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When did Batman replace Superman as DC's flagship character?

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When did Batman replace Superman as DC's flagship character?

Old 01-27-19, 04:35 PM
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When did Batman replace Superman as DC's flagship character?

Obviously, for the longest time Superman was the flagship character for DC. He was everywhere, and at one point and time DC was even known as Superman DC comics. Today though, Batman has easily eclipsed Superman in sales and as being the top dog. And I wonder when it happened?

If I were to guess, I would assume it happened in 1989. Superman 4 had already bombed a couple of years earlier, and while Superman still had some presence(the Superboy TV series) he did not really have anything to hang his cape on again(so to speak) until 94 when Lois and Clark came out. The 89 Batman movie started a marketing bonanza that has still not really ceased to this day.
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Old 01-27-19, 07:18 PM
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Re: When did Batman replace Superman as DC's flagship character?

I'm guessing that the Dark Knight Returns series earlier in the decade started to get the ball rolling too.
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Old 01-27-19, 07:26 PM
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Re: When did Batman replace Superman as DC's flagship character?

Iíd argue it was the Ď60s TV series that started it. Superman had left the TV scene by that time and didnít come back until the two good movies starting in Ď78. III and IV didnít help the brand at all.
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Old 01-27-19, 08:18 PM
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Re: When did Batman replace Superman as DC's flagship character?

Originally Posted by robin2099 View Post
The 89 Batman movie started a marketing bonanza that has still not really ceased to this day.
This.

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Old 01-27-19, 08:30 PM
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Re: When did Batman replace Superman as DC's flagship character?

Definitely '89 Batman. The pre-release publicity said "Sock! Pow! Batman movie is coming this summer."

After that summer, people preferred the scary/cool Dark Knight to the dorky big blue boy scout. DC has been playing catch-up with Superman ever since.
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Old 01-27-19, 09:10 PM
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Re: When did Batman replace Superman as DC's flagship character?

I would say the Burton movie helped put him more front and center. That movie was massive and spawned the three sequels plus Batman: The Animated Series. Also, the 1990s into the 2000s had a lot of hot Batman comic arcs. The character has been well maintained too and got a good set of films with the Nolan trilogy and the Arkham games.

I think also that a lot of people people have found Bruce Wayne/Batman to be a bit more interesting and easy to relate with. Heís a rich superhero, but at the same time is a man with flaws and whatnot. I think he also is a character with more of a cool factor as opposed to Superman.
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Old 01-27-19, 10:10 PM
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Re: When did Batman replace Superman as DC's flagship character?

Is it possible Superman simply became too powerful to be interesting and that's a big part of the shift?
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Old 01-27-19, 11:06 PM
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Re: When did Batman replace Superman as DC's flagship character?

Yeah, all of the above.

Between Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns in ‘86, Burton’s 1989 movie, and the 1992 animated tv series, Batman became the flagship DC character.

Also, by that time, Superman was fully in his “Big Blue Boy Scout” phase and was generally seen as being boring. They had to actually kill him off to get people to pay attention to him.
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Old 01-28-19, 06:33 PM
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Re: When did Batman replace Superman as DC's flagship character?

Originally Posted by robin2099 View Post
He was everywhere, and at one point and time DC was even known as Superman DC comics.
And yet, it "DC" has always stood for "Detective Comics."

Originally Posted by story View Post
Is it possible Superman simply became too powerful to be interesting and that's a big part of the shift?
I think that may play a part. Part of the John Byrne reboot was to de-power him a bit.
But I think the biggest issue is...

Originally Posted by Josh-da-man View Post

Also, by that time, Superman was fully in his “Big Blue Boy Scout” phase and was generally seen as being boring. They had to actually kill him off to get people to pay attention to him.
this.

He just comes across as very boring. He has the most boring look of the big-name superheroes, his arch-villain is just some bald guy, and...yeah.
Of course, there's a lot more to the character, but this is what the general public thinks of the character.

