09 November 2014

“No other comic-book character has lasted as long”

In articles derived from her new book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman, Jill Lepore has been talking up that comic-book heroine’s place in superhero history.

In Smithsonian:
Wonder Woman is the most popular female comic-book superhero of all time. Aside from Superman and Batman, no other comic-book character has lasted as long.
In The New Yorker:
Superman débuted in 1938, Batman in 1939, Wonder Woman in 1941.
Who’s missing from this discussion? “The Sensational Character Find of 1940,” of course.

Dick Grayson has appeared in stories for nearly three-quarters of a century, about a year and a half longer than Wonder Woman. He’s been a major character in two movie serials, a television series, and two feature films. Plus, half a dozen television cartoons have featured some version of Robin.

I suspect Robin is a pop-culture reference as recognizable as Wonder Woman. In fact, the name “Dick Grayson” might be better known than Wonder Woman’s occasional alias, “Diana Prince.”

Of course, Robin has always been a sidekick to Batman, and thus a supporting character or one in an ensemble instead of a lead. Though he appeared on more comic-book covers in the 1940s than Batman, not until the 1990s was there a comic book with the Robin name in its official title. In contrast, there’s been a Wonder Woman magazine since 1942 (with a yearlong break in 1986-87), and she’s usually worked on her own as well as with the Justice Society and Justice League.

So I’m not arguing that Wonder Woman is less prominent than Robin, just that he qualifies as a famous, long-lasting comic-book crime-fighter on the same level.

(And I won’t even mention that Archie Andrews made his debut in comic books in the same month as Wonder Woman, so those two comic-book characters have lasted the same time.)


Icon_UK said...

As well as Robin, who certainly IS being neglected in that sentence, there is also Namor, who debuted in 1939, and the Spectre in 1940.

J. L. Bell said...

I left out Captain Marvel, the original Human Torch, Namor, the Spectre, and other characters who debuted at or around the same time but weren't published continuously from then to now. There are very few characters, almost all in the comics form, that had someone trying to think up new stories for them CONSTANTLY from before World War 2 to today.