DC Histories: Interactive Books

Here at DC Histories, we try to make sense of the continuity that perplexes, befuddles, and intimidates. We discuss what worked and what didn’t. This week, we’re talking about the various interactive books published over the past 30 years using DC’s properties.

DC Super Powers Which Way Books (1983 - 1986) Covers

Super Powers Which Way Books (1983 – 1986) Covers

Choose Your Own Adventure books were something of a phenomenon in the 1980s and early 1990s. In those books, young readers would start at the beginning of a tale as they would with any other book. However, after a few pages, a choice would be given. Would the reader like the novel’s protagonist to follow the mysterious stranger who appeared in front of them or would they like to ignore him? Turn left at that signpost or continue straight? The choices was theirs. Each choice lead them to a page which continued the narrative while the other lead them to a different page. The new narrative continued on until it hit a fork in the road which required the readers to again make a choice. In the end, readers were only given one of potentially dozens of tales found in a single book. Only by rereading it and taking other paths would the entire book be read.

This format, known as a type of gamebook, was extremely popular. Few had seen anything like it when the first Choose Your Own Adventure book was released in 1979. This style of story had roots going back several years, but it was the Choose Your Own Adventure series that brought it to the mainstream. Other publishers quickly jumped on the bandwagon. By the time the 1980s was done, series with titles like Pick-a-Path, Twistaplot, Be an Interplanetary Spy, and Endless Quests were published. Characters like the Transformers, Star Trek, James Bond, Indiana Jones, and G I Joe were licensed to appear in these types of adventures. Also in the mix was the Which Way Book series published by a division of Simon & Schuster. It was this publisher who got the rights to publish gamebooks based on DC Comics characters. In 1983, Superman: The Man of Steel: A Super Powers Which Way Book was first published. Soon afterwards, books based on Supergirl, the Justice League, and Batman followed.

From Superman: The Man of Steel: A Super Powers Which Way Book #1 (1983)

From Superman: The Man of Steel: A Super Powers Which Way Book #1 (1983)

As was the case with most books of this nature, the plots varied wildly depending on the choices the reader made. In the Superman book, the Man of Steel could stumble upon villainous plans put into motion by either Lex Luthor, Toyman, or the evil Kryptonians from Superman II. He could even fail in his mission if a wrong choice was made. The same was true about the other three books in the series. Supergirl could run into Mr. Mxyzptlk, Brainiac, travel through time, or find herself in the Land of Oz. The Justice League book was more straightforward with the League battling Darkseid and his minions no matter what choices you made. However, the wrong choice could lead to Darkseid blasting Batman to death in a moment which seemingly prophesied the end of Final Crisis.

From Justice League of America: A Super Powers Which Way Book #3 (1984)

From Justice League of America: A Super Powers Which Way Book #3 (1984)

Each of the books was partially illustrated. The work was done by José Delbo, an artist whose clean lines made him one of DC’s go-to artists when licensed work was needed outside of comics. He spent years working on the Superman newspaper strip among his other duties.

These books had the Super Powers logo on them. As was mentioned in the DC Histories article on action figure comics, Super Powers was the branding that DC put on most of its licensed properties in the mid-1980s. Everything from action figures to cartoons to records to this book series had the logo on it, though there was no continuity link between all of these various media. It seemed to exist in lieu of the DC logo itself.

After these books were published, Simon & Schuster dropped out of the gamebook market like so many other publishers did. The fad had worn itself out and the Which Way books were done. It would take about 25 years to see a DC hero in a title like this again.

Batman: Brave and the Bold Pick Your Path Books (2010) Covers

Batman: The Brave and the Bold: Pick Your Path Books (2010) Covers

In 2010, a new book series titled Pick Your Path hit bookstores. Based on the Batman: The Brave and the Bold television show, the books were aimed at a slightly younger audience than the Which Way Books decades earlier. In this series, which only had two books published, readers led Batman in battle against a variety of foes including Kanjar Ro, Mongul, the Riddler, the Joker, and more. As was the case with the television show, a variety of superhero guest stars filled the books as well. Depending on how readers chose to follow the adventures, Aquaman, Black Canary, Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, the Flash, and Zatanna would fight alongside Batman.

Two years later, another stab was taken at these types of gamebooks. This time using the name Choose-Your-Fate Adventure Books, each one focused on a different superhero.

Choose-Your-Fate Adventure Books (2012) Covers

Choose-Your-Fate Adventure Books (2012) Covers

So far, only two have been published. The Batman book came out in May of 2012 and the Wonder Woman book followed in October. Complete with illustrations done in the style of the later years of the Bruce Timm DC animated shows, these two books gave a slight twist on the choices past books had given. Now there were small puzzles and clues that readers had to solve in order to choose the path to take. For example, sometimes a maze would be presented to the reader and the first exit found was the one readers should take to get to the next part of the story.