The premise of Superman has a lot to work with, and yet it seems to me that so much of his stories, compared to characters like Spider-man, Wolverine, Batman, etc are kind of boring. Post-Silver Age, how many great, Superman stories are there?

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Old 01-28-19, 06:59 PM
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Re: When did Batman replace Superman as DC's flagship character?

Originally Posted by Mike86 View Post
I would say the Burton movie helped put him more front and center. That movie was massive and spawned the three sequels plus Batman: The Animated Series. Also, the 1990s into the 2000s had a lot of hot Batman comic arcs. The character has been well maintained too and got a good set of films with the Nolan trilogy and the Arkham games.

I think also that a lot of people people have found Bruce Wayne/Batman to be a bit more interesting and easy to relate with. Heís a rich superhero, but at the same time is a man with flaws and whatnot. I think he also is a character with more of a cool factor as opposed to Superman.
Technically Batman is not a superhero. He is a costumed crime fighter. The biggest appeal of Batman is that he is the more like Marvel Comics characters than and others in the DC universe. He's not a god or god like as are Superman or Wonder Woman. His strength level is not off the chart like most of DC's characters. He has a lot of character flaws like Spider-Man, Bruce Banner, etc that make him relateable and appealing to readers.

He also has a more interesting sidecast of crime fighting characters. With Superman, the more Kryptonian characters you add the more diluted and less unique he becomes. He no longer is an isolates lone survivor of a long dead race. Now he is just one of many. Batman has many more diverse villains as well. Superman mostly just has Lex Luthor and Braniac.
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Old 01-28-19, 09:11 PM
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Re: When did Batman replace Superman as DC's flagship character?

I had a feeling someone might say that after I posted it. Almost changed my wording but didnít. I mean obviously I know heís not super in the sense of having powers and stuff like that, but heís got abilities and gear that make him more than the average person so in a sense heís still kinda super and is a hero, but also just a masked vigilante.
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Old 01-28-19, 09:28 PM
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Re: When did Batman replace Superman as DC's flagship character?

Someone forgot to tell Morrison that Batman is not god-like...

I wouldn't necessarily say he's relatable, though. I mean, yeah, you can understand his pain. But he's no Peter Parker. Like if you had people describe who Batman is, he's basically Batman, obsessed vigilante who sometimes pretends to be a playboy millionaire. Miller's TDKR and Year One helped usher in the grim and gritty era, and I think it helps that the antihero became "cooler" than the boyscout like heroes. For instance, I don't think people gravitated towards Wolverine because he was relatable, he had a cool look and took no prisoners.
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Old 01-29-19, 10:08 AM
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Re: When did Batman replace Superman as DC's flagship character?

In the era when Superman was first published most of the DC characters were godlike and had a moral code that is unattainable in real life but others would inspire to be like. With DC comics the superheroes were the real person and their secret identities were just the facade. This concept is much more dated now. Stan lee changed that in the 1960's. His creations were more about the people behind the mask. Just about all the characters he created (or co-crated) during that time had some type of Achilles' heel that made them something less than perfect. Peter Parker was arrogant when he first got his powers which lead to his uncle being killed. Bruce Banner had temper issues and a split personality of sorts. Daredevil was blind. Johnny Storm was an immature hot tempered teen. All those characters tried to be beeter and were never perfect. That made them much more relatable to readers. Batman was much closer to this concept with having personality defects, except that Bruce Wayne is more of the facade and Batman is dominant identity.
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Old 01-30-19, 03:55 PM
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Re: When did Batman replace Superman as DC's flagship character?

It was definitely Michael Keaton's Batman movie that elevated Batman's standing in mass culture far above Superman. The popularity of the Death of Superman story arc in the 1990s feels more like a last hurrah for Superman than a reversal of trends.

Superman's decline in popularity can be traced to a couple of things - mostly the terrible movie sequels during the 1980s and how everything for the character changed after Crisis. While John Byrne's changes to the character made for decent reading, it absolutely gutted Superman's standing in the greater DC universe. Destroying almost all of Superman's toys and familiar trappings for nearly two decades turned him into a bland father and husband figure.

