Something that slightly concerns me (as a writer) is the over saturation of a character, or story genre. As a consumer, I’m extremely concerned by over saturation, because when looking at it from a writer’s perspective, you can always try to find a new and interesting way to tell a story about any over saturated character or story genre. But as a consumer, you (and I) can easily be turned off by the aforementioned just by the thought, “Ohhhh, another story about [insert character or story genre here].”
As a comic fan of 20-years, I’m beyond comfortable with saying that Batman is the most over saturated character of comics (and maybe of all time).
Whether it be 8 different actors — Lewis Wilson, Robert Lowery, Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale, and Ben Affleck — donning the cowl, at (the very) least a dozen animated movies, or the undeniable way the DCU has become Batman centric to just name a few; Batman has appeared to grab comic book culture by throat and take it hostage.
I can hear the pitchforks being sharpened, and smell the smoke of torches all of which I’m sure every Batman fan is getting to come after me, but I love Batman as much as the next guy, and it’s clear the character has been extremely over saturated. Now, of course, part of the reason to that is the fact that Batman makes DC Comics a lot of money— and I mean a lot. And a good business move is to stick with what’s rolling in the green.
I mean, Batman has racked up (roughly) $4.57B over his box office history, and it’s hard to argue why they shouldn’t keep making Batman movies with such a huge profit maker like that. But—yeah, there’s always a “but”—that does lend to the notion that other characters (and by other, I mean a lot) have been overlooked in the name of profit.
Same goes for comics. Currently, there’s at least 5 Batman/Batfamily comics on the shelf, not counting the one-shots or the mega events that have all become focused around Batman in one shape or the other, and the upcoming Black Label books that lean heavily in count to Batman.
Why do I make such a point about so many Batman books on the shelf, that’s has to be a good thing with how great it’s worked for the movies, right? No. As of July (2018), only the self titled Batman book made the top 10 sales chart. Of course, there was also Doomsday Clock (which, as big stories seem to do, has swung more to a Batman pushed plot story) and even Catwoman who came in at #6.
DC Comics has hundreds of characters— at the absolute least, it has a dozen of which if they were given a solo comic book and/or movie with any of the creative teams behind any of the Batman/Batfamily projects, those characters would not only be given depth (especially in comic form) but surely would make a profit.
(I bleed DC Comics blue, so it hurts what I’m about to say next, but it’s the truth.) One thing Marvel had going for its success in cinematic universe (before streamlining the movies to be family friendly comedy popcorn flicks) was their characters were relatively unknown to the general audience. In that lies something that DC Comics is both ignoring to capitalize on, as well as its Kryptonite. See, when your (main) characters have been around for 80-years, they almost become monolithed, and thus it’s hard to change and put out new interpretations of said characters without a portion of the audience shunning it like the plague. So DC has been stuck in this rut of where they stick to Batman (and Superman a little), and won’t truly try to break out of the box to flood the market with something new and capable of grabbing an audience’s attention to make their own.
The next step after constant over saturation is fatigue, and that will cause audiences to no longer want to go see a movie/read a comic with said character fatigue. It’s important to move away from the “Dark Knight”, and explore lesser knowns. Build on them to open up the universe more, and down the line reintroduce Batman into this newly shaped world.