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  1. #1
    Astonishing Member mathew101281's Avatar
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    Default When did Batman surpass every other DC hero in popularity? And Why did he?

    I think it happened in the 80’s I think the triple whammy of DKR, Year One, and the killing Joke pretty much rocketed Batman past everyone else. Prior to that Superman was the most popular character, and Batman was seen as kind of corny by the population at large( a result of the 60’s show). I feel giving Batman consistent mythology also helps. He’s the only character at DC that doesn’t get radical transformations after every major reboot. Their is no “Zeus’ daughter now” moments with Batman like their is with pretty much every other DC character.

  2. #2
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    Comics wise?

    DC spent most of the Didio era messing with a lot of franchises that already had a decent amount of fans.. Flash, JSA, Teen Titans, JLI era characters. And while he attempted to build up newer characters that he assumed could hold a tv show or movie or properties that were just plain niche (Jonah Hex, Kate Spencer, Jaime Reyes, etc), most of them were failures or ended up just being cult favorites.
    Green Lantern was like his biggest success that wasn't a massive event and it imploded when Johns left.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by mathew101281 View Post
    I think it happened in the 80’s I think the triple whammy of DKR, Year One, and the killing Joke pretty much rocketed Batman past everyone else. Prior to that Superman was the most popular character, and Batman was seen as kind of corny by the population at large( a result of the 60’s show). I feel giving Batman consistent mythology also helps. He’s the only character at DC that doesn’t get radical transformations after every major reboot. Their is no “Zeus’ daughter now” moments with Batman like their is with pretty much every other DC character.
    The barriers that others have faced Batman avoided.
    The complaints that others get Batman has avoided.

    I have seen stores PACKED with unsold Batman stuff. I have seen his toys collect dust on shelves at Target and Wal-Mart.

    Yet when folks went attacking certain books about how many unsold books they leave (mainly POC and Woman lead)-Batman is NEVER in that conversation.
    Because it's okay for him to pack bins and grab bags. Which in reality actually helps the brand more than hinder it.

    Like you said he screwing stuff over that everyone else suffers from he avoids.

    The fanboy wars are not as extreme.

  4. #4
    Extraordinary Member John Venus's Avatar
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    TDK Returns was incredibly successful. O'Neill and Englehart laid the groundwork for a darker Batman but it was Miller who took it to it's most extreme. I heard from fans at the time that it even made the local news. Then the 1989 Batman movie happened and it was a major turning point in the general public's perception of Batman. Up until that point, the dominant image of Batman was that of Adam West's Batman. A darker, radically different Batman was new and fresh at the time and it even sparked the 'Batmania' leading up to it's release and aftermath. '89 Batman made it's own contribution to blockbuster filmmaking, particularly in tying films and merchandising. It even lead to several darker films inspired or based on comics like Sam Raimi's Darkman and the 90's Dick Tracy movie.

    Then Batman hit animation and it turned out to be a huge turning point for that as well. Imagine watching something like Robocop animated show then being hit by something like Batman: The Animated Series that took on a darker, more mature approach to story telling and opened the doors for shows like The Real Adventures Of Johnny Quest, Swat Kats and Gargoyles. Batman wasn't solely responsible for this of course, Simpsons and the rise of anime also played a part in it but Batman certainly helped.

    On the comics side, under Denny O'Neil's editorial role in the 90's, the Bat Books expanded to include multiple titles under it's umbrella. Catwoman, Nightwing, Robin and BOP had titles that ran into the 100's. It set the mold for Bat titles and Bat events that they follow to this day.

    Even after the Batman movie franchise hit a lull period after Batman & Robin, they still gave Batman a chance again and he made banks with TDK.

    Then Batman hit big in Arkham Games which had a lot of people who worked on B:TAS (Dini, Conroy and Hamill) involved. Then the DTV movies adaptated his best stories helped pick up new fanboys. Jason Todd's popularity is significantly owed to the Under The Red Hood movie which was later adapted to the Titans show and the Arkham Games.

    Also, as others have mentioned, Batman has a high degree of consistency in his mythology. Even with the consistent reboots. Bruce Wayne's parents were murdered in Crime Alley by Joe Chill, Alfred raised him (this wasn't the case in Golden and Silver Age but it doesn't matter now, Alfred *is* Bruce's father figure now), Gordon is his primary ally in the police force, Dick was the first Robin, Jason died at Joker's hand, Tim is the third Robin and Damian is his biological son by Talia. It's not like the WW mythology where Diana is born from clay by the Goddesses/daughter of Zeus, Cassie is either child/grandchild of Zeus or that weird Nu52 origin, Donna's multiple choice origin, Nubia being other WW's twin sister/just another Amazon or depending on the adaptation, Hippolyta has been with Zeus, Hades and Ares. That's without getting in how to ridiculously fractured the Flash fandom is post Flash Rebirth or how you have multiple GL's vying for panel time but DC at this point can only publish one book. But hey, if you think that's bad, try being a fan of the Hawks. Any of them. Or being a fan of the JSA. Or the Titans. Or worse, the Legion of Superheroes.


