Detective Comics No. 27, which hit newsstands in the spring of 1939 only to become one of pop culture's most vaunted, valuable and prized possessions, debuted the rough-draft Batman. Here for the first time was the hybrid hero who was equal parts Shadow, Green Hornet, Phantom Detective, Zorro and Scarlet Pimpernel; the not-so-superman who carried a gun and bled when shot; the good guy who shrugged when the bad guy fell to his death.
But there, too, in artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger's six-page yarn "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate," were the hallmarks of the Caped Crusader to come: his secret identity as wealthy playboy Bruce Wayne, his friendship with Commissioner Jim Gordon, and the cape and cowl and costume that rendered him "the most flamboyant masked avenger of them all," in the words of Batman and DC Comics historian Les Daniels.
It's little wonder that Detective Comics No. 27 currently sits at No. 2 on the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide's Top 100 Golden Age Comics List, behind only Superman's bow in Action Comics No. 1. So coveted are copies of Detective Comics No. 27, especially those in high-grade condition, that they seldom come to auction, as their owners are deeply resistant to parting with such a monumental piece of comic-book history.
But one truly extraordinary copy of the Dark Knight's debut will be available during Heritage Auctions
' Nov. 19-22 Comics & Comic Art event: The Dallas-based auction is proud to offer an unrestored copy of Detective Comics No. 27 graded CGC FN/VF 7.0 the first time in a decade so remarkable an offering has been available to the public.
Bidding is now open on a comic book whose value is estimated at $1 million and beyond.
"Countless clients have asked us over the years if we can find them a Detective Comics No. 27 and to make our job much harder, some specify it has to be one of the best existing copies," says Barry Sandoval, Heritage Auctions Vice President Barry Sandoval. "But the people who owned such a copy have considered it irreplaceable and brushed off any offers to part with it. Now we have such an opportunity, the best copy to come on the market in a decade, and it's being auctioned with no reserve at that."
The copy in Heritage's upcoming auction is unrestored, and there are but two such 7.0-graded copies of Detective Comics No. 27 in Certified Guaranty Company's census. And, there are only five known unrestored copies to grade higher in the grading service's census, which makes this issue heading to auction a Holy Grail offering.
"While any copy of this key comic is something special, we think this one stands up extremely well against any we've seen offered to the public," says the online catalog description. "The yellows on the cover are clean and unsmudged, and few surviving copies can make that claim. And notice that the back cover is also appealingly clean. The book is also well-centered, with none of the back-cover ad wrapping around to the front. Also note that this book has no codes or markings of any sort, which can be said of very few 1939 comics."
Its inclusion in the Nov. 19-22 Comics & Comic Art sale, alongside Randy Lawrence's award-winning and headline-making "Alfred Pennyworth Collection," makes this event one of the most significant Batman auctions in decades.
"If you fail to give this copy of Detective Comics No. 27 your very best shot," Sandoval says, "do not complain to me later."