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I think “The Violence and the Vulgarity” was my prom theme.

§ October 22nd, 2018 § Filed under batman, publishing, question time, retailing § 3 Comments

I’ll get back to the topic of extended breaks in ongoing series (1 and 2) shortly, but I wanted to get a couple more questions ahead if at all possible:

William opens the gate to the following:

“Let’s talk about that evergreen topic, The Bat Penis.

“Maybe I’m cynical, but it seems like the image was provided just to garner controversy (and sales) for that issue. The image does not play into the plot, and is basically superfluous. It’s only there to either satisfy the kinks of the creators or stir up word of mouth and demand, which if it was the latter, it did magnificently.

“My question is this. I know you touched on this briefly in your post on the subject, but, as a retailer, do you feel that DC left you out to dry in this case. I am old enough to remember the Friendly Frank’s raid when it was current events, and while a lot of things changed since then, a lot of things stayed the same. I know the book was advertised as mature readers from the get go, but it seems DC didn’t let retailers in on just how ‘mature’ the book really was. And there is a difference between ‘expletive-laden’ mature readers and ‘Let’s look at the Batwang’ mature readers, and parent would be far more upset if the latter landed in their kids hands.

“I’m just wondering if you wish DC was more upfront about what the mature content was beforehand or if it didn’t really make a difference. I’m not a censorship guy, but an informed retailer can better avoid any potential legal entanglements that might cause. I’m curious on your opinion on the matter.”

So I’ve been watching that new Titans series on the DC Universe streaming channel, and…well, if you’ve been following my Twitterings, you’ve probably seen a few of my comments on the show. Overall, I do like it, but it does inspire a bit of eyerolling when they lay on the violence and the vulgarity. Especially in that one scene from the premiere episoide, the one that made it into the pilot, with Robin, um, expressing his opinion about his former crime-fighting partner. What I tweeted was

“Yes, in context Robin’s ‘F Batman’ line is totally gratuitous and tacked on as the buzz-creating ‘everyone will talk about this’ free advertising moment it was meant to be.”

Okay, maybe when they were writing this scene, they were simply intent on making this as “adult” and “gritty” as possible, and that meant the occasional f-bomb…but they still put that scene into the trailer, knowing full well that would engender some controversy and get mouths yappin’ and fingers typin’ about this new TV show.

That I think was an intentional usage of unexpected “mature” content to garner attention. I honestly don’t think Full-Frontal Bruce in Batman: Damned was the same situation. I don’t know the specific reasons why they decided to include that image (if the creators were interviewed about that topic, I haven’t seen it) but my guess is that they took this new “mature readers” “almost anything goes” imprint at DC to heart and, well, went for it. I could see ’em saying “mature imprint, huh? Let’s see if THIS gets past the editor” and then a while later: “oh dang it did.”

I don’t think I was blindsided by the image…I knew it was a mature readers title, and granted, the image itself it relatively minor…silhouetted, almost easy to miss, not like other popular comic book penises like Watchmen‘s Doctor Manhattan. His Lower Manhattan just popped up (heh) in DC’s Big Event Series Doomsday Clock, and seems more like a thing (ahem) than Batman’s deal. I think exposed wedding tackles fit well within the subject matter covered by the “mature readers” label. Now if there were explicit close-up images of Tab A being inserted into Slot B, that’d be a different story…one likely published by Avatar or Boundless.

I don’t think I felt legal problems were potentially a threat here…I mean, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund still exists for a reason, but the naughty Batman comic probably received more jokes about it on late night talk shows than actual complaints from concerned citizens. Raina Telgemeier’s publisher probably receives more letters from uptight parents about her graphic novels per week than the whole of DC does all year. Superheroes are “mainstreamed” now, and I think enough people have been exposed to tie-in media where Batman says “shit” or where Deadpool gets, um, rogered roundly, or where Robin says “fuck Batman” that the idea of an adult-oriented comic book isn’t quite the foreign idea it once was. I’m not saying problems wouldn’t, or don’t, happen, just that Batman: Damned probably wasn’t going to open those particular floodgates.

Not that I shouldn’t be careful, of course. Keep the Bondage Fairies off he kids rack an’ all that.

So let’s rap about Batman’s penis.

§ September 24th, 2018 § Filed under batman § 6 Comments

So when I initially ordered Batman: Damned, there were a couple of points against it that kept my orders on the conservative side:

First, its dimensions. It’s larger than your standard issue comical book. It is, for all intents and purposes, a graphic novel, a nearly-identical format to the Marvel and DC graphic novels from the 1980s. 8 1/2 by 11 inches and thin. Magazines and magazine-sized comics are generally harder sells.

Second, the price. Yes, okay, cover prices are creeping up (the coming Uncanny X-Men relaunch has a $7.99 price tag on the first issue, egads) but price is still a factor, Raise that price, lower those sales expectations.

On the plus side, it’s a strong creative team, and the book was bound to look gorgeous. It’s the opening salvo from a new DC Comics imprint. It’s Batman. It’s John Constantine. All factors that can push those numbers up.

Thus, a couple months ago, and again a few weeks back when I had the opportunity to rejigger those numbers, I decided what I was going to order and that was that. Not terribly high, but it certainly seemed like plenty to me, based on my customer base ond likely demand.

