Marketing the Bat

Well, it's finally here.

For months, heck, years fans have been waiting for Frank Miller to revisit the DC Comics character Batman. Today, Miller delivered to stores "The Dark Knight Strikes Again" or "DK2," the sequel to Miller's 1986 "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns." In a press release issued Wednesday DC Comics announced the first issue of the 3-issue miniseries is the best-selling comic book of 2001 measured in both dollars (the book carries a $7.95 price tag) as well as in total units sold and, according to information provided DC by Diamond Comic Distributors, it's also the best selling comic of the last five years. And after a thoroughly unscientific polling of local Los Angeles comic book stores it appears the comic is selling like crazy.

Much of the success of the book has to be attributed to Miller's drawing power, obviously. But, many of those fans with fond memories of "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" may have moved on from comics collecting in the intervening 15 years. DC Comics was well aware of that and they had a plan.

"From the start we wanted to maximize the attention for "Dark Knight Strikes Again," Bob Wayne, the VP of Sales & Marketing for DC Comics told CBR News. "My earliest promotional notes include exploring an ad in Entertainment Weekly."

Promotion of "DK2" by DC Comics included a quarter-page color advertisement in the November 23rd edition of the magazine Entertainment Weekly. For many fans the move to include an ad in such a high-profile magazine was both a surprise and a relief to see a project of this caliber get top notch promotion. For DC Comics the decision to choose EW was an obvious one.

"Entertainment Weekly has included lots of comics coverage in the last few years, and has also reported extensively on Batman media projects," said Wayne. "Of all the newsstand magazines, it seemed the best one to target for the project. It didn't hurt that EW, like DC Comics, is a part of AOL Time Warner. But for most of the DC staff, our interaction with EW staffers is limited to bumping into them at the employee store."

DC knew full well that DK2 would not only appeal to your everyday comic fans, but also to those lurkers out there who occasionally pick up a trade paperback based on a recommendation from a friend or from what they read in magazines. So, it was necessary to up the ante in promoting this book. When it came time to prepare a budget for DK2 promotion, it was decided a bit more was needed to get the word out.

"We budgeted more [for marketing and promotion] than we would for other DC projects," said Wayne. "We've sold hundreds of thousands of copies of Frank's "Dark Knight Returns" trade paperback. Our advertising and promotional plan included efforts to reach those readers, to alert them that the Dark Knight strikes again."

Other magazines were considered by DC, but ultimately they decided to go with EW and GamePro Magazine, in addition to in-house ads in their own titles and advertisements in real-world comics magazines like Comics Buyer's Guide, Comic Shop News, Comics & Games Retailer, Comics International, Tripwire and Wizard. Included in the promotion was a co-op advertisement for individual comics retailers to use for local ads, a do-it-yourself local press release that gave guidelines to retailers on how to get the word out plus promotional items.

While the use of an ad in EW is big by comic standards, it's not the only time the publisher has purchased space in the mainstream press.

"Our ad in Entertainment Weekly is the highest profile ad placement we've made in many years, but we've also run ads in the past for individual DC projects in publications like Rolling Stone, CMJ New Music Monthly, Locus, Cinescape, Starlog, Publisher's Weekly and Alternative Press."

When asked about future promotion along the lines of the EW advertisement, Wayne would only comment that they're not ready to announce anything else at this time.

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