BY MATT TUCK
The Batman has collectors looking for those Dark Knight keys, and here are five from the Bronze Age that will whet your appetite.
When it comes to those DC Comics key issues, the hardest part can be finding something even remotely affordable. Most of their major characters debuted in the Golden Age, and Batman is among the oldest, having made his first appearance in Detective Comics #27 in 1940.
It creates a difficult market to navigate because Batman’s firsts generally happened in the 1940s and into the ‘50s. The other tricky part is finding keys that are more about the Caped Crusader rather than his long list of supporting characters. Luckily for collectors, there are plenty of key issues to be found in other eras. This week, we will take a closer look at the Bronze Age, with five comics that fit the bill.
An interesting note about the Bronze Age Batman: Matt Reeves’ highly-anticipated The Batman takes place on Earth-Two. Guess when the Earth-Two Batman arrived and died? The Bronze Age. Depending on how much that affects Reeves’ franchise remains to be seen, but it adds a couple of issues that are worth a closer look.
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #82
This could become a coveted issue if the concept of Earth-Two becomes a theme in the DCEU. With The Flash utilizing the Multiverse and running into a variety of Batmen, it stands to reason that he would come into contact with Earth-Two. That would bridge the gap between The Batman and the rest of the DCEU. With a Penguin series on the way to HBO Max, we can assume Reeves and WarnerMedia have other plans for his vision of Gotham City. That will certainly have fans wondering if Pattinson’s Batman is somewhere in the DC Multiverse, and it is a question that will need to be answered at some point.
With the growing attention on Earth-Two, it stands to reason that collectors would turn their gazes toward the first appearance of the Earth-Two Batman in Justice League of America #82. In this comic, the idea of Earth-Two is used to explain why Batman changed from one era to the next. Here, the Silver Age characters are written as part of the Earth-Two universe, while the current Batman belongs on Earth-One. Obviously, Reeves’ version of Batman for the upcoming movie is not based on the goofy Silver Age exploits. Still, having the film set on Earth-Two will make this issue more collectible.
For less than $200, you can have any grade that suits you. The highest grade ever sold was a 9.6 that brought $176 in 2020. This past April, a 9.2 sold for $90.
ADVENTURE COMICS #462
If you want to collect those Batman of Earth-Two key issues, make sure you grab this one. Could this issue be a predictor for the future of The Batman franchise? It’s hard to say, but the fact remains that the comics’ Earth-Two Batman died in this issue. While nothing is certain about where things are going for The Batman, this could be the first clue that the end of the saga will see Bruce Wayne in a coffin.
While slightly more expensive than JLA #82, AC #462 is still a relatively cheap comic to own. In August, a 9.6 sold for $228. The last time a 9.8 traded hands online, it went for $351 in 2013.
Steering away from Earth-Two, we have Batman #313 on today’s list. Why this issue? The main selling point for this issue used to be the Batman/Catwoman relationship. While the two were romantically linked before, Batman #313 sealed the proverbial deal. This issue saw the pair have the first official date and kiss, and there has been no looking back since then.
These days, collectors want this issue for the next Batman. The other part to this equation is Tim “Jace” Fox. He is the son of Batman staple Lucius Fox, who was played by Morgan Freeman in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. In the DC Future State, Jace took up the cape and cowl in a futuristic, police-state Gotham City. He has since transitioned into the main DCU timeline in the I Am Batman series. That has sent more collectors on a scavenger hunt for Batman #313.
Before Jace became the future Batman, this was very much a hidden gem, but that is a thing of the past. A year ago, a 9.8 was a $75 comic on average. Over the past 12 months, the FMV has risen to $1,912, and the 90-day average stands at $2,081. Just last week, one sold for $2,163. If you want something a bit cheaper, consider the 7.0, which sold for $199 earlier this month.
The villain keys tend to get all the fanfare over the Caped Crusader himself. Although this is not a villain first, per se, it is a location that will forever be tied to the rogue’s gallery and Batman himself: Arkham Asylum. In this case, it was first known as Arkham Hospital, and that is similar to the title used in Todd Phillip’s Joker, when the titular protagonist visited Arkham State Hospital. As we have seen in The Batman trailer, that is also the name being used for Arkham in the upcoming movie, and that raises plenty of questions of its own.
As it is, Arkham has become synonymous with Batman over the years. Thanks to the Batman: Arkham series of video games, that linear relationship between the two has become even more apparent. That is why this issue will stay highly collectible going forward. Of course, this issue would be more valuable if it was the first appearance of a character, but the FMVs are solid for a major location in the Batman mythos.
The highest grade sold so far this month has been the 9.0, which brought a record $266 on October 14. In July, a 9.6 earned $464, and that is not a bad price for such a high grade. If you are willing to downgrade to an 8.0, your investment is less than $100 based on recent sales.
DETECTIVE COMICS #457
This is not necessarily a key issue, but it should be in your collection if you are a modern Batman fan. While we all know the tragic story of Bruce Wayne. He was leaving the movie theater after watching The Mask of Zorro with Thomas and Martha Wayne when they were gunned down by Joe Chill. This has been rehashed so many times between comics, movies, and cartoons that even the most casual Batman fan can regurgitate the story.
All that being said, what makes DC #457 special? Yes, it is a retelling of the Waynes’ murders. However, this was the first time the story was rewritten in a modern context. Dennis O’Neil’s version of the shooting lends more to the emotionality of the event and how it shaped Bruce into a masked vigilante. It would become the basis for every interpretation of Batman’s story since, and we are likely to see it condensed for The Batman as well.
This issue has been gaining popularity among collectors. On October 17, a 9.4 earned a record-high $351, which surpassed 2015’s high of $250. So far in 2021, even the mid-grades are earning triple figures. In June, a 5.0 sold for $162.
NEXT UP: THE COPPER AGE
With a character as old and iconic as Batman, there are so many key issues left to discuss. Next on the list, we will delve into the Caped Crusader’s time in the age of excess, the 1980s.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is a professional writer, avid comic collector, former teacher, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.