currently worth $1,800.00. Three month returns are mostly negative, but the bright spots look as follows: positive +12.9% in 7.5 grade after 4 sales [last sale eBay on 04/14/2019 for $1, 285.65] and up just barely by a positive +0.4% in 4.0 grade after 7 sales [last sale: eBay on 05/20/2019 for $349.99].
It’s either the Joker movie buzz or the iconic collectability of classic Joker covers but the most actively sold Golden Age Batman comic right now is Batman #40. With 216 copies on the CGC census, Batman #40 has strong positive returns long term (a Bat-pattern) and, like the newer books listed above, mixed short term (last three months) numbers: the most sold over the last 12 weeks have been 6.0 grades and they return a slightly negative -9.5% value after 2 sales [last sale: 05/09/2019 on eBay for $887.00] and positive +22.8% on 5.5 grades after 3 sales [last sale: 05/06/2019 on eBay with a price tag of $650.00].