Over the weekend DC Comics, without fanfare, added another offering to their big box store-exclusive line of comics. I was at Target on Friday evening when I happened across a display, near the Funko products adjacent to the TV and Movies in my local store, for a previously-unannounced Batman: The Caped Crusader 100-Page Giant.
The display features art of Batman and Robin by artist Scott Kolins. The book itself sports a new cover by Howard Porter and Hi-Fi, and features four stories, two of which are brand-new. Both of the new 20-page stories are written by Jeff Parker; the first, a Batman & Robin tale in which the dynamic duo takes on King Shark, is illustrated by Kolins and Hi-Fi, with letters by Troy Peteri; the second, a team-up between Batman and Nightwing against Clayface, features art by Scott Koblish, colors by Wil Quintana, and letters by Peteri. The remaining two stories are reprints of stories from the second volume of Batman Adventures, including a Batman/Batgirl team-up against Man-Bat from Batman Adventures #18 and a Joker-centric story from Batman Adventures #31.
Batman: The Caped Crusader 100-Page Giant is the second exclusive comic to be offered by DC and Target, after last year’s tie-in to Funko’s DC Primal Age line of He-Man-esque adult collector action figures. Though less overtly than the Primal Age comic, Caped Crusader is also a toy tie-in, this time for the upcoming first wave of DC toys from Spin Master, who take over the license from Mattel this year.
The Primal Age comic featured entirely new material, and the toy tie-in more or less stopped at the fact that the stories were set in the world of the toyline. The stories in Caped Crusader more directly tie-in to upcoming 4” scale Spin Master offerings, though, with vehicle designs and character pairings from the toyline appearing in the comic. The opening new story, for example, features Batman and Robin using a Batmobile which transforms into the Batboat, similar to the toy shown below:
The second new story features Clayface and the Batcycle; when Batman hops on the cycle, his suit transforms into one similar to the action figure included as part of this set:
The reprint stories center on Man-Bat and The Joker, both of whom are included in the first wave of 4” figures. Robin and Nightwing from the two new stories are also included in the wave:
(No gold-suited Batman in the comic? I feel a little cheated.)
Though the Robin in the toyline and story is outfitted like Damian Wayne, the Robin in the story appears a little older, and acts more like Dick Grayson or Tim Drake than Damian. Both of the new stories are classic, timeless Batman tales, fitting the Caped Crusader mold of the book’s title, and the somewhat traditional dynamic between Batman & Robin was particularly welcome. The creative teams integrate the product placement well, to the point that you probably wouldn’t recognize it if you weren’t looking for it. The issue also features almost a dozen ads for DC’s all-ages and young adult reader graphic novels, and for the Teen Titans Go and Scooby Doo, Where Are You? Comics.
This is a great package that’s clearly aimed at younger readers, though I question the $10 price tag for it, particularly when half of it is reprint material. Granted, the kids who might look at this book probably won’t recognize that there are reprints; still, DC has by all accounts had great success with their $5 Giants program at Walmart, a program that started with just four titles and now includes nearly a dozen titles being released both at Walmart and in comic shops. Those titles also feature a combination of new material and reprints, and for half the price of what Target is charging. Ten dollars for the Primal Age book almost made sense, considering that book was entirely new material; with Caped Crusader being more akin to the cheaper Walmart titles, though, the higher price point for this book is a head-scratcher.
Also in question is how retailers and fans will react to the stealth release of a store-exclusive book with new material in it. There was much consternation from retailers when the initial Walmart titles were released, with complaints about new material being offered exclusively outside of the direct market. Adding to that controversy was the inclusion of new work in the Walmart Giants by top-tier creators like Tom King, Andy Kubert, Brian Michael Bendis, and Nick Derington. The outcry ultimately led to the exclusive content being repackaged and offered to comic shops, and to the overall program being modified to bring the 100-page Giants to comic shops with new cover art (compared to reprint covers on the Walmart offerings).
Batman: The Caped Crusader 100-Page Giant features new cover art along with the new stories, though, and no word has been released by DC yet on whether this content will be made available to comic shops (actually, DC hasn’t said anything about this book publicly). As word spreads of this book’s existence, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of outcry, if any, arises.
Whether there’s controversy or not, Batman: The Caped Crusader 100-Page Giant is a pretty fun read, and one whose stories you can reenact once Spin Master’s DC Comics action figures start hitting store shelves later this year.