Youth’s passion for Batman turns into collection for family

Huntington North High School senior Tyler Miller sits in front of the main part of his Batman collection. He has been a serious collector since 2002, and his family is also involved.
Huntington North High School senior Tyler Miller sits in front of the main part of his Batman collection. He has been a serious collector since 2002, and his family is also involved. Photo by Jessica Williams.

Originally published March 1, 2010.

Huntington North High School senior Tyler Miller, 18, has spent the last six years of his life collecting Batman items.

But what was once a youth's passion is now a family affair.

He has everything from action figures to comic books, blankets to curtains, all stored in what he calls his "bat cave."

Miller also has a hand-drawn Batman pillowcase that a nurse made for him down at Riley Hospital in Indianapolis, where he has been a patient for most of his life.

Miller has spina bifida - an underdeveloped spinal cord. Missy Holley, Miller's mother, explains that her son has a tethered cord, which results in Miller not being able to feel his colon and bladder. He has had two surgeries since being diagnosed and now uses a catheter.

Miller has collected an estimated 15 gallons of pop can tabs for the children's hospital - Riley sells the tabs to a recycler to raise funds for its Ronald McDonald House - but that's not all he has collected.

Miller says he's been a serious Batman collector since 2002, when he got his first four-pack action figure set.
But, he adds, "I've been a Batman fan since I was born. It's in the blood."

Polly Jones, Miller's grandmother, says collecting is something she and her grandson do together.

Jones says the pair used to jump in her car and make "Batman runs" to stores in Fort Wayne that they knew had the toys. She explains, though, that most of the pieces in Miller's collection have been gifts.

"That's all I get him for Christmas," she says, adding she likes to look for odd items to give her grandson.

Miller says he knows everything that he has and doesn't have in his collection. He has been known to study details of each action figure before and after it is purchased.

His favorite item is "Rogues Gallery," a boxed set of the villains from the 1994 animated
"Batman" series.

Holley says she got the item for under $50, and Miller says it goes for about $150 online. Miller checks the Web occasionally to see what his items are selling for, and some items have doubled or tripled in price.

"There's thousands and thousands of dollars in that room," Holley says. "He has always referred to it as ‘TCF;' Tyler's College Fund. That was his way of getting more - not that he would ever sell them to pay for college," she says with a laugh.

She explains that her son has always been a collector. He used to open the boxes and play with his toys, she says.

When he got older, though, Miller started to ask for two of each - one to play with and one to put back. His family eventually put a stop to that, his mother says.
But the collecting continues, and Miller says he won't ever stop.

"I don't care what state we're in or what store we're in ... everyone is looking (for Batman)," Holley says.
Miller states that even though his collection is mostly Batman, it has expanded to other superheroes.

The number of Batman figures on his shelves is in the hundreds. Miller says he first looks for the main Batman and heroes from each series, and then he buys all of the villains, which are his favorite.

He has the movies and television series, with his favorite being the 1990s versions because they correspond with the comics - which he collects, too - from the 1970s and 1980s.

His favorite opened item is the Danny DeVito Penguin figure that Miller says he picked up in diapers while on vacation.

Miller is not sure what he's going to do after high school.

His mom, however, is sure of one post-high school move involving his collection.

"You're taking it with you," she says.