The origins of Batman really go back to the origins of Superman, who debuted in the June 1938 issue of National’s “Action Comics”—the cover depicted the man from Krypton lifting a car over his head. Demand for Superman was so great that the call went out to National’s artists and writers to come up with more superheroes. From this crucible of commerce, Bob Kane and Bill Finger created Batman.
The first appearance of The Bat-Man, as he was known, was in issue 27 of “Detective Comics” in May of 1939. In that story, readers met Bat-Man and Commissioner Gordon, and learned of the Dark Knight’s secret identity as millionaire Bruce Wayne. Naturally issue 27 of “Detective Comics” is incredibly collectible, but so is issue 29, in which readers met Batman’s first named villain, Dr. Death, and issue 31, in which gadgets such as the Batarang and Batgyro first appeared.
Less collectible than issue 27, but probably more collectible than issues 29 and 31, are issues 33 and 38. In the former, the origins of Batman are told (when the youth witnessed the murder of his parents, he vowed to avenge their death by fighting criminals). In the latter, readers met Batman’s young sidekick, Robin, who lived by day with Bruce Wayne in the Caped Crusader’s mansion. Also prized by collectors is issue 40, which featured the first Joker cover.
By the time the Joker appeared, National had become DC and Batman had his own comic—issue one of “Batman” was published as a quarterly in spring of 1940. The Joker, Penguin, and Catwoman littered the next dozen issues of “Batman,” and Bruce Wayne’s portly butler, Alfred, lost weight and got his own cover in issue 21.
Not the most collectible, but perhaps the most fun, is the so-called infinity cover of issue eight, which depicts Batman and Robin reading a copy of issue eight of “Batman.”