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  1. #1
    Boisterously Confused
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    Default When was the last time Superman was considered DC's lead character?

    Seems like ever since the mid-1980s, Batman has simply owned DC (maybe a certain amount of justice there, since the logo/name is a short for Detective Comics). However, that was not always the case. Time was, Superman was DC's clear leading brand (I can remember a cover of Superman touting him as the world's number 1 comics character).

    Clearly, that changed. Anybody have an idea just when The Man of Tomorrow got dethroned?

    note to mods: not putting this on the Supes forum because it involves Batman as well, and a more diverse array of opinion might be valuable.

  2. #2
    Fantastic Member ChrisG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrNewGod View Post
    Seems like ever since the mid-1980s, Batman has simply owned DC (maybe a certain amount of justice there, since the logo/name is a short for Detective Comics). However, that was not always the case. Time was, Superman was DC's clear leading brand (I can remember a cover of Superman touting him as the world's number 1 comics character).

    Clearly, that changed. Anybody have an idea just when The Man of Tomorrow got dethroned?

    note to mods: not putting this on the Supes forum because it involves Batman as well, and a more diverse array of opinion might be valuable.
    Never understood this, Superman is lights years more powerful than Batman. Of all superheroes he's the strongest. .

  3. #3
    Uncanny King-Kamalu lemonpeace's Avatar
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    I would say the Dark Knight Returns and that iconic showdown was when Batman cemented his place and officially dethroned Superman as the defacto flagship character. Superman is still the spiritual heart of DC but once Batman actually took him down in a comic that's when people went "holy shit, he can beat Superman?!" and the that's when the tides changed for them. Before then I don't think people fully could grasp the idea that Batman could overtake Superman and once they saw him physically take on Superman in such an epic showdown, the idea became more plausible.
    Duke's a fine character, you guys are just hungry... (respect thread)

    John Stewart is my Lantern.

    DC: Batman and the Outsiders, Justice League, Naomi, Teen Titans, Deathstroke, The Flash, Justice League Odyssey, Doomsday Clock

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  4. #4
    Astonishing Member j9ac9k's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lemonpeace View Post
    I would say the Dark Knight Returns and that iconic showdown was when Batman cemented his place and officially dethroned Superman as the defacto flagship character. Superman is still the spiritual heart of DC but once Batman actually took him down in a comic that's when people went "holy shit, he can beat Superman?!" and the that's when the tides changed for them. Before then I don't think people fully could grasp the idea that Batman could overtake Superman and once they saw him physically take on Superman in such an epic showdown, the idea became more plausible.
    I think more than the physical confrontation was the fact that Miller really hammered home how much Superman was just a protector of the status quo, while Batman admitted that they were all criminals and stood by his own sense of justice, regardless of the physical toll it took on him. In the waning eighties with the disillusionment of the Reagan era, that kind of suffering/rebel/martyr/outcast really hit home with a lot of fans.

  5. #5
    Extraordinary Member SiegePerilous02's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by j9ac9k View Post
    I think more than the physical confrontation was the fact that Miller really hammered home how much Superman was just a protector of the status quo, while Batman admitted that they were all criminals and stood by his own sense of justice, regardless of the physical toll it took on him. In the waning eighties with the disillusionment of the Reagan era, that kind of suffering/rebel/martyr/outcast really hit home with a lot of fans.
    Which is unfortunate, because if any character should NOT be a protector of the status quo, it is Superman.

    Batman shouldn't either, but if anything the rich white dude would be the one instead of the working class immigrant.

  6. #6
    Uncanny King-Kamalu lemonpeace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by j9ac9k View Post
    I think more than the physical confrontation was the fact that Miller really hammered home how much Superman was just a protector of the status quo, while Batman admitted that they were all criminals and stood by his own sense of justice, regardless of the physical toll it took on him. In the waning eighties with the disillusionment of the Reagan era, that kind of suffering/rebel/martyr/outcast really hit home with a lot of fans.
    I agree, I think that's what the physical/visual confrontation represents. All those themes, the rift between the characters in the story, it all lead to that showdown and once those abstracts became realized in that action scene was when it clicked.
    Duke's a fine character, you guys are just hungry... (respect thread)

    John Stewart is my Lantern.

    DC: Batman and the Outsiders, Justice League, Naomi, Teen Titans, Deathstroke, The Flash, Justice League Odyssey, Doomsday Clock

    Marvel: Immortal Hulk, Miles Morales: Spiderman, Black Panther, Ironheart, Cosmic Ghost Rider etc., Moon Girl, Avengers

    Anticipated titles: Far Sector, Love Army*, The Other History of DC*

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by SiegePerilous02 View Post
    Which is unfortunate, because if any character should NOT be a protector of the status quo, it is Superman.

