Five Thirty Eight determines Batman and Superman are more “World’s Finest” than “Versus”

Five Thirty Eight is the site that’s famous for its in-depth analysis of elections. It’s also expanded its expertise into the world of sports (now being owned by ESPN helps). Five Thirty Eight also analyzes some miscellaneous trivia. Most recently, they looked at the number of appearances of various characters in Batman and Superman’s comics to determine who’s teamed up with each character the most.

It seems that contrary to a certain big-budget, critically-disliked film depicting the heroes’ relationship as barely “Alien vs. Predator” (to paraphrase a line from webcomic “My Cage”), Batman and Superman are pretty joined at the hip after all. Five Thirty Eight analyzed via the DC Comics Wikia wiki every appearance by various major characters in the Man of Steel and Dark Knight’s books over the decades. Five Thirty Eight only used canonical appearances in the main continuity of the time (divided by Earth-2, Earth-1, post-Crisis, and New 52), ignoring non-canon stuff like “Kingdom Come,” Elseworlds, etc. (Contrary to 538’s footnotes and DC’s claimed excuses, I’d say the post-Crisis continuity and its retcons were ultimately more confusing than anything Earth-1 and Earth-2 ever did, but I digress…)

I’ve listed below the top 10 characters to appear in each hero’s book, followed in parentheses the number of such appearances and the percentage of books:

Top 10 characters to appear in Batman’s comics

  1. Superman (1901) (32%)
  2. Dick Grayson (1846) (32%)
  3. Commissioner Gordon (1546) (26%)
  4. Alfred Pennyworth (1435) (25%)
  5. Wonder Woman (1130) (19%)
  6. J’onn J’onzz (821) (14%)
  7. Tim Drake (799) (14%)
  8. Oliver Queen (785) (13%)
  9. Barbara Gordon (700) (12%)
  10. Hal Jordan (699) (12%)

Top 10 characters to appear in Superman’s comics

  1. Lois Lane (1930) (36%)
  2. Batman (1901) (35%)
  3. Wonder Woman (1331) (25%)
  4. Jimmy Olsen (1175) (22%)
  5. Perry White (910) (17%)
  6. Supergirl (Kara Zor-El) (883) (16%)
  7. J’onn J’onzz (813) (15%)
  8. Hal Jordan (806) (15%)
  9. Lex Luthor (798) (15%)
  10. Aquaman (754) (14%)

So despite some modern insistence otherwise, Batman’s most popular and frequent cohort is… Kal-El himself. Even moreso than Dick Grayson, Alfred, or James Gordon!

On the Superman side of things, the Metropolis Marvel’s most popular cohort is Lois Lane. However, very close behind in the #2 slot is the Masked Manhunter. Bruce beats out Wonder Woman, Jimmy Olsen (“Superman’s Pal”!), and Clark’s boss Perry White, who puts in a rather high placement.

World's Finest Comics #76
“World’s Finest Comics” #76, May-June 1955. Art by Win Mortimer.

Some observations:

  • Presumably team-up titles like the various JLA/JSA books and “World’s Finest” (and successor titles) count as both Batman and Superman books for this study’s purposes.
  • The Martian Manhunter’s a more popular character than I thought, putting in a pretty decent number of appearances in both heroes’ books.
  • Aquaman also places on the list’s top 10, which is better than any of the Flashes, Superman’s own clone Kon-El (Superboy), or Superman’s own adoptive parents. Not bad, Sea King. On the Batman side, Mr. Curry’s made about as many appearances as the Joker.
  • It’s not clear whether or not the list counts the pre-Crisis Superboy comics; if not, counting those would probably boost Ma and Pa Kent and Lana Lang’s numbers.
  • Lois’ top-ranking placement is another indication of how important she is to the Superman mythos, despite her mistreatment in the New 52.
  • Superman probably outnumbers Dick Grayson thanks to Dick being mostly separated from his mentor since the 70s (and even moreso since “New Teen Titans”/Dick became Nightwing), while Superman has continued to regularly team up with Batman in “World’s Finest,” “Justice League of America,” and other books up to this day.
  • Similarly, Wonder Woman probably outnumbers Jimmy Olsen thanks to ongoing JLA books (and the awful New 52 Superman/Wonder Woman “romance”), while Jimmy’s largely lacked an ongoing comic or backup series since the 80s.

As for the future of the World’s Finest team, I prefer to think of them more as “pals” than “two 8-year-olds fighting in the back seat of a car on a family trip.” But no matter what happens, it’s clear the connection between Batman and Superman won’t be destroyed anytime soon. There’s a reason Batman and Superman’s old “World’s Finest Comics” slogan was “your two favorite heroes together in one adventure!”

One comment

  1. So interesting! I would love to see this list as a line chart over time. Each character would have his/her own line, so you can see the increase or decrease during certain years/eras.

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