Undervalued Spotlight #101

Detective Comics #395, DC Comics, January 1970

I meant to post this book right after Undervalued Spotlight #98. The two books go hand in hand as far as I’m concerned since both represent major steps in the development of superhero comics. Alas, Halloween came along as did my 100th Spotlight post, both meriting special attention. Perhaps it’s best this way, breaking it up a bit.

Creative teams, namely writer and artist, are the real driving force in today’s comic book industry. The lead up to DC’s new 52 was all about discussing with excitement which creative teams had which books. Much of the speculation around how long a title would last centered more on who was drawing and writing than who the main character of the book was.

Unfortunately just putting a talented artist with a talented writer does not always result in great work. There has to be a proper ‘fit’ where the two complement each other to the point where what they produce together is greater than the sum of the parts they separately contribute.

One of the very earliest examples of this type of team was the Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams creative team.

After editor Julius Schwatz was convinced Adams’ darker version of Batman was working, see Spotlight 98,  Schwatz assigned writer Denny O’Neil to work with Adams on more Batman stories.

Adams liked O’Neil’s background as a Crime Beat newspaper reporter, perfect for the realistic Batman stories Adams envisioned.

Denny O’Neial himself was quoted in an interview as saying that at the time there was  “…a conscious desire to break out of the Batman TV show; to throw in everything and announce to the world, “Hey, We’re not doing camp.” We wanted to reestablish Batman not only as the best detective in the world and the best athlete, but also as a dark, frightening creature–if not supernatural, then close to it, by virtue of his prowess.”

I read a transcript from a Comic Con panel in a recent Back Issue Magazine where then DC big wig Paul Levitz admitted that indeed the O’Neil/Adams pairing was something special “… we clearly had a moment going on there, where something transformative was happening. It really wasn’t just about Batman.”

The Batman story in Detective Comics #395 does not involve Robin. I think this is significant since both creators mentioned their desire to take Batman back to 1939, a time where Batman was dark, scary and dangerous. I scanned back through quite a few Detective Comics pre #395 and I found only 1 main story without Robin (I didn’t spend too much time on this so I’m sure there are at least a couple more?).

Looking in the Overstreet Price Guide I see issue #395 grouped in price with the 6 other issues that Adams penciled. This grouping of 7 books should be separated in value as follows, #395 – 1st O’Neil/Adams team, #397, 404, 410 – O’Neil/ Adams, #402, 407, 408 – Adams Art.

Of course the O’Neil /Adams team is best known for their Green Lantern run #76 to #89. Green Lantern #76 is considered one of the more important comics of the Bronze Age, many say it ushered in the Bronze Age! The run on Green Lantern was groundbreaking, it was socially conscious and the books are commanding big money on the market (GL #76 is listed at $2500 in the 9.2 grade) and I am in no way trying to take away from Green Lantern #76, I’m just trying to add to the deserving Detective Comics #395.

The 15 page Batman story in Detective Comics #395 boasts Denny O’Neil on scripts, Neal Adams on pencils, Dick Giordano on inks and Julius Schwarz editing . You also get a bonus 8 page Robin story with Frank Robbins scripts, Gil Kane pencils and Murphy Anderson inks.

Detective Comics #395 is an important comic book, one that signaled a change for the better.

The 41st edition of the Overstreet Price Guide shows $65/$113/$160 as the splits at the 8.0/9.0/9.2 grades.

Strengths that make this comic book a good long-term investment are:

  • 1st Neal Adams/Denny O’Neil collaboration on Batman
  • No Robin in the Batman story
  • Embedded in Detective Comics, one of the most collected titles in comics
Walter Durajlija
Walter Durajlija

Walter Durajlija is an Overstreet Advisor and Shuster Award winner. He owns Big B Comics in Hamilton Ontario.

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Stephen B. Keisman
Stephen B. Keisman
12 years ago

Hi Walt,no offence but i’ll stick with pre’65 comics
generally speaking. too many bargains out there and
supply drying up due to Global Market!

Stephen B. Keisman
Stephen B. Keisman
12 years ago

Hi Walt,I’ll keep to my guns and stick with pre’65 comics! Bestest,Stephan

Ed Campbell
Ed Campbell
12 years ago

X-FORCE #2!!!!!

Last night I was telling someone the importance of X-Force #2. They had no idea that it is an important book.

Anthony O'Neill
Anthony O'Neill
11 years ago

I like this particular time period for Batman, although I started reading Batman around 1975. It seemed like most of the stories in the ’60’s (Superman included) were just basically “imaginary stories”. Thank God there was no more giant hands, Bat-Mite and aliens with three eyes.

8 years ago

I could not agree more, Walt. Following your own logic about the importance of Detective #27 v. Action #1, this book should rival or surpass GL #76.

One more (huge, widely unrecognized) nugget in its favor — the villain is a Ras al Ghul prototype, an immortal kept alive by an exotic flower.

Read your keys, gang!