DC Comics seems to think so. In the recently released solicitations for August, almost a third of DC’s output will be Batbooks. But is all that bat a bad idea for business? Major Spoilers runs the numbers.

While doing my comic book business due diligence, I came across an interesting article from the Grumpy Old Fan over at Robot 6. In looking at DC’s August solicitations, he noted a number that might be surprising to some people. While DC is all about the number 52, there’s another integer with a certain amount of significance in their stable, and that is the number 14. As in, DC is publishing fourteen Bat titles in the month of August in the year 2013.


I decided to throw some numbers around Excel to see just what that really means. Reviewing DC’s August solicitations, I came up with the same number of Batfamily issues, That number can vary depending how you code the data. Is Detective Comics a Batbook? Yes. Is Justice League? No – while Batman is in it, the focus is on the League, not Batman. But what about Talon, Birds of Prey, or Red Hood and the Outlaws? Yes, yes, and yes. Batman/Superman? Both a Batman book and a Superman book. Obviously, there is room for interpretation, but only enough for a title or two of difference. A categorical quibble should not skew the results significantly.

I broke DC’s publishing into five different groupings – Justice League, Batfamily, Green Lantern, Superfamily and Dark titles. The Batfamily has by far the largest share, with the aforementioned 14 published titles out of 52. This is a hair under 27% of DC’s New 52 output for the month of August. The next highest category is tied between Justice League titles and the Superbooks – which come in at 6 titles, and an 11% share of the total. DC Comics has been betting significantly on Bruce Wayne and his associates to carry the company, and that will continue into the foreseeable future. No one else comes close.


How does that compare to what’s going on at the House of Ideas? A common criticism of Marvel is that they brand everything with either an Avengers or X-Men tag, sprinkle in some Wolverine, and then it’s up to God to sort it out. Marvel’s August solicitations bear that idea out. X-Books make up 26% of Marvel’s output in August, while Avengers-affiliated titles make up just under 20% of the share. So while it might be surprising that DC is leaning so heavily on Batman and assorted Batpeoples, Marvel’s merry mutants are just as important for their respective corporate overlords. But the Avengers seem to figure into Marvel’s bottom line much more than the Justice League does for DC.

These numbers are slightly skewed by a few factors. A big one is Marvel’s tendency to double ship their X-Titles. Astonishing X-Men, Cable & X-Force, X-Factor, and Uncanny X-Men are all getting sent out twice in August. If double-shipping is ignored for all titles, the X-Books make up 23% of the line-up, and the Avengers books creep up just over 20% – a more equitable division. Marvel also has a greater propensity for team books. Half of their output is team books, whereas DC publishes more solo titles (55% of their respective make-up). I did not include series Savage Wolverine or Gambit in the X-Books numbers. These solo titles tend not to involve the other X-Men, being much more self-involved affairs, as are Captain America, Iron Man and Captain Marvel. If you do take a more liberal, lumping approach, the X-Book share becomes 30% of the total, which is equal to the adjusted Avengers share.


These numbers are interesting, but what do they mean? I figured it might be possible to draw a conclusion or two if we compared them to March and April’s sales figures.

Right off the bat (har), some interesting stuff there. In both March and April, 70% of the top twenty titles are Marvel titles – that’s fourteen out of the top twenty each month. But while Marvel has been outselling DC for a while, something about that top twenty made me uncomfortable. Look at how many top titles are #1s and #2s or wonky event books like Age of Ultron. I wanted to look at established titles with at least four or five issues published, and ignore the miniseries and tie-ins.

Stripping out the (possibly) anomalous stuff, it turns out that DC actually has 9 titles in my personally revised top twenty in March, and 6 in April. Of those cumulative 15 titles, 9 are Batbooks, with Batman being the highest adjusted selling series each month.  When almost a quarter of the non-miniseries, non-first issue top twenty selling books are Batman-related, it is a significant thing. Looking solely at DC’s top twenty titles in the months of March and April, 40% are Batbooks. For what it’s worth, very similar numbers pop out for Marvel and the X-Books – 9 titles in the two industry-wide top twenty lists, and 38% percent of Marvel’s top twenty.