    Batman shouldn't either, but if anything the rich white dude would be the one instead of the working class immigrant.
    Meh. One of Batman's sources is Zorro, who was a deeply anti-establishment-for-the-people product of the establishment. Like S&S' Superman, Kane and Finger's Batman frustrated (or even fought) cops and went after rich scumbags as often as gangsters (until K&F realized how well freaks like The Joker worked).

    I'd say Miller (and O'Neil before him, who doesn't get a fraction of the deserved credit) simply brought that back to the character.

  8. #8
    Astonishing Member JackDaw's Avatar
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    I don’t believe for a second that The Dark Knight Returns was primarily responsible for Batman over-taking Superman as DC’s prime seller/ brand.

    One story however good doesn’t have that degree of influence.

    I think..for example..the fact that last 30 years the average quality of Batman stories being substantially better than the average Superman story has been far more influential. In that period there have been several really good long Batman runs, and quality rarely drops below good. Against that there has been little top end Superman comics..All Star and naff all else..and a fair amount of dire stuff.

    Another factor..maybe...is that more of the present fan base see a “normal” human achieving great things as more intrincally heroic than some one with the powers of a god doing great things.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by j9ac9k View Post
    I think more than the physical confrontation was the fact that Miller really hammered home how much Superman was just a protector of the status quo, while Batman admitted that they were all criminals and stood by his own sense of justice, regardless of the physical toll it took on him. In the waning eighties with the disillusionment of the Reagan era, that kind of suffering/rebel/martyr/outcast really hit home with a lot of fans.
    I think Superman in the DCEU could've had a chance to bring Superman up on top. It would've been the new Superman representation for the gen. But then things happened and bad portrayals of the characters and bad storylines along with the fact they brought back that Miller idea of Batman beating Superman.

  10. #10
    Extraordinary Member SiegePerilous02's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrNewGod View Post
    Meh. One of Batman's sources is Zorro, who was a deeply anti-establishment-for-the-people product of the establishment. Like S&S' Superman, Kane and Finger's Batman frustrated (or even fought) cops and went after rich scumbags as often as gangsters (until K&F realized how well freaks like The Joker worked).

    I'd say Miller (and O'Neil before him, who doesn't get a fraction of the deserved credit) simply brought that back to the character.
    I have to agree. Between the two of them, I'd be more inclined to think of Batman as the one who protects the status quo, but it really doesn't suit either one of them when you break it down. Doesn't help that a lot of younger people dismiss Batman as being in the wrong because he's rich and white, which is a surface level glance at the character ("He only beats up the poor, minorities and mentally ill!").

    Along with O'Neil, I'd give credit to Englehart.

    Quote Originally Posted by JackDaw View Post
    I don’t believe for a second that The Dark Knight Returns was primarily responsible for Batman over-taking Superman as DC’s prime seller/ brand.

    One story however good doesn’t have that degree of influence.

    I think..for example..the fact that last 30 years the average quality of Batman stories being substantially better than the average Superman story has been far more influential. In that period there have been several really good long Batman runs, and quality rarely drops below good. Against that there has been little top end Superman comics..All Star and naff all else..and a fair amount of dire stuff.

    Another factor..maybe...is that more of the present fan base see a “normal” human achieving great things as more intrincally heroic than some one with the powers of a god doing great things.
    Yeah, throughout the entire post-Crisis era, Superman doesn't have many runs or single stories in the main continuity that stand out besides his death. Which matters more for its iconography than as a story itself. Plus he got married. That's pretty much it.

    I think TDKR was pretty big still even if it didn't do all this on her own. I think post-Crisis ran with some of the things it established. We have Clark being more All American with the Byrne run and initially being dismissive of his heritage. We also had Diana losing interest in him romantically when she realized they were too different: she wanted to change the world, whereas he wanted to be a defender of the status quo.

  11. #11
    Astonishing Member Korath's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SiegePerilous02 View Post
    Which is unfortunate, because if any character should NOT be a protector of the status quo, it is Superman.

    Batman shouldn't either, but if anything the rich white dude would be the one instead of the working class immigrant.
    Well, I can't tell how it is in the US, but here in France, journalist and farmer are often more protectors of the status-quo or even reactionary than the rest of the population (on average, of course, it's far from being the case for all), so I guess it isn't so surprising that such a change was made to Superman.

    I mean, he's the kind of guy with the tech able to solve almost all of Mankind's problem, but doesn't use or share it because "they aren't worthy yet". That doesn't sound heroic to me.

  12. #12
    Mighty Member LifeIsILL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JackDaw View Post

    I think..for example..the fact that last 30 years the average quality of Batman stories being substantially better than the average Superman story has been far more influential. In that period there have been several really good long Batman runs, and quality rarely drops below good. Against that there has been little top end Superman comics..All Star and naff all else..and a fair amount of dire stuff.
    I just don't find this to be true. People tend to overhype and oversell Batman stories and when I read them I always feel somewhat disappointed. Superman had lots of smaller stories written by Byrne, Ordway, Starlin, Stern at the time and lots of them were damn good and underrated.