Then Frank Miller finished off Superman with adults by trashing the character in The Dark Knight Returns. The Dark Knight Returns' bleak outlook on superheroes changed what readers wanted from them and Superman doesn't fit easily into that post-modern paradigm, unless you fundamentally change the character into something different. We see it in the many Elseworlds with Superman deciding that he needs to take over the world for the sake of humanity.
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Old 01-30-19, 05:19 PM
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Re: When did Batman replace Superman as DC's flagship character?

Originally Posted by PhantomStranger View Post
While John Byrne's changes to the character made for decent reading, it absolutely gutted Superman's standing in the greater DC universe. Destroying almost all of Superman's toys and familiar trappings for nearly two decades turned him into a bland father and husband figure.
Post-Crisis, was there ever a really good, in-continuity run of Superman?
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Old 01-30-19, 07:44 PM
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Re: When did Batman replace Superman as DC's flagship character?

Originally Posted by brayzie View Post
Post-Crisis, was there ever a really good, in-continuity run of Superman?
I donít remember much of it, not even sure if I read it, but the post-Byrne Ďtriangle eraĒ gets a lot of love.
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Old 01-31-19, 02:20 PM
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Re: When did Batman replace Superman as DC's flagship character?

Originally Posted by brayzie View Post
Post-Crisis, was there ever a really good, in-continuity run of Superman?
While I understand why DC had Byrne revamp the character, Byrne-man never really interested me that much. There's been many fine smaller runs within continuity with Superman since Crisis, but it's hard thinking of an extended run that immediately comes to mind. Maybe the Exile arc, which comes right after Byrne's run and was reprinted recently in an omnibus. Most of the best Superman runs from the past 30 years have been in series like All-Star Superman or Superman: Secret Origin.

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I will say that DC does treat Superman pretty well in crossovers. They tend to put Wonder Woman and Batman through the ringer in larger crossovers and mega-events.
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Old 01-31-19, 02:34 PM
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Re: When did Batman replace Superman as DC's flagship character?

I got a similar question in regards to Batman. When did he become an asshole? Was it on the Morrison JLA run or did it happen before that?
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Old 01-31-19, 02:47 PM
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Re: When did Batman replace Superman as DC's flagship character?

Originally Posted by Red Hood View Post
I got a similar question in regards to Batman. When did he become an asshole? Was it on the Morrison JLA run or did it happen before that?
I think that became a real trend in the 2000s and has only grown with time. It became popular as people started "deconstructing" Batman's personality and background. Other mediums have had a hand in this transformation.

I still remember when Batman was a relatively well-adjusted person with admirable character traits. I don't even find him a likeable character anymore. They've turned him into a psychopath and he's becoming more and more of an anti-hero each decade.

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Old 01-31-19, 02:55 PM
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Re: When did Batman replace Superman as DC's flagship character?

Originally Posted by PhantomStranger View Post
I think that became a real trend in the 2000s and has only grown with time. It became popular as people started "deconstructing" Batman's personality and background. Other mediums have had a hand in this transformation.

I still remember when Batman was a relatively well-adjusted person with admirable character traits. I don't even find him a likeable character anymore. They've turned him into a psychopath and he's becoming more and more of an anti-hero each decade.
I remember Batman Beyond using this trope and that was in 1999. So it must have happened in the mid 90's and then refined over the past 25 years
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Old 01-31-19, 03:10 PM
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Re: When did Batman replace Superman as DC's flagship character?

PS, you're crazy in downplaying post Crisis Superman. I do think something that hampers bigger collections of those series are the triangle numbering and how the storylines would interweave between the four different books, which all had different creative teams. It was an interesting experiment, and probably an editorial nightmare, but not really the easiest way to collect books for a shelf.

As far as cranky Batman and Batman Beyond: future batman was cranky as early as TDKR, so we knew he would be sociopathic as he got older. But he wasn't really all that grumpy through the 80s/90s, at least not that I can recall, even through Knightfall and stuff like No Man's Land. Morrison for sure made him more of a genius type of character (that one comic where he takes down Prometheus stands out), but that was to give him a place on the roster of gods that the JLA was.

