Undervalued Spotlight #463

Batman #97, DC Comics, February 1956.

We were talking up the new Joker movie at the shop a few days ago, there seems to be good hype around the upcoming release so I challenged myself to dig out a Joker comic that has been overlooked. I came up with a few good candidates, one of which I’m presenting as this week’s Undervalued Spotlight, Batman #97.

Batman #97, dated February 1956, is the first Silver Age appearance of the Joker. I poked around the internet and found a few sites that agree including dcuguide.com.

I could write pages on the massive marketplace that exists for first DC Silver Age appearances but time and space only allow me to note that while some are clear, long cherished and celebrated (Flash in Showcase #4, Green Lantern in Showcase #22) others seem newly embraced (Wonder Woman in Wonder Woman #98), while still others seem to be slowly gaining favour (Batman in Detective Comics #327).

In the Batman vintage comic market, which I should point out is probably the most stable and lucrative relative to all other superheroes, the villains hold special sway when it comes to first Silver Age appearances. We all covet Batman #155 (Penguin) and #171 (Riddler) and #189 (Scarecrow), but what about the Joker?

The Joker is the greatest comic book villain ever with maybe only a dozen or so superheroes able to match his weight in the media. What is the Joker’s first Silver Age appearance? Well, it looks to be Batman #97.

Joker last appeared 16 months prior in Batman #87 (10/54) and he next appears in another 16 months later in World’s Finest #88 (6/57) so it’s not like there is a line in the sand of sequential appearances where we have to pick, there seems to be a clear and time isolated appearance we can hang our hat on.

The next question to ask is where this by default first Silver Age appearance should be celebrated and singled out. As I mentioned above, first DC Silver Age appearances are a massive collecting strain. Does Batman #97 deliver a definitive first Silver Age appearance that this collecting strain can rally around? As of this post, it appears no. A recent CGC 5.5 sold for $215 and a recent CGC 1.8 sold for $69. Even factoring in high Gerber levels of scarcity the book still seems dormant, recent CGC 7.5 sold for $840, a CGC 7.5 gives you a top 12 graded book, there are no higher grades than one lonely CGC 8.5.

Batman #97 does come to market and it doesn’t do that well, I think it’s a good idea to pick up a copy and hold it knowing you own the first Silver Age appearance of the Joker.

The 48th Overstreet price breaks for this book are $282/$597/$1024/$1450 in the 6.0/8.0/9.0/9.2 grade splits.

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

  • First Silver Age appearance of the Joker
  • Second appearance of Bat-Hound
  • Scarce in higher grades
Default image
Walter Durajlija
Walter Durajlija is an Overstreet Advisor and Shuster Award winner. He owns Big B Comics in Hamilton Ontario.
Articles: 1589

6 Comments

  1. While I share your enthusiasm about this issue ( and will keep an eye out for one myself ) it should be noted that unlike the other three examples…our glib master of menace appears nowhere on the cover! As your 365 day event shows us is the cover means a lot. On this one we get the bat-hound which should have been buried with the canines bone!

  2. Gosh Walt…Pooch and Rex are twice the hounds that ol Bat-hound is…Just saying…get your undervalued hounds right

  3. I also share your enthusiasm but not because of your main argument. A few minutes googling “first Silver Age Joker” indicates that this concept has been explored many times before, and I think the community consensus is that “first Silver Age xxx” only matters if a character was re-introduced after a significant hiatus. If the character appeared consistently through the Golden/Silver Age transition, as the was the case with The Joker, the first Silver Age appearance is a non-event. As Gerald points out, no Joker on the cover pretty much kills this dead.

    Besides all of that, I am going with the Wikipedia Silver Age definition, which makes this a Golden Age book. The Age definition will be argued ad infinitum but that shores up the point above – if a character appeared in 1950 and next in 1965, it’s easy to say “first Silver Age appearance”, but if the character appeared multiple times in the mid-fifties, this will remain unresolved. (Detective #327 as “first Silver Age Batman” is a huge stretch and while I wish it weren’t so, your idea that this is “slowly gaining favour [sic]” seems wildly optimistic.)

    Unlike Gerald, my main argument for this book is Ace. Ace is cool. Beyond that, he’s a dog and a “super” pet. (Rex might be extraordinary, but he is not super.) These are all draws. Batman #92 continues to do very well because of Ace, and Batman #97 will follow it more than many second appearances because of the cover focus on Ace. The second and intertwined reason for this book is that it’s 1956 and has that big Code stamp. For whatever reason, all of those about one-year post code DC hero books are scarce, as noted. This means that both Ace lovers and lovers of this scarce period (I am one) will be competing for this book.

    To assess “undervalued”, the simplest comps are the neighboring issues #96 and #98. A quick analysis with very spotty data suggests that on a scarcity-adjusted basis, this issue is significantly more valuable than these neighbors.

    I thought about comparing the relative pricing of first and second Krypto to first and second Ace, but that just doesn’t make sense because Krypto is so well known and Adventure #210 is such a big book. First and second Streaky is probably wrong in the other direction. First and second Snapper Carr? I haven’t done any work, but my gut is that for certain disappearing characters of this type (say Ace or the original Batgirl), there is a bit of a premium that doesn’t distinguish between second and nth appearances. Similar to the discussion of The Joker, these days I think the key point for seeing this premium is if the character is on the cover.

    Unfortunately my copy is only a 6.0 but I agree that a top ten copy would be best. With Ace’s current popularity I think you are going to have to be pretty patient for one of these to come on the market, and you are going to have some competition. Similar to other scarce books, the final result might wipe out any “undervalued” argument.

    Verdict: Ace in the hole (cave).

  4. Arf! Once again…as with a bone, Chris buries us with impeccable logic…I think….

  5. I have a VG copy of this and Adv 214 since I can’t afford the 1st appearance of each character. Both are comparable in value. I like this book as a late golden age pre-100 Batman with 2nd app of Bat-Hound and a Joker appearance as a bonus. I wouldn’t call it the 1st silver age Joker though. The book was published before Showcase 4 which most consider the start of the Silver Age in the DCU. These mid 50’s DC books are pretty scarce in high grade though. So probably undervalued in an 8.0 or above only.

  6. Well, d-uh! Ace discovered their true identities. He is a dog, after all, and just about any dog with a nose would be able to discern that. Give your head a shake, Batman.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: