Batman #50

Well Batman #50 is here and it’s no surprise people are not happy with how this has all played out. Rightfully so, let’s face it, for the last year this has been building up in the pages of the regular Batman series. Billed as the wedding you never thought you’d see. Which, spoiler alert, you don’t actually get to see it.

How did this go so wrong?

DC comics, like most comic publishers are in the business to make money. Large comic publishers make money by moving units. A good rule of thumb, any time DC Comics allows stores to do an exclusive variant cover, that means the print run on the book is going to be huge. If you’re not convinced, feel free to look on Comichron and see for yourself. DK3, Metal, literally any issue #1 of a popular  character. There’s more than enough examples to support this statement.

So, we know that DC wanted to sell as many copies of Batman #50 as possible. DC’s senior vice president of sales, John Cunningham released a statement on Monday. However the statement is just as tone deaf as any other fiasco to hit the 24 hour news cycle. Cunningham lacks an understand of the fundamental problem. While he talks about getting the news out before the On Sale Date what actually would have been helpful was getting the news out before LCS’s submitted orders. Cunningham also fails to understand that the ending of the issue is not really the problem… while admittedly after reading it, I just kinda rolled my eyes. I’m not really a fan of Tom King’s work, but I know many people are. It’s hard to tell if Cunningham is just being obtuse or is a genuine imbecile. So I’ll spell it out in bold. It’s the fact that Batman and Catwoman do not get married in Batman #50 and that’s how DC marketed it! Cunningham’s statement does nothing to address the fact that the marketing was intentionally deceptive. Clearly Cunningham needs a reminder of the words strung together that DC used to sell the book, so here they are:

It’s the wedding you never thought you’d see! The Batrimony is real as Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle are set to tie the knot in a can’t-miss, extra-length milestone issue that will reshape Gotham City.”

 

Since Cunningham and DC Comics sales department clearly do not understand the meaning of the very words they have used, here’s some definitions from www.merriam-webster.com.

Definition of deception

Clearly the “Batrimony” is in fact not real, because they do not get married, which is the very definition of that word!

Definition of matrimony

Matrimony doesn’t mean preparing, it means married. So nothing in that solicitation is true… well except that bit about it being a double sized issue. Nobody likes being lied to… There’s an old saying, don’t piss on my hand and tell me it’s rain! This was always going to meet with backlash and rightfully so.

Definition of honestly

Batman #50 should have been marketed as “will they or won’t they? Find out in Batman #50 on sale July 4th!!!”. That or a similar tag line creates the desired effect, which is selling books. It makes no promise other than a resolution. It’s not deceptive. Granted it’s not as cleaver as “Batrimony” but honestly, if word play is blatantly false, how cleaver is it really.

The cover A for Batman #50 is also intentionally misleading… while amazingly enough many of the Store Exclusive Variant covers are not. In fact, there was criticism about some of the covers because they did not have the wedding theme. Sure many of them have Selina in the exact same Wedding gown. One that was specifically designed, which in itself could be viewed as misleading. Since, why go to that trouble for something that’s not happening? Which also begs the question, did some retailers who ordered store exclusive variants know before hand the wedding wasn’t actually going to happen?  In hindsight, it was a smart play for some of these covers not to include anything that pointed directly to a wedding. I’d even go so far to say that might have been a tip off that the wedding might not happen.

There’s another possible tip off that Batman #50 wasn’t going to play out as expected. Can someone remind me why Selina is getting her own book again? I mean, if they were in fact getting married, why would she need her own book? I could see a Batman and Catwoman title getting launched if they were getting married. Further more, why is she getting her own title debuting on the same day as her wedding issue? Why does this story need to take place right after her wedding? What, no honeymoon?.

Tom King’s Batman story has been building up for a year or two now. It started way back in Batman #24 with the proposal… or Batman #1 depending on how you look at it. Writing an engaging story arc that carried over 26 issues is an incredibly difficult task, much less the 100 issues King would clearly like to write. People shouldn’t criticizing King for not giving them the ending they wanted. While admittedly I found Batman #50 to be underwhelming at best and in no way living up to any of the hype. It’s clear what King wanted to accomplish and why he approached this the way he did. As he’s said on social media, it’s not the end.

Let’s face it, this arc was always going to end one of two ways, they get hitched or they don’t… it’s that simple. I personally think Batman and Catwoman overcoming the adversary would have made a better story and maybe one day we’ll get that. Like with issue #100 of Batman… However today was not that day.

DC editorial knew this wedding wasn’t happening and so did the sales department. DC made a deliberate choice not to promote it in an honest manner that reflected that. Which is unfortunate. I’d be mad if I was Tom King too. Had this been marketed based on the will they or won’t they rather than the hard sell of them actually tying the knot, the backlash wouldn’t be as sever. People feel cheated, which was not Tom King’s fault. As I mentioned, the ending is not nearly as exciting as King seems to think. At the end of the day, he doesn’t handle the marketing. Which, marketing is the real problem.

Fans upset by the ending is potentially not the worst of it. The train wreak of causality that will follow as a direct result of this deception could have impacts nobody at DC bothered to considered. Make no mistake, unless DC makes any and all copies of Batman #50 fully returnable from retailers you will see an impact on the comic racks. Not on the Batman title, but as it pertains to other DC titles. Instead of your LCS having copies of some books that were already flirting with cancelation. They’ll probably trim ordering to off set the bath they are set to take on Batman #50. That’s how cause and effect works. So books selling under 20K copies per month already, like Batgirl, Redhood and the Outlaws, Hellblazer, Silencer, Batman Beyond, Mera Queen of Atlantis, Sideways and Damage could end up being adversely effected by this short sighted cash grab.

For me, it’s pretty simple… I can no longer defend DC Comics as a result of this. Which, up until now I was a strong and vocal supporter of. All I can really say is, I hope it was worth it.

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