Which had a bigger impact on the culture of superheroes, the Batman tv show or the Superman tv show?

  I'm still going through my old vhs collection and putting it onto dvd and I came across a couple of Batman episodes from when the Scifi channel ran them.  As I watched the Superman serial last week I thought of the later tv show and realized that they were really different shows with different impacts, but Superman lasted from 1952 to 1958 while Batman ran only from 1966 to 1968.  They both impacted how the culture thinks about superheroes but Superman played it straight and Batman didn't, Superman didn't use his comic book rogues and Batman couldn't have survived without them, Superman didn't bring in Supergirl but Batman brought in Batgirl.  So many differences but for many around in the 1960's and 1970's these were the two superhero shows that created the impressions of what superheroes were.  Hard to say which of them had the greater impact, even though Batman was flashier.

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I've seen Our Man Flint and it did have a camp element, but I thought it was more a satire of Doc Savage than Batman.

Luke Blanchard said:

It might be possible to underestimate the role of the Superman show in its day. Even in the 70s Superman's main titles apparently outsold Batman's,(1) and I would think the TV show was a factor in how well-known he was. The success of the first Chris Reeve Superman film may partly have been due to affection for the character stemming from having grown up with the TV show. But I can't deny Batman had a huge impact in its time. doc has a strong point about its camp influence.(2) The approach of the 80s/90s Batman movies was strongly influenced by its approach, and the approach of the Reeve Superman movies was as well (even the first film had a strong comedic element, Miss Teschmacher recalled the Batman show's gangsters' molls, Ned Beatty's Otis was a doofus flunky, and the films parodied the attitudes of their hero slightly, much as the Batman show parodied those of its hero strongly).


(1) I infer this from their schedules. Superman went monthly several years before Batman, the main Bat-titles became giant bimonthlies for a period, and Detective Comics went to eight-times-a-year or bimonthly schedules at other points. Superman Family also outlasted Batman Family (which was folded into Detective Comics)To be fair, Batman also appeared in The Brave and the Bold, while DC Comics Presents didn't start until 1978; but World's Finest Comics was Superman's team-up title for about two years early in the decade.

(2) I wondered if Batman was entirely responsible (after the Bond films) for the camp wave. Apparently not: the IMDB says Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine was released 6 Nov 65, the Batman show started 12 Jan 66, Our Man Flint was released 16 Jan, and The Silencers 18 Feb. But the Batman show strikes me as a much better advertisement for a camp approach than Dr Goldfoot or The Silencers. I've not seen Our Man Flint.

...Jimm , I've occasionally tried to discuss the Superman musical , to little to no response here .

  I think the 1970s ABC-TV version of that musical took a more Bat-TV series-influenced approach than the actual 1966 production did !

  A couple of years ago the owners of the musical had Roberto Aluges- (Um , I'm blocking on his full name right now/the spelling of it !) -Salazar?? do a complete rewrite of the Superman musical's book , for a production in Houston , TX , which apparently seems o gtave gone nowhere beyond that .

  In the early 90s , I saw a full-scale procuction of the Supermisical at the Goodspeed Opera House , In East Haddam , CT (It was not produced as an opera there , that was just the theater's name .)

I've never seen the Superman musical, but I do now recall the Shazam/Isis hour and how little influence that the Batman show had on them, but how bad I thought that they were anyway. The tv show Batman didn't seem to have had much impact on any of the DC animated shows either.

...I have seen it argued that the '66 Batseries " saved comic books " - meaning superhero ones , I guess - in the economic sense .

  The argument seems to bve that the series aroused Warner Bros's interest in buying DC Comics from the Leibowitzes , as they did in '67 or so IIRC ~ Furthermore , the argument seems to be that , even regarding Marvel , that the Batseries' success got investors/etc. more willing to pump money into another super-hero oriented company that they would have been otherwise , so kept enough financial interest/investment coming Marvel's way (even if it was close for them at times in the 60s/70s , they kept going !!!!!) .