    The high degree of success is helped by the fact that the same people have worked for years on Batman. Denny O'Neill was a writer and later editor for Batman for two solid decades. He put Frank Miller on Year One. Producer Michael Uslan has his name attached to every single Batman adaptation since the '89 Batman. Bruce Timm has worked on every single Batman cartoon with the exception of 'The Batman' and 'Batman: The Brave and the Bold'. Though even those shows had DCAU alumns like Alan Burnett and James Tucker respectively. Dini, who wrote B:TAS also worked on the Arkham Games.

    Also, the Batman comics takes advantage of the *whole* comic book canon from the first Batman to the most recent one. Stories like the 'Case of the Chemical Syndicate' gets retellings every other anniversary. There aren't weird cut off points like Post Crisis, Nu52 and Rebirth like there are for other characters and every character has a place in the mythos and usually with their own book too. Even a once minor supporting character like Lucius Fox now has a fleshed out extended family who have carried their own books and even Batman supporting characters like Harley Quinn has their own show.

  5. #5
    Extraordinary Member superduperman's Avatar
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    I don't think it was any one thing but if I had to attribute it to one thing, I would say it was the movie in 1989. Superman was on the decline due to his movies not doing very well and people had wanted a Batman movie since forever. And DC was eager to get the stench of the 60's TV show off the character. Comicswise, I would say DKR played a huge role in it. Miller was given carte blanche to do what he wanted with the character with no continuity restrictions. For all intents and purposes, it was the first Elseworld. But even before that, when DC wanted to go in a more "realistic" direction in the seventies, Batman was the one character that made it work. They tried it with Superman but weren't willing to commit to it.

    But more than anything else, I would say they just plain invest in Batman more than they do any other character. Most of the new Black Label stuff is Batman stuff. The Suicide Squad is held up by a Batman villain. Batman has had how many movie reboots? Wonder Woman just got her first movie just four years ago. Batman has more books than any other character. I'm still convinced the whole reason Superman and Lois got made was because they had no movie plans for him on the horizon. The character that gets the most investment gets the most attention.
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  6. #6
    Astonishing Member CrimsonEchidna's Avatar
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    The one-two punch of the Tim Burton movie and the 90s cartoon definitely gave Batman a major boost in the arm with his Pop Culture strength. And then the Nolan movie shot the character off to the stratosphere.

    You could definitely see the shift in the comics in treating Batman as the big central figure starting in the mid-2000s. Again, it probably didn't help that the Superman Returns revival ended up flopping and creating this impression that Superman is an unaccessible character.
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  7. #7
    Astonishing Member The Kid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by M L A View Post
    Comics wise?

    DC spent most of the Didio era messing with a lot of franchises that already had a decent amount of fans.. Flash, JSA, Teen Titans, JLI era characters. And while he attempted to build up newer characters that he assumed could hold a tv show or movie or properties that were just plain niche (Jonah Hex, Kate Spencer, Jaime Reyes, etc), most of them were failures or ended up just being cult favorites.
    Green Lantern was like his biggest success that wasn't a massive event and it imploded when Johns left.
    This is a big one. People have explained how the Bat brand grew in the 80s to 00s but it's also partially that other DC brands have really fallen in recent years so as a corporation, they lean even more on their stable sellers

  8. #8
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    Maybe in the direct sales shops BATMAN:THE DARK KNIGHT (1986), "Year One"(BATMAN 404 - 407) and BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE (1988) all made the Dark Knight a top buy. But direct sales is hardly a big deal. It just means the Batman was big with the hard-core fans (which he had been long before then). I think it was the popularity of Tim Burtons' BATMAN (1989) and BATMAN RETURNS (1992) and then BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES (1992 - 1995) that returned the Masked Manhunter to the popularity with the masses that he enjoyed in 1966 and 1967. In the letter columns they published letters from little kids, which did my heart good. It showed that the Caped Crusader wasn't just popular with us old fart comic book collectors, there was a whole new generation who loved the big guy in the bat mask. That ensured that his following would continue to grow and bring in new fans.
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  9. #9
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    I think John Venus sums it up perfectly.

    The one bit I would add is that Batman was always the 'cool' super-hero.
    Dressed like a villain, dark, mysterious and completely self made.
    It was an aspect writers in the 80's and 90's started REALLY leaning into.
    The character lends itself to the more 'mature' themes of gun violence in America, mental health, issues of abandonment etc.
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  10. #10
    Extraordinary Member marhawkman's Avatar
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    Yeah, my take is that it's VOLUME. multiple games, movies, etc.... They keep throwing Batman into seemingly everything even if it doesn't make sense.

