Keeping in mind that Batman and Robin isn’t really THAT bad of a film.

§ September 22nd, 2017 § Filed under batman, batman89 § 9 Comments

So I’ve been looking back at your memories of the first Batman film from 1989 and all the surrounding hooplah (here and here and also here) and yeah, a whole lot of what you folks have been saying sure rings true with what I remember of my experience at the time.

I’m going to respond to the last comment I received first, from Andrew, who asks:

“Does Ralph remember any effect like this for the earlier Superman movies? What happened for subsequent Batman movies?”

I’ll ask Ralph when next I speak to him…he opened his own store in Ventura in 1980, but he was working with a partner at a shop in Santa Barbara for a few years prior to that, and working comic conventions and swap meets, too, so he probably experienced the response (or lack thereof) to that first Superman film in 1978. I’ll get back to you on that.

As far as the following Burton-Universe Bat-films go…well, it was diminishing returns, of course. The excitement over that first Batman movie was because it was “new” and “different” wasn’t there when Batman Returns hit in 1992, since we kinda knew what to expect now. I mean, obviously the film did well, and DC Comics did their best to exploit Batman during that period, but it’s not like DC wasn’t going to try to sell Batman comics, right? However, in 1992 the Bat-fad and the related comics boom had mostly run its course, and the comics crash was on its way, and the hordes of people who had suddenly discovered comic books in the late ’80s/early ’90s were beginning to find other things to do, so we weren’t going to have anywhere close to the cultural impact with the follow-up movies that the original Batman film had. Again, that second film was a blockbuster, and tie-in products sold well…but it wasn’t the culture changer its predecessor was.

The third film…I can’t remember if that had much of an impact at all. There was some slight interest because the lead was recast, but I don’t recall anything unusual aside from the typical merchandising one might expect from a Big Movie. And the fourth film…well, I’ve mentioned this before, but when I first saw the trailer for Christopher Nolan’s first Bat-film, Batman Begins, people in my theater literally groaned when they realized what they were seeing what a come-on for a new Batman film. Given that under normal circumstances the general public might be more positively predisposed to Batman, I most attribute that reaction to the trailer to memories of Batman and Robin, even if it was a whole eight years prior. That film cast a long shadow, however, which meant Batman Begins had a bit of an uphill battle to convince moviegoers that hey, maybe a Batman film can be good again.

Ooh boy, this is going to be a wordy post. Let me address a couple more questions and then we’ll continue into parts 2 through about 19 or 20:

James G. reacts to a non-Batman aside I made about the comics boom, noting

“I didn’t know about the sports card market crash helping the comic speculation market.”

Well, honestly, this was my assumption that I had at the time, and one I never really questioned or thought about much, so I can probably be refuted by someone with “knowledge” or “facts” or any of that wild stuff. But as I have related many times in the past, during the comics boom I had many people coming into the store asking after “comic book Becketts,” “Beckett” being the primary publisher of sports card price guides. That became a sure indicator of someone from the card collecting hobby, or at least familiar with it, trying their hand at the ol’ funnybook game.

I wasn’t really involved in the sports card market, beyond Ralph carrying a few boxes of this and that, so I don’t know a whole lot, but it was my understanding, from Ralph and some of his friends who did run sports card shops, that the card market, much like the comics market, was way overproducing at the time. I did a little Googling and did find, for example, this article that seems to corroborate those memories. It would seem that the card market preceded the comics market in its collapse, allowing some time for collectors of one to try to switch over to the other. That’s certainly what it seemed like what was happening then, but if anyone has more specific recollections, please let me know! All I know for sure it’s pretty tough to find a sports card shop around our area nowadays.

Patrick recalls

“People would be shocked at how Batman and Joker shirts were EVERYWHERE. And so many of them you would see see the same one twice in a day on people. And they were on a lot of people.”