  Then again , you could argue that the Reeves series simply kept superheroes , at least DC's Trinity a(and their back-up characters) from flatlining , simply keeping them going !!!  However , if only for direct effect on the content of the comic books themselves , I'd say the Batman series ~ In part because of all the reactions AGAINST the perceived " ruining" effect of the West show !!!!!!!!!

...Jimm , when was this when you were aware of the Superman newspaper strip ?

  It was actually discontinued in '66 to be replaced by thew new Batman daily strip...There was a new one , after the Reeves , in the late 70s .

  Dave , I'd argue that the B&W 50s PERRY MASON series ~ of likewise , possibly , TWILIGHT ZONE ~ has out-re-run Adventures Of Superman .

  Maybe even THE HONEYMOONERS , too , or was that a bit more an East Coast thing ?



Jimmm Kelly said:

When I was a kid I was aware of Superman. He was like Jesus Christ and Santa Claus, something that had always been. I knew that he had a TV show--which was on in syndication and could sometimes be received in Vancouver from the station in Tacoma. We played at being Superman in summer, when in our bathing trunks we would tie our towels around our necks and pretend that we were flying as we jumped through the sprinkler. Our newspaper didn't carry the Superman strip, but it existed. I was aware that Superman also appeared in comic books, but I never thought about buying those. Some kids had them. Superman was the only super-hero that had his own entry in the ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA--so I knew he was real and lived somewhere in a big city miles away from us.

What I'm driving at here is that Superman's existence was independent of comic books. He existed in the Weltanschauung. Although he had first appeared in comic books (a fact that I don't seem to have known when I was little), he soon thereafter got his own comic strip. And soon after that he got his own radio show. In each of these media he developed on his own. Whilte they were related, you didn't have to follow the strip to understand the comic and you didn't have to read the comic to understand the radio show.

The radio show, in turn, morphed into the serials and then the TV show. So the relationship of THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN to the comic books was not immediate or obvious.

The BATMAN TV show, by contrast, clearly advertised its derivation from the comic books. That was a fact that didn't even escape my attention--although, for some reason, I dragged my feet in actually buying any Batman comic books. It took about half a year between when the TV show aired and when I started to read the comics (as memory serves), whereas I was buying the bubble gum cards, reading the comic strip and consuming a bunch of other Bat-merchandise within a few weeks or months after January 12 '66. However, it was inevitable that I would find my way to the Batman comics--where it had never been inevitable that I would make that journey to Superman comics (the Batman comics were what got me into Superman comics). 

I don't know if the SUPERMAN TV show helped the comics. When it debuted, comic books were still selling in high numbers. Maybe the TV show helped Superman survive the culling of super-heroes from comics. Or maybe his clean-cut image helped him survive the anti-comics crusades.

But by the mid-60s comic sales were in decline. And I don't believe that super-heroes were that popular. There might have been a niche of readers who liked super-heroes, but in my group of friends those weren't the kind of comics we wanted to read. The BATMAN TV show changed that. Suddenly, super-heroes were cool. So I think that the BATMAN TV show came at a time in comics history when it was likely to have the greatest effect. 

That was a good thing for me, because I'm happy that I got into super-hero comics. I don't know if it was ultimately good for the medium. Comics became a super-hero ghetto and they have had a hard time eschewing that image.

I watched the Superman musical when it originally aired back in the early '70s (and I've been smitten with Lesley Ann Warren's Lois Lane eversince). I read about the musical, starring Jack Cassidy (but not as Superman), in the Metropolis Edition of THE AMAZING WORLD OF SUPERMAN. The stage play had an elaborate set design that looked like a comic page, with sets in each panel.

The tone of the story seems like it was using the TV show (and maybe the comic strip) as its source material--given there weren't any recognizable villains from the comics (I understand revivals of the musical have inserted comic book villains).

While SUPERMAN THE MOVIE does use Lex Luthor, it's a Lex who only has a passing resemblance to the comic book villain. He seems much more like a send-up of a villain that would have appeared on the TV show--much like the villains in the musical.