  11. #11
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    Batman's rise in popularity coincides with Superman's decline. Over the past 30+ years, Just as Batman consistently got media that raised and maintained his popularity, Superman has had:

    1. Consistently bad or mediocre movies. He has not had a universally liked, massive BO hit since 1981. Meanwhile, Batman made a major cinema impact with Burton, then did it again with Nolan, and may do it again with Reeves.

    2. No cartoons with a BTAS like impact. STAS has more of a cult following at this point.

    3. No massively popular solo video games. The Arkham Series was a huge boon to the Batman franchise. Meanwhile, it seems like developers either don't want to touch Superman, or never get the chance to.

    4. Arguably, no truly iconic comic Book runs. Batman has had popular runs from the likes of Grant Morrison and Scott Snyder. Superman has had great one off stories, but has never had a run that's widely considered one of the all time great comic book runs.

  12. #12
    Ultimate Member Vordan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheBatman View Post
    Batman's rise in popularity coincides with Superman's decline. Over the past 30+ years, Just as Batman consistently got media that raised and maintained his popularity, Superman has had:

    1. Consistently bad or mediocre movies. He has not had a universally liked, massive BO hit since 1981. Meanwhile, Batman made a major cinema impact with Burton, then did it again with Nolan, and may do it again with Reeves.

    2. No cartoons with a BTAS like impact. STAS has more of a cult following at this point.

    3. No massively popular solo video games. The Arkham Series was a huge boon to the Batman franchise. Meanwhile, it seems like developers either don't want to touch Superman, or never get the chance to.

    4. Arguably, no truly iconic comic Book runs. Batman has had popular runs from the likes of Grant Morrison and Scott Snyder. Superman has had great one off stories, but has never had a run that's widely considered one of the all time great comic book runs.
    Painful as it is to admit, yeah these are true. With #4 it’s because by and large we all agree on what Batman should be, basically somewhere in the mold of what Miller established. With Superman however there’s no general consensus, not even among the hardcore on what he should be. I would say that Morrison’s Action Comics and Tomasi’s Superman Rebirth runs are two runs that seem to have had a wider impact on the character however. YMMV on the quality but there are people who dislike Morrison and Snyder’s Batman runs so you’ll never get 100% adoration.

    Saddest part is that there have been three times in recent memory where DC could have potentially had other franchises that equaled Batman in success: GL, Flash, and WW. Each time DC sabotaged itself through either incompetence or malice. GL died because of the movie flop and because they didn’t know where to go post Johns. Flash was hamstrung by Didio constantly screwing over Manapul, despite the major success of the TV series. With WW they didn’t even try, dumped a mid writer like Robinson on the book to tie up Johns Darkseid War plot threads rather than attempt to build on the success of the first movie.
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  13. #13
    Incredible Member Ishmael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Venus View Post
    TDK Returns was incredibly successful. O'Neill and Englehart laid the groundwork for a darker Batman but it was Miller who took it to it's most extreme. I heard from fans at the time that it even made the local news. Then the 1989 Batman movie happened and it was a major turning point in the general public's perception of Batman. Up until that point, the dominant image of Batman was that of Adam West's Batman. A darker, radically different Batman was new and fresh at the time and it even sparked the 'Batmania' leading up to it's release and aftermath. '89 Batman made it's own contribution to blockbuster filmmaking, particularly in tying films and merchandising. It even lead to several darker films inspired or based on comics like Sam Raimi's Darkman and the 90's Dick Tracy movie.

    Then Batman hit animation and it turned out to be a huge turning point for that as well. Imagine watching something like Robocop animated show then being hit by something like Batman: The Animated Series that took on a darker, more mature approach to story telling and opened the doors for shows like The Real Adventures Of Johnny Quest, Swat Kats and Gargoyles. Batman wasn't solely responsible for this of course, Simpsons and the rise of anime also played a part in it but Batman certainly helped.

    On the comics side, under Denny O'Neil's editorial role in the 90's, the Bat Books expanded to include multiple titles under it's umbrella. Catwoman, Nightwing, Robin and BOP had titles that ran into the 100's. It set the mold for Bat titles and Bat events that they follow to this day.

    Even after the Batman movie franchise hit a lull period after Batman & Robin, they still gave Batman a chance again and he made banks with TDK.

    Then Batman hit big in Arkham Games which had a lot of people who worked on B:TAS (Dini, Conroy and Hamill) involved. Then the DTV movies adaptated his best stories helped pick up new fanboys. Jason Todd's popularity is significantly owed to the Under The Red Hood movie which was later adapted to the Titans show and the Arkham Games.

