Batman and Superman are titans of DC Comics; this month they will duke it out for top comic supremacy. The first Superman was in Action Comics #1 and will go head to head at auction (ComicConnect) against Batman’s Detective Comics #27. Can the brutal Batman win the day? Will Superman’s legendary status lift Action Comics #1 into the stratosphere? Superman is the first superhero and appeared one year prior to Batman. Regardless, both are the progenitors of the modern superhero genre, and this auction will cost a small fortune.
ComicConnect is hosting the auction; it ends in three weeks. Which comic ultimately wins in a heads up match? The fan favorite is probably going to be Action Comics #1. The underdogs are rooting for Detective Comics #27 to surpass AC#1. The current bidding has both books neck and neck, at around $600,000 currently in the auction! No, I did not add a zero.
The proverbial bible on comic book pricing for collectors is the Overstreet Guide (2017). This has Action Comics #1 with a grade of VG/F (5.0) and a book value of $510,000. The Detective Comics #27 in grade FN (6.0) has a book value of $450,000 per the Overstreet Guide. If we go by the book, Detective Comics #27 is already overvalued and will likely lose. I wonder if DC#27 will be able to bat-grapple its way past Action Comics #1?
The Age of the Superhero
The first superhero appeared in Action Comics #1, Superman. This comic was written by Jerry Siegel with art by Joe Shuster and was in stores June 10, 1938. This is the first comic book creation of the modern superhero. It tells the origin of the Man of Steel. This comic is the first appearance of Superman, Lois Lane, Martha Kent, and Jonathan Kent. Superman goes on to become “the archetype of all other heroes to come” (ComicConnect). Thus begins the age of the superhero.
Superman is still popular today more than 60 years after his creation. Let’s see if Venom is still around in six decades, hmmm? There exists no more patriotic American icon than Superman, the first superhero. This shining heroic knight has an almost Arthurian majesty. He is a beacon of light for the world, like America. He is a noble ideal for everyone. Superman is an “ideal that mankind could aspire to” (Movie: Man of Steel). Any superhero ever created is compared and critiqued against Superman. He believes in truth, justice, and the American way.
Batman is a character of darkness to Superman’s light. His background is grim and filled with the need for vengeance. His first appearance in Detective Comics #27 is the creation of Bob Kane and Bill Finger in May 1939. Today Batman is more of a super-vigilante than a superhero. He represents America’s dark shadow of vengeance and iron-willed pragmatism; the opposite of Superman’s shining knightly virtue.
Batman’s style is more akin to the Shadow, Zorro, or even the Punisher. The funny thing is Zorro was one of the concept characters that gave birth to our enigmatic Batman. The Bat is an amalgam of film noir cool, James Bond gadgetry, Holmes deductive reasoning, operatic terror, and the blazing action Sam Peckinpah’s Wild Bunch. This dramatic dark character and style would eventually give rise to the anti-hero movement in comics in the 1970’s.
Batman has so many fans that he is money in the bank for most speculators, comics, toys, and action figures often purchased at a feverish pace. I know of one fan whose Batman collection spanned several warehouses. This character has become a modern myth and piece of our cultural heritage. Detective Comics #27 “is one of the most desirable and valuable comic books to own an important part of American pop culture history.”(ComicConnect)
Hands down Batman is the favored story in this matchup. After all, from a humanistic perspective, he is vulnerable. This vulnerability makes Batman more compelling of a protagonist than Superman. Superman has little to empathize with; he is the star quarterback, the award-winning songwriter, the glamorous star, he is the Avatar of our best nature, where good reigns supreme. This ultimate superhero is still fresh, even with red tights. But honestly, Batman’s story is one of loss, weakness to strength, victimhood to vengeance, and cathartic loss transforming to a heroic obsession with Gotham City. Which story would you rather read?
As an investment Action Comics #1 is the king. In this clash of icons, Superman has the edge from a collecting standpoint; who doesn’t want to own a copy of the first superhero comic? My money is on Superman’s Action Comics #1, but my Bat-heart goes down swinging with Detective Comics #27.