24 November 2013

Counting All Covers

In preparation for the “Celebrating 75 Years of Dick Grayson” anniversary, I got a question about the assertion that Robin was on the cover of more DC comic books of the 1940s than any other costumed hero.

A commenter told me that fact soon after I started the weekly Robin, saying it was a good way to win bar bets. (Not at any sort of bar I know, but okay.) A quick check of titles confirmed the fact, but I decided to do a more careful accounting.

In the 1940s, Superman appeared on the covers of:
  • Action Comics, #20-139 (120 comic books).
  • Superman, #3-61 (59).
  • World’s Fair, #1, and World’s Finest, #2-42 (42).
  • All-Star Comics, #36 (1).
  • Superman’s Christmas Adventure for 1940 and 1944 (2).
  • Superboy, #1 (1).
Total: 225 comic books.

Batman appeared on:
  • Detective Comics, #35-154 (120).
  • Batman, #1-56 (56).
  • World’s Fair, #1, and World’s Finest, #2-42 (42).
  • All-Star Comics, #36 (1).
  • Star Spangled Comics, #88-94 (7).
Total: 225 comic books.

Robin appeared on:
  • Detective Comics, #38-152 and #154 (116).
  • Batman, #1-46 and #48-56 (55).
  • World’s Fair, #1, and World’s Finest, #2-42 (42).
  • Star Spangled Comics, #65-95 (31).
Total: 244 comic books.

I might have missed some of the more obscure guest appearances, but Superman and Batman still have a lot of ground to cover before they catch up to the Boy Wonder. His usually-solo run on Star Spangled at the end of the decade put him in the lead.

Now I can’t claim that Robin was more prominent or popular than Superman or Batman in the 1940s. On many of those covers he appears subordinate to Batman, as a background assistant, observer, or boy hostage in need of rescuing. When Superman and Batman guest-starred on All-Star Comics with the Justice Society, Robin didn’t come along. When sales of Star Spangled featuring Robin began to slip, the editor added Batman to the cover before finally replacing the Boy Wonder with Tomahawk.

Furthermore, if we count the appearances of Superboy on the covers of More Fun Comics, #104-106; Adventure Comics, #103-147; and Superboy, #2-5 (52 more comic books in all) in Superman’s column, then he’s the clear leader. Superman was undoubtedly DC’s flagship property, with a national comic strip, radio show, movies, and novelizations. Starting in 1942 the company even included the name of Superman in its logo. But the US courts have decided that Superboy is a separate legal property.

So those are the numbers.

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