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When Did Batman First Get Top Billing Over Superman in the Comics?

In "When We First Met," we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic lore, like the first time someone said, "Avengers Assemble!" or the first appearance of Batman's giant penny or the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth or the first time Spider-Man's face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter. Stuff like that.

Today, based on a suggestion from a reader that I can't seem to find at the moment, we look into the point where Batman passed Superman in billing on their shared adventures.

As you likely know from my various articles over the years, the debut of Superman in Action Comics #1 was a total game changer, with Superman's popularity EXPLODING over the next couple of years. Within a few months of his debut, Action Comics already had a petition in it that fans could cut out to send to the comic strip syndicates to request a Superman comic strip. By the end of 1939, they got their wish and the nationally syndicated Superman comic strip made its debut. That was obviously a huge deal at the time. Early in 1940, the next step in Superman's domination of pop culture took place when the Superman radio series debuted.

The interesting thing, of course, is that Superman was not even always the most popular superhero in comics during the 1940s, as Fawcett Comics' Captain Marvel, designed as a Superman riff, ended up overtaking the Man of Steel in popularity in 1944, with both characters selling like CRAZY (with Captain Marvel just selling a little more). However, that only lasted for a little while and by the end of the decade, Superman was back on top and was by far the most popular superhero of the 1950s, when the Superman TV series debuted and became a cultural institution of its own right.

At the same time, of course, while not being quite as popular as Superman, Batman was still a very popular superhero for many years. He just wasn't Superman, ya know?

Batman actually had not yet been invented when the first World's Fair Comics came out in 1939...

but Batman and his new partner, Robin, made the cover of the second issue the following year...

This then inspired National Comics (or whatever they were called at the time) to make a World's Best Comics quarterly comic book series featuring both Superman and Batman and other heroes...

That series changed its name to World's Finest Comics with the second issue and not that Batman and Robin were technically not even SECOND billed on World's Finest Comics #2...

That was obviously just a space restriction thing, but still, it's kind of funny to see Zatarra billed over Batman.

Those cover billing lasted for a little while until it was obvious that Superman, Batman and Robin were way too famous for billing on the cover to be necessary. These are the iconic "Superman, Batman and Robin having fun" covers that are now so beloved (due to how oddly fun they are)....

When the comic increased in publishing frequency to bi-monthly, though, they briefly mentioned the characters on the cover, with Superman being top-billed, Batman second-billed and the Boy Commandos (a popular series by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon) being third....

In the early 1950s, they began to do the cover billing again, and Superman was still tops...

A couple of years later, cutbacks to the size of the comic led to the heroes beginning to SHARE adventures for the first time (rather than each having their own feature) and in that team-up, Superman got top billing...

That was even how they billed them - "The Superman-Batman Team"...

After a while, the billing just went away period. Everyone sort of knew them by this point, ya know?

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