My most recent stack of comics acquisitions included Batgirl #12, a story which sees Batgirl first fighting, then teaming-up with Batwoman, a story which got me seriously thinking about what it says that DC is willing to have both characters active at the same time.  Give that the current Batwoman costume was created to emulate the 60’s Batgirl look (from the TV series and “New Look” comics), it seems that having two females Bats, each with red hair and a similar fashion style, might water down the bat-franchise a bit.  Then again, by that logic, couldn’t having ANY other bat-types active at the same time as Batman could be see to have that same effect?

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) knows comics creators to be a superstitious and cowardly lot, asking:  Will multiple secondary characters (i.e., a dozen different Hulks of differing shades) lessen the impact of the primary characters upon which they’re based?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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13 Comments

  1. Hirimno
    August 30, 2012 at 10:50 am — Reply

    After one or two “extras” I think it definitely lessens the primary characters for two reasons. First, there’s the schtick component. It makes each characters power set just that much less unique. The second reason is story. Coming into this as a person who barely read comics in the 90s and has gotten back into them the past couple months, it seems like its a waste of available story arcs. I can understand the “need” to have a different version, maybe two, of a character to pull out some great stories. I would rather have that great story some writer came up with in my main character then the eighth clone of his and the main character have a completely suck story. Well, that’s me anyway, great question.

  2. August 30, 2012 at 11:45 am — Reply

    Everyone should know by now that Batman makes everything better, and thusly anything Batman related (Batgirl, Batwoman, Nightwing, and so on), also makes everything better.

  3. August 30, 2012 at 1:12 pm — Reply

    No, not really. Sure, having several characters with the same set of powers and skills could potentially diminish the appeal of seeing the powers in use. But the powers are only part of a character’s appeal.

    The biggest and most important aspect of a character always has been and always will be the characters themselves. Batgirl and Batwoman might both essentially be female versions of Batman; but they both have their own unique history, personality, and thought processes that serve to separate them from each other and from Batman himself.

    Or to put it another way- Their may be several “Bat” characters, but there’s still only one Bruce Wayne.

    Of course, my opinion might be somewhat bias because I’m a big Green Lantern fan, and thus highly accustomed to seeing a metric crap-ton of characters with the same powers.

  4. August 30, 2012 at 1:44 pm — Reply

    It depends a lot on the reason behind the extra characters, the stories they are involved in and how well written they are. Overall I don’t think having variants lessens the original or main character by itself (unless that is the intention of the story), but like Art Guy Charlie above me I’m also a big Green Lantern fan and am pretty used to the idea that there are more than a couple thousand beings with the same powers. I’m more interested in the differences in that situation than I am about how similar they are.

  5. Oldcomicfan
    August 30, 2012 at 2:30 pm — Reply

    Yes, yes it does. Although having an Alternate Hero might do well for an “Imaginary Tale” or two, I was reading comics back before Crisis on Infinite Earths and I can tell you that having multiple versions of the Flash, multiple versions of Green Lantern, etc. all based on Alternate Earths was just plain confusing. And it had the result that I quit buying those comics which were unstable as to which version of the character you were going to get. All you have to do is mention Earth 2 to start me foaming at the mouth. I remember reading a story where Doc Wayne, before his unfortunate demise, wears a bat costume to a ball and ends up fighting crime and I quit buying Batman for the longest time. It was too great a stretch of credibility, even for a kid. My dad once dressed up as a devil for a costume party. If he had stopped to change a stranger’s flat tire on his way to the party, does that mean that, decades later, I am going to dress up as a devil and drive around looking for stranded motorists to rescue? It does not. Having too many version of a major character running around dilutes the franchise. Which is why I thought Grant Morrison’s “Batman Inc.” was the worst idea since General Custer decided to ride down Medicine Tail Coulee. “If one Batman is good, twenty Batmans is better” is just as hollow a concept as thinking that “If one enema is good, twenty enemas are better” – all you end up with is a disgusting mess.

    • August 30, 2012 at 6:20 pm — Reply

      That is a truly disgusting metaphor.

      • Slappy
        August 31, 2012 at 1:12 am — Reply

        I agree with Matthew.
        1 Slappy is Marvelous, but 20 or even 100 hundred Slappys is so grand there isn’t a word yet to define it.

  6. Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
    August 30, 2012 at 2:31 pm — Reply

    I agree with the general commentary: it depends on the why and the how. Nightwing is not Batwing is not Batgirl is not Red Robin… They all stake out different (enough) characters and motivations to work on their own. The ways they interconnect also make for more complex storytelling (like most of the Court of Owls crossover) if done well. The GLs also make sense (if written well) as do the various Starmen (and most of the old JSA duplications and triplications). It all comes down to the writing. That said, it is interesting that it tends to be the big names that get all the analogs…

  7. Frank
    August 30, 2012 at 4:53 pm — Reply

    What if you go overboard with derivative characters. The Batman of the World really comes to mind. English Batman, Mexican Batman, Roman Batman. It does dilute the brand when you have so many knock offs of a character.

    It seems that Knight and Squire with their history might stand on their own.

    • August 30, 2012 at 10:58 pm — Reply

      I was going to mention “Batman Incorporated”, and how it seems to have franchised the Bat-Logo to about a dozen different nations… Then I saw this post pointing out that we’ve already had McBatman. And I’ve got to agree — Knight & Squire were “different-but-similar”, instead of “franchisees of Batcorp. Ltd.” It =can= work sometimes, but those times are seemingly the exceptions. For example, “Venom” is different enough to stand on his own, but “Carnage” is a one-trick pony, and the original “Spider-Woman” should really have been named “Psi-Spider”. ^_^

  8. Shush
    August 30, 2012 at 5:49 pm — Reply

    I think it just ends up more confusing than anything else. To the casual reader, they will be unfamiliar with all the nuances of any given character.

    “What’s this?” Some people might cry. “Why is the Hulk red? And this one is gray! Why isn’t he green any more?”

    If causing confusion to the layman comic reader counts as diluting the brand, then yes, it dilutes the comic brand.

    We, the people that frequent Major Spoilers, are much closer to the source and familiar with the comics in general. So we might not see it the same way. We are not confused by the extended Bat Family, or the various Spidermens, or that Supergirl and Powergirl have a complicated backstory to them.

    To give the proper perspective on it, then of course it is reasonable to infer that the brands are watered down by the process of creating more and more secondary characters.

    Similarly, they can also be strengthened. If a second tier character does really well, it may bring more attention to the character that one is paying homage to, thereby increasing his or her prestige and strengthening the brand.

  9. August 30, 2012 at 6:29 pm — Reply

    I’m going with the copout answer of “It depends”. Some of my favorite characters are spin-off characters who are basically like-powered kid sidekicks. It really all depends on what the creators do to make the characters unique so that they don’t feel like clones or hangers-on.

  10. August 31, 2012 at 1:25 am — Reply

    With Hulk definetly – yes!
    Hulk has allways been “strongest there is” but with a whole family of red, green ect Hulks out there, weeeeell not so much.

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