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Reading comic books is quite fun. It’s been fun since the 1930s, well, at least when mainstream American comic books are concerned. Marvel Comics and DC Comics have been offering us loads of brilliant stories and characters in their ongoing series and this is why we have decided to analyse two of these series in today’s article, in order to explain the difference, which is a question that is often raised by fans. We’re going to focus on DC Comics and its Batman and Detective Comics ongoing series, explaining the difference between them, so keep reading to find out more!
Initially, Detective Comics was an anthology series before launching Batman into the orbit. Batman later got his own, stand-alone comic, but Detective Comics soon became part of the narrative. The Batman comic book series focuses primarily on Batman’s solo adventures, while Detective Comics is more of an ensemble series featuring other members of the Bat-Family.
DC Comics, for those of you that are not familiar with the story behind the comics, is a major American comic book publisher founded back in 1934. Along with Marcel Comics, it is the most popular comic book publisher in the United States. DC Comics is a major player in the comic book business and is the “home” of many famous comic book characters such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and many others.
Today’s article is going to explain the difference between the Batman and Detective Comics titles. You’re going to find out about their history, how and when they evolved and where they are now. Then you’ll see what exactly differentiates them beside their titles, as well as get a suggestion on which title you should read for yourselves. Enjoy!
A history of Detective Comics
Detective Comics is an American ongoing comic book series published by DC Comics. The publishing company was initially called Detective Comics as well, like its most famous series, and that was eventually shortened to DC Comics. This series is best known for introducing the character of Batman and is DC Comics’ most famous non-individual series along with Action Comics, which introduced Superman to the comic book world.
Detective Comics was the last publication by businessman Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, whose comic book company, National Allied Publications, would become DC Comics, although this happened long after his departure. Detective Comics became the third major series launched by Wheeler-Nicholson and it debuted not long after Action Comics, another famouse series of the Golden Age.
It was announced with a cover illustration dated December 1936, but it came out three months late, with the cover date as March 1937. In 1937, however, Wheeler-Nicholson was indebted to the printing press of owner and distributor Harry Donenfeld, who was also a pulp editor and the main distributor for Independent News magazine. Wheeler-Nicholson made Donenfeld his partner in order to publish Detective Comics #1 through the newly formed Detective Comics, Inc.
Originally a comic anthology, Detective Comics #1 (March 1937) featured characters like Lung Ching (an Oriental Fu Manchu-style villain); Slam Bradley (created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, published two years before Superman) and Speed Cyril Saunders; there were other characters, but the series didn’t really achieve prominence until Detective Comics #27 (May 1939) came out. That issue featured Batman’s first appearance (as “The Bat-Man”).
Batman would, quite quickly, become the star of the whole series and one of DC Comics’ biggest names, changing the cover logo of the series, that would since then often be written as “Detective Comics, starring Batman“; the title would eventually fully become part of Batman’s narrative storyline and is today published as Batman: Detective Comics. Issue #38 (April 1940) introduced Batman’s sidekick Robin (announced as “The Sensational 1940 Meeting” on the cover). Robin’s youthful appearance and the magazine’s increased sales would soon lead to a tendency for other superheroes to adopt underage helpers as well, like many readers who would identify more with the stories.
As the stories developed, Detective Comics became more and more connected with Batman and his lore, eventually turning into a full-fledged Batman title that featured ensemble and anthology stories featuring the Dark Knight and his associates. It was an essential part of both the New 52 and Rebirth imprints. The series published 881 issues between 1937 and 2011 and is the longest continuously published comic book in the United States; today, Detective Comics has published more than 1,000 issues.
A history of Batman
Batman is an ongoing comic book series published by DC Comics. The series debuted in 1940 and has so far been published continiously in three different volumes. Batman is technically a spin-off from Detective Comics, since its Batman character becamse so popular that DC Comics invested in a solo series chronicling the adventures of Batman (and occasionally, depending on the volume and narrative, Robin).
After Four Colors, Detective Comics, Action Comics and Superman, Batman ranks amongst the longest-running comic book series with the highest number of published issues; currently, there are more than 900 published issues within the three volumes of the Batman comic book series. In addition, there are twenty-six so-called Annual editions which are double the size of regular issues, which came on the market as the Batman Annual, as well as the two special issues # 0 (October 1994; between #511 and #512) and #1,000,000 (November 1998; between #560 and #561).
The series started its publication in the spring of 1940, a few months after its title character was featured in issue #27 of the Detective Comics series. After the publication, rhythm was initially geared towards a quarterly publication mode; the series was initially changed to a bimonthly publication mode, before it finally became a monthly series in the 1950s.