    Also, as others have mentioned, Batman has a high degree of consistency in his mythology. Even with the consistent reboots. Bruce Wayne's parents were murdered in Crime Alley by Joe Chill, Alfred raised him (this wasn't the case in Golden and Silver Age but it doesn't matter now, Alfred *is* Bruce's father figure now), Gordon is his primary ally in the police force, Dick was the first Robin, Jason died at Joker's hand, Tim is the third Robin and Damian is his biological son by Talia. It's not like the WW mythology where Diana is born from clay by the Goddesses/daughter of Zeus, Cassie is either child/grandchild of Zeus or that weird Nu52 origin, Donna's multiple choice origin, Nubia being other WW's twin sister/just another Amazon or depending on the adaptation, Hippolyta has been with Zeus, Hades and Ares. That's without getting in how to ridiculously fractured the Flash fandom is post Flash Rebirth or how you have multiple GL's vying for panel time but DC at this point can only publish one book. But hey, if you think that's bad, try being a fan of the Hawks. Any of them. Or being a fan of the JSA. Or the Titans. Or worse, the Legion of Superheroes.


    The high degree of success is helped by the fact that the same people have worked for years on Batman. Denny O'Neill was a writer and later editor for Batman for two solid decades. He put Frank Miller on Year One. Producer Michael Uslan has his name attached to every single Batman adaptation since the '89 Batman. Bruce Timm has worked on every single Batman cartoon with the exception of 'The Batman' and 'Batman: The Brave and the Bold'. Though even those shows had DCAU alumns like Alan Burnett and James Tucker respectively. Dini, who wrote B:TAS also worked on the Arkham Games.

    Also, the Batman comics takes advantage of the *whole* comic book canon from the first Batman to the most recent one. Stories like the 'Case of the Chemical Syndicate' gets retellings every other anniversary. There aren't weird cut off points like Post Crisis, Nu52 and Rebirth like there are for other characters and every character has a place in the mythos and usually with their own book too. Even a once minor supporting character like Lucius Fox now has a fleshed out extended family who have carried their own books and even Batman supporting characters like Harley Quinn has their own show.
    This. All of this. DKR was the real turning point as it punctuated all the elements that had been seeded by O'Neil and Englehart, etc. And it's just snowballed from there.

    I would add that the way DKR portrayed everyone else may have contributed to their losing appeal as well. I've always HATED Miller's take on Superman and what it did to the Batman/Superman friendship - and it all became fairly set in the minds of many fans from that point forward (Superman = lackey for the government, as well as Superman/Batman as rivals rather than friends). I think that series is the real turning point - because from that point forward the way Batman is portrayed emulates Miller.

  14. #14
    Extraordinary Member Lightning Rider's Avatar
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    I agree with all the points so far - symplicity of concept & origin, consistency in writing, constant investment and promition across media; but I'd like to suggest a few more.

    The first is that Batman appeals to broader audiences who otherwise aren't interested in the superhero genre. The fact he has no powers makes him easier to swallow for those who aren't willing to suspend their disbelief much, and on the surface it makes him seem more "mature". Nolan solidified this perception with his #grounded take layered with social commentary. Someone might see James Bond and Batman but pass on a Superman or Thor movie.

    The second point is related, and that's the notion that anti-heroes have become much more popular, to the extent that they're the new standard. Post-modern sensibilities with regards to morality, heroism, criminality, etc. have made it more difficult for audiences (or perhaps writers) to take beacons of hope seriously as characters. It's certainly a more cynical age where (sometimes ruthless) deconstruction is commonplace. A tortured gothic billionaire with mentally ill villains fits perfectly in that zeitgeist.

  15. #15
    Ultimate Member Vordan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lightning Rider View Post
    I agree with all the points so far - symplicity of concept & origin, consistency in writing, constant investment and promition across media; but I'd like to suggest a few more.

    The first is that Batman appeals to broader audiences who otherwise aren't interested in the superhero genre. The fact he has no powers makes him easier to swallow for those who aren't willing to suspend their disbelief much, and on the surface it makes him seem more "mature". Nolan solidified this perception with his #grounded take layered with social commentary. Someone might see James Bond and Batman but pass on a Superman or Thor movie.

    The second point is related, and that's the notion that anti-heroes have become much more popular, to the extent that they're the new standard. Post-modern sensibilities with regards to morality, heroism, criminality, etc. have made it more difficult for audiences (or perhaps writers) to take beacons of hope seriously as characters. It's certainly a more cynical age where (sometimes ruthless) deconstruction is commonplace. A tortured gothic billionaire with mentally ill villains fits perfectly in that zeitgeist.
    Dude every Marvel movie is an action-comedy with lighthearted heroes who don’t make serious mistakes. The idea that general audiences don’t respond to lighter characters is nonsense.
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