Then last Wednesday came along, and throughout the day the book sold about how I had expected it to sell. It moved briskly, and at some point in the day I decided to put in a reorder for some more copies, as once I’d actually seen the final product and saw how my customers responded to it, I figured it had some legs and was good for more sales. My assumption was that it would be treated as a trade paperback by the publisher, kept on the backlist for the foreseeable future, but I wanted to grab a few more while it was still currently available, rather than wait for DC to go back to press after the eventual sellout.

I was left with one copy at the end of the day. And then the phone calls began.

As you’ve probably heard, there’s a scene in the comic featuring a fully-nude Batman (or Bruce Wayne, I guess…feels funny to call him Batman without the Bat-costume) that reveals his…well, look, it’s totally his penis. Obscured by shadows, yes, but there it is, regardless. Holy short arm inspection!

After this particular bonus content was noticed, DC quickly announced that the Batpole would be stricken from digital editions and all future reprints. And of course, being comics, you know what that means. INSTANT COLLECTIBLE.

Probably a good 95% of the phone calls received at the store since Thursday morning have been people asking for Batman: Damned #1. Sunday I think I had only one call that wasn’t someone asking for that comic. The majority of those calls were not from anyone that I recognized, so the plus side is that new folks are seeking out comic shops and finding me, America’s Most Powerful and Beautiful Comic Shop Owner. The downside is, of course, not having that book they want. And they’re not wanting any future editions that may come down the pike…they want that first printing.

Now the reordered batch (ahem) I’m expecting is all pretty much already spoken for. Assuming of course they show up not damaged, which is sometimes the trick with these shipments. I mean, beyond folks looking for the aforementioned INSTANT COLLECTIBLE, there are those who may have been waiting to buy the story once it was completed and collected into a final edition, or were on the fence about picking it up, or whathaveyou, but were goosed into action by realizing if they wanted the uncensored version, they’d better grab it now. And I understand the impulse…when I finally got around to buying a CD copy of “The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking,” I didn’t want the U.S. version with the stupid and insulting black box over (gasp) a lady’s naked bottom, I wanted the cover that didn’t treat me like an idiot, so I had to hunt around for the Canadian release.

So anyway, in the true Streisand Effect fashion, by trying to hide Batman’s Boy Wonder, DC has only drawn even more attention to it, even to the point of the comic being mocked on late night talk shows, and the brave new launch of an upscale line of serious comic books has been reduced to a vector for dick jokes. I know, I’m not innocent, there’s a couple in this post right here, but the whole situation is ridiculous, it’s hard (ahem) not to make fun of it. But I guess at least people are laughing at it rather than saying “LOOK AT WHAT THEY’RE SELLING TO KIDS, WE MUST BAN COMICS” though that’s probably out there too. There’s always somebody.

On a related note: I sure sold a lot of magazine-sized bags and boards on Wednesday.

Oh, and I found yet another Death of Superman thing while looking up stuff for today’s entry, but it can wait ’til next time.

§ August 29th, 2018 § Filed under batman, death of superman § 4 Comments


Reader Allan asks:

“I actually would like to hear your thoughts on the whole Knightfall/Quest/End saga if you haven’t already done so.”

Thiis is of course asked in response to my last post, where I once again talked too much about the death of Superman and wrapped it up with a partial scan for Knightfall pogs…er, “Skycaps.”

For the uninitiated, the whole Knightfall/Quest/End/Epilogue/Sorta-Sequel/Constant-Visual-References-to-Bane-Breaking-Batman hoohar involved Batman, in an event not at all inspired by dollar signs appearing in DC’s eyes with an accompanying “ka-CHING” sound after the Death of Superman took off, getting his back broken by new baddie Bane (pictured in that giant scan above), and then being replaced by Cyborg Superman new sorta-goodie character Azrael while he recovered. And then the whole Knightquest and Knightsend thing was about Bruce Wayne continuing to recover and eventually attempting to reclaim the Batman identity from Azrael, who turned out to not be tempermentally suited for the job, as I recall.

Okay, I don’t honestly know if Doomsday moneymoneymoney goosed DC along into having a similar situation involving Batman, as that scan above came from the same solicitation catalog as all that “Death of Superman” promotional material I featured last time. Granted, that was just introducing the Bane character, and I haven’t any idea if “the breaking of the Bat” was a planned thing at this point, or even planned to be as big a thing as it turned out being, taking over the Batbooks for as long as it did.

But whatever the reason, ’twas the season for replacing superheroes, I suppose, and Classic Batman was knocked out of the picture and New Coke Batman stepped in and that was that. Now, as to what I personally think about it…

…Well, to be honest, I really don’t have the memories or experiences of even particularly the interest in maintaining an informal history of sorts of the Knightfall event, like I’ve been with Superman’s temporary demise. Now, I read at least all of Knightfall (where Bane plans out, and eventually succeeds in, the defeat of Batman), and probably most of the following Knightquest series, but I’m about 97% positive that I checked out before the concluding Knightsend issues of the Batman comics had proceeded too far along.

Now, don’t get me wrong on the “interest” part. I don’t mean “I’m not interested in talking about this,” what I’m trying to say is “I wasn’t that interested in Batman to keeps tabs on or revisit the story.” I’m not even sure I have any particular retailing memories of the Knightfall event. I know the Vengeance of Bane comics still sell. I know this specific issue featuring you-know-what still has significant demand. And this one cover featuring Catwoman is always popular for…reasons.

