Bates began submitting ideas for comic book covers to DC Comics at the age of 13, and a number of them were bought and published, the first as the cover to Superman #167 (February 1964). Bates began to sell stories to DC when he was 17.
Bates and artist Kurt Schaffenberger were the creative team for The New Adventures of Superboy, a series debuting in January 1980, which took the character out of the Legion of Super-Heroes and back into solo adventures. A major shakeup occurred in Bates' other major character in the mid-1980s. The Flash would inadvertently kill his wife's murderer, the Reverse-Flash, in The Flash #324 (Aug. 1983). This led to an extended storyline titled "The Trial of the Flash" in which the hero must face the repercussions of his actions. Bates became the editor as well as the writer of The Flash title during this time and oversaw it until its cancellation in 1985. "The Trial of the Flash" was collected in a volume of the Showcase Presents series in 2011.
Bates made a return to writing Superman, this time as an Elseworlds story titled Superman: The Last Family of Krypton, published in August 2010. Bates worked on the DC Comics nostalgic event DC Retroactive writing stories for the one-shot specials DC Retroactive: Flash - The '70s (with art by Benito Gallego and Sal Buscema), and DC Retroactive: JLA - The '70s (drawn by Gordon Purcell and Andy Smith), both released with September 2011 cover dates.
^McAvennie, Michael; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1970s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 150. ISBN978-0-7566-6742-9. "Scripter Cary Bates and artist Curt Swan chose an inopportune time for Superman to meet Terra-Man, a spaghetti Western-garbed menace who rode a winged horse and wielded lethal alien weaponry."
^McAvennie "1970s" in Dolan, p. 158: "Writer Cary Bates and artist Curt Swan gave Superman all the 'fun' he could handle with the savvy new Toyman in Action Comics #432."
^McAvennie "1970s" in Dolan, p. 161: "Fans of John Boorman's 1974 sci-fi film Zardoz, starring Sean Connery in revealing red spandex, could appreciate writer Cary Bates and artist Curt Swan's inspiration for Vartox of Valeron."
^McAvennie "1970s" in Dolan, p. 153: "Following a decade of back-up action and three years headlining Adventure Comics, Supergirl finally starred in her own series. For the inaugural issue, Cary Bates and artist Art Saaf enrolled Linda Danvers in college."
^McAvennie "1970s" in Dolan, p. 159: "Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel became the first Legionnaires to tie the knot. The wedding planners were writer Cary Bates and artist Dave Cockrum."
^McAvennie "1970s" in Dolan, p. 165: "In August's Justice League of America #121, Adam Strange said 'I do' to his long-time love, Alanna, in a story by scripter Cary Bates and artist Dick Dillin."
^McAvennie "1970s" in Dolan, p. 182: "Life for the Fastest Man Alive screeched to a halt after writer Cary Bates and artist Alex Saviuk played 'The Last Dance' for the Flash's wife, Iris West Allen."
^Bates, Cary (w), Novick, Irv (p), Blaisdell, Tex (i). "The Day I Saved the Life of the Flash" The Flash 228 (July-August 1974), DC Comics
^Bates, Cary; Maggin, Elliot S. (w), Dillin, Dick (p), McLaughlin, Frank (i). "Avenging Ghosts of the Justice Society!" Justice League of America 124 (November 1975), DC Comics
^Manning "1980s" in Dolan, p. 186: "After recently departing the pages of Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, Superboy was free to pursue his own adventures...in this premiere issue written by Cary Bates and illustrated by Kurt Schaffenberger."
^Manning, Matthew K. "1980s" in Dolan, p. 203: "Written by Cary Bates, with art by Flash legend Carmine Infantino, the story saw...[the Flash] accidentally break the Reverse-Flash's neck."