Comic Book Legends Revealed #408
Welcome to the four hundred and eighth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous four hundred and seven. This week, it is a special theme week! All about Batman’s sales in the 1960s! Did the 1960s Batman TV series really save the Batman comic book from cancellation? If not the TV series, then did Julie Schwartz and Carmine Infantino save it from cancellation a few years earlier? Finally, how did Batman’s popularity affect the introduction of Zatanna?
NOTE: As we showed you last week, the column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).
COMIC LEGEND: According to Bob Kane, the Batman TV series saved the Batman comic book from cancellation in the 1960s.
It is undeniable that the success of the Batman TV series in 1966 created a massive boom in sales for Batman comics as well as pretty much anything ELSE Batman-related.
Heck, you need to look no further than the covers of the Justice League of America to see the difference. Here’s a JLA cover from the end of 1965…
Here’s one from the end of 1966…
Did you catch the subtle difference?
Lest you think that I am trying to mislead you, here are all of the 1966 (and early 1967) JLA covers surrounding the above cover…
So, yeah, Batman definitely exploded in popularity due to the success of the Batman TV series. For the first time in their respective histories, it was Batman that was the highest-selling superhero comic book and not Superman. It was a switch in sales popularity that would prove to be temporary (as Superman returned to the rule the roost after Bat-mania finished) but eventually Batman would overtake Superman permanently as DC Comics’ #1 character from a sales perspective.
In fact, Batman’s popularity was SO big that I am pretty sure that it led to an amusing retcon in an issue of Justice League of America (which you’ll see in the third legend this week).
Anyhow, as the legend goes, Bob Kane, creator of Batman and still officially working on Batman during the mid-1960s (although obviously the actual comics were done by Bill Finger, Sheldon Moldoff and Charles Paris) stated that the Batman TV series saved the comic book from cancellation.
This is untrue.
While the sales on Batman almost exactly DOUBLED in 1966, the previous numbers were still quite good. According to John Jackson Miller’s excellent sales research site, Comichron, Batman was selling 453,745 copies in 1965. That was a very good number. Far, far from cancellation figures. Detective Comics, meanwhile, was ALSO selling over 300,000 copies.
So no, the Batman TV series did not save the Batman comic book from cancellation. Honestly, while I’ve seen people quote Bob Kane on the topic, I’ve never actually seen the quote in question, so maybe that’s a legend, as well, and Kane never actually said it.
Thanks to John Jackson Miller for the great information!
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On the next page, if Batman wasn’t in danger of cancellation in 1965, how about 1963?