Sunday, June 22, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: 25 Years of Batman and Bat-merch!

In news that's sure to make folks of my vintage feel positively decrepit, tomorrow marks exactly twenty-five years since the theatrical release of Tim Burton's Batman in 1989, a truly seminal experience for anyone lucky enough to be the exact right age for that film at that time (I was just under ten). Now, we can get into its worth as a cinema artifact, how it launched the modern superhero movie genre, discuss the cast and crew, and how the series died a slow death during the '90s, but instead I want to talk about what was probably just as much a part of that ineffable magic as the movie itself: the merchandise.

To be a kid in summer of '89 was to live and breathe Batman during every waking hour (and most of their sleeping hours as well, probably). I was actually visiting the States with my family on our annual trip from Saudi Arabia, and we went back before the flick actually came out, so all I really had was the merch. And boy did I have the merch. Action figures. Buttons. The magazine. The novelization. The cereal, even! Yep, Batman cereal. Sure, it tasted like soggy cardboard, but it was Batman, dammit!

I didn't actually end up seeing the movie proper until several months after the fact, and that was via an eighth-gen VHS dupe with Chinese subtitles burned in. So, kind of a letdown. But honestly, more than anything else, that magic summer was all about the lead-up. Just to give a sense of what I'm talking about, here's a cross-section of the multitudinous tie-ins hyping the Bat's big cinematic entree, starting with a spot for Toy Biz's short-lived toyline (it included only three figures: Batman, the Joker, and Bob, the Joker's goon -- yeah, weak) which sucked so hard that Kenner managed to pick up the license while those other toys were still on the shelf. Never seen anything like that before. Anyway, click the vids below and prepare to travel bat in time!

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