I'm definitely of the opinion that BATMAN the TV series helped Marvel. But I can't prove this--I wouldn't even know how to go about proving it. My belief is based on my own anecdotal evidence and that's not enough to prove the point.

I know that Marvel was not even on my radar before the BATMAN TV show, I don't think they were getting distribution to farflung places like Vancouver, B.C. Someone would have to do a study of Marvel's distribution between '65 and '68 to show whether their distribution improved.

I know that National controlled Marvel's distribution through Independent News. And I know that organized crime was involved with distribution.

I think that I became aware of Marvel in '67 or '68. Around that time, I know that I bought a pack of Marvel bubble gum cards and I watched the SPIDER-MAN cartoon series. And in '68, I bought two issues of THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (61 and 62).

I would guess that the success of Batman on television led to Spider-Man getting his own cartoon series. I suspect that the success of the Batman and DC bubble gum cards led to the Marvel bubble gum cards.

I believe that the craze for super-hero comics, sparked by BATMAN the TV series, led to Ryan's Drugstore (my "LCS") carrying Marvel comics. And I know that I tried out those two SPIDER-MAN comics because of this craze and because Marvel comics were finally available at Ryan's.

I didn't like them (not enough to keep buying them), but other kids must have tried them and liked them.

I would guess many youngsters first encountered Marvel heroes in the Marvel Super Heroes cartoon series. According to Wikipedia that started in September 1966. I haven't heard that it got impetus from the Batman TV show but it wouldn't surprise me. I don't have information on when production on the series began.

The Batman TV show was also transitional, in that it was presumably better-budgeted than the Superman show and aimed to appeal to adults as well as children.


In all honesty, when I was a lad in the early 1970's, I think it took me a long time to understand that DC and Marvel were separate entities.  I enjoyed reading about characters from both publishers, and had different preferences regarding both, but I don't think I actually realized they were different until the Superman/Spider-Man Treasury book.


This is the first I'm hearing of THE MARVEL SUPER HEROES cartoon series. I never saw that. But it might explain the pack of bubble gum cards I bought. These had panels from Marvel comics on the front and on the back there was a picture puzzle (the same as what was on the back of some Batman cards). Unlike the Batman cards, the images on the Marvel cards seemed totally random--you would have had to read the comic book to understand what it was all about. I was totally confused by them and they did nothing to encourage me to buy Marvel comics.

I was mostly dependent on the few Canadian television stations and what American shows they bothered to carry--and the one channel (sometimes two) that we could get from the States. But in '68 we got cable and my opportunities expanded greatly. From 4 (sometimes 5) channels we moved up to 8--and all with good reception.

The IMDB tells me The New Adventures of Superman also started in Sep. 1966, so the impetus of Marvel Super Heroes might rather have been its being in production.

As the alpha superhero, even before the tv show, Superman was a major radio star and the radio series had a big impact on the mythos that became part of the comics, including the introduction of Jimmy Olson.  Then there were the comic strip, the theatrical cartoons and serials of the 1940s, so the 1950s tv show just amplified an already existent public awareness of Superman over all other superheroes.  Batman also had a newspaper strip and serials, and he and Wonder Woman were the only other superheroes to survive as the stars of their own mags continuously into the Silver and Bronze ages.  The Batman tv series just cemented him as the 2nd best known superhero around the world.  Most most superhero comics of the Silver & Bronze ages follow the tv Batman formula than the tv Superman, with more colorful supervillains with outrageous schemes than plainclothed bad guys.thwarted in trying more mundane schemes, at least in my memory & perception.  But then, the tv Batman was really a bit of a parody of what was already going on in comics of the mid-60s, and by the time the tv show stopped making original episodes, many superhero comics, including Batman, started taking on a much more serious tone than they had in the years before the show, apparently trying to convince comics junkies that superhero comics weren't just kids stuff that they should give up as they got older. 

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