Why Does Batman Have Nine Million Sidekicks Now?

See, I’d argue that this version of the character doesn’t really exist. Even in the 1970s, when Dick was shipped off to college and Bruce lived in a penthouse apartment, Batman was still an active member of the JLA.

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But I would imagine that, at that time, that would only be particularly evident if you were reading Justice League books.

I think it’s always been an aspect of the character, though, and it’s certainly a popular enough image among people attempting to adapt Batman to other media, and it shows up often enough in Elseworlds and many of the more popular trade paperbacks. Year One, Killing Joke, AA: A Serious House on Serious Earth, The Long Halloween…none of these feature appearances by Justice League or Bat-Family members if I recall correctly. They almost treat Batman and Gotham as existing as their own world divorced from the Justice League/greater DC universe. I don’t think they’re necessarily held in higher regard for this reason, but I always found them more accessible as a casual reader than the crossover stuff and certainly more than just jumping in and trying to play catch-up.

But, a character that’s been around for 80 years with hundreds of creators’ fingerprints on them is going to have different interpretations and characterizations and adaptations. I’m not going to argue that the Batman I prefer is better than the one you prefer or that my knowledge of the character is at all as good as anyone else’s is. I repeat my usual refrain of “I’m a pretty casual fan”, if one that overthinks things.

This speaks to a larger issue than there just being many (or too many) members of the Bat Family. This points to a bad habit that both of the Big Two comic book publishers have, in that that both seem to have an assumption that the reader of any given issue is also currently reading every single other comic that they publish and that they’re intimately familiar with their entire universes. This makes it more than a little difficult for new and casual readers to get into modern-era comics, and it’s frankly what kept me from reading them for many, many years.

Many people here recommend that new readers “just start with issue #1”, but even this is not a guarantee of avoiding this sort of thing. For example, the first couple issues of Nightwing (2016), the start of the Rebirth era, contain explicit references to the events of the immediately preceding series, “Grayson”, which does not even take place in the Rebirth era. Anyone hopping on to Rebirth Nightwing at issue #1 will be totally confused by these references (as I was, having not read “Grayson”).

As a fairly new and most definitely casual reader myself, the only way I’ve found to deal with references you don’t understand or characters you don’t recognize is to ignore them. They don’t usually affect my enjoyment or understanding of the current story that I’m reading, and mainly seem to be there as connective tissue to other series, for “added value” for those who have read them. If a writer is good, they will give you enough information in the story you’re currently reading for you to understand it and not have to worry about these outside references. If a writer is bad… they won’t do that.

As for why there are so many members of the Bat Family now, the simple answer is: cumulative history. They kept getting added over the years, for various reasons, and because continuity is king these days, they can’t simply be written out with no explanation anymore. There’s no way to get rid of them other than killing them off, which would be extremely unpopular with most fans. And since they are popular with most fans (and I’m assuming those with their own titles must sell well), they’re kept around.

I’m kinda with you, though. I’d like to see a series where it’s just Batman, alone, doing his thing.

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Regarding Batman as a lone figure vs. having a large “family,” I think that dichotomy is important to the character. He sees himself as a loner, yet consistently surrounds himself with loved ones who he then attempts to push away. Several writers have explored this, and it goes in well with abandonment issues he could have from losing his parents at such a young age.

Regarding the point of new or casual readers feeling a bit left out, I completely agree that’s an issue with modern comics. I like the old adage that every issue is somebody’s first issue, and I miss plot summaries. That being said, if a character is important, you will eventually get to know them.

I do have to disagree that other media portrays Batman differently. Yes, his origins are going to show him as a lone, dark figure, but that’s rarely the end of it. In Nolan’s trilogy, for example, he has Alfred, Gordon, Lucius Fox, Catwoman, and sort-of-Robin all as allies by the end of it.

Also, @KingOfTheWickerPeople, which family members do you find generic? I can’t think of any, but you may have characters in mind that I haven’t thought of.

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I’m pretty comfortable saying he’s on his own a lot more than is being suggested. The last issue of Batman I read was issue 67. Not only is there no family, but there is also almost no dialogue. It’s a completely self contained story.

(I’ll admit Batman currently feels like a Catwoman spin-off.)

Maybe I’m aware of too much history. If there is a character I’m completely clueless about someone on here (@CynicalPink) will tell me. Or I’ll Google them.

I’ve jumped into ongoing stories my entire life. I usually get four or five issues into something and go “Ohhhh! That makes sense now.” I’m completely comfortable with that. (I started 80’s The Outsiders once upon with issue 13 I think. That was my first time. :slight_smile:)

I haven’t read X-Men for years and years until Hickman. I was totally lost for a minute. I figured it out.

I agree with @ralphsix 100%. Plot summaries fix A LOT. If you open a comic with a couple of paragraphs about what’s been happening, then this discussion becomes more about preference to seeing Batman alone than wether or not his family is too large and how the history of it all makes it too complicated for new readers.

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I’m still stuck in 2003… but even then, the group is a little biggish. Dick, Tim, Babs (as Oracle), Cass and Steph are the main players. Azrael and Huntress pop in and out at random. I think that’s it…

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I take it a little personally I suppose. Batman has been my “team” book all my life. I don’t think of him as a solo act. My first book ever was The Outsiders. Then (mostly when I was a teen) they introduced Drake, Azrael, Orphan, Spoiler, Huntress, Oracle.