Basically, most of my thoughts and memories surrounding this event is more involved with the decades-later back issue market aftermath, as well as the current semi-popularity of the trade paperback collections. I can very easily remember events of the day when Superman #75 was released. Couldn’t tell you a thing about what happened when Batman #497 came out. I mean, I know it sold well, but that’s pretty much it. No crazy rumors about issues selling for hugely-inflated prices, or about people buying copies by the truckload, or anything like that.

It’s weird that I’m drawing such a blank on it, but that’s just what happens, I guess. Death of Superman sticks out because that was the first really big EVENT I had to deal with upon entering the high stakes world of comics retail. Well, sure, there was the “vote to kill Robin” weird-ass promotion DC did, which I got behind the counter for just in time…I remember getting calls and questions about that. But that wasn’t a patch on Death of Superman, which was such an unusual event that memories of that were burnt into my brain’s ROM files, while the Knightfall shenanigans were just more high-selling comics in a boom market that lived in my brain’s RAM for a bit, until it got flushed out by the next thing I had to deal with.

I am surprised that we haven’t seen DC have a go at one of their animated movie adaptations of the storyline, though if the current “Death of Superman” multi-film series does well, “Knightfall The Cartoon” may not be long after. There was an episode of one of the Batman animated series which featured Bane, picking up some elements from the comics, but that’s pretty much it. Oh, and the live action movies, of course, where he appeared as Poison Ivy’s henchman in one, and then there was that other lesser film he was in.

Hmmm…okay, I probably still have a few more points to cover about all this, but I’m calling it a post for today, I’ll be back Friday with more excessive typing. Thanks for reading it, folks!

“Realistically.”

§ July 11th, 2018 § Filed under batman, publishing § 9 Comments

In response to my not-at-all-about-Batman-#50 post from the other day, I’ve had a few folks here and there note that a “these characters get married!” comics event isn’t really the same as a “this character dies!” event, and, well, yeah, sure. There’s more of an implied permanence, I think, with marriage in comics, versus a death in a comic basically having the “well, how will our hero get out of this one?” question implied. (Though maybe that question is implied in the former situation as well…joking, I’m joking.)

However, to clarify my thoughts on the matter…I don’t think the nature of the event itself matters so much as the fact a specific event was specifically marketed and then not delivered. It’s kind of a moot point now, I suppose, as the initial sales window for Batman #50 has come and gone, and hopefully retailers managed to sell the majority of their copies that they almost certainly ordered large-ish numbers on. I mean, yes, realistically, Batman and Catwoman shouldn’t get married, such a major change to iconic characters may be too much…but then again, Superman and Lois Lane are married. And have a kid. And for that matter, Batman has a child as well. Those are all fairly significant changes to the status quo, so yet another marriage didn’t seem entirely out of the question. And besides, all these changes could be swept away in the next series of relaunches/reboots when everyone gets tired of dealing with them.

Like I said, no beef with the story itself, or the tie-in “Prelude to the Wedding” issues and whatnot. But the “invitation” postcards and retailers being encouraged to do in-store celebrations…that’s the sort of thing that seemingly should only be occurring with an event that’s actually happening, not “FAKE-OUT! Nothing’s changed!”

It reminds me in a little way of the Fantastic Four issue where it was promoted as a big deal character death (complete with putting the issue in a black polybag deliberately reminiscent of the “Death of Superman” issue) and it was reasonably clear within the story itself that there wasn’t really any death happening. I wrote about it way back when, and yeah, a character goes missing, and the rest of the team is bummed and thinking he’s dead, but…it just felt like marketing overhyping a minor plot line that would get resolved in short order. I mean, most character death stories are like that, I guess, but this one in particular. Under normal circumstances that issue would have been follwed by the next one emblazoned “THE SEARTH FOR THE HUMAN TORCH!” and then we’d have that goin’ on for four or five issues.

So that’s that. I know a lot of you agree with me that the Batman “event” build-up was misleading, which I appreciate. Everything sold great anyway, so yeah yeah, I know, what are you complaining about, Mike? I just hope it doesn’t encourage more fake-outs: “hey, if we just TELL them that Iron Man is going to lose a leg in isue #12 and then never actually do it…they’re still gonna buy it!”

Okay, no Batman marriage stuff in the next post…I mostly promise!

Spoilers for Batman #50.

§ July 6th, 2018 § Filed under batman § 15 Comments

So you’ve found out that Superman is about to be killed, fighting the alien monster known as Doomsday. Pretty wild, right? I mean, it seems pretty obvious that DC Comics wouldn’t actually kill off Superman…er, would they? There’s a lot of anticipation and promotion building up for the issue where the deed is done. It’s being talked about, not just in the fan press, but on actual real news programs on actual television. It’s popping up on talk shows, in newspapers. You decide…hey, you need a copy of that! You’d better get yourself to the local comic book emporium and…whoa, stand in line to get in? In a huge line? Wrapping around the building? Holy cow, this must be huge! You can’t wait to get your hands on it!

Abd finally, it’s yours! You were lucky enough to get a copy, and at cover price even, despite stores being caught very off guard by the immense demand for a comic they’d placed order numbers for about two or three months prior. And look at that bag! That solemn black bag with the bloody red “S” on the front…that’s gotta mean Superman is dead, right? Defying all laws of collectability, you tear open that bag, marveling at the black armband you can wear to mourn Superman’s passing, at the promotional trading card advertising the forthcoming “Death of Superman” set, at the stamps highlighting characters from this momentous event. All these geegaws and tchotchkes, produced specifically to support the idea that the Man of Steel is gone, sacrificing himself for the greater good.

