In 2013, I did a blog post looking over the diversity of DC Comics’ core “New 52” books. It turned out that the number of books not tied to Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, or the Justice League (or its members) could be counted on one hand. On top of that, a lopsided 42% of DC’s core output was ludicrously tied to Batman in some way, shape, or form.
Fast forward to 2015, and I thought it’d be time to see if the above’s changed at all, in response to sales lagging behind Marvel’s and overall comic medium changes in customer demands, diversity, etc.
List of Batman-related comics
Based on the July 2015 DC Comics solicitations, and not counting miniseries, licensed property comics, or non-canonical material (“Scooby-Doo Team-Up,” etc.), DC has a core 42 regularly published DC Universe-set titles. The current Batman or Batman-related books being published include:
- Detective Comics
- Justice League of America (Batman’s a member)
- Justice League (ditto)
- Teen Titans (featuring Tim Drake)
- Red Hood/Arsenal (featuring Jason Todd)
- Batman Beyond
- Gotham By Midnight
- Gotham Academy
- Harley Quinn
- Robin: Son of Batman
- Earth-2: Society (featuring the Earth-2 Batman)
- We Are…Robin
- JL 3001 (featuring a 31st century version of Batman)
That’s 18 books out of 42 that feature the Dark Knight or a character related to the Dark Knight—or 43% of DC’s core DCU comics. While DC’s cancelled and revised some of their books post-“Convergence,” their line still has an extremely heavy Bat-presence.
From a business standpoint, I can see why DC might want to double down on Batman—he’s their most successful franchise, and much moreso than anything else they publish. It’s also to the point that the rest of DC’s line of books, as well as movies and other non-comics output, are also heavily influenced by, or revolve around, Batman’s dark tone. “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” tone-wise will pretty much be the anti-“Guardians of the Galaxy”; we also recently learned we’re getting an animated film based on controversial 80s graphic novel “The Killing Joke.” Part of DC’s leadership (specifically Jim Lee and Bob Harras) have made their names with 90s comics, including the Marvel and Image books of that time. Co-publisher Dan DiDio also spearheaded stories like the 2000s miniseries “Identity Crisis.”
While some argue it’s DC’s attempt at carving out a distinct path from their rivals (“counter-programming,” to borrow a TV term), DC’s comic sales are still behind those of Marvel’s. DC/WB’s non-Batman-related recent movies have been financially successful. However, they haven’t excited the general public like Marvel’s films. DC’s books also traditionally had a somewhat optimistic tone; seeing them go from that to a cynical tone feels jarring to longtime fans.
There’s also that prevailing comic trends are moving away from “grimdark.” For instance, every DC book in June got outsold by “Star Wars.” Meanwhile, the most popular current DC TV shows are “The Flash” and “Teen Titans Go.” The types of books on the New York Times’ best-selling graphic novels lists also support this. While “The Killing Joke” is on the hardcover list, every other hardcover and paperback are “The Killing Joke”‘s opposite in tone and audience.
It’s not all bad news—as I noted above, “Flash” and “Teen Titans Go” have been successful. A “Supergirl” TV series is also coming out this fall. Also, in an attempt to address some of the above concerns, DC’s post-“Convergence” efforts are giving us a somewhat wider range of books. These include ones that don’t relate to Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, or the JLA. Such books include:
- Black Canary
- Constantine: The Hellblazer
- Dr. Fate
- Omega Men
- New Suicide Squad
- Prez (a 12-issue miniseries, but still…)
- Secret Six
- Section Eight
As for diversity along the lines of “non-heterosexual White males as both characters and DC Comics staff,” that’d be another blog post altogether. However, this weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con had a few DC staff members (including DiDio) state they’ll be making attempts at a more diverse lineup of books. This includes a revived Milestone Comics imprint.