Thursday, February 8, 2018

When Did Action Comics Overtake Detective Comics

Detective Comics was one of the first comics for what would become DC Comics (with a cover date of March, 1937), with Action Comics #1 (June, 1938) premiering Superman (with Detective Comics #16 coming out that month as well).

So, how is it that Action Comics is reaching 1000 before Detective Comics?

Well, that takes time to tell...

May, 1939

Superman shared the cover of Action Comics #12 with Zatara, the Magician, at the same time that Batman premiered in Detective Comics #27, with the difference in the issues being 15.

April, 1940

Superman fought his first battle with Luthor, who had a mane of red hair in Action Comics #23, while over in Detective Comics #38, Bruce Wayne attended the circus, where mobster Boss Zucco had the Flying Graysons killed, resulting in Dick Grayson becoming an orphan, eventually ending up as the junior partner of Batman, as Robin, the Boy Wonder.

September, 1942

Superman was dealing with an expanding DC Universe in Action Comics #52 (though, to be honest, Superman only met Mr. America, the Vigilante, Zatara and Congo Bill on the cover), while Batman and Robin were facing the fowl of crime, the Penguin in Detective Comics #67.

October, 1949

Superman spent his off hours with girl reporter, Lois Lane, as represented on the cover of Action Comics #137...

....while at the same time, on the cover of Detective Comics #152, Batman's girlfriend, Vicki Vale appeared, who was also a photographer at the time. 

Neither of them can see Action Comics gaining on Detective of yet.

November, 1955

Superman was advertising an amusement park in Action Comics #210, while Bruce Wayne had to pretend to be Batman in Detective Comics #225 (which was also the issue that premiered J'onn J'onzz, the Manhunter from Mars, who had many powers, but at times, was also police detective John Jones, making him a combination of Superman and Batman, as well as being a character that helped usher in the Silver Age).

July, 1958

Superman foe, the alien Brainiac, premiered in Action Comics #242, taking Superman's adventures out of this world at this time, while, over in Detective Comics #257, Batman and Robin dealt with time traveling Karko, as even Batman had to deal with fantastic menaces at this time.

May, 1959

Both Superman and Batman met characters that would change their lives this month.  In Action Comics #252, it was the premiere of Supergirl, Kara Zor-El, who would take the name of Linda Lee and live as Superman's secret weapon for a time (then be adopted by the Danvers, taking their surname, and become a heroine on her own as Superman revealed her to the world after her training), while over in Detective Comics #267, Batman and Robin met Batman's biggest extra-dimensional fan, Bat-Mite, who would continue to pop up and throw a monkey wrench into cases of Batman's.

May, 1964

Superman was facing really odd changes at this time, with Red Kryptonite putting him in odd situations like shown on the cover of Action Comics #312, with Supergirl as the sole back-up feature of the comic, while over in Detective Comics #327, Batman got his "new look", and added Flash's friend, the Elongated Man, as a back-up feature.  Still not sniffing out the mystery of any gains of Action Comics on Detective Comics.

March, 1968

It was because of Superman that Action started to gain on Detective.  Action Comics #360 was an extra issue that came out at the same time as Action Comics #361 (#360 was a Supergirl Giant, and #361 a normal issue of the month, with Superman fighting the Parasite for the second time), while Batman was frozen with only one issue this month, fighting Mr. Freeze in Detective Comics #373

There would be more of these extra issues with Supergirl in action!

March, 1969

The last of Supergirl's Action giants would be in this month, with Action Comics #373, while at the same time Superman was facing an identity crisis in Action Comics #374, while Batman, Robin and the relatively new Batgirl were working together in  Detective Comics #385 (at least on the cover, she helped the Dynamic Duo as Barbara Gordon inside the issue), as well as Batgirl having the back-up feature in the issue (and Batgirl would even work with Supergirl a few times on occasion....). 

So, now there are only 11 issues between the two series.

December, 1972

Superman was going strong at this time, as shown on this strong cover for Action Comics #419, while Batman, reeling from hits from the loss of his TV show years ago, was suffering as shown in this cover for Detective Comics #430.  Batman was getting a little tired at this time, with readership of Detective being down, and that would cause trouble for the Caped Crusader soon....

August, 1973

While Superman was still able to leap tall buildings in a single bound in Action Comics #426, with his title remaining monthly, Batman was suffering, as his title started to go bimonthly with Detective Comics #436, leaving Batman scared for his future, and allowing Superman and his title to start to catch up.

February, 1975

This was a special month for many a reason.  Green Lantern was a guest star with Superman in his monthly in Action Comics #444, while Batman was accused of being a murderer in Detective Comics #445, in the start of a manhunt for the detective, which was also the last time that the issue number of Detective Comics was larger that that of Action Comics.

April, 1975

Starting this month, Action and Detective were both monthly books again, and just in time.  Superman still had to deal with a nosy Lois Lane in Action Comics #446, while Batman was still being pursued as a "Bat-Murderer" in  Detective Comics #446, and this was the beginning of a run where Action and Detective had the same issue number, and this would go on for a while.

January, 1977

This is the last month that Action and Detective were at the same number.  Superman was feeling his control grow, being a little bit of a menace himself in Action Comics #467, while Batman was dealing with an imposter in Detective Comics #467, as well as meeting up with back-up feature star, Hawkman, setting the stage for the finale of a tale that had been going through the back-up features of Detective Comics at this time.

March, 1977

This was the month that Action overtook Detective.  Superman was in the middle of a monthly trilogy fighting Terra-Man in Action Comics #469, while Batman has his friends, the Atom, Black Canary, Elongated Man, Green Arrow and Hawkman help him deal with his demotion to bimonthly status (as well as the Calculator) in Detective Comics #468 (while Bruce Wayne dealt with WGBS's Morgan Edge, having a little bit of a Superman crossover within this issue, though Superman was not in the issue). 

Superman's Action would continue to gain as Batman's Detective remained bimonthly for a time, but there were more reasons for the larger gap....which we can go into at a later time.


  1. The Action Comics Weekly run (#601 - 642) probably helps a lot.

  2. Yeah why stop there? Action Comics going weekly in the 80's made a huge difference

  3. Because Detective never caught up again. Action Comics Weekly did make sure of that (and, is a great read, worthy of many articles itself....and will likely get them when I can spent more time on them. Such great stories from Phantom Lady to Phantom Stranger and more!).

  4. Somehow, in 2022, Detective Comics is now 17 ahead again! How did that happen?