BY MATT TUCK
The Batman is six months from its theatrical premiere, and already the Riddler is taking the spotlight with both hands. That should have you paying attention to his key issues as well as three sleeper picks.
THE BATMAN BUZZ
In a matter of weeks, Matt Reeves’ new spin on the Dark Knight has taken the internet by storm.
Until recently, The Batman had been riding in the Batmobile’s backseat. The lackluster reception of Robert Pattinson’s casting in the title role plus the pandemic shutting down production, which pushed the release date back to next March, had fans lukewarm for this movie at best.
Then WarnerMedia turned up the temperature when the company officially proclaimed that, yes, Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck would both return as Batman/Bruce Wayne for The Flash.
Meanwhile, The Batman was confirmed to be taking place in its own separate world outside the main DCEU timeline with no connection to the current slate of films. With fans drooling over the potential of the DCEU Multiverse and two versions of Batman in the same movie, The Batman was out of sight and out of mind for the DC fandom.
That all changed in an instant.
In recent weeks, word spread far and wide that test audiences loved the three-hour rough cut of The Batman. Reportedly, viewers proclaimed it as a unique and haunting vision of Gotham City, and some went so far as to describe Pattinson’s take on Batman as perfection. Soon afterwards, WarnerMedia announced that a mysterious Batman-related HBO Max series would star Colin Farrell’s Penguin, which created even more excitement.
The real winner in all the sudden enthusiasm for The Batman was Paul Dano’s Riddler. The test audiences reported that his performance as the film’s villain was both captivating and at times bordered on disturbing.
All that buzz hovering over Dano’s performance is putting collectors and investors on notice to get their hands on those Riddler keys. If the test audience’s reactions can be trusted, then The Batman could catapult the Riddler to heights the character has never achieved before.
DETECTIVE COMICS #140
Whenever we deal with a character as old as Batman, any of those early issues, keys or not, will automatically be expensive. Between the age of the comics and Batman’s immense, worldwide popularity, anything from the Golden Age gets a massive dose of inflation. Add a classic villain’s first appearance, and that comic just doubled in price. Such is the case with the Riddler’s debut in 1948’s DC #140.
Comic prices are always relative. Compared to the first appearance of the Joker, DC #140 is the cheaper option. However, that doesn’t make it a cheap comic in the slightest. Of course, this is a 73-year-old issue, so what would you expect? Couple that with the Riddler’s star turn in The Batman, and it amplifies those high prices. Case in point: the 1.8. This lowly copy sold for a record-breaking $9,000 on September 18. That sale obliterated last year’s high of $4k.
DETECTIVE COMICS #142
What do you do when the first appearance is an outrageously expensive issue that just found a reason to become even further out of reach? Look to the second appearance. In this case, the follow-up to the Riddler’s debut is still a Golden Age treasure, which inflates the fair market values even without Edward Nigma starring in the new Batman movie. The highest grade sold this year was a 3.0, which sold for a record high of $1,700, which is a far cry from that 1.8 DC #140’s price tag.
Simply out of necessity, this has long since been the Riddler key to own. With prices for his first Golden Age appearance breaking the proverbial bank, E. Nigma fans had only one alternative: his debut in the Silver Age.
While this issue is still pricey, it comes in at only a fraction of the cost of DC #140. That has made Batman #171 a holy grail in its own right. Consider this, an 8.0 #171 recently sold for $3,295. That happens to be a record high for this comic, and still it is nearly one-third the price of that same 1.8 DC #140. Granted, owning the first Silver Age appearance is not as glamorous as the true first from 1948, but it is much easier on your budget.
BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN #7
I don’t expect this issue to suddenly gain a massive following, but it could become more popular after the movie premieres. While nothing has been said officially, the word on the internet for the past year is that The Batman’s plot is loosely adapted from Long Halloween. That would help explain the number of villains in the movie.
Although Riddler is not a major player in the comic series, he was one of the many antagonists Batman faced throughout the famous story. This issue features a classic modern Riddler cover by artist Tim Sale, and that could be enough to encourage a pickup in sales.
At the moment, raw copies are selling for about $10, while a graded 9.6 last sold for $29 on September 12.
THE SLEEPER PICKS
What is fun with a character like the Riddler is that he could bring friends to Reeves’ Bat-party. With the Penguin getting his spinoff HBO Max series, it leaves the door open for minor characters to get a chance at mainstream attention. When it comes to Edward Nigma, there are three in particular to keep an eye on.
TEEN TITANS #38
This issue has spec written all over it.
What is so special about Teen Titans #38? This issue contained several first appearances, most notable to Riddler fans is the debut of his daughter, Enigma. It would not be out of the question for her to appear in The Batman, as a child or possibly in her late teens. If there is even an Easter Egg for Enigma hinting at a future role for her, this comic will immediately heat up.
Earlier today, two raw copies were on the move; one sold for $2.50 while the other brought nearly $20.
TEEN TITANS #43
The companion piece to TT #38, Teen Titans #43 featured Enigma in her first full appearance. Toss in the fact that she also was on the cover art for the first time, and you can see where this is a potential speculative darling. That gives collectors two more reasons to find this diamond in the rough. There hasn’t been a sale of TT #43 since September 6 when a raw copy brought $12.
THE BATMAN CHRONICLES #3
The odds are against seeing Riddler’s favorite henchwomen in The Batman, but never say never. Who knows? Quiz and Query could appear at his side, helping to carry out his plans across Gotham City. In that event, their combined first appearance would get an immediate bump. At the moment, you can own a copy of The Batman Chronicles #3 for next to nothing. There have not been any sales in September, but most copies sold from June to August had price tags of $5-$10.
RIDDLE ME THIS
There’s growing talk that Paul Dano’s performance as the Riddler will steal Batman’s thunder in the new movie. That will expand the character’s mainstream appeal and put him on par with the deadlier villains in the DCEU. With that fame will likely come an increased presence in the comics as a worthy foe for the Dark Knight. All of this will have a direct effect on those key issues, and it gives collectors more reason to love the Riddler.
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.