  13. #13
    Uncanny King-Kamalu lemonpeace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JackDaw View Post
    I don’t believe for a second that The Dark Knight Returns was primarily responsible for Batman over-taking Superman as DC’s prime seller/ brand.

    One story however good doesn’t have that degree of influence.

    I think..for example..the fact that last 30 years the average quality of Batman stories being substantially better than the average Superman story has been far more influential. In that period there have been several really good long Batman runs, and quality rarely drops below good. Against that there has been little top end Superman comics..All Star and naff all else..and a fair amount of dire stuff.

    Another factor..maybe...is that more of the present fan base see a “normal” human achieving great things as more intrincally heroic than some one with the powers of a god doing great things.
    You're welcome to feel that way, but the 80's (30 years ago) was a major turning point for Batman's popularity, which is why for the last 30 years Batman has gotten more and more powerful as a brand. TDKR (1986), Year One (86), Killing Joke (88), Batman '89, Gotham by Gaslight (89), Death in the Family (89), these are Batman defining moments and stories that shaped the complex darker image that is culturally associated and continues to influence the character today; collectively. I'm not saying it's the ONLY thing responsible for Batman's brand supremacy but that story was a pivotal moment for Batman's brand in relation to Superman. That era informed many of the stylistic charms that made Batman a cultural powerhouse in the 90s and early 2000's and beyond, from Batman the Animated series (92) Long Halloween (96), Knightfall (97) to Tower of Babel (2000) and Under the Hood (04). I'm leaving a couple off but I would say that TDKR is the story that put Batman and Superman face to face and made a solid case for the bat brand and it's been continuing to keep pace ever since.
    Last edited by lemonpeace; 03-10-2019 at 03:52 PM.
    Duke's a fine character, you guys are just hungry... (respect thread)

    John Stewart is my Lantern.

    DC: Batman and the Outsiders, Justice League, Naomi, Teen Titans, Deathstroke, The Flash, Justice League Odyssey, Doomsday Clock

    Marvel: Immortal Hulk, Miles Morales: Spiderman, Black Panther, Ironheart, Cosmic Ghost Rider etc., Moon Girl, Avengers

    Anticipated titles: Far Sector, Love Army*, The Other History of DC*

  14. #14
    Extraordinary Member SiegePerilous02's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Korath View Post
    Well, I can't tell how it is in the US, but here in France, journalist and farmer are often more protectors of the status-quo or even reactionary than the rest of the population (on average, of course, it's far from being the case for all), so I guess it isn't so surprising that such a change was made to Superman.
    He was a farmer and a journalist in the New 52. Does that guy strike you as a defender of the status quo?

    Quote Originally Posted by Korath View Post
    I mean, he's the kind of guy with the tech able to solve almost all of Mankind's problem, but doesn't use or share it because "they aren't worthy yet". That doesn't sound heroic to me.
    He also cannot do everything for us, or else humanity becomes a joke. He has to strike the delicate balance of helping us and guiding us, and not using a "might equals right" method and enforcing his will upon us, or doing everything to the point of making us completely dependent upon him and worthless on our own. Lex, meanwhile, is an example of humanity who could really create some lasting change for us. But he's a selfish, petty asshole and all around horrible human being, so he wastes his potential.

    Just giving humanity access to all that technology when we have a tendency to invent new ways to kill each other seems like a big risk. The Amazons didn't want to give up some of their tech for much the same reasons, as the governments wanting to trade for it (without providing anything of value in return) wanted to use it for military purposes. It would also have threatened their position of neutrality and tipped the balance.

    And he still does things like send the Superman Emergency Squad out to help cure kids of cancer, and provide tech to Leo Quintum, so I'm not seeing how he just hordes stuff. Giving it out to trusted sources and within reason seems...reasonable.

  15. #15
    Ultimate Member Lee Stone's Avatar
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    I'd say Superman was in the '40s & '50s, and from 1977/1978 until Crisis.

    Batman: Year One was a push, but so was Man of Steel for Superman.
    And DKR took a while for its influence to catch hold as not a lot of people could read it and it wasn't reflected in the regular comics.
    I'd say Superman & Batman were even from the end of Crisis until Batman '89.
    Batman '89 is what I think pushed Batman to the top. It just helped that DC had material already made (Year One, DKR, Son of the Demon, etc.) that could be exploited by the shops when people came looking.

    Of course, Superman shared the spotlight with both the Titans (DC's premiere team of the '80s) and JLA (still riding on their Superfriends popularity, which it lost with the shift to JLDetroit in 1984).
    When Batman came along, he shoved all three from the spotlight and became the only franchise DC cared about until New52 and the Justice League was optioned for a film.
    Last edited by Lee Stone; 03-10-2019 at 04:07 PM.
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