Taking a break from Bat-talk for a little Bat-talk.

§ September 29th, 2017 § Filed under batman, promo § 6 Comments

So, going through boxes of ancient comic shop promo materials netted me this, a 1986 letter to retailers about the then-forthcoming Batman: The Dark Knight mini-series by Frank Miller:


This letter had six stapled pages, with the last three pages being black and white repos of some of the art (including the famous splash of Batman ‘n’ Robin leaping over the city, and that pic of Superman hefting a tank). Anyway, thought some of you folks would enjoy this look back at a piece of Bat-history.

A few notes:

  • I’m trying to remember reaction to Ronin at the time. I seem to remember…Gary Groth of The Comics Journal, I think, saying Ronin was better than 90% of other comics being published, but it was still crap. Well, I liked it, but I don’t know how well it went over in the retail sense, since I wasn’t involved in that part of the business then. My general recollection is that it had a mixed response at best, sort of a “he left Daredevil for this?” but that’s more gleaned from ‘zines of the time and not so much from actual interaction with people who read it. It’s considered…well, I was going to say “it’s considered a classic now,” but is it? I know it keeps getting repackaged and rereleased but when folks talk about the Big Classic Comic Books from Marvel and DC, it’s Watchmen and Dark Knight and, um, Marvels, I guess, but Ronin doesn’t seem to make it onto those same lists. Which is a shame…I do quite like it.
  • I vaguely remember the coverage in Rolling Stone and Spin, in that there were some pretty good-sized ads run there. Any accompanying articles I don’t recall, though I imagine there were strong…suggestions from DC that “BAM! POW! BATMAN’S OLD AND MEAN NOW!” headlines should be avoided.
  • The description kills me, with the comic “taking place 10 years after Batman has retired, when he’s pushing 50.” So, when Batman is my age right now, in other words. “This is a future Batman, when he’s old, worn out, creaky-boned and cloudy-eyed, just about to keel over and die, just like Mike Sterling.” Okay, maybe it doesn’t say that exactly, but they’re totally implying it.

    The other odd note in the series description, aside from “introducing a new, female Robin” and letting us know Superman will be in the couple of issues, is the declaration that the “Batman paraphrenalia [sic] (will be) updated and computerized.” It seemed weird at first that would be emphasized in the promo materials (hey kids, see how Batman fights crime in the future!), since that’s hardly the focus of the book, but there is that extended sequence with the new Batmobile/tank so, um, technically I guess that’s what they were talking about. Just out of context like this, however, it sort of sounds like “here’s Iron Man’s new armor,” or “introducing the Supermobile” — just, in retrospect, it feels a little diminishing compared to the impact the series would have. How would they have known, of course…they knew they had something special, but just how big it was going to be was surely an enormous surprise.

  • Their attempts at describing the actual printed product is a little amusing, in that the format, will very shortly after this, be referred to as “The Dark Knight format.” Hell, even Marvel described their comics like this as being in “the Dark Knight format,” until eventually someone there realized that was a bad idea, and we got “bookshelf” or “prestige” as names for this type of item instead. I think “prestige” is the solely preferred term now.
  • The Dark Knight 3D Counter Display is pretty neat…my old boss Ralph still has one in his office…a little beat-up, but he said he thinks he has another! This site has a pretty good pic of what the display looks like.
  • As was pointed out to me by a customer who was looking at this letter the other day, some poor soul had to go through and underline the appropriate words by hand. Another artistic skill lost due to computerization.

6 Responses to “Taking a break from Bat-talk for a little Bat-talk.”

  • Bryan says:

    Kim Thompson’s 1983 TCJ write-up of Ronin was posted on TCJ’s site following his death, for a look at a contemporary review (this may be the Gary Groth review you’re thinking of): http://www.tcj.com/run-of-the-miller/

    I started reading Daredevil with issue 226 (Miller’s return to DD, although I was only nine years old at the time, so his name meant nothing to me), and picked up the first two issues of The Dark Knight around the time of issue 235, upon finding out that’s where Miller went. It seems crazy in retrospect that he was doing “Born Again” and “The Dark Knight Returns” simultaneously.

  • Bruce Baugh says:

    I liked Ronin a lot, but then that’s me for you. It seems like those who like it tend to like it a lot, and when I’ve given it to friends to read who are familiar with Miller’s other work, they usually like it too. But it’s so much more obscure now than his marquee work – I’m as likely to find that someone’s made the acquaintance of Martha Washington as they are to have done so with Ronin.

  • Dan says:

    $2.95 for a single comic book?? That’s insane.

  • Mike: Late to the party here, I was in the hospital. But this is a true story and I’m curious as to how many really ludicrous stories about the first Batman film. Here’s mine. I have no photos, because I am certain the funeral home in question did not want to be sued.

    It was a gig I had for about two weeks in October of 1989. I was broke, ready to take any job. And I ended up dressing in a Keaton Batman-like suit and attending wakes and funerals in a suburb South of Chicago. The funeral home honestly thought that the kids would be less sad if they knew that whomever was in the casket was friends with Batman. No idea why ANY kid would believe that, but there I was, bat-ears and all, sitting in the back of the viewing room and on at least four occasions, being a pallbearer and standing at the gravesite looking properly somber.

    I was in college and was paid $15 in 1989 dollars for each viewing I was able to attend, with an extra $2 thrown in if I was a pallbearer.

    I know this is completely a non-comic store related reply, and surely the south suburbs of Chicago were and still are less sophisticated then Ventura County, but I’m curious as to whether or not anybody else has a crazy Keaton Batman tale to tell.

  • CP Bananas says:

    Glad I checked back in here, because that is an amazing story, Wayne Allen Sallee.

  • Mikester says:

    I agree…I’ll be pointing the story out in a post soon enough!

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