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DC Marketing Strikes Again

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I have wanted to review the Dark Knight Strikes Again for some time but was reluctant to for two reasons. One reason is that I find it to be so bad, I would have an exceedingly hard time reviewing it. The second reason is that I would have difficulty expanding on Michael Deeley's review, especially the part where he says, "My God, this sucks." The book has left me scratching my head wondering why DC would go to such lengths to publish something so egregious.

In the February 11, 2002 issue of the New York Times, Laura Holson and Rick Lyman wrote an article entitled, "In Warner Brothers' Strategy, a Movie Is Now a Product Line" where they go on to say:

    Two years after the management shake-up at Warner Brothers...it has become increasingly clear that ... Time Warner ... intends to run a movie-franchise factory.

    Not only do they hope to deliver ... lucrative franchise films, [but they also] plan to produce even bigger and more frequent franchise films, wringing more profits and extending a concept's shelf life through television spinoffs, product tie-ins, movie soundtracks, promotional Web sites and other multimedia means.

    The trend has left some Hollywood producers wondering if Warner movies might devolve into two-hour-long commercials.

    The Batman series, which foundered after the relatively lackluster results of its fourth film, "Batman and Robin" in 1997, is ripe for revival, they say. They have similar hopes for "Superman", which spawned four films, but none since 1987. Also under development are "Wonder Woman" and "Catwoman" films.

    So intent is Warner Brothers on channeling more sequels to the screen that the studio is commissioning multiple scripts for a single character, with two or more teams working on different movies simultaneously. With "Batman", for example, one team is developing a story featuring the crusader as a young man, while a second team is developing a script in which Batman is an older, more embittered crime fighter. Several Superman scripts are also under way, including one called "Superman vs Batman."

Oh, so that's it.

Most of us have been aware of this merchandising phenomenon since the first Batman movie, and, not all of the above is bad. Such marketing brought us the Batman cartoon which I hold in high regard. Unfortunately, the marketing juggernaut that brought us four bad Batman films, uninspired soundtracks and no end of collector's paraphernalia (ie crap) winds up feeling exploitative and insulting.

In my opinion, The Dark Knight Strikes Again should not have been published. All accounts seems to indicate that this was not a tale that Frank Miller was yearning to tell. So if Frank Miller did not want to do it, why go to such lengths to put this book out?

Well, I suppose that since more Batman movies are coming down the pike, and DC can't just put the same books on the shelf that were out the same time Batman 4 came out. They need a big Batman hit. In the realm of comic books, Frank Miller is about as close as you can come to a superstar. I imagine the logic runs, put his name and Batman on the same book and lightning may strike a third time. (DK1 and Batman: Year One were quite good). The problem is that it did not, and the whole venture feels engineered to exploit the brand of Batman and Frank Miller. The Dark Knight Strikes Again provides brutally simplified satire and ridiculously affected characterizations. There seems to be a lack of any real efforts to maintain characterization, and this becomes all too painfully evident as so many characters are reengineered so self-servingly. I hope that DC does not walk down a path that Marvel trod in the mid 1990s when marketing concepts overtook good storytelling and characterization and brought us the infamous Spider Clone saga. Since DK1, DC has consistently been responsible in their handling of their characters/property. I hope this was just a misstep.

As such, I would almost encourage people to think twice about buying issue three. In my office of 10 comic readers, we have only bought one copy and passed it around with uniform disappointment. Usually, we buy our own copies of stuff, but no one wants to pony up $25 dollars for this thing so we have shared the cost.

My point boils down to this, we encourage buying good comics by buying them and discourage bad comics by not buying them. In my office alone, DC could have made 10 x $25. Instead, since the work is regarded by us as so bad, they gained no such coup. The names Frank Miller and Batman cannot overcome the fact that The Dark Knight Strikes Again is not a good comic and certainly not worth so much money. In the future, I would hope that the DC offices, which are normally quite thorough in managing their titles, would think twice about putting out something that so blatantly exploits the readerships' goodwill.


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