But the story, the story…! How does it actually happen? Everyone and everything is telling you that Superman dies, but just how exactly does he die? You’d better sit down and read the darn thing…I mean, you opened the bag, might as well. And you pore over the story, flipping through splash page after splash page of this knock-down, drag-out battle with Doomsday, as Superman’s friends and family look on in worry and fear.

And then, there it is. The climactic moment…Superman and Doomsday unleash their mightiest blows upon each other, each felling their opponent with their final exertion of strength. Now, there they both are, silent and unmoving on the ground, the air still with shock from the onlookers. Lois rushes to Superman’s side, tears in her eyes…tears matching the ones in your own eyes as you turn to the story’s final page…

…Whereupon Superman opens his eyes, sits up, puts a firm hand on Lois’s shoulder, and reassures her “Oh, I’m fine, Lois…that was some battle, huh?” Superman then stands, as the crowd that had gathered around the scene lets out an exuberant cheer! “Thanks, everyone! But you’d better stand back while I and the good men and women of the Metropolis emergency services clean everything up! We’ll have our fine city back in tip-top shape in no time!” You look at the final image of the story, with Superman’s smiling face winking at you, the reader, with the concluding caption reading “NEVER the end!” scrolled along the bottom of the panel.

And you wonder…okay, this was pushed as the Death of Superman. All the promotion, all the ads and radio spots and news stories and the cardboard tombstone standees DC sent out, was around the idea that Superman dies. Stores were encouraged to participate in their own homegrown celebrations — or, rather, wakes — for Superman’s passing. And despite all that, despite the endless promises of his demise, no such thing happened. Not to say it was a bad comic, by any means. It was professionally done, entertaining, and presented a kind of extended physical conflict for Superman that was rarely seen in the comics. But, regardless, you feel a little bit like you experienced something of a bait-and-switch, where marketing promised you one thing, but the actual storytellers had something entirely different in mind. That maybe the story should just have been left to work out as it worked out, without the ultimately misleading promises that this was an “event,” an unprecedented occurrence in the Last Son of Krypton’s life, rather than simply another exciting adventure.

There can be red herrings, and fake-outs, and surprise endings in stories, and you think that’s fair play. That’s all part of storytelling. But you think it seems a bit unfair when the marketing pushes the story as being one kind of event, with the implied promise that if you follow that story, the event would be delivered. …Oh well, lesson learned, you’ll be a little more wary of the insidious workings of the hype machine next time. But honestly, what are the chances they’ll try something like this again?

And don’t get me started on “Copper Age.”

§ October 13th, 2017 § Filed under advertising, batman, publishing, retailing § 5 Comments


Found this in the boxes o’old promo stuff…an ad slick for the videotape release of 1989’s Batman, since we were talking about that very thing a few days back. (The reverse side of the page is a larger, greytoned version of the ad.) If I remember correctly, when I put a reserve on a copy at our local video shoppe, I paid $19.99…saved a whole $4.99 like the bargain hunter that I am! I believe I still have my copy of the video around here somewhere, in case I feel like having a Pan ‘n’ Scan Party in the entertainment den.

Anyway, let me take care of a little business right now, so y’all can go on and enjoy your weekend:

  • Alas, looks like the End of Civilization for this month will in fact be postponed ’til next time. Sorry, my free time was less free these last few weeks, so it’s the blogging what pays the price when that happens. This is also what put a crimp in my Patreon plans this month…Swamp Thing #8 is the next issue to be covered, and it will be covered, I promise. Just gotta clear the schedule.
  • From the comments section for my October 9th post, rag notes

    “[Seventh Generation] sounds somewhat similar to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twilight_of_the_Superheroes

    Yeah, that was brought up to me on the Twitters as well. For those who don’t know, that’s an Alan Moore proposal for a company-wide event at DC Comics, in which shenanigans are afoot in a dark future for Earth’s superheroes, and part of the plot involves characters coming back to the past (our present of 1987 or so) to prevent whatever was going to cause said dark future. Or you can just read the Wiki link there. That’s not an uncommon trope (like I mentioned, it’s happening in the Justice League comic right now), but funny that it popped up twice in two different DC event books, neither of which ended up happening. Maybe the descendants of Dan DiDio traveled back from the 23rd century to prevent those series from getting published. And if so, why couldn’t they save Frank Miller’s All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder?

  • Jmurphy quite reasonably wonders

    “Mike, there was an omnibus of some kind released on the 4th. Will we be hearing about it here?”

    Yes, yes indeedy. The Swamp Thing Bronze Age Omnibus (and part of my brain still rejects the “Bronze Age” label as a dumb marketing term to help make those old issues of Human Fly seem sellable) is in my hands and ready for my perusal. But, related to those “free time” problems mentioned previously, I still haven’t even removed the shrinkwrap. But there it is, staring at me from atop the pile of comics from the last few weeks that I also haven’t read. However, rest assured, Jmurphy, that the Omnibus is on my Omni-genda.

  • From the comments for October 11th, Zoot Koomie zoots

    “I’m curious about the New Universe cancellation story. How was the implosion of that imprint covered at the time? Was information about the behind-the-scenes turmoil leaking out or was it just hype about line reconfiguration around the Pitt crossover?”

