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Batman Tag

Legions of Bat-fans can now rejoice because, after years of wrangling between studios, individuals, and estates of individuals, the seemingly impossible has happened: the 1966 Batman television show will finally be available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and digital download. If you don’t believe me, check out this promo and see for yourself.

There’s going to be a big announcement at San Diego Comic-Con today with more details as to what to expect from these sets and what extras will be included. But until then, here are a few videos to help get you in the mood.

There has scarcely been a better time for the superhero genre. Even if your movie turns out to be a “flop,” you can still guarantee a #1 weekend slot at the box office on your eventual way to digital streaming services. Marvel Studios is one of the biggest producers in the industry — a far cry from when they were owned by New World Cinema, the company that gaiman-9brought you the House horror series way back in the ’80s. DC, now fully embraced by parent company Warner Bros., is not far behind and is threatening to overtake Marvel with the introduction of the rival gang that is the Justice League.

Notice how, in no point of the previous statement, I dug into the aspect that these were comic characters. They aren’t, at least, not anymore. They were once, most especially when the first Superman movie hit screens in the late 1970’s. Comics were the source material from which films came, or attempted to come, as the following decades would show. Most projects were stillborn. Some, like a cruelly laughable attempt at Captain America, probably should have been stillborn. But now, the movies are the source material to large extent and the comics are a product of afterthought, another piece of the merchandising puzzle. As such, the past ten to twenty years saw steady declines in book sales.

AbsoluteplanetaryThere are some reasons for it. The first is content, and in some ways the comics have never been as literate or as engaging as they are now for adults. Series like Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples’ Saga or Frankenstein Alive! Alive! from Steve Niles and comics legend Bernie Wrightson, and the groundbreaking work from years past like Neil Gaiman’s total demolition and reconstruction of DC’s Sandman into a rumination on mythology itself are rightly considered literature. There are more out there, but comics have taken a near-permanent dark turn.

I blame Frank Miller. His revolution in four issues, The Dark Knight Returns showed a sinister, flawed, anti-heroic side to the Batman, who for years before had come closer to Superman in dark tights than a dark knight. That miniseries showed that the audience was ready for changes, for tonal shifts, and they could handle a few rugs being tugged out from underneath them. It showed that DC could take risks, and they did, and were respected for it. And yet we have suffered through iteration after iteration of flawed, angry, violent heroes since. That the character of these characters is so lacking, so morally flimsy, may be a better reflection of how corrupt our modern, real-world heroes are, but it has crossed into a world without counterbalance.

The Dark Knight Returns was powerful because we had, for years, a Batman without edges; not quite the campy, Adam West variety, but hardly the blood-spilling and spit-drooling wraith we have now. We had to grow with the character in one way before we could really feel the impact of change in the other way. If every hero is just a psycho with re-channeled purpose, there isn’t much to depart from.

00023gw1Once Pandora’s Box had been opened and the world of the morally ambiguous hero was let loose, the “comic book store” became fully institutionalized. There had been comic book stores for many years, and they made their money primarily on the resale of back issues, but with darkening shades of superheroes, along with the increase of sexual content, graphic violence and heightened language, these markets became places where those books could only be sold. The content was too much to bear for the newsstand Comics Code Authority guidelines of decency.

At the same time, publishers started withdrawing from the newsstands. Why continue to publish books with such built-in limitations? Well it turns out there’s a very good reason why. The newsstand, or the convenience store, or the grocery store was the gateway for the original waves of hardcore fans. They grew up with this stuff as kids, and that was because comics were an impulse purchase. Parents bought them the books to “shut the whining, nagging brats up.” These racks were not segregated to the far corners of these stores. They were shoved right up front, one of the first things seen, to rile the kids up in the first place. The reason why adults appreciated the more adult Batman was because they grew up with the less adult Batman, and did so as an appeasement for the children who browbeat their weary parents. Comics were cheaper than water pistols, safer than bang-caps, and wouldn’t rot teeth like candy and Bubble Yum bubble gum did.

[caption id="attachment_105862" align="aligncenter" width="600"] The inevitable pop-culture collision of 1989: Batman meets Prince.[/caption] Hollywood has been making Batman movies more-or-less continuously for a generation now, going back to 1989 and continuing through this past summer's The Dark Knight Rises. The 1989 Batman was intended to make

I’m not breaking any new ground by telling you our world’s pop-cultural landscape is liberally littered with remakes, reboots and other works that pay homage to the past. It’s one thing to feel that way about programming for adults, but what does this mean for the children of today? We may groan at Nickelodeon trying to beat the Disney Channel at the pre-fab pop star game with shows like Big Time Rush and Victorious, but it wasn’t that long ago that the generation raised on MTV caught reruns ofThe Monkees. Entertainment is a wildly cyclical thing, and it’s certainly fun to look at how variations on a familiar theme play themselves out over the stretches of time.

With that in mind, it’s worth looking at two shows on Cartoon Network that, while obviously geared toward kids, possess a large enough cultural cache to make you and your friends stop and think for a second. The station’s MAD and The Looney Tunes Show, both recently released to DVD, take two of Warner Bros.’ most consistent avatars of comedy and gussy them up for a generation raised on Phineas and Ferb. But don’t let that fool you: these shows actually work pretty well – for the most part.