Television was entering its adolescent stage in the mid-1960s and long before the term “comic book movie” existed there was BATMAN ’66 (officially just known as simply BATMAN but we will use the year to differentiate the series).
The series was super popular in its first two seasons thanks to its light campy tone and steadfast morality, something that many thought the nation badly needed in the years immediately following the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It was an absolute smash hit and Batman was everywhere. The character was a merchandising juggernaut for the first time.
Thus the term “Batmania” was born and it has only occurred twice more in the 50+ years since BATMAN ’66 premiered.
The next round came 20 years after Adam West hung up the cape and cowl for the final time. After the character returned to his dark roots in the comics thanks to Neal Adams, Denny O’Neil, and Frank Miller (among others) many fans were ready to see a dark and serious Batman portrayal on the big screen.
Thus the path to BATMAN ’89 was born and it would become its own major phenomenon, one we are still feeling the impact of today.
Before social media and before the internet, in hindsight, it is almost remarkable by modern standards that BATMAN ’89 generated the level of hype that it did. Relying on nothing but print, television, and good old-fashioned trailers, anyone born after 1989 might have trouble grasping how successful the movie’s marketing campaign was.
If you were around in ’89 — or were at least old enough to remember — you know Batman was everywhere. Cereal. Costumes. Toys. Billboards. Posters. It was Bat-Mania and Batman has not left the mainstream since.
Then came 2008.
The internet had already taken over our lives but social media was still in its infancy. Facebook that year was not far removed from being opened to everyone after initially being college student-only (anyone else remember those days?).
The marketing campaign for THE DARK KNIGHT was the most masterful for a Batman film since the 1989 classic. Taking advantage of the internet, Warner Bros. crafted an unprecedented viral marketing campaign that had fans feeling like they were part of the film’s universe from chasing clues left by The Joker to campaigning for Harvey Dent. Viral marketing has become more mainstream since then but no campaign was as effective or, let’s face it, “cool” as the one for TDK. Bat-Mania had arrived for the second time in nearly 20 years
Fast forward to the present day, in 2021, and with THE BATMAN just under four months from release, could the fourth round of Bat-Mania wave be at hand?
It is very possible.
It will have been nearly a decade after the last solo Batman film when THE DARK KNIGHT RISES hit theaters in July 2012 and after the divisive era of DC films that followed it, the time seems ripe. The general public seems ready for another Batman film judging by how JOKER made $1 billion at the box office, a first for an R-rated film.
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It’s tough to make solid predictions four months from release but all odds seem to point to yes. Gauging this film will be trickier than normal thanks to the permanent effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on movie theaters and movie-going, but there are a few indicators pointing towards another huge Batman wave.
First was the reaction to the first trailer released during DC FanDome last year (August 2020). The film was only 25% in the can before the pandemic shut filming down for months. “I’m Vengeance” was all over the internet and got even the most ardent “oh God, another Batman film?” filmgoer to at least sit forward in their seat a little bit.
In the year since that trailer came out, the teaser for THE BATMAN whet the appetite while the ongoing pandemic pushed the film’s release into 2022. Yet even as the film was delayed, seeds were and are being planted that we are entering a special era of Batman on film.
It was reported and since confirmed that WB was developing a Gotham PD series for HBO Max that’s set in the world of THE BATMAN. Later word would also come out of a series based on The Penguin played by Colin Farrell in the film.
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If WB was already building a universe around this film, it must be something special right? Fans were excited but also skeptical as they were burned by this behavior before. The studio couldn’t possibly make the same mistake for the second time in a decade, could they?
Well, all fears were waylayed in October with the release of the full trailer for THE BATMAN at DC FanDome and the overwhelmingly (if not unanimous) positive reaction to it.
Reeves had done it. Every fan was fired up for a trailer that saw their beloved hero ripped right from a comic page and put on their phone and computer screens. How popular was the trailer? It has been four weeks since the release of the trailer and it has over 33 million views and that is only on the main WB YouTube page. This doesn’t include Facebook or any social media pages.
Think there is a craving out there for a new, GOOD solo Batman movie? Bat-Mania 4 is upon us.
We don’t quite know what kind of marketing tricks the studio might have up its sleeve (getting people back into theaters is proving to be a challenge for everyone, even Marvel), but the hype for this movie is already off the scale. Just Google “The Batman” and you’re treated to all sorts of clickbait (not here on BOF of course) so you know the demand is out there.
That thirst for the character plus a tentpole film finally worthy of getting a pandemic-weary public back into theaters should create a buzz that puts this film alongside the Bat-Mania waves of 1966, 1989, and 2008. It might not even take a clever marketing campaign. Just show the trailers over and over. It might be old-fashioned, but at a time when theaters are adapting to a “new normal” simple might be better.
Regardless, a new wave of Bat-Mania is upon us. Enjoy every moment of it because these times are few and far between. A new Bat-universe is a cause for celebration and this one, in particular, has brought fans back together after the previous series tore them apart.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: It’s a great time to be a Batman fan! – Kris Burke
Kris Burke was born and raised on two things: Batman and Green Bay Packers football. He was an extra in THE DARK KNIGHT and has a bachelor’s degree in radio/tv/film production. He’s also a staff writer over at Acme Packing Company covering the Green Bay Packers. Follow him on Twitter @KRISBURKE.