    It was just a short article about how four titles in the New Universe line were cancelled due to poor sales, and would be replaced by as-yet-undetermined new series. The replacement of the editor for the imprint was also noted, from which one may infer behind the scenes troubles, but nothing was explicitly detailed. As far as more general coverage elsewhere in the Comics ‘Zine-a-verse…I don’t remember. I’ll have to look through the Amazing Heroes and Comics Journal collections to see what at least the general tone there was. …Actually, I can probably already guess.

  • DanielT cashes in with

    “Any particular reason your eBay prices are all $ xx.97?”

    Well, as you know, if you price something at $9.99 instead of $10, the $9.99 price point looks like it’s a whole dollar cheaper, right? Well, that $xx.97 price is me undercutting everyone listing things at $xx.99, like the crafty capitalist storeowner that I am, as opposed to those sons-of-bitches undercutting me with their $xx.96 prices, the jerks. How dare they!

  • William Burns fires me up with

    “They have comics in Japan? What ever happened with that?”

    Japan? Never heard of it.

  • The JRC store called, and they said

    “I always like CSN, especially the semi-regular oversized season preview issues that covered the coming quarter/or six months.

    “I was surprised, shocked really, to get a copy a few months back when I happened into a previously unexplored shop.

    “It is little more than reprinted press releases, but there’s still something neat about holding a newsprint style paper in hand.”

    I wonder just how widespread the distribution is on Comic Shop News. I know some stores don’t carry it, which seems weird to me given its low cost and its usefulness to customers, which I’d mentioned in that post. But they must be doing okay…I did a little searching on the Diamond website, and it looks like the per-bundle cost has only gone up a dollar in the last few years, which seems reasonable enough. I know the number of copies per bundle dropped a little bit at some point, but that was prior to the oldest entry I could find in Diamond’s database. I’ll take that to mean that orders on CSN are holding relatively steady. Or they’re charging more for ads to subsidize the price, one of those.

    I’m glad they’re still around. Yeah, it’s a lot of press releases, but as mentioned that’s how many customers get their comics news, so that’s okay. It’s not like there are any other print mags or ‘zines covering the current market, or at least nothing with the reach of CSN. It’s hard to beat “free at the store’s front counter” for distribution.

    And there’s more than just press releases. You get those great Fred Hembeck covers on the special issues, there’s the occasional “Red K” awards issue that pokes fun at recent comics industry hoohar, there are interviews, and of course there is the surreal experience of the Spider-Man newspaper strips that are reprinted therein. How can anyone do without those?

Okay, pals…thanks for sticking with me. Back with More Stuff™ in short order.

I want my coffin to be carried along by a mass of Arcane’s Un-Men.

§ October 6th, 2017 § Filed under batman § 5 Comments

Okay, one last post on this topic before going on to…I don’t know, three weeks of talking about Robocop 2, maybe. But here’s what I’ve posted about Batman ’89 and related subjects previously: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

…And here’s what I’m posting today:

Jason had a few things to say:

“I had started reading DC Comics when Millennium came out* (So 1987 or so). So I was aware of Dark Knight and had been reading Batman for about 2 years. I was extremely excited about the movie. As a Junior in high school at the time, of course I had been aware of Batman through the usual means (The Adam West show, Superfriends, Scooby Doo), but the comics were the only real serious take on the character at the time.”

Yeah, I feel like the release of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight and its general acceptance by the public at large, beyond the usual comic-book reading suspects, along with the subsequent…”awareness,” I guess, of comics overall (helped along by Watchmen and other non-traditional, more adult-y funnybooks) helped whet the appetite for a big budget Batman film that would be dark and grim and serious and…well, we got a Tim Burton film. It had enough of the trappings of grim grittiness that the fans wanted, however, so that was good enough. Or, more to the point, it wasn’t the goofy ’60s show or the Super Friends cartoon or whatever it was fans were afraid of seeing. I mean, comics weren’t the only vector through which this demand was created, as special effect-driven action films were becoming increasingly prevalent and technology had improved to the point of making such things less costly and more feasible.

But all those previous media tie-ins were probably just as responsible for the film’s impact and success as anything else. Character recognition is a huge part of getting the public’s attention, and Batman being one of the most recognizable fictional characters in the world is due in large part to Adam West, et al. So what I’m saying is, every thank Scooby Doo for helping make Burton’s Batman a hit.

“Let it not be said that 80’s crossover events were not good jumping on points (at least for me). I started seriously reading Marvel when Secret Wars II started, and started reading DC when Millennium started. I remember Millennium being extremely confusing for a new DC reader, but it was a good introduction to a lot of DC books and characters that I had never heard of.”

Millennium had that clever gimmick of having “Week One” and “Week Two” and so on emblazoned across the top of each tie-in’s cover, which made it a lot easier for someone to decide to drop their cash on it. The cover designs all looked like it was part of the same story, so it was hard not to grab those issues. And like you say, it was a “good introduction” to other DC properties — that’s the main purpose of all these crossovers in the first place. It’s why the Justice Society appeared in All-Star Comics so long ago…if you picked it up because you were a regular Flash Comics reader and you saw the Flash was in the JSA, and then decided you liked that Green Lantern character who was also in it, maybe you’d start buying the solo Green Lantern book, too. Every crossover wants you to start buying more comics. GASP…the horrible secret, revealed!

