April 9, 2008


I've been catching up on what's been going on in the entertainment world and just discovered today that Warner Bros. Animation's Batman: The Brave and the Bold is premiering on Cartoon Network this fall. Featuring weekly team-ups with characters from the DC universe, Mediaweek describes the new show as "a more lighthearted throwback to the Batman of the 1960s and '70s, before The Dark Knight franchise turned the cowled crime fighter into an angst-ridden existentialist."

Well. As any Bat-fan worth their salt knows, the lighthearted phase of the caped crusader's career was an aberration (albeit one that lasted about 20 years) in the character's 69-year history. Prior to the evisceration of superhero comics after World War II, Batman's roots were firmly in the pulps, a "weird creature of the night" in the spirit of the Shadow.

Now, I'm a firm believer in the malleability of even established characters. None of the currently popular superheroes in comics or onscreen is exactly as they were when they made their debuts. And witness my praise of derivatives like Batman Beyond, among other things. But this still strikes me as a curious step. As a brand—and marketing people and execs are always all about the brand—Batman has been the Dark Knight for over twenty years now. In comics, he gradually started returning to his more grim roots in the 1960s; in animation, his last appearance as "chummy Batman" was in 1986.

So at this point, everyone of voting age pretty much knows Batman in his new (or, if you like, old) persona. How exactly does it promote the Batman brand to make him more "lighthearted," especially on the heels of a new Christian Bale movie? For this they axed The Batman, which I thought walked the line between Saturday morning-light and Dark Knight-sombre pretty well?

I guess we'll have to wait and see how this latest incarnation of Batman turns out. Handled well, it could work out. There's a precedent: when the Justice League comic was rebooted in the 1980s with Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis at the helm, it featured as much comedy and slapstick as it did action. Batman's character (or, in marketspeak: brand) was completely intact, and the contrast between him, his teammates and the situations they found themselves worked brilliantly. Let's see the Brave and the Bold team can be as creative as that when they go "lighthearted."

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Comments:
From what I've read in the past year, for children under the age of 12, Batman ranks remarkably low among the list of superhero "favorites." I'm talking a 9% to 11% preference as compared to the 60% to 70% preference kids have towards established light-hearted characters like Spider-Man (the unequivocal leader right now).

On top of this, most parents and/or caretakers refuse to allow their children access to Batman programming due to the fact that the character is inherently "dark." My guess, is that this show is somehow an attempt to "make Batman fun (again)." Even fun is sometimes equated with campy.

Outside of kid influence, personally, I think that we're on an overdose of Batman media right now... I really and honestly love Batman, but there's it's coming toa point of oversaturation.
From what I've read in the past year, for children under the age of 12, Batman ranks remarkably low among the list of superhero "favorites." I'm talking a 9% to 11% preference as compared to the 60% to 70% preference kids have towards established light-hearted characters like Spider-Man (the unequivocal leader right now).

On top of this, most parents and/or caretakers refuse to allow their children access to Batman programming due to the fact that the character is inherently "dark."


Cite.
KidScreen Magazine published some surveys a number of months back, in regards to the popularity of superheroes. I'll gladly consent that I'm probable to be a few percentages off... maybe Batman was closer to 15-20% and Spider-Man closer to 80%... who knows.

But the point is that with such a large disparity in the ranges between various franchises (which does in fact exist), the conversion of the less popular into the more popular is often likely to happen in one medium or another.

Also, there are a number of newspaper articles and studies that suggest parents are more likely to purchase toys for kids that have such different labels as the Dark Knight and, more recently, a Spider-Man that has somehow once again become "spectacular."

Not all parents feel this way, obviously, but many do. It's for the exact same reason why parents who monitor their children's viewing habits might not prefer lead characters that yell or are condescending (such as Timmy Turner) or, conversely, why parents may prefer an animated series with animals as characters over human characters.

