By BatWatch 15 Comments
This whole thing started on my twenty-eighth birthday. My lovely girlfriend Mary Jane loves getting me gifts, and so a couple of months ago, I found myself unwrapping several boxes full of various trinkets that made her think of me. One of these was a juice bottle with a nozzle in the shape of Batman's head. Ridiculous? Yes. A tad demeaning and juvenile? Perhaps. Did I drink it? Absolutely!
As I sat there trying to gain suction on the poorly designed bottle so that I could suck out the sickeningly sweet, artificially flavored with 100% unnatural ingredients fruit concoction, I found myself thinking about just how completely Batman has saturated our culture. There I was, a grown man, greedily sucking down a somewhat disgusting fruit drink from a container made for five year olds, yet I found myself delighted just because the bottle happened to be shaped like Batman. What's wrong with me?
What exactly is wrong with me? Well, that's a question for another time, but I found myself wondering just how much Batman has seeped into pop culture and consumer products. I've seen Batman on toothpaste, coffee mugs, soap, T-shirts, pants, jackets, coffee tables, tote bags, watches, and magazines. Batman has been used to sell just about everything, and I decided it was my mission to measure just how deeply Batman has become ingrained in our culture and commerce. To measure this, I went to the mecca of American pop culture and commerce, Walmart.
I vowed that I would walk through every aisle of Walmart and chronicle each toy, movie, ball and shoe that bears the Bat symbol. Would I find a Bat item on every aisle? That seemed unlikely. Would I find Bat swag in every section? That seemed plausible, but just how far does the shadow of the Bat reach?
The Quest Begins
Entering Walmart, I immediately stumbled upon gold as I found double DKR's in Redbox, The Dark Knight Rises and the Animated adaption of The Dark Knight Returns.
I had already mentally charted my course from there. The plan was to travel the outer rim of the store and then work my way inwards marking down all Bat items along the way. I would go through the pharmacy section first where I expected little in the way of Bat items. Perhaps I might find some Bat vitamins, but it seemed unlikely, but beyond, there was the bath and body section where I would no doubt find soaps, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and many more hygienic items geared towards kids that tricky mothers could use to lure their young ones into cleaning themselves. I would then enter what I expected to be a desert for Bruce Wayne memorabilia for I had little hope of finding Bat merch in the pet section or the garden section. However, I had high hopes to find treasures in the car department and sporting goods. I had great faith that I would find much to sustain my love for the Bat.
I was completely wrong.
I did find some items, but I was shocked to find myself halfway through Walmart before I began to find any more Batman merchandise. I did find a superhero haunting the hallways of Walmart showing his presence on every aisle, but it was not my beloved Dark Knight, and I must admit, a mild fire of animosity began to burn in my chest, but I'll address the usurper later.
It's time to talk about what kind of Bat knick-knacks you can find at Walmart these days.
My first real discovery of Bat merchandise came, to no real surprise, in the toy section. Lego Batman has made a big impression on the youngsters, and you can find a Lego Batboat, Lego Bat Helicopter, Lego Joker Helicopter, Lego Tumbler, and a Lego Bat Plane. You might figure there would be a bunch of Batman action figures, but you would figure wrong. There were two different lines of Batman action figures. One was simply called Batman, and in addition to Bruce Wayne, it also featured Joker and Mr. Freeze. There was also a line based on The Dark Knight Rises, but the only character available other than Batman was a single version of Bane. There was also a Batmobile and a life sized (for kids) utility belt which was actually kind of neat. There was a Dark Knight Rises holo puzzle. Finally in the toy section, there were two toddler toys versions of the Batmobile. One was a simple transformer and the other was a pull it back and let it go model.
In the entertainment section, there was also some Bat goodies. Oddly enough, Lego Batman, 1 and 2, were the only Bat video games in stock. There were lots of Batman movies including the Nolan trilogy, the four earlier big budget Batman films, a combo pack of some of the new straight to DVD animated Batman movies, and the first season of Batman: The Animated Series. Oddly enough, the old WB Birds of Prey was also on the shelves which struck me as really odd. Who wants to buy that? Perhaps this is an attempt to cash in on the popularity of WB's Arrow?
The clothing section held a few items. There were several different versions of Batman underwear and Batman T-shirts for boys. There was also one version each of men's underwear, socks, and T-Shirts in a Batman style. There were some boys' Batman swimming trunks as well. Oddly enough, the girls had five different Bat symbol T-Shirts to choose from whereas guys only had one which I for one find to be lame. For accessories, there was a pair of Batman sunglasses and a Batman watch up for grab.
Finally, there was a little Bat love in the party section. If you know a kiddo who wants a Batman themed birthday party, rest assured that you can buy him some Bat stickers, Bat paper masks, Bat banners, Bat invitations and Bat gift bags.
The Menace of Manhattan
I was really very disappointed in this. Batman was not everywhere in Walmart though I looked for him desperately. He had fairly small sections in four different areas of the store, but that is hardly the expectation I had when I started this journey. Instead, a certain wall crawling arachnid seems to have stolen the spotlight from the Dark Knight. Spider-Man is the character whose face was plastered on anything and everything that a kid might possibly buy. How dare this filthy, whiny pretentious fool try to move the Batgod from his rightful place as king of comicdom!
I know that the Batgod works in mysterious ways but all according to his will. All righteousness and justice will flow down from the Batgod like the blood of his enemies that drips off his fists, and I can only pray that Batgod will, in his all seeing wisdom, bestow his wrath upon Spier-Man. May the day of his judgment come quickly. Amen!
I was really surprised to see Spider-Man had a larger saturation in Walmart than Batman, but I guess it makes sense. After all, you, I and a few other people might want to buy Bat themed merchandise, but we all know this stuff is really aimed at kids. All the praise Christopher Nolan won by making The Dark Knight trilogy so much darker and more mature might actually be working against the merchandising sales. The more dark and violent version of Batman is no doubt being seen by a lot of kids, but it is probably not going to have as much appeal to either parents or kids as a story marketed towards children such as Ultimate Spider-Man.
With all this in mind, I can see why DC is pushing Beware the Batman. No doubt, they are hoping this new Batman animated series will be like the series of the nineties so Batman can once again be on top of the pop culture war and become the hero of children's hearts.
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