On a related personal note, if I recall correctly one of my first shop jobs after entering comics retail was going along and pulling off all the bagged Millennium tie-in comics that had been displayed in a row on the wall above the comics rack. That was one of the very, very, very few times we had actual comics attached to a wall for display purposes.

“Of course after a couple of years, I went from obsessively buying every book from both publishers (and a lot of other publishers too) to buying no comics whatsoever, but that’s a different story.”

Ah, yes, the 1990s.

• • •

And let me wrap up things with his amazing story from longtime ProgRuin-ite Wayne, who left this remembrance in the comments for the one post I don’t have in my numbered links up there:

“Here’s [my true story]. 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.”

This is insane. Is this a thing that happens now? Do people go to funerals in character costumes today to, um, lighten the mood for kids? I’m half-tempted to Google search but I don’t think I really want to know if someone’s dressing up as, let’s say, Twilight Sparkle to keep the children calm during the service.

I can see maybe having like a side thing to entertain the children while the actual funeral is going on…MAYBE. But Wayne was actually carrying the coffin. Like, four times.

So if you ever had any doubt just how much of an influence that first Tim Burton Batman movie was, there you go. Batman was everywhere you looked, and followed you everywhere you would go…even into the cold embrace of the grave.

• • •

Thank you for putting up with so much Bat-talk over the last few weeks. You folks are real troopers. Back soon with more, mostly Bat-free, content!

Yes, I know it’s “Catwomen.”

§ October 4th, 2017 § Filed under batman § 1 Comment

Okay, ALMOST done with Bat-Talk…next time should be the wrap-up, but until then….

BEFORE: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

NOW:

Bryan sez

“I seem to recall the issue was less about Keaton’s comedic background (although that was certainly a factor) and more that his receding hairline and less than powerful jawline didn’t make him seem ‘heroic.’ A quote I’ve long enjoyed (no idea who to attribute it to) is ‘only Tim Burton could work on a film with Alec Baldwin and Michael Keaton, and decide to cast Keaton as Bruce Wayne.'”

I remember reading some interview with somebody at the time…let me know if I’m providing TOO much detail…that the conceit was that “well sure, Bruce Wayne would look like this, because then nobody would suspect that he was Batman.” That stuck with me, so when someone came into the shop about the time the movie opened, and noted how Michael Keaton didn’t fit what Batman should look like, I repeated that explanation. The customer kinda went “pffft, yeah right” and looked at me like I was an idiot, and he probably wasn’t wrong. That particular explanation certainly sounds like after-the-fact justification now vis-à-vis the actor’s appearance, back in the day before we realized Michael Keaton, much like the late Adam West, was perfect.

• • •

Andrew returns to say

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

Novelty, I guess? Superhero movies are a regular occurrence now and just part of the whole mediaweb-thing that constantly surrounds us, versus that 1989 Batman movie being like the first major serious attempt at a comic book film since the Christopher Reeve Superman run. And there were other factors going on as well, such as a preexisting heightened awareness of comics thanks to Watchmen and Dark Knight, an increased interest in comics collectability, and so on. It was just the right stuff at the right time, and thus are fads born.

Oh, and as Bryan says a little later in the comments, comics were still at newsstands and convenience stores and such, so anyone interested in Batman and his super-pals had a lot easier time of getting their hands on their adventures.

“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?”

Well, sort of. DC published Wonder Woman: Her Greatest Battles, a $9.99 paperback with mostly recent-ish stories of her fighting various villains, and that 75th anniversary hardcover, which are probably closest to the “Greatest Stories” paperbacks you mention. Plus there were the collections of John Byrne’s and George Perez’s runs, and Wonder Woman and the Justice League of America reprinting some early ’90s stuff…there was no shortage of WW books available.

• • •

Gareth depresses me with

“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.”

Well, I guess that’s sorta right, in that Batman was so famous and popular that they went way overboard in manufacturing the shirts, and the giant mountain of overstock had to go somewhere.

• • •

Longtime Progressive Ruiner (er, there has to be a better way to put it than that) clues me in on the following

“My memory of the Legends of the Dark Knight color covers was that first, they were a cheap paper second cover, not regular cover stock.

“But that’s because they were a last minute addition. I remember reading interviews in the day where DC administrators said they added the color covers because they were VERY concerned that comic stores had ordered way too many copies. They borrowed a trick from the paperback publishing side of the house in terms of having different colors (remember The Hotel New Hampshire and other best-sellers would do this at the time) as a marketing gimmick. They were trying to make some sort of distinction that might help stores sell more than one copy to customers…

“But since it was a last minute decision after the orders came in, they weren’t able to put the plan in the ordering information. And as I recall many stores were unhappy because they would have ordered MORE if they’d known about the 4 different colors. So the plan DC had to help sell what they thought was over-ordering would have potentially led to MORE orders if they’d publicized it in the solicitations…”

Just thought I’d plug that whole enchilada into the main body of a post…I do remember that the different colored covers were just overlays over the regular cover. I didn’t recall any of the behind-the-scenes shenanigans that resulted in those covers in the first place since that was early in my comics-selling career and just probably forgot. However, as someone who haunted all the local bookstores, I do remember the “variant” paperback covers that were available at times. If memory serves, the novelization of Raiders of the Lost Ark had shiny metallic covers that came in different colors. (Mine was silver, in case you were wondering.)

