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Official Article

Batman 1989 Movie Merchandise

“What are you? I’m Batman” and with those immortal words in the opening moments of Tim Burton’s 1989 blockbuster, Batman, the campy 60’s era of the Adam West TV series were washed away in a sea of black leather and body armor. This introduced the world to the concept of The Dark Knight in a major way. But prior to audiences entering theaters in the summer of ’89 the public was awash in a sea of golden/yellow ovals and black bat insignias. From toys to clothes to fast food, Batman was everywhere and people of all ages were caught up in the hype.

Not often mentioned is that 1989 marked the 50th anniversary of Batman’s debut in comic books and now we are celebrating 80 years of Batman and 30 years of the classic film that made comic book movies a financially viable option in the 20th century. So what better excuse to look back at a few vintage pieces of merchandise from the summer of Bat-Mania now in my collection.

Batman Souvenir Movie Magazine (Topps)

In the days before the internet, the best place for fans to get a peek at the adventure to come on the big screen was at the magazine rack. Produced by Topps, each double page spread highlighted a major plot point of the film revealing as stated on the cover the “Complete Movie Story”. Stepping outside of plot, one section focused on Batman’s arsenal of weapons, which was pretty cool. But what really made the magazine special, if you ask me, were the ads.

What’s interesting to me is that the movie merchandise page promoting posters, t-shirts and bracelets contains what is obviously a Batman title logo pasted on just before the magazine went to press. It’s like they literally cut a rectangle out of a promotional still with a white border and dropped it in. Granted, you didn't need to try very hard to sell any product with a Batman logo in the summer of 1989.

The only other ads are for a Batman books by DC Comics, a role-playing game and a video game for PC, not even Nintendo. It feels like they were initially appealing to the general nerd culture of the time or saving their collectible items for this next piece of literature.

Batman Brochure (Warner Bros)

From what I understand, this travel brochure sized pamphlet was handed out to movie-goers during opening weekend by many theaters to help Warner Bros cash-in on Bat-Mania. In addition to the Toy Biz action figures, playing cards and window clings, there were some big ticket items offered that only folks gathering up cash during Joker’s fatal parade through the streets of Gotham City could have afforded.

For example, these limited edition hand crafted figurines of the Joker and Batman were certainly nice, but $495?! For that kind of cash I’d expect Heather Langenkamp featured here in her spandex bike outfit to deliver them personally. The same goes for this custom airbrushed rhinestone jacket that came in at just under $500 itself. That thing had a 1 year shelf-life at best, before it was getting hung up next to your Members Only jacket.

Batman Action Figure (Toy Biz)

Popular action figure lines from 1987-1988 were the inventive M.A.S.K. by Kenner and wild Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Playmates, but after June 1989 hit, you couldn’t find a toy box that didn’t contain this Batman figure from Toy Biz. With it’s shimmering golden card design and bombastic (if ill-proportioned) illustration of Michael Keaton’s Batman, these figures and vehicles flew off the shelves. 

It always struck me as odd that in the promotional shots of the toy, such as ads like this one from the souvenir magazine, they featured a Kenner Super Powers Batman figure painted black and not the actual toy found in the bubble. This was even the case on the back of the figure card, which leads me to believe that the mold for the final toy was not ready until weeks before the toys were shipped to stores.Can anybody confirm?

Misleading promotion aside, the toy was pretty fun to play with. The retracting utility belt "Bat Rope" and Batarang were a nice touch to add extra play value, though the gun always confused me. The only guns Batman uses in the film are various forms of grappling hook or zipline launchers, so this firearm seemed off brand. That being said, I cherished my Batman figure for many years, but there was another finely crafted product in the aisle at Toys R Us which also caught my eye.

