Talk of the playground: Superhero Battle Royale

Dubit has been asking kids about their favourite superheroes and related toys this month.
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Dubit has been asking kids about their favourite superheroes and related toys this month.

Who would win in a fight between Batman and Spiderman? It’s a question that’s been asked in playgrounds since the ‘60s, and now we know the answer – in toy form at least.

With five superhero films coming to cinemas in 2012, youth research specialists Dubit asked 500 seven to 12 year-olds about their favourite superheroes, toys, and what they want to buy next year.

Spiderman beats Batman and Superman, but watch out for the Incredibles

Children’s favourite superheroes are Spiderman and Batman, with the pair collecting 40 per cent of the popularity vote. This is despite a broad list that included not only the big three of Spiderman, Superman, and Batman, but also members of The Avengers, Fantastic Four, X-Men, and The Incredibles.

A gender divide was most evident with female characters. While girls had no problem choosing male superheroes (even the cocky Ironman got an even split) only one boy chose a female superhero – The Avenger’s Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansen. This is compared to 46 girls who chose Sue Storm, Storm, or the iconic Wonder Woman.

However, it isn’t just classic superheroes that are proving popular. Disney’s The Incredibles, as a group, proved more popular (16 per cent) than The Avengers, Fantastic Four, and the X-Men.

Hulk proves a poor character, but not a poor toy
The most dominant superhero in toy form is Spiderman, by far. A headline worthy of the Daily Bugle is that 72 per cent of boys own a Spiderman toy – even 39 per cent of girls have their own Spidey merchandise.

While he can’t quite compete with Spiderman, Batman toys are owned by 29 per cent of children. Despite his popularity, Superman is only owned by 18 per cent – in terms of recent box office takings he has also been the most disappointing of the three.

One superhero range that defies the popularity vote is The Incredible Hulk, who is set to star in 2012’s The Avengers film. Despite only picking up three per cent of the popularity vote, Hulk toys are still owned by 14 per cent of children and are the most popular Avenger’s toy (beating Iron Man by two per cent). We suspect Hulk was helped by the popularity of the Hulk Smash Hands in 2008 – proof that a film-flop doesn’t mean a merchandising disaster.

Kids eager for superhero films

As mentioned, 2012 sees five big films based on superheroes and comics: The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spiderman, The Avengers, The Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider – Spirit of Vengeance, and Dredd. Spiderman has the most anticipation behind it, with 63 per cent of children expecting to watch the Spidey reboot.

Video games top the merchandise list
While the box-office matters to the cinemas, we wanted to know what merchandise fans of these films expected to buy or have bought for them in 2012. With the children rating each category out of five (see graph on the opposite page for the full list) the products were given a mean score to determine popularity (five: very likely to buy, 1: definitely won’t buy). The children only scored the products of the films they were expecting to see.

The most eagerly anticipated film-tie-in for children is a video game (3.71), with Batman seeing the highest demand for a game (possibly helped by already being a successful game series). Video games are followed by DVDs (3.67), action figures (3.31), and cards/stickers (2.83).

Dubit is a specialist youth research agency that helps brands to understand young people's motivations and behaviours. Phone: 0113 394 7920. Email -



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