There is also a category of parents and/or caretakers that feel superhero interest from their children is merely "a phase," and they have every right to think so. These individuals often let their kids bang around the house, scrape their knees and enjoy tween-interest shows until the fad dies out... which very well could happen. Parents often know their kids much better than their kids know themselves.
You said: On top of this, most parents and/or caretakers refuse to allow their children access to Batman programming due to the fact that the character is inherently "dark."

I asked for a source on this claim. Your response was: Also, there are a number of newspaper articles and studies that suggest parents are more likely to purchase toys for kids that have such different labels as the Dark Knight and, more recently, a Spider-Man that has somehow once again become "spectacular."

I wasn't asking you to tell me there were newspaper articles or studies that suggest something. What I requested was a source to substantiate the claim that, most parents and/or caretakers refuse to allow their children access to Batman programming. I've seen your name while reading AnimationInsider.net in the past, so I assumed you wouldn't say, most parents and/or caretakers refuse to allow their children access to Batman programming, without being able to reference a scientifically valid survey that would corroborate the statement.

Not all parents feel this way, obviously, but many do. It's for the exact same reason why parents who monitor their children's viewing habits might not prefer lead characters that yell or are condescending (such as Timmy Turner) or, conversely, why parents may prefer an animated series with animals as characters over human characters.

But what evidence is there that most parents approach animation in this manner? Is it most? Is it many? Is it some?
What's interesting to me about Aaron's original point is that Batman ranks low among kids, so they're trying to make him appeal more to kids. Years ago, Warner had the same problem with the Batman animated series, which is what led to the creation of Batman Beyond—it was an attempt to appeal more to teens.

It's another thing that seems to go against the marketing grain. Kids aren't into Batman, but they're into Superman. So why not make more Batman cartoons for an older audience and more Superman cartoons for a younger audience? Why keep trying to bend Batman into a mold he doesn't seem to fit into?
During the final season of Justice League Unlimited, in the weeks that new episodes would air, it was consistently Cartoon Network's top-rated show in boys 9-14. This was the same Justice League Unlimited that featured the same Batman from the same Batman: The Animated Series you mentioned, and it had no problem attracting young viewers. Two new episodes aired on the same night in the first week of the season, and they were Cartoon Network's #1 and #3 shows* that week. Despite what some older fans may want to believe, it was always a kids' show, and it always drew substantially more young viewers than it did adults.

According to the National Retail Federation**, 504,251 children's Batman costumes were purchased in 2007, more than Superman (470,634), and fewer than Spider-Man (1,882,536). For anyone who needs help with math, that's 27% of the number of Spider-Man costumes sold. It's no secret that Spider-Man is enjoying tremendous appeal right now, coming off the success of three films in five years, but Spidey didn't get there by dumbing down the product and sanitizing it for the most sensitive of parents. He did it by starring in PG-13 movies, each of which contained its share of darkness and violence.

Honestly, the idea that Batman is not popular with kids is a fallacy, as evidenced above. And sure, there are some superstitious people out there who won't let their kids read Harry Potter books or watch the film adaptations, but that doesn't stop them from being a huge sell with children. Likewise, there are going to be some parents who will think Justice League or The Batman is too violent for their kids, but the suggestion that most parents feel this way is completely unfounded.

*Source: http://forums.toonzone.net/showthread.php?p=2078158#post2078158

**Source: http://www.shoppingblog.com/cgi-bin/sblog.pl?sblog=1017072
I never said that Batman wasn't popular, but only implied that he's not as tremendously favored as is Spider-Man.

Plus, when it comes to impressionable media representations of a superhero, I seriously doubt that a parent is going to consider a halloween costume as influential as feature film presentations, comic books and graphic novels, and television animation.

The image of Spider-Man hasn't changed over the past decade. If anything, the integration of manga-styled artwork and commercial emergence of graphic novels have done nothing but lighten the franchise's presence in the greater media...

Batman is a different story. For two decades Batman has been prominently figured as a gloom and doom character (and why shouldn't he be?). Even with varying levels of visibility, media installments of Batman have pretty much done what they were supposed to: portray Batman as a brooding malcontent with an eye for vengeance. Only in the past few years with the push of animated kid-hero programming (comic book adaptation or not) has Batman softened in some circles.