I don’t know that I’ve really every read a Batman ongoing where he didn’t have the family. People point out the mini-series stuff as an example, but in the floppies he’s had a family since the early 80’s.

It’s what I love about Batman. He thinks he’s good on his own, but like all of us he really needs friends and family. I’d hate to see it change.

There’s nothing wrong with “Batman” never having family in his own title, but Detective Comics is my favorite thing in Rebirth. It would hurt to see that go.

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And beyond. Like Knox said, there was the original Batwoman, Batgirl, Alfred, Gordon, Robin, Bat-mite, etc, going way back.

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@ralphsix Right, and I was so clueless about that. I haven’t read much prior to titles printed while I was living. 40 years is enough for my limited brain to keep up with. :wink:

It just feels like these classic stories (Long Halloween, Arkham Asylum, Killing Joke, TDK) have made people think he’s a solo act. That just isn’t the Batman I know. I’ve been bummed lately, and reading his JLI interactions with Guy Gardner have really been helpful.

Justice League. Outsiders. Batman Inc.
That’s my Batman… for what it’s worth.

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ONE PUNCH!

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Black Canary’s reaction is what really makes it great!

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It was still big and confusing at the turn of the century if you were new, even if it wasn’t quite as big. The first issue of a Batman comic I had besides The Batman Adventures was right in the middle of the No Man’s Land event (Detective Comics #738). With most of my knowledge of Batman coming from other media I was like “wait what?” a lot. Between that and starting reading Spider-Man in the middle of the Clone Saga, I think I’m realizing where my distaste for drawn-out story arcs that cross multiple titles comes from.

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I can imagine. That was a hefty arc to use as a starting point.

Characters coming and going seems to happen all the time, though. I just finished the Murderer/Fugitive arc, and Bruce had a bodyguard who was working with him as a vigilante sidekick. Since I stick primarily to Robin and Nightwing, for me, she came out of left field. Neither Tim nor Dick, or Steph or Babs, had ever mentioned Bruce working with her in their titles, and suddenly I was in the middle of an arc with a woman whom Bruce had not only shared his secret, but also adopted into his ranks.

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Seriously by now how has one of the people that Bruce has told his identity to not just taken that to the media for a payday? It’s like, Hugo Strange wasted his time deducing Bruce’s identity but it’s like all you have to do is punch a few badguys and he’ll take the cowl off and bring you to the batcave for an ice cream social.

I should self-edit — I don’t know if he shared identity or if she figured it out, but I still see where you’re coming from. No one spilling Bruce’s secret is one of those things I’ve just come to accept as as needing to suspend belief over. Like Clark and his glasses.

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I think part of the issue is, if you’re just getting into it, a lot of times you’re not going to jump into the latest comics storyline, you’re going to read one of those stories. They’re more accessible. Even the public library here in the middle of nowhere has a copy of Year One and Long Halloween on the shelf.

The fact that they’re largely self-contained stories that you don’t need additional information to understand makes them a lot more appealing to newcomers. But it’s kind of a double-edged sword because if you take your expectations from those and jump in…it’s like wait, what?

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@KingOfTheWickerPeople There’s an easy enough fix. Let solo titles be legitimately solo. Let family books do their thing. Have a plot summary page at the beginning. Avoid major crossovers. One every two or three years is good.

The last major event I remember liking a lot was NML. There are so many events they’ve lost all meaning to me.

I don’t disagree with you that there is a lot going on. There is just a balance that has to be struck. Getting rid of characters that unfamiliar fans view as redundant or analogous is not the solution.

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I don’t know, I like my Grandpa Simpson solution.

“Dear Mr. President. There are too many states nowadays. Please eliminate three. I am not a crackpot.”

But more seriously, I feel like the way cover art told you who was in the comics in some of the Silver Age (outlining the main characters that would be in the comic) could be pretty helpful. Or just a page with a quick bio of each of the cast members.

I do feel like not adhering to the “Every comic is someone’s first comic” ultimately hurts comics’ ability to draw new fans in. I feel like DC could benefit from having something like a showcase series that presents single episodic stories that are in-continuity but kind of slowly introduce you to the different characters and organizations you might not already know from other media. I don’t need to be told that Batman’s parents are dead or that Superman is a strange visitor from Krypton, but I’m still not clear on why Jason Todd isn’t dead (when the death of Jason Todd is a milestone in comics cultural history) or what the deal is with The Flash. If properly introduced I could probably grow to enjoy those characters but there’s not really a solid starting ground other than “read this, and this, and this…”

I mean they may have this and I don’t know about it. I’m no expert and I’m no genius.

Although I find a deeper problem with a lot of storytelling (not just comics) is somehow, when some things are explained it makes even less sense than before. I’m thinking that episode of Futurama where they’re underwater, Bender says “That’s where I left my cigar!” And Hermes says “That just raises further questions!”

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I suppose they need to make stuff for everyone. I’m a big fan of the 3-4 issue storyline. One of my all time favorites is Robin II: The Joker’s Wild. You can’t tell a story like that if every issues has to be written like it’s a persons first comic.

I don’t mind all the sidekicks, i just can’t stand that so many people know his real identity.

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