I wish I could tell you just how Legends of the Dark Knight sold, but it was a new Batman #1, so I’m assuming it sold just fine. I do remember instances of people buying all four color variations, which felt really strange to me, since the comics boom was in full swing just yet and that kind of behavior hadn’t really caught on during my then-brief comics retailing experience.

• • •

argh.sims arghed

“And [Batman Returns] set up the Catwoman ‘mythology’ that lead to the Halle Barry movie. That Halle Barry was in a Catwoman movie that is almost impossible to watch is a crime. It could have been so good. :-/”

I think I mentioned on this site, or on Twitter, or on MySpace, that the Halle Berry Catwoman movie at its start feels like it could be a good, if not great, superhero action film. BUT IT’S A TRICK, DON’T FALL FOR IT LIKE I DID

But yeah, you’re right…dead gal revived by heaps of cats, live action or CGI or otherwise. That’s how you get your Catwomans.

• • •

Zoot Koomie zoots

“There were an enormous number and variety of tie-in products for Batman. The whole world was branded Bat for a short while there. But there was no indication that there were any comics. All the schwag was very movie specific. The comics Bat-boom could have been even larger if any effort had been put into cross-branding at all.”

And the comics boom was enormous, so imagining it even larger puts images in my head of me diving into my money bin. I wonder if the assumption at the time was that “we don’t need to cross-promote Batman comics with movie merch…of course everyone knows Batman is from the comics.” And as we know from most comic book movies that came after, a lot of the people into the mass media tie-ins and adaptations don’t necessarily cross over to the source material. Now, in the case of Batman, it was such a huge fad that it couldn’t help but drive people into comic book stores to buy comics, but I know from my experience then that a pretty good percentage of folks were more interested in the shirts and toys and posters than they were in following the various monthly publications. Which is fine…if they preferred their Bat-adventures to be live action rather than on the print page, then who am I to argue?

• • •

DanielT wonders

“Has there been a pop culture phenomenon in the last 28 years that’s reached the height of Bat-mania? The Star Wars prequels and Harry Potter are the only things I can think of that come close, but I don’t feel like either really reached the same level of frenzy.”

Oh, I get what you mean. That first Star Wars in 1977 is probably the closest, in that basically Everything Changed because of that movie. Between the Prequels and Harry Potter, I’d probably say Harry came closest, in that it gave the ol’ Young Adult market a boost, paving the way for other similar book series to follow. The Prequels were more about the revival of Star Wars as a marketing brand, not so much reinventing culture as just reestablishing its place in it. Though in terms of pure frenzy I suppose it’s hard to top the pre-screening line-ups that were all the rage at the time.

Anyway, we probably won’t see another huge world-changing movie event like 1989 Batmania until James Cameron gets all those Avatar sequels out. YOU MARK MY WORDS.

I apologize in advance for referring to Batman ’89 as “Burt-Man.”

§ October 2nd, 2017 § Filed under batman § 5 Comments

Okay, before I return to Bat-Talk, let me inform you, my two remaining readers, that due to a somewhat hectic week I am way behind on everything, and that includes the new End of Civilization post. I didn’t get a chance even to look in the new Previews ’til Sunday morning, so EoC will be later this week, most likely.

Now…WHAT HAS COME BEFORE: 1 2 3 4 5 6

And here’s what’s coming now:

philip wrenches over the following:

“I walked out of the Burton Batman movie ANGRY that Alfred let Vickie Vale into the Bat Cave. Alfred is a paragon of loyalty and would never reveal Batman’s true identity to anyone. I was legitimately ANGRY. My girlfriend was embarrassed. She dumped me not long after. She was probably right to do it.

“Liked Keaton. Didn’t like Nicholson. Have only seen the movie that one time.”

I was…sort of okay with that particular plot twist, even though I totally see your point as well. Since then, the “secret identity” trope has pretty much gone through the wringer in media adaptations (and in the source material, too, for that matter), and it’s become much less of an issue that it’s used to be. It probably has something to do with the lead character looking like kind of a jerk by keeping his/her secret from friends, and by giving the superhero a “support team” who are all in the action and making things more exciting, I guess. It really came to a head in the Flash TV show where it seemed like everyone knew he was secretly Barry Allen, except for Iris, and that made everyone watching just a little uncomfortable. Even Superman’s not free of this, since in Supergirl everyone in the Secret Government Alien-Awareness Patrol (SGAAP for short, since I can’t be bothered to Google up the actual name) seems like they’re in the whole Clark Kent deal.

Granted, that’s slightly different from Bruce’s trusted associate Alfred totally exposing the secret without any warning, but as a one-off plot point in one movie, in that Alfred is trying to do the right thing to help the man he’s protected his whole life…I can live with it. Anyway, she mysteriously “slips” and “falls” into an “unreachable” part of the Batcave between films, so the point is essentially moot.

To your final point, like I’ve said I do want to revisit the movie. I remember liking both Keaton and Nicholson, but I felt at the time Nicholson was maybe…too known a face to disappear into the role? Of course ol’ Jack was a big selling point of the film and may have got some fence-sitting butts into seats, so what do I know? Again, a rewatch is in order.

• • •

Thom H reveals

“I don’t remember where I saw the first Batman movie, but I do recall thinking it was kind of cheesy and watered down. I had really liked The Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke, and I remember thinking that everyone seeing the movie didn’t really ‘get it’ the way I did. I was ‘deep’ in high school, though, so most experiences were beneath me at the time.