But it isn't as if Batman's image has softened much. The most popularized forms of Batman as of late (live-action movie and graphic novel) aren't exactly a pleasant thought to rest in the back of the mind of parents, I would bet. They're not images of Batman that are easy to merchandize and lend themselves as easy to "get into" media.

Beyond this, I don't think it's a stretch to assert that Spider-Man is a far more accessible character persona than is Batman. You can split that argument up into commentary on demographics, if you want. But I guess that's another discussion for another day, as they say...
I never said that Batman wasn't popular...

No, Emru Townsend said, "Kids aren't into Batman," but that is clearly not the case.

Plus, when it comes to impressionable media representations of a superhero, I seriously doubt that a parent is going to consider a halloween costume as influential as feature film presentations, comic books and graphic novels, and television animation.

So you're telling me over half a million kids wanted to dress up as Batman without having access to cartoons or movies (I exclude comics, because superhero titles aren't at all popular with children)? Well, that is a stretch, sir, especially when you consider over a million kids in the 6-11 demographic were tuning in for The Batman on Saturday mornings*.

Other than that, you spent two paragraphs attempting to explain why maybe some parents wouldn't allow their children access to Batman cartoons, rather than backing up your previous statement of, most parents and/or caretakers refuse to allow their children access to Batman programming. At this point, I think the most logical conclusion is that you were mistaken.

*Source: http://allyourtv.com/latestratings/?p=39
Clearly, kids are into Batman. But from a ratings standpoint, the animated Batman of the 1990s did better among adults than kids. It's not speculation that Batman Beyond was created to appeal to teens; you'll find it mentioned in the book Batman Animated, and the subject of the comparative ratings came up during my conversations with Warner Bros. Animation writers and artists in the late 1990s. Aaron's earlier stats comparing preferences to Superman and Spider-Man point to a similar skewing.

For people in the business of making TV shows, ratings, brand recognition and popularity are everything, and high percentages of uptake are prized. From that point of view, then, no, kids haven't been into Batman for most of the last 16 years.

As for The Batman, I did acknowledge that it seems to walk the line exceptionally well. But, again, it did it without losing Batman's grimness.
Clearly, kids are into Batman.

I'm aware of that.

But from a ratings standpoint, the animated Batman of the 1990s did better among adults than kids.

Cite.

I know that Batman Beyond was requested by executives who wanted a teenage Batman, but that doesn't support the notion that Batman: The Animated Series rated higher with adults than it did with teens. Look, I could sit here and say that B:TAS was the most popular show among kids to ever hit television, but without something to support the claim, a claim is all it would be. I've had discussions with producers of these shows, too, and without fail, the answer as to the largest audience has always been boys 9-14.

Aaron's earlier stats comparing preferences to Superman and Spider-Man point to a similar skewing.

He has not mentioned Superman in any of his comments on this page.

But, again, it did it without losing Batman's grimness.

I wholeheartedly disagree with that sentiment.
Cite.

That would require me sifting through hours of interview tapes, which I'm not inclined to do. Do you have a citation for your ratings claim, going back to the 1992 series and around the time of Batman Beyond?

[Aaron] has not mentioned Superman in any of his comments on this page.

I misremembered. It still doesn't change the comparative stats.

As for my feelings about The Batman, I should have been clearer. I meant the character's grimness wasn't lost, not the show's. He's still a (largely) unsmiling creature of the night, though they don't lean on the scary aspect of him as much. It still works for me. Your mileage may vary.
stop asking for him to cite everything it's a dick move, and I read that BTAS was more popular among adults than kids too, the only reason you're asking him to cite this is because you don't have a response to what he's saying, so you just try to say that everything he says deosn't count, because he didn't cite it, and Spider-Man is much more popular among kids than Batman
Welcome to last year, Colin.


and I read that BTAS was more popular among adults than kids too


Stop lying.


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