Batman’s Birthday: DC Unveils 80th Anniversary Plans For Dark Knight

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Even if you live in a cave it’s going to be hard to avoid Batman in the weeks ahead. Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment just announced a year-long initiative celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Caped Crusader which will kick off this month at SXSW in Austin, Texas, with festivities that include a moonlight fly-over by 1.5 million live bats.

On March 19 the special hardcover release called Detective Comics: 80 Years of Batman-The Deluxe Edition will hit store shelves with a history of the Dark Knight, who was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger and introduced in Detective Comics issue No. 27, which hit newsstands in March 1939. Then, on March 27, issue No. 1000 of Detective Comics will be published by DC Comics, which takes its acronym from the venerable monthly series.

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The actual anniversary is March 30 (although the 1939 issue’s cover indicated it was a May release) and on that day DC Comics will present a special “Happy Birthday Batman” panel at WonderCon, the pop culture expo in Anaheim. There will be massive Batman tie-in events and announcements at Comic-Con International in July in San Diego. An actual Batman Day is on Sept. 21 and tie-in events include 5K and 10K cosplay runs and the orchestrated placement of Bat-signals to light up the skies above cities across the globe.

This June also brings the 30th anniversary of Tim Burton’s Batman, the 1989 blockbuster that starred Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson, featured a Prince soundtrack, and became a milestone moment for tie-in toy and merchandise success.

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On the big screen this year: The Joker’s first stand-alone feature film opens in theaters on Oct. 4. From writer-director Todd Phillips (The Hangover), the movie reportedly channels Mean Streets and The King of Comedy and explores the backstory of the most iconic villain in comic book history with three-time Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix in the title role.

Meanwhile, the Matt Reeves-directed refresh of Batman as a feature film property is expected to begin filming this year and the new film featuring Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn is already shooting. A sequel is ramping now also for Suicide Squad, the 2016 film that featured Ben Affleck as Batman and revealed for the first time that Gotham City is in fact in New Jersey.

Fox’s prequel series, Gotham, is now in its finale season, but its creative team has segued into work on the new Epix series Pennyworth, which is another Bat-related property (it’s about Batman’s butler, Alfred Pennyworth, in his espionage days) but narratively unconnected to Gotham. The CW has a Batwoman pilot in the works, while the streaming site DC Universe has an animated Harley Quinn series on the way and just finished the first season of Titans with a Batman and Robin showdown that marked the first live-action screen appearance by the Dynamic Duo since Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin feature film in 1997.

The global touring Lego exhibition “The Art of the Brick: DC Super-Heroes” will celebrate the Dark Knight with a special Batman edition, beginning this September in São Paulo, Brazil. Rome will host an immersive Batman exhibit in April at Romics, the comics and gaming convention in the Italian capitol. A major exhibit is also planned for Shanghai this summer but details have not been disclosed.

An avalanche of new Batman toys and merch is on the way to retail. Six Flags, Mondo, Funko, Lego and Madame Tussauds will have major tie-in initiatives and Cartoon Network, Rooster Teeth, Crunchyroll, VRV, and Fullscreen have programming plans in place to amplify and add to the Bat-centric commemoration. AT&T will activate across retail, digital and DirectTV, which will celebrate the anniversary with a Batman-branded channel. Retail partners include Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, iTunes, Walmart, GameStop and Google Play.

DC also released the artwork below. The official description: “To commemorate this milestone, custom artwork was created that pays homage to Batman’s legacy in all forms of media. The Batman profile pencil design is by beloved longtime DC artist José Luis García-López, and digital paint design is by Admira Wijaya. This graphic will be featured throughout the celebration.”

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