Authors who have written for Batman over the decades include Ed Brubaker, Max Allan Collins, Gerry Conway, Bill Finger, Alan Grant, Larry Hama, Frank Miller, Doug Moench, Dennis O’Neil, Frank Robbins, Jim Starlin, Len Wein and Marv Wolfman. The list of guest authors who contributed to different individual issues or story arcs includes Chuck Dixon and James Owsley, among others, while artists who worked on the series include names such as Neal Adams, Jim Aparo, Norm Breyfogle, Paul Gulacy, Bob Kane, Kelley Jones, Mike Manley, Scott McDaniel, Don Newton, Irv Novick, and Jerry Robinson. Inkers who worked on the series include Alfredo Alcala, Mike DeCarlo, Scott Beatty, and Dick Giordano.
In August 2011 there was a series restarted as part of the New 52 imprint, which launched the second volume of the series, starting from #1. In the new series, although most of the characters have retained their background and past, the stories ceased referring to past stories, as the continuity was altered and a new Prime-Earth was introduced, with the old stories being part of a different narrative universe. In 2016, DC Comics began a second relaunch of its entire line of titles called DC Rebirth. Batman (vol. 3) #1 (August 2016) was the debut twice-monthly relaunch of the comic book series.
What is the difference between Detective Comics and Batman?
At this stage of our analysis, we know very well what the two ongoing series represent. We know their histories, when and how they evolved and how they influenced each other. That knowledge enables us to continue with the next part of out article, and that is the comparison of these two series.
We’ve established that Detective Comics and Batman have a lot in common, especially in the modern era. They are both DC Comics’ titles and they both focus on Batman as their main character. This makes sense from a historical standpoint, as it was Detective Comics that introduced Batman to the world of comics and enabled him to get his own, stand-alone series. The modern editions of these two series aren’t really that different – they’re both a Batman-centred ongoing series – but historically, there were significant differenced in how these two comics were written and published. We’re going to start off with that.
During the early years of “modern” American comics, the publishers had a lot of demands they had to meet, like the one that each separate comic book title had to be registered separately with the post. This meant more spending, which is why the publishers were reluctant to release stand-alone titles. To compensate for that, publishers kept publishing the so-called anthology series like Detective Comics (and Action Comics), where they could try out and feature different characters under the same banner. Both Superman and Batman were created in this way and their enormous popularity prompted the publishers to start publishing a stand-alone series.
Batman, on the other hand, was even from a historical point of view a stand-alone series focused solely on one character. Certainly, the authors introduced new ones – especially villains – as the series progressed, but Batman was never an anthology series not a “playground” for the writers to test their ideas. Due to Batman’s enormous popularity, the series spanned off and the publishers took a certain risk, which ultimately proved to be a good decision.
But things ultimately changed. And while Batman remained a stand-alone series focused on the Dark Knight ever since its 1940 debut, Detective Comics changed a lot. Namely, due to Batman’s increasing popularity, the character became a pivotal figure for both Batman and Detective Comics. Seeing how the latter became completely connected with Batman’s name, DC Comics soon decided to alter the series and make it a Batman series as well. Still, unlike Batman, which focused on the Caped Crusader himself (rarely with the help of others, beside Alfred), Detective Comics transformed from an anthology series to an ensemble series featuring a plethora of characters from Batman’s extended family.
Finally, we can conclude that Batman has remained a stand-alone, solo series focused on Batman. It was never, neither an anthology, nor an ensemble series. Detective Comics, on the other hand, started off as an anthology series that created Batman only to transform itself into an ongoing, ensemble series that saw us meet a larger number of Bat-Family members, while still knowing that we are in Batman’s territory.
Should you read Detective Comics or Batman?
Finally, before we wrap this up, we can answer the question whether it’s better to read Detective Comics or Batman. Well – both! If you’re a fan of Batman and his stories, we do recommend reading both series, as they complement each other despite their differences.
Detective Comics is more of a team series that sees us follow Batman as patrols the city, but is aided by different members of the family. It does, like the name suggests, have detective work involved, but the focus today is that they focus on a team. If you like team-based comic books, be sure to check out Detective Comics. Batman is more suited for those that prefer a “lone hero against the world” type of narrative, as Batman doesn’t really care that much for teamwork. This series has a well-established continuity and despite the three volumes, it’s quite easy to read and follow.
So, we recommend both series, but if you’re really picky about your comic books, know that Detective Comics is more focused on teamwork, while Batman is more focused on the Dark Knight’s solitary adventures.
And that’s it for today. We hope you had fun reading this and that we helped solve this dilemma for you. See you next time and don’t forget to follow us!