I was sitting here this morning riffing on ways to make fun of DC Comics' now annual Batman day when I realized there wasn't much I could say that could be more absurd than the concept itself. I know as an amateur comic book journalist my role is to eagerly repost whatever press release I'm sent, give every first issue ten stars, and generally act as a maniac cheerleader for the corporate machine all day long, but something feels a bit ridiculous about arbitrarily celebrating a copyrighted property on a day with no symbolic meaning whatsoever.
Just so I don't sound like a completely cynical asshole, I will be the first to say I was fine with Batman Day in 2014. It was neat to be reminded that Batman turned 75 if only to appreciate the longevity of the concept and a character that seems to resonate with audiences despite the changing decades. I was even willing to give DC Comics a pass for the randomly chosen date of July 23rd. That date had no symbolic meaning but at least it fell on the preview night for last year's San Diego Comic Con so I could give it a pass as making sense in terms of spreading the word.
But here we are a year later being told to run out to the store to pick up Batman merchandise in celebration of a new annual holiday. On September 26th. Uh, what? Anyone want to stop and wonder why?
That isn't to say that Batman day is the first corporate created holiday meant to drain our wallets, but at least Valentines Day can be traced back to the Roman feast of Lupercalia in which, "men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain." Tell that to your significant other the next time they ask you if you made reservations and see how it goes over.
Even if you are one to accept without question the concept of a "Batman" day can anyone explain to me the relevance of the date chosen? Last year many websites less lazy than the Outhousers did the legwork on significant Batman dates in history. MTV (of all places) found that while Batman's first appearance in Detective Comics #27 had a cover date of May 1939, that issue actually debuted three months earlier in March 1939. So we aren't marking the character's first appearance. How about Bruce Wayne's fictional birthday? Nope, that actually falls on either (depending on which version of continuity you wish to embrace) February 19th or April 7th.
Video game website Kotaku seems to think the date celebrates the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents, albeit with the wrong date as continuity would suggest they were killed on the 26th of June not September. If I didn't know better I'd almost be willing to consider that as a reasonable explanation; DC Comics would probably be dumb enough to celebrate the death of someone's parents but still manage to get the date wrong. But ultimately I think the truth is something a bit more mundane and depressing.
What is the super special meaning behind Batman day? Why did DC Comics choose the end of September 26th as a day for comic fans everywhere to rush out and spend just a little bit extra on their favorite character? The answer is that it's simply the end of the Q3 fiscal quarter and profits haven't been that great.
Batman Day is just another example of Warner Brother's looking for ways to squeeze more profit out of the properties they own without any concern to the rich history of the characters. Like most companies they operate on a quarterly earning financial cycle announcing earnings to shareholders at designated times each year. We've already discussed DC Comics recently rumored losses as a company, which surely will impact quarterly performances. Will sales actually turn out that bad? Obviously Warner Brother's doesn't share financial gains and losses with us and there are other factors to take into consideration.
But how does a business with a projected loss make up for that when presenting to shareholders? How about a holiday encouraging sales of their most viable character encouraging fans to give the publisher a last minute sales boost. Does it need to make any sense? Does it need to have any symbolic meaning related to the actual people who created the character? Who cares, it's Batman! Mark down some plastic toys from China 10% off, send it to Gamestop, and call it day. My point is that Batman day is meaningless corporate b.s. designed to squeeze you (the clueless consumer) for just a bit extra to boost performance results.
It's no secret that DC Comics characters are far more productive as licenses than actual comic books. Diane Nelson, the head of Warner Bros Consumer Products has said that DC properties bring in 8 billion in licensing each year. As reported by Comics Beat, "DC related properties make up 50% of the WB's video games business, while bringing in some $8 billion in consumer products sales and over $3 billion in home video." That's a ridiculous amount of money and more than enough to offset a tone-deaf publisher that continuously gets it's wrong when it comes to representing characters with a more than 75-year-old legacy. The only reason you should get excited about Batman day is if you own stock in the company.
Does that mean you shouldn't celebrate Batman day at all? Hey, don't let me stop you. There are some deals going on that you could take advantage of if you wanted. There are some non-sales events going on to coincide; it seems like DC Comics has done a decent job of getting their current roster of Batman writers and artists out today for a few appearances. And for what it's worth DC Comics does seem to be making an honest attempt to award some past-due credit to the contributions of Batman co-creators like Bill Finger. So if I have to lay blame on someone this time around it would fall more to the corporate overlords than Dan Didio.
Batman Day is yet another cynical corporate sales holiday aimed at boosting profits just like Black Friday and Prime Day. Money makes the world go round my friends and if you open your wallets this weekend don't be surprised if next year we get a similarly cynical 'celebration' of Superman at the end of Q4.