From Wonder Woman: Power Outage: Choose-Your-Fate Adventure Book (2012)

From Wonder Woman: Power Outage: Choose-Your-Fate Adventure Book (2012)

At other times, word puzzles were presented that needed to be solved in order to get an understanding of what to do next.

From Batman: Super-Villains Strike: Choose-Your-Face Adventure Book (2012)

From Batman: Super-Villains Strike: Choose-Your-Fate Adventure Book (2012)

This level of interactivity had been used in other gamebooks during the 1980s, but nothing like this had used the DC characters before. It was a nice twist on an old format.

Sadly, no future books in this series have been announced that I can see. It appears that this series will disappear after only two titles just like the Pick Your Path tales before it.

A very different interactive book using DC characters was released in 2008. Instead of being a gamebook that forced readers to make a choice, this was a linear tale. It was interactive in a different way. Written by Duane Swierczynski, future writer of the first 17 issues of the New 52’s Birds of Prey series and plenty of other comics, Batman: Murder at Wayne Manor was sold as “an interactive mystery.”

Batman: Murder at Wayne Manor (2008) Cover

Batman: Murder at Wayne Manor (2008) Cover

The tale followed Bruce Wayne as he investigated a dead body that was uncovered on his property during some routine construction. As the case deepened, and more clues came to the forefront, special pockets were found inside the book. These pockets contained reproductions of clues that Bruce himself was finding inside the prose. When the victim’s autopsy report was found, a pocket in the book contained a copy of the report for the reader to closely examine. When a bar coaster was written on, readers found that in the book as well. As the investigation stretched back into the history of Thomas and Martha Wayne, a photograph of the couple and their friends was also given to readers. Thomas was, of course, wearing a bat mask to his own costume party.

From Batman: Murder at Wayne Manor (2008) Photograph

From Batman: Murder at Wayne Manor (2008)

It was a fun reading experience. The mystery itself wasn’t hard to crack but getting all of the clues presented in this fashion meant that it’s still worth a read.

Also found in the book was art by David Lapham. Lapham has only done occasional work inside the pages of DC’s comics, but his clean, accessible art fit this tale aimed at a broad audience.

From Batman: Murder at Wayne Manor (2008)

From Batman: Murder at Wayne Manor (2008)

A few other interactive mysteries were published, including one on Dracula and another on Sherlock Holmes. Like so many other interactive books, this series only lasted a few titles.

The quick death of so many gamebook and interactive series is unfortunate. It’s hard to say what exactly is behind their quick deaths. Perhaps the format is dismissed as a novelty. Perhaps people don’t even know they exist. No matter what the case is for why these series vanished as they did, they’re still fun to read. If you have a young superhero fan in your life and find any of these books in a bookstore, pick them up. Chances are, they’ll be thrilled to help Batman, Superman, Supergirl, the Justice League, and Wonder Woman help keep the world safe. And, if one tale ends tragically, they can always go back and choose a different adventure.


Jeff Reid collects all types of licensed gamebooks. His favorites remain the Indiana Jones adventures, some of which were written by R. L. Stine. Occasionally, he’ll talk about such things on Twitter.


  1. Awesome, I had no idea any of these existed. I loved Choose-your-own adventure books when I was a kid. I thought that issue of Unwritten was one of the finest comic books ever crafted.

    Maybe I’ll look up that Wonder Woman book and save it for my daughter to play with in a few years.

  2. I found that Batman Interactive Mystery book years ago at Half Price Books for really cheap and still haven’t gone through it. Thanks for the reminder. I wonder if that would be fun to read and go through with my wife together?

  3. Fun article, no idea there was such a history of these books with DC. The only pick-your-own-adventure book I have is the Animorphs one from way back. I liked it well enough, but I never got to interact with the main characters (maybe I did, it’s been ages) and I couldn’t just make the choices I really wanted to. Maybe the reason these books don’t catch on is there are already video games for interactivity and possibly when people read a book they want the story laid out for them and not deciding what to do every few pages (although I like the idea, in practice it varies). Just my 2 cents.

  4. i had a whole bunch of these as a kid, as well as the regular CYOA books. I was so into them it was silly. I think they all were sold at a yardsale when i was in college. GRRRRRRRRR.

    Picked up that Murder at Wayne Manor a while back at a discount and it was really fun!.

  5. The Museum of Science and Comics. Curator: Jeff Reid. I like the stains (coffee?) on the cover of the Supergirl Which Way Book. I wasn’t aware of the more elaborate books that were put out in recent years. Good article.

    • I was forced to resort to eBay to pick up both the Supergirl and JLA Which Way books. I have no blame in their condition. The tear on the top cover of the Batman Which Way book was my fault though and I was mad about it for a day after it happened. Stupid paperback books. They’re so easily damaged!

  6. Great article. I’m gonna have to find those latest two for my babies. And I miss the brave and the bold. That show was outrageous.