DC Comics is doing both readers and Batman a disservice by leaning too much on the Dark Knight.
When it comes to comic book characters, there are few more iconic or recognizable as Batman. For decades, Batman has been a household, identifiable by fans of comic books and people who have never flipped through one alike. Like Superman, there are few people who don’t have some basic idea of who Batman is and his general story: a young boy whose parents are murdered in front of them who goes on to use his wealth to create a secret vigilante identity to fight crime and corruption in Gotham City. Batman is so popular that he is considered one of the three “pillars” of DC Comics (Superman and Wonder Woman are the other two), there have been countless movies made based on his stories, and he even has his own day, Batman Day.
Batman’s massive popularity also sees the character get plenty of stories and comics centered around him and his corner of the DC Universe. At any given time in the past several years, Batman has been at the center of roughly 10 separate comics titles at a time, more than pretty much any other character not only DC’s roster, but in comics overall. Batman is, quite literally, everywhere when it comes to comics and frankly, that’s a problem. Yes, Batman is cool and all, but there are just too many Batman comics and the glut of them are overshadowing not only other powerhouse characters, but preventing DC from making full use of the rich and fascinating roster of heroes and villains they have at their disposal — and from making the most of Batman himself. He’s cool, sure, but DC is so much more.
Too Much Batman Means Too Much to Keep Up With
To an extent, the idea that Batman’s world — and by that, I mean Gotham City — would be a major focus of storytelling within the DC Universe makes sense. It’s a major city, one that is rife with corruption and violence, but beyond that it’s also the home to a significant number of heroes and villains. Batman’s “family” is large and diverse, with various sidekicks and partners (if anyone can really ever be called a true “partner” for Batman). Having the two “main” Batman comics — Detective Comics and Batman — and then a few others that center around the exploits of those other characters would make sense. The problem with the current DC roster when it comes to Batman is that balance doesn’t really happen. Instead, almost all the Batman-related comics currently running center around Batman in some fashion with many of them having some thin ties to one another in terms of overall story. Those that aren’t directly tied to the “main” continuity are retellings or reinventions of iconic stories or themes — specifically Batman/Superman: World’s Finest. For a casual reader, having a bunch of Batman comics that are sort of connected or are fresh tellings of older stories can be very confusing and hard to keep up with — and can be difficult to maintain mental continuity even for a seasoned Batman fan who tries to read everything, especially when you factor in event storylines which DC seems fond of doing with great frequency. What you end up is with a lot of Batman, but almost a situation where there’s almost too much to know what is important and what isn’t and it’s too much to keep up with.
Too Much Batman Leaves Little Room For Other Interesting Characters
Somewhat in the same vein as there being too much to keep straight when it comes to Batman, having so much Batman in comics also leaves little room for other characters — and we’re not talking members of the Bat Fam. DC has many major heroes and while some of them do have books of their own — Wonder Woman and The Flash both have their own books, Superman has a handful, and even Harley Quinn has a few — most of the major players in the heroic world of DC simply don’t or, when they do get their own stories, the glut of Batman books makes it feel like those characters (and creators telling their stories) are less fighting for justice and more fighting to simply be seen. If those stories do get seen, they don’t ever seem to last very long before being either roped into some larger event that inevitably involves Batman and his circle of characters or, sadly, they simply don’t last very long. Some of this could be attributed to lower consumer demand for those stories, but one could argue that the demand for those characters and stories is lower because the market is flooded by Batman stories. Which is unfortunate, because characters like Green Arrow are fascinating and have great stories to tell, too.
Batman Is Getting Diluted
Outside of the concerns that there is too much Batman to keep up with in terms of the various stories and comics and that there is so much Batman that DC is becoming essentially just Batman and Gotham City comics, there’s the concern that having so much Batman is actually detrimental to the character itself. While one of the beautiful things about comics is that each creative team gets to put their mark on a character and its legacy, that starts to get troubling when there are so many versions going at one time simultaneously with very few of them lining up with one another. To put it a bit more simply, the character development that Batman may undergo in say, Batman, doesn’t always carry over to the other titles – and sometimes doesn’t carry from creative team to creative team on the same title. As a result, readers are presented with so many “takes” on Batman that it’s hard to keep a sense of who the character is as, at any given moment, he could be deep in a dark and gritty take in one title or exploring the impact of grief and loss and trying to be a better man outside of the mask in another. It makes answering the question of “who is Batman” increasingly more difficult for diminishing entertainment returns.
It’s no doubt that Batman is popular and if we’re being honest, even with having “too much Batman” creating problems, it isn’t something that is likely to change anytime soon. Batman is a wildly popular character and books featuring the character sell. From a business perspective, Batman is good business. But even with the Dark Knight being good for business, DC is really just shortchanging themselves long-term. They’ve created an environment where there’s too much to keep up with, the character is being spread too thin, and perhaps most sad is that they’re not making full use of their wide and interesting roster of fascinating heroes and villains. Batman is cool, but there’s so much more to DC Comics. Hopefully, we’ll get to see a shift sometime soon.