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How A 1950s Batman Comic Saved the Kenner Batman Action Figure Line

Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the seven hundred and fiftieth installment where we examine comic book legends and whether they are true or false.

As usual, there will be three posts, one for each of the three legends.

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COMIC LEGEND:

A Silver Age Batman comic book helped save Kenner's Batman action figure line.

STATUS:

True

After a hilarious mix-up where Kenner actually lost the Batman license for the year that the Batman movie actually came out, the company regained the license in time to do movie tie-in figures in 1990. As you might imagine, most of the figures were basically just remakes of how Batman appears in the movie...

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However, you can't really base a line of superhero toys based on JUST adapting the movie, as the whole way these things succeed is if you can release new waves of toys every six months or so. So Kenner really needed to diversify, but there was a catch.

I'll let Michael Uslan, the guy who brought Batman to the big screen in the late 1980s and has been a producer on every Batman project ever since!

Here he is in the introduction to a collection of Batman comics from the 1950s:

Kenner was hatching a massive business plan to follow up the success of its initial Batman movie toy line with dozens of new action figures that would feature Batman in costumes of different colors. But they had a big problem and called me to Cincinnati for an emergency discussion. The brilliant toy-man, Jim Black, showed me a gold Batman, then a silver one, a red one, a blue one, a green one and a white one. I told them I thought it was a terrific idea. Then Jim explained that the problem was that KEnner had agreed only to portray Batman in toys as he was portrayed in the comic books or movies - and that meant he could only produce gray/bloue or black costumed figures. He was stymied. I said, "No, you're not," and directed him to the 1950s Detective Comics #165 story, "The Strange Costumes of Batman," showing him that even in the comics, there have been many different colored costumes used by Batman.

Here is the comic (by Edmund Hamilton, Dick Sprang and Charles Paris)...

So suddenly Tec-Shield Batman or Arctic Batman seemed normal, right?

Uslan continued...

For good measure, I pointed him to 1957's Detective Comics #241, "The Rainbow Batman," and assured him I could even come up with a "Zebra Batman" if necessary. Dilemma solved, and the Batman toy line marched on. Kenner Toys loved those fities Batman stories!

Detective Comics #241 was also by Hamilton, with Sheldon Moldoff and Charles Paris...

And soon, the Batman Kenner line was all over the place (Elseworlds comics helped a lot)...

Thanks to the great Michael Uslan for the information!

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Check out some other legends from Legends Revealed:

1. Was Toy Story Nearly Canceled Because It Was Too Dark of a Story?

2. Does Disney Give Free Tickets for Life to Any Baby Born in a Disney Theme Park?

3. Was Oliver Reed Too “Rough” to Be Cast as James Bond?

4. Did Lisa Kudrow Seriously Save Herself for Marriage? _______________________________________________________________________________

Check back soon for part 2 of this installment's legends!

And remember, if you have a legend that you're curious about, drop me a line at either brianc@cbr.com or cronb01@aol.com!

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