While it is safe to say that the world of Batman is never a quiet one, things undoubtedly go up a notch when the launch of a new movie edges ever closer. Slated for a mid-November release, Zack Synder’s Justice League is a big moment for DC and Warner Bros as they continue to develop a cinematic universe to rival the likes of Star Wars and Marvel. With this in mind, it is highly likely that the companies are now working hard with partners to create the toys and a host of merchandise which have now become part and parcel of the traditional blockbuster launch.
Licensed merchandise may be a fundamental aspect of the money-making machine around major brands and franchises, but it also feeds the demand that fans have for new products linked to their favorite heroes. As we know so well, pop culture icons like Batman have passionate followers who want to show their love of the character, whether that is through a T-shirt, collecting toys or simply by having that special edition pen on their desk at work. According to research from The Hollywood Reporter, total global sales of licensed merchandise reached an incredible $251.7 billion in 2015, which demonstrates the big business of this area. The study noted that much of that was down to the release of The Force Awakens, although there were indications that other big franchises such as Frozen, Marvel and Harry Potter also had a role to play. However, so did Batman.
Last year, Slice Intelligence named the Caped Crusader as the top superhero in terms of merchandise sales, which is undoubtedly an impressive feat for a character which was been in the public consciousness now for more than 75 years. Of course, the longevity which has developed since his debut back in 1939 means there have been a fair share of Batman and DC Comics products created, from simple stationery to releases as innovative as Rocksteady Studios’ Batman: Arkham VR. But what are the more peculiar entries into the merchandise back catalog?
Food, Cards and Figurines
Official products can come in many forms, but it is not exactly common to see tie-in burgers. Yet, this is what Burger King chose to do to celebrate the release of The Dark Knight in 2008. The Dark Whopper was a twist on the fast food giant’s classic which included black pepper cheese and ketchup. Just ignore the fact that a similar – if not identical – combination was used to celebrate the launch of Spider-Man 3 in 2007 too.
Another slightly offbeat addition to Batman-related merchandise is the DC Joker Poker set. While yes, the villain has a fairly obvious link to card games, it is safe to say he has never been portrayed as an ace card shark. Interestingly, although the Joker got his name from the playing card, the popularity of the Batman franchise means that some of the spotlight is shared by the playing card of the same name. Joker Power Poker is a video poker name that seems to owe some of its popularity on online gaming site Betway Casino to the Dark Knight.
Staying on the subject of The Joker, Tim Burton’s 1989 film featured a memorable turn by Jack Nicholson and inspired some fairly odd action figures too. Fans had the chance to buy a Joker figure whose face turned from chemically scarred white back to normal, in case they wanted to reenact the first 20 minutes of the film. In addition, the Batman figurine gave owners the opportunity to remove the suit and play with Bruce Wayne instead, but sadly did not provide a bachelor pad or boardroom playset too. Finally, you could also buy a figure based on The Joker’s chief henchman Bob, if you really felt inclined to. Sadly the figures didn’t improve for 1991’s Batman Returns, as the henchmen used by The Penguin were also immortalized in plastic and – for all of their efforts – looked decidedly just like nothing more than toy penguins.
Away from the films, there has been plenty of unusual merchandise based on Batman released down the years. A water pistol designed as the character offers up a fascinating take on the character, with both the trigger and hole for adding water being found in rather inappropriate areas. Furthermore, designers took matters to a whole new level when creating a lamp which uses just a single leg as the stand. Not the most obvious choice it has to be said. And there are also teapots, toothbrushes, potato heads and utility belts… Finally, considering Batman’s much-discussed dislike of hand weapons, there have been a worrying number of guns released featuring the character’s likeness. While we recognize that he used gun-like devices during both The Dark Knight Rises and Batman v Superman, we remain convinced that he remains staunchly against these things.
Weird and Wonderful
The world of Batman merchandise is a vast and fascinating place and it will be truly exciting to see what new takes we get on official products and tie-ins when the much-anticipated Justice League does eventually hit the big screen. If our little look at this world shows anything, it is that companies will often stop at nothing to get even the most tenuous association with a popular superhero. With Ben Affleck’s solo outing in Matt Reeves’ The Batman also set for release in the coming years too, there is sure to be many more weird and wonderful items based on Batman for us to get our hands on in the future.