Die-Cast Batmobile (ERTL)

Just like the 60’s TV Batmobile that put turbine’s to speed, Tim Burton’s sleek H.R. Geiger-esque version of Batman’s ride was part of what made the movie so iconic. Whether it was driving itself to the Dark Knight driver’s location or putting on insect like shields, every kid (and adult for that matter) wanted a Batmobile to call their own. This die-cast car from ERTL with it’s solid metal construction and detailed mold design gave you a feeling of holding the black beauty (wait, wrong crimefighting car) in the palm of your hand. The fact that this has survived in my collection for 30 years should make it clear that this was not meant as a disposable piece of memorabilia.

Trading Cards (Topps)

Every film that was serious about claiming blockbuster status had to have a trading card set (a topic which I have covered here) and Batman was no exception (check out my retrospective of Batman trading card sets here). But Tim Burton’s film was such a big hit that Topps actually had to add a 2nd series just to meet the demand for Bat-Hungry maniacs who had already completed their set of original cards. 

While the initial set focused mainly on showing scenes from the film that blew us away in theaters, series 2 contained more behind the scenes photos, including costume design, storyboard and deleted scene images. The other difference in design was that series 1 featured a white border, while series 2 dazzled us with a yellow framing layout. Batman doesn’t like to repeat himself.

Comic Book Adaptation (DC Comics)

For those who couldn’t afford to see the film multiple times in theaters before the VHS release, the comic book adaptation by DC Comics was a nice way to relive the adventure. This illustrated version was very faithful to what ended up on the big screen with one major difference of Batman faking out Commissioner Gordon and the Gotham City Police force by draping his cape and cowl over an unconscious Alexander Knox, while Bruce Wayne made his getaway.

In addition to enjoying the film multiple times on VHS and DVD, I also own the original blu-ray release of the film. What makes this edition of the film unique is that this packaging is in the form of a hardcover book and features the first half of the comic book adaptation bound into spine of the case. Kind of a neat feature if you ask me.

Batman Cereal (Ralston)

Cereal commercials were an essential part of my Saturday Morning Cartoon viewing growing up, mostly because they were aspirational. My mom forbade me to eat “sugar cereal” so I had to make due with Cheerios and Rice Krispies for many years. I had managed to hold my tongue and not plead for The Real Ghostbusters cereal with the hologram on the box (though I desperately wanted it), but when Batman cereal appeared on the grocery store shelves in 1989, Bat-Mania got the best of me and Mom relented.

How could I resist a full-torso Batman coin bank attached to the box? It’s simple face stickers provided a better Michael Keaton likeness than the Toy Biz figure and the aforementioned golden Bat-Symbol added instant value to the plain black box, as with every other bit of merchandise released. Ultimately the cereal inside was ignored by yours truly due to it’s boring nature. A bat-shape is nice, but some Joker shaped marshmallows would have gone a long way in my young eyes.

Batman Soundtrack Cassette

The epic orchestral theme by Danny Elfman that opens the film is right up there with Star Wars, Superman and Indiana Jones as far as recognizable movie scores, hum just a few bars and everybody knows what movie you’re referencing. The fact that a modified version ended up on Batman The Animated Series didn’t hurt it’s status as an ear-worm either. But add to the audio experience a full album of rock tunes from proven radio star Prince and the musical power of the movie could not be denied.

Technically this is a Prince album titled Batman, which boggles my mind. While most people are down with “Bat Dance”, I’ve always been much more partial to “Party Man”. It’s the song that plays on Joker’s boombox while the clown prince of crime and the “Joker Squad” deface works of art with splashes of red and green paint. Later Bat-films featured hit singles from the likes of Seal and U2, but no artist dared to tie themselves so completely to the world of Gotham City by penning a full album, so Prince deserves our respect.

Taco Bell Collectors Cups


Many people remember the McDonald’s Happy Meal and collector’s cups for Burton’s twisted sequel, Batman Returns, but few are aware that the first film had a tie-in with Taco Bell. That included me up until a few months ago. Taco Bell was offering a set of 5 collector’s cups that featured Batman in various action poses on one side and one of his vehicles on the other.

