The era of the comic superheroes started with the likes of Hugo Hercules, and later in the 1930s when many superheroes came to life, we got The Shadow, Mandrake the Magician, and Doctor Occult. But the tale of the sometimes brilliant and sometimes flawed hero goes back to Greek mythology. The poet Homer gave us Odysseus, the warrior king, and Achilles, a man who is almost indestructible. Closer to reality, literature gave us the fast-thinking Sherlock Holmes, while pulp fiction brought forward the mysterious Don Diego de la Vega, aka Zorro. Heroes are rarely ideal, but even though they may have their doubts, or occasionally make us doubt them, they come through as the immutable ‘goodie’ in the end. Today we’ll look at two men who are perhaps the most famous of modern superheroes, in this episode of the Infographics Show, Batman vs. Superman.
Both of these men were creations of DC Comics, with Superman appearing one year before Batman. That year was 1938, when he appeared in an anthology issue called ‘Action Comics number one’. He was popular from the start and soon got a comic all about him. Superman wasn’t actually created by DC Comics, but by two high school students named Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. They worked on creating Superman for a number of years, changing his appearance, and giving him a back story. The pair didn’t really have much success selling their superhero and in 1938 they sold the rights to Superman to DC for $130, which in today’s money, is a little over $2,200 ($2,274.25).
Batman first appeared in 1939 in DC Comics number 27. After the company realized the public wanted more superheroes following the success of Superman, Bob Kane and Bill Finger came up with the character Batman while working on contract with DC. The aristocratic hero was very much more down to Earth than Superman, relying on technology as well as his own physical strength and mental agility.
In this comparison, we will compare not only how well these characters have done in terms of business and popularity, but also which is the better character in the fictional world. The latter of course is subjective, but we’ll attempt to address flaws and abilities and how the two have matched-up against each other in fictional fights.
According to comic book industry statistics, Superman has outsold Batman, but not by very much. It’s said that the Superman series has generated around 600 million dollars, while Batman has generated around 460 million dollars. This might sound peculiar for many Batman fans because when we looked at forums that discussed the question of which comic is better, just about everyone voted for Batman. The reason of course is that while Superman may have ruled the superhero roost in the past, right now the caped crusader is more popular. In fact, DC reported its best-selling comics of 2017 and Batman comics had two positions on the list while Superman had none. Still, while Batman-led comics were ahead of comics solely focused on Superman, in 2017 the comics Doomsday Clock and Dark Nights Metal, both of which have Superman as a main character, outsold the best selling Batman comic. If we go back to 2015, we can see that Batman was leading then, too. That year, Batman-led series sold 4.3 million copies generating $16,950,000, while Superman-led series sold $4,700,000. Everywhere we looked, throughout recent years, we found that Batman comics were outselling Superman comics.
This wasn’t always the case, and historically, as we said, Superman has outsold Batman. The bestselling Superman comic was 1987’s Superman number 87, ‘The Death of Superman’. That alone sold three million copies and was considered a game-changer. Batman doesn’t get in the top ten. The best selling comic book of all time according to industry stats was Marvel’s 1991 ‘X-Men Vol. 2, number 1’, which sold 8,186,500 copies.
Ok, what about the movies? Here Batman is ahead of Superman, according to Box Office mojo. 2008’s ‘The Dark Knight’ is the second highest grossing superhero movie of all time after 2012’s Marvel’s ‘The Avengers’. The Dark Knight has an all-time gross of over $534 million. The Dark Knight Rises has an all time gross of over $448 million. When the two characters were together in 2016’s ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,’ the movie earned over $330 million. Superman is nowhere to be seen and the best at the box office was 2013’s ‘Man of Steel’ at over $291 million. The classic, 1978’s ‘Superman’, grossed over $134 million. If we adjust what they took in for inflation, The Dark Knight is still a big seller, but the classic Superman movie is almost equal in terms of money generated. Business Insider did us the favor of adding up all the money earned by superhero franchises and Batman came top. When the total gross of all the movies in the series was adjusted for inflation, the number was $3,462,641,900. Superman was in fourth place behind the X-Men franchise and Spiderman franchise at $1,970,034,900. Superman and Superman 2, though old films, led the charge for the franchise.
But it’s not always about quantity is it; what about quality? On just about anyone’s list, you’ll find The Dark Knight at the top in terms of quality. This was a pretty dark movie indeed, and one in which Heath Ledger’s Joker was the unforgettable character. IMDB puts it in first place, and The Dark Knight Rises in third. Man of Steel comes in 30th. Although, Rotten Tomatoes puts the recent Wonder Woman movie in first place; 2017’s Logan and Thor: Ragnarok in second and third, and The Dark Knight in fourth. Again, Superman is nowhere to be seen. But, if we look at the website Metacritic, which takes into consideration reviews from critics working for many publications as well as user reviews, 1978’s Superman comes in first place. Spider-Man 2 comes in second and The Dark Knight only third this time. Users did put it in first though, and we should say that many reviewers called it perfect, but the score was brought down by a handful of negative reviews. It was called “sadistic” “muddled” and liable to give the viewer “post-movie stress disorder.” Everyone seemed to like Superman, though.
So, who is the better hero? Well, the two men have come to blows a few times before. In the comics, it seems most times these two come together, Batman takes a whupping from Superman. Time and again, Superman beats the living daylights out of Batman, but a couple of times someone intervenes to stop the beat-down. Batman does win a few though, and we can find one fight that is kind of a draw. Another time when it looks as though Batman got the upper hand, he was graceful in victory and stated there was no winner. In the movie ‘Dawn of Justice,’ we can see that Batman gets the upper hand, but that’s mostly due to him packing Kryptonite. In terms of popularity, though, who wins? We found a live poll in which you could vote for your favorite between the two, and Batman was leading by 80 to 20 percent of votes.
Let’s face it, Superman has much better super powers. He has all manner of fantastic abilities enabling him to literally fly around the world at high speed, or pick up buildings. He can withstand an atomic explosion, has X-Ray vision, can hear you talking from far away, and he doesn’t even need to eat. He is pretty much invincible, although that pesky kryptonite can surely ruin a good day for him. Batman has the best toys, because he needs them. His powers wouldn’t be bad inside a UFC cage, but he’s got nothing on Superman. Ask yourself whose powers you’d rather have.
In our opinion, as far as depth of character is concerned, Batman could be said to be more interesting. His real-life character, Bruce Wayne, is extravagant and fun, while the man behind Superman would probably be a snore at parties. Batman himself is dark and broody, while Superman is kind of like a boy scout. What we want to know, though, is what you think! Batman or Superman?! Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video called Marvel vs DC!