“I did really like the soundtrack by Prince, especially the single Batdance, which has not aged well. And talk about cheesy. Yikes.

“I do remember seeing Batman Returns at the drive-in with my boyfriend. That’s when it hit me how big a deal the Bat-phenomenon was and how it probably wasn’t going away anytime soon.”

I’m assuming you saw that first Batman during its initial theatrical release? I suspect, since the release of newer Batman films, young folks encountering that first film in recent years may indeed find it kind of hokey (or, dare I say, “campy?”). But I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if you caught onto the goofier aspects of the film, since they’re definitely present…the argument can be made that this is more a Tim Burton film that happens to have Batman in it, versus a Batman film directed by Tim Burton. I think by and large folks who were worried about this sort of thing were happy that the film at least seemed dark and moody, versus the then wrongly-maligned 1960s Batman TV show they were all afraid the film was going to be. But then again, Dark Knight Returns was goofy as all get-out in parts, too, so, y’know, maybe Burt-Man wasn’t too far off the mark. Just needed more Mutant Gang Members!

I have to be honest and say I haven’t heard “Batdance” in a while, so let me have that play in the background as I tackle your next comment.

Batman Returns is as a good indicator as any of the pop culture staying-power of Batman, in that while the faddish aspects of Batmania had mostly died down, the film could still attract a general audience. Even the third film got people into theaters, and it wasn’t ’til the fourth film that people stayed away in droves, and that was clearly more from the fact the film was seen as a stinker, and not because people suddenly didn’t like Batman. Though like I said about the audience reaction to the Batman Begins trailer several years later (groans, and lots of them) everyone was still willing to give a new Batman film a chance. And of course through all this were the various animated incarnations of the character. Batman ’89 wasn’t just a one-time fluke, but rather it opened up whole new audiences for something that had mostly been over and done with as far as the “real” world was concerned.

Okay, back to “Batdance,” which reminded me that, aside from Dio’s “The Last in Line,” which is amazing, all music videos are stupid. Yeah, even as someone who appreciates Prince’s extensive catalog of fine recordings, “Batdance” is just, um…well, I certainly hope Prince put whatever money he made on that to good use. Frankly, I’m surprised the ’60s TV show-style “BATMAN!” call-outs were allowed, since I seem to recall an effort to avoid such references as to not impugn the dignity of this serious cinematic endeavor. And okay, that half-Batman/half-Joker look of Prince’s is iconic. Iconic of what exactly, I don’t know.

• • •

GE charges in with

“What always comes to mind for me was something you mentioned previously: popular doubts (at the time) that Mr. Mom could play Batman. Which is strange, to say the least, since the only live-action Batman most of us knew before then was Adam West, who certainly didn’t get all dark and grim and gritty. It was probably the influence of The Dark Knight Returns (et al) that put that doubt into the zeitgeist.”

That’s…a good point, actually. Dark, Gritty Batman was a relatively new-ish development in the comics, after decades of Swashbuckling Batman, or Time-Travel Crimes on Venus Batman, or Just Plain Ol’ Superhero Batman. I mean, the ’60s TV show wasn’t that far off from the source material, when you get right down to it. I suppose the case could be made that Golden Age Batman stories were a lot more grim than in following years, but that’s probably not what those fans were thinking about when they insisted this new Bat-film accurately reflect the Dark Avenger of the Night that they all knew and loved. The immense popularity of Dark Knight from just a couple of years prior was, as you say, likely the prime mover for that response, despite Dark Knight itself having strongly satirical/parodic overtones.

“Those doubts about Keaton culminated in a parody of Escape Club’s “Wild West” that kept playing on a morning radio show (probably Scott and Todd on 95.5 WPLJ in the NY/NJ market – don’t know if it was theirs, or they just played it…?), titled ‘Adam West’ and poking fun at the idea of Keaton taking over the cowl and cape. Big Bro even taped it off the radio (y’know, the way we used to have to do that, with a boom box and all!), and I’ve got the MP3 of that recording right here – we spent the last few years scanning/transferring everything we had (video, audio, drawing, writing…) to modern digital formats.”

As an avid Dr. Demento listener in my youth, I knew that particular song sounded familiar, and sure enough, here it is. Someone decided to add visuals to the song, but in this case it’s okay, because it’s Best Batman. So I guess that’s two music videos that aren’t stupid.

• • •

MrJM has this to say for himself

“Although many of our friends were worrying about whether the titular ‘Mr. Mom’ could pull it off, my brother and I weren’t worried — the previous year, we went to a screening of ‘Clean and Sober’ specifically to vet Michael Keaton as a grim actor.

“What a pair of nerds.”

Okay, nothing to do with the Batman movies, but I did something a little similar, in that in the mid-1980s I heard Shawn McManus was going to illustrate a forthcoming issue of Saga of the Swamp Thing (this one, in fact) and I wanted to know just what that was going to look like, since I wasn’t familiar with his art. I ended up buying something current with art at the time…don’t remember what it was, but it was a title I didn’t regularly read…and looked it over to reassure myself that he’d be at least okay at drawing my favorite character.

And of course McManus ended up being one of my favorite comic book artists, what with his run on Omega Men starting about a year later, and his Dr. Fate, and Sandman and so on. See what my approval can do for you!

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.

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