LONDON (Reuters) - Batman and Superman may face off in an upcoming movie blockbuster but copies of the superheroes' first outings dating back almost 80 years are going on display in a new exhibition of original DC Comics books.
The single owner "Impossible Collection (DC Chapter)" features more than 1,000 DC classics, many hugely valuable, and is said to have taken over 16 years to assemble.
It includes the "highest graded copy" of Superman's debut in "Action Comics No. 1" from 1938 as well as "Detective 27" where Batman made his first appearance in 1939.
The collection, previewed to media on Wednesday in London ahead of a global tour later this year, belongs to Ayman Hariri, the son of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005.
"I think people have a respect ... for these books and the characters that they represent," Hariri told Reuters.
"Each book has a very good representation of what was going on in the world at the time."
Hariri said he began collecting Superman comics on a wide scale after his father's death, inspired by a picture of the senior Hariri drawn as the superhero, which is also on display at the exhibition.
When asked about the value of the coveted "Action Comics No. 1", he declined to give a price.
"'Action Comics (No.) 1' is when Superman first appeared and the day before that there was no Superman," he said. "I don't think anyone could possibly imagine a world without Superman."
Superman will be flying onto cinema screens this week in blockbuster "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice", starring Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill as the two caped heroes.
(Reporting by Holly Rubenstein; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Mark Heinrich)