Of all the strange habits that my friends have, combing through back issues of Starlog on the Internet Archive is probably at the top of the list in a walk. Occasionally, though, sifting through promo pieces for V and Alien Nation turns up something gold, which is exactly what happened this week. While reading the November, 1988 issue of Starlog, Andrew Weiss came upon a contest that offered readers a trip to London to visit the set of Tim Burton's Batman '89. All you had to do was write in and explain why you wanted to meet Batman.
Like Batman and free things? What a silly question, of course you do. Guess it's a good thing we're giving away some choice Batman collectibles then, isn't it?
If you've been paying attention to our deep and abiding love for both the concept of superhero selfies and the new Batgirl costume from the upcoming team of Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher and Babs Tarr, then you may have already seen our fully official pitch stupid tweet about Batgirl and Robin engaging in an Interdimensional Selfie War. Inspired by Joe Quinones's amazing cover for an upcoming issue of Batman '66, our own editor Andy Khouri suggested that this could be the start of the 1966 version of Dick Grayson sending pix to 2014's Batgirl, with each trying to one-up the other.
Now, it is happening -- at least in the world of fan art. Today, Quinones posted another great piece, this time of the Batgirl of Burnside receiving the picture from Robin -- which, in case you forgot, he actually took with A ROTARY TELEPHONE -- kicking off the Crisis On Infinite Selfies for real. And not only that, but it seems like the Joker from Batman '89 -- or at least his satin-jacketed henchmen -- are getting involved too.
Considered one of the foremost motion picture and television production facilities in the world, the Warner Bros. Studios lot in Burbank, CA invites visitors to celebrate the 75th anniversary of DC Comics’ Batman with a special exhibit in their VIP Tour. For a limited time, tour-goers are given an opportunity to view dozens of original costumes, props, gadgets and vehicles from all seven live-action Warner Bros. Batman films, and ComicsAlliance checked it out.
ComicsAlliance concludes its celebration of the 25th anniversary of Tim Burton's Batman with a presentation of the 1989 Warner Bros. press release announcing Prince's involvement with the film, discovered after an exhaustive search of vintage movie memorabilia.
There had certainly been plenty of heavily-merchandised blockbusters before, but the Batman '89 phenomenon affected pop culture in so many ways and crept into every dimension of commercial entertainment. Twenty-five years ago, it was just always there; part of the atmosphere of the era, reflected wherever you turned. From candy-filled Keaton heads in supermarket checkout aisles, to endless souvenir magazines on newsstands, to articles in newspapers and magazines, to the packs of trading cards and stickers on countertops, to Batmobile toys in Happy Meals, the entire world had gone Batty.
Twenty-five years later, we've reached out to some of our favorite creators and entertainers to look back on the summer of Batman.
Though it might seem a bit strange from today's perspective, tie-in novels used to be a huge part of genre movie merchandising – they gave fans a way to take home the experience of their favorite films in the days before the home video explosion, and provided studios with an additional method of promoting their projects in bookstores, department stores, and on newsstands.
And like everything associated with Tim Burton's Batman film, Craig Shaw Gardner's novelization was a sales phenomenon, spending much of 1989 near the top of the New York Times bestseller list. Gardner's book expanded on many of the film's plot lines and character arcs, and gave readers some insight into earlier drafts of the film's screenplay with a number of passages based on sequences that had been reworked or cut entirely from the final movie (in fact, it made substantially more sense than the finished film, as Gardner was able to craft his story without being bound by a strict two hours of screen time.)
As part of our 25th anniversary coverage of Batman '89, ComicsAlliance spoke to Gardner about the challenges he faced and the fond memories he has of adapting Tim Burton's blockbuster for prose.
As part of the marketing blitz for the movie, the comic version of Batman naturally sold batloads [Editor's note: we apologize for nothing] and is a fixture of many a 30-something's comics collection. In an effort to extort as much as they could from the fanbase, DC Comics made the book available in two formats: a newsstand-friendly comic that set readers back a mere $2.50 and a prestige format version) with a painted cover and spine) that retailed for $4.95. Personally, the cheaper version’s cover has always appealed to me more, but I’ll admit that Batman kicking a clown has a visceral appeal to me than Batman standing on a gargoyle, even if it's nicely rendered. No matter what version you bought though, the interiors were the same, and they were among the best drawings of Jerry Ordway's already distinguished career.
Unfortunately, even with scripter Denny O'Neil's bonafides as one of the people behind the 1980s version of the caped crusader that inspired the film and Ordway's extraordinary ability to render likenesses, the comic is inert and suffers from a complete inability to be compelling on its own. That's something that can't be said about Burton's movie, as scattershot and disorderly as the final product is. Even if you're not a fan of the movie (and I'm not), if it's on a screen, you're going to watch its weirdness unfold — you can't say that about the comic version, no matter how pretty it is.
The Batmania of 1989 affected all of commercial entertainment, but perhaps nowhere was the impact felt more than in comic shops and bookstores. The wild success of Tim Burton's movie drove fans to seek out anything Bat-related, and DC Comics was prepared. The publisher had tasked two of its finest creators with producing a comic book adaptation of the film, and Jerry Ordway and Dennis O'Neill's comic became a sensation in its own right. The book was released in two editions (a 'floppy' for newsstands, and a squarebound edition for the book and comic shop market), and both became instant best-sellers.
For reasons explained below, the project was not altogether successful in creative terms, but Batman '89 is nevertheless one of if not the most proliferated comics of its type, occupying space in the collections of a whole generation of readers and fondly remembered as featuring some of Ordway's most exquisite artwork in an already very distinguished career. As part of ComicsAlliance's exhaustive remembrance of of all things Batman '89, we spoke with Ordway about his fascinating and uniquely challenging experience adapting the silver-screen superhero epic back into uncommonly beautiful book form.
There's a funny thing about superhero movies: Structurally speaking, they're fundamentally different from superhero comics, just by the very nature of how they're presented to the public. Or at least, they used to be. Until fairly recently, the appeal of comics had always been in the continuity, the ongoing sagas that built on each other and were designed to run indefinitely as a long-form narrative. The movies -- even when they were designed to kickstart a run of sequels -- were always meant to be self-contained stories.
That's flipped around the other way over the past ten years or so, with comics often looking to provide low-continuity, self-contained stories to readers picking up paperbacks and hardcovers even as the movies build billion-dollar franchises by creating a shared universe that stretches across multiple forms of media. It's no surprise, then, that if you really want to see where that trend got its start, you can trace it back to Batman '89 and the influence that came to the comics when screenwriter Sam Hamm was tapped to craft a story for Detective Comics #600 and provided the blueprint for the modern Batman event in the process.