Preach it, brother. Okay, I was working in a comic book store, so it’s only natural that I’d see lots of people in Bat-shirts. But when I would occasionally slip my chain and venture out into the wilds of Ventura County, yes, Bat-clothing was all over the place. Little kids, grandmas, the occasional nun, everyone was into Batman. Like I said in my own recollections of the time, we had waiting lists of people special ordering specific Bat-shirt designs.

The fad had to run its course eventually, and all those Batman shirts got put into closets one final time, never again to see the light of day. I can’t remember ever noticing the frequency of Bat-fashion declining…it was just something that was always there, background noise, until one day it wasn’t.

Okay, Bat-shirts aren’t gone forever…outside the peaks of 1960s and 1980s Batmania, incidence of Bat-clothing returned to its normal levels. But I wonder what happened to all those millions of Batman shirts that were purchased during that most recent boom time. Thrown out? Donated to Goodwill? Buried deep in a box in a closet for the original owner’s children to discover and wear as some kind of retro get-up? I bet if I dig into my closet, I probably can still find my own Batman t-shirt from the time, if only because I don’t clean old clothes out of my closet often enough. …Hey, my MC Hammer pants are back in style now, right?

• • •

As promised we’ll continue Bat-memories on Monday, same Bat-time, same B–okay, sorry sorry. But that means there’s still time to add more of your own!

9 Responses to “Keeping in mind that Batman and Robin isn’t really THAT bad of a film.”

  • Boosterrific says:

    For the record, my 1989 Batman t-shirt is still hanging in my closet just above my 1989 bat-signal Chucks. I love it so much, I can’t bear to wear it. (It’s irreplaceable!) I only take it out every once in a while to clean it and make sure it isn’t being disfigured too badly by its hanger.

    Granted, I may be an outlier.

  • Damien says:

    Can we have a video of Mike doing the You Can’t Touch This dance.

  • Brian says:

    I can proudly say that, in 1989 (at age 9), my twin twin brother and I rocked some pretty awesome Joker and Batman (respectively, yes we realized even back then who was the evil twin) costumes for Halloween. I think I know where there are photos of them at my father’s house where I can find them while this series is still ongoing!

  • DavidG says:

    I work at a university and I have seen 2 young people wearing vintage looking Batman t shirts in the last week. Maybe they’re coming back!

  • Jonathan Miller says:

    As I recall, my Batman shirt (just the yellow Bat symbol, nothing special) disappeared when I was in college, probably stolen from a dorm laundry room.

  • Daniel says:

    For what it’s worth, I think “Batman and Robin” is one of the five worst films I’ve ever seen (others being “Superman IV,” “Suicide Squad,” “Freejack,” and “Jaws: The Revenge”). I find it irredeemably bad.

    “Batman Forever” was dumb and mediocre.

    “Batman Returns” is pretty brilliant. I’m in the minority in that I loved that version of the Penguin. I thought the story was stronger, the visual design even better (that film had, hands down, the best bat suit ever), and best of all, no Prince songs. But then, I also love “BvS,” so my views aren’t necessarily in the mainstream.

  • Andrew Davison says:

    I wonder why today’s movies don’t have the same effect on comic book sales that these earlier movies did?

    At the time of the first Batman movies, didn’t DC start publishing the “Greatest Stories” series for Batman, etc? But is there anything like that now, say for Wonder Woman?

  • Gareth Wilson says:

    One of the “Batman Begins” people said they saw a TV report about poor people in Africa, and one of them was wearing a Batman T-shirt. They said it really hammered home how famous the character was.

  • Bryan says:

    @Andrew Davison: anecdotally speaking, comics were easier to find in 1989, thus a film based on a comic book character, especially when the movie was as hyped as Batman was, people could get comics at a convenience store just as likely as a comic book shop. And comics were still relatively mainstream. Marvel would publish its annuals in the summertime, and Amazing Spider-Man and Uncanny X-Men were published biweekly in the summer of 1989 to take advantage of the increased free time of their readership being out of school.