Also part of the promotion was the introduction of Taco Bell’s Cinnamon Twists snack, which came free with the purchase of a 32 oz. soft drink. The restaurant even printed up custom packaging announcing the new treat with an eye-catching bat-logo in the center. It’s amazing that Cinnamon Twists have remained on the menu to this day. Can it have something to do with this promotional launch?

Converse Sneakers

These were my personal white whale prior to preparing for this article. I have a vivid memory of walking into a SEARS department store in 1989 and being overwhelmed by the number of bat symbols printed on every type of clothing, but one item stood out above the rest…Batman sneakers! An offering from the legendary Converse shoe company, the idea of the bat symbol or The Joker’s face being plastered all over their signature hi-tops was the height of cool from my 7 year old perspective. Sadly I only walked away with a Batman t-shirt that day and no footwear upgrade. I’m psyched to now have a size 9, the shoe size I would have likely worn at the time.

It should be noted that these shoes were a great representation of an issue with the merchandising license that always bothered me. Notice how the tongue tag features the classic Batman logo in light blue? Clearly the movie being promoted featured Batman in all black, but for some reason half of the products sold during that time were of the classic comic book Batman in blue and grey, not the movie suit design. Even as a 2ndgrader I knew that this was a clear sign of a lack of synergy between the film production and merchandising sides of Warner Bros. studios. Granted, Batman never did sport an all black costume in the comics at this time, but the movie merchandise design should have been easy to communicate, “Color Batman black”.

So there you have it, a small sampling of movie merchandise from the summer of 1989. If you want to continue the 30th anniversary celebration of Bat-Mania, have we got something special for you. RetroDaze is launching a new web series called RD’s Retro Detention starring…Me! It’s part The Breakfast Club, part Saved By The Bell and it all adds up to some radical retro fun.

The first episode features our main character, RD telling you all about the 1989 Batman film and showing off his collection of Bat-Merch while letting you in on his high school schemes, so be sure to subscribe to the RetroDaze YouTube channel here so you don’t miss an episode.

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Rabbitearsblog Posted on Aug 01, 2019 at 08:34 AM

Wow! That's a lot of Batman merchandise! I especially love the Bat Car and the comics!

Vaporman87 Posted on Jul 14, 2019 at 03:47 AM

Thanks for the kind words Old School! We enjoyed getting this series going!

Mr Magic Posted on Jul 03, 2019 at 04:59 PM

@Caps:

Chorus: Just for the taste of it. Diet Coke!

Alfred: Ahh.

OldSchool80s Posted on Jun 26, 2019 at 01:56 AM

Loved the YouTube episode! So fun and so well done. Nice work.

jkatz Posted on Jun 24, 2019 at 05:49 AM

Well, the ad had the opposite effect on me...unfortunately by the time I saw it, the number was long out of service.

Back on topic: they recently re-released the Danny Elfman soundtrack on vinyl with nifty new artwork. And how can you overlook the action figure of Bob, the Joker's loyal henchman? You can even see him in the pictures you posted.

Vaporman87 Posted on Jun 23, 2019 at 12:58 AM

Jkatz: I do remember the Bugs/Daffy ad on the VHS. Though it never persuaded me to take any action.

jkatz Posted on Jun 22, 2019 at 06:02 PM

Remember the Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck commercial for the WB Catalog that came with the vhs? "You can't watch a Warner Brothers movie without a Warner Brothers ballcap!"

Caps 2.0 Posted on Jun 22, 2019 at 02:16 PM

What I find interesting is that Taco Bell, which serves Pepsi drinks, promoted Batman '89 in theaters, while Coca-Cola's Diet Coke was promoted on the film's first VHS release. The two big names in soda both promoting Batman are proof of how big the movie was.

Benjanime Posted on Jun 21, 2019 at 10:46 PM

always nice to see how much of an impact burton's movie left on the film industry, taking gotham and evolving it into a dark, gothic and industrial-looking landscape inspiring future comics to emulate his craftmanship just proves how big it was to the franchise. great article showcasing all the neat stuff that came from it, awesome article as always hoju :)

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