When Waid took the title over, he introduced the concept that Batman kept tabs on all his league mates and how to take them down in Tower of Babel (which was kind of a natural offshoot of what happened in TDKR), and I think that helped fundamentally change the character.
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Old 01-31-19, 08:58 PM
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Re: When did Batman replace Superman as DC's flagship character?

Originally Posted by Red Hood View Post
I got a similar question in regards to Batman. When did he become an asshole? Was it on the Morrison JLA run or did it happen before that?
Frank Millerís ďIím the goddamn Batman?Ē
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Old 02-01-19, 04:38 PM
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Re: When did Batman replace Superman as DC's flagship character?

Originally Posted by Josh-da-man View Post


Frank Millerís ďIím the goddamn Batman?Ē
True, but that's supposed to be an Elseworlds story, even though is not officially labeled like that.
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Old 02-01-19, 04:40 PM
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Re: When did Batman replace Superman as DC's flagship character?

Originally Posted by PhantomStranger View Post
Most of the best Superman runs from the past 30 years have been in series like All-Star Superman or Superman: Secret Origin.
I'll have to check out Secret Origin. I'm not a big fan of Johns' approach to Superman though. I initially thought you were referring to Superman: Secret Identity, which is a great story, but it's an Elseworlds.
Superman in Exile looks interesting, and although I haven't read it, I've always thought it was the most interesting storyline that came from the Byrne-reboot. Phantom Zone criminals, gladiator times right?

Originally Posted by Red Hood View Post
I got a similar question in regards to Batman. When did he become an asshole? Was it on the Morrison JLA run or did it happen before that?
I remember people complaining at message forums for the longest time about that.
Supposedly DC explained Batman being a paranoid asshole because the JLA mind-wiped him sometime in the past. This was in Identity Crisis.
Maybe it started after the Crisis-reboot. Before that Batman and Superman were best friends. After that, they played up their ideological differences and Batman always came off as kind of rude or condescending to Superman.

Originally Posted by PhantomStranger View Post
I still remember when Batman was a relatively well-adjusted person with admirable character traits. I don't even find him a likeable character anymore. They've turned him into a psychopath and he's becoming more and more of an anti-hero each decade.
Didn't Morrison try to undo some of that in his run?

Originally Posted by fujishig View Post
PS, you're crazy in downplaying post Crisis Superman.
Let me know of some really good runs or storylines.
Batman seems to have all these really great storylines and creative teams since at least the 70s.

Neal Adams/Denny O'Neil in the 70s. We got Thalia, Ra's Al Ghul, League of Assassins.
Englehart and Rogers in the early 80s. Silver St. Cloud, and Boss Thorne.
Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle had a great run in the late 80s.
Kelley Jones and Doug Moench bringing back the eerie, Golden Age Bat-man for their 90s run.
Hush by Lee and Loeb.
Dark Knight/Dark City
Dark Genesis
Mike Barr and Alan Davis on Detective Comics that culminated with Year Two.
Grant Morrison's entire run, including the great Batman & Robin with Frank Quitely.
That's just off the top of my head.

I never found a really good run of in-continuity Superman, or even memorable stories like the above.


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Old 02-01-19, 05:10 PM
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Re: When did Batman replace Superman as DC's flagship character?

I think another thing going on is the change of the target demographic. When comics were written for 10-13 year olds you got Batman and Boy Wonder, a huge run of Superman/Batman team up stories in Brave and Bold, and a horse with a Superman cape.

Today the target market is 18-25 year olds, the age group which is attracted to cynicism, emotional drama, goth, suicide, and violent outbursts. Batman has made the adaptation. The whole point of Superman is that he always does the right thing, has an inner nobility, and is the moral center of the DC universe. The people who get Harley Quinn tattoos don't want to read stories about someone like that. There isn't a lot writers can do to bridge that gap.
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