What does this tell us, ultimately? As far as DC is concerned business-wise, relying on Batman is a sound strategy. Everything really is better (or at least sells better) with Batman, or some form of Bat-relation. There is a very good reason that the stands are so full of Batpeople and X-Mutants; they sell.

While my primary focus was whether this market concentration seemed like a good strategy for Batman-related titles, I also realized how much Marvel benefits from relaunches and Big Event miniseries. In March, their five top telling books were Age of Ultron #s 1-3, Wolverine #1 and Guardians of the Galaxy #1 (in no particular order). In April, it was Age of Ultron #s 4-6, Thanos Rising #1 and Guardians of the Galaxy #2. It seems like some of the businesses practices I find most annoying are likely to continue at Marvel so long as they produce numbers like that.

But if these numbers really tell me anything, it is that the highest selling comic book of all time would be an eight issue miniseries titled Batman and Wolverine & the X-Men versus the Age of Avengers, written by Brian Michael Bendis. It’s gonna be a hit!


About Author

George Chimples comes from the far future, where comics are outlawed and only outlaws read comics. In an effort to prevent that horrible dystopia from ever coming into being, he has bravely traveled to the past in an attempt to change the future by ensuring that comics are good. Please do not talk to him about grandfather paradoxes. He likes his comics to be witty, trashy fun with slightly less pulp than a freshly squeezed glass of OJ. George’s favorite comic writers are Warren Ellis and Grant Morrison, while his preferred artists are Guy Davis and Chris Bachalo, He loves superheroes, but also enjoys horror, science fiction, and war comics. You can follow him @TheChimples on Twitter for his ramblings regarding comics, Cleveland sports, and nonsense.


  1. Does the batman sell books yes
    More than anyone else yes
    Will this last no
    Will we burn out on batman yes
    Will it kill dc not on it’s own but it is a sign that dc have run out of new ideas are are stuck in rererehash mode

  2. Oldcomicfan on

    We’ve seen this before. In the sixties we had lots of bat titles and they weren’t able to sustain it without bringing Batmite, Ace the Bat Hound, Batwoman, Batgirl, etc. on board. Eventually it contracted into just Batman and Detective. In the Eighties, it expanded again into more Bat titles than I care to remember, the company wasn’t able to sustain it, and it contracted once again. Now we’re in a period of expansion of the bat titles. There was a mini-contraction at the start of the New 52, but the expansion continued once again, proving the contraction was just a period of false labor. The important question isn’t “Is everything better with more Batman” but how long can they sustain it this time before the inevitable collapse?

    • George Chimples on

      How did those trends stack against the prevailing comic book currents? Were there similar contractions across the board for the Big 2 or was there a lapse in Bat-titles alone?

      The pattern I’ve described in this article seems to hold true for the pre-52 DC publishing practices. In August of 2011, there were 15 solicited Batbooks, give or take a one-shot or two, out of ~60 titles. And looking at their sales figures from a similar time period, Batbooks again make up between 30-40% of DC’s top selling titles. So to me, it looks like this strategy has been working for DC for a few years at the very least.

      I won’t extrapolate the data out into the future, but it would seem that as long as people are buying the Bat-titles at the prodigious rate they currently are (and have been for a few years at least), it’s a sustainable practice.

    • It’s a nice theory, but doesn’t have any factual basis.

      Batman had two titles for the better part of three decades (not counting Worlds Finest Comics, which was the Superman/Batman book and seemed to inhabit a separate world.) In 1965, he started co-headlining The Brave And The Bold, which was cancelled circa 1983. (It was replaced by Batman and The Outsiders.) Batman Family did 20 issues in the mid-70s, but only featured Batman in cameos during it’s run.

      All of the characters noted (Bat-Mite, et al) originated in the 1950s during a period where Batman had two books. Bat-villains Man-Bat and the Joker had brief series in the 70s as well.

      He didn’t get a third solo title until 1989, with Legends Of The Dark Knight, with Shadow Of The Bat added in 1992, leaving us with 4 solo Bat-books. At the time of Flashpoint, six Bat-books were cancelled, with six Bat-books revived in the New 52.

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