Even for a superhero, battling evil villains, saving the world and remaining relevant in the modern pop culture landscape can’t be easy at the age of 75. And yet Batman still shows no signs of slowing down as he reaches his diamond years.
Bruce Wayne’s alter ego turned 75 this year, and the milestone is being celebrated on Wednesday across the country and here in Stanislaus County during the aptly titled Batman Day.
Wednesday has been declared Batman Day by the Caped Crusader’s originator, DC Entertainment. Bookstores and comic book retailers in the region will receive special items to give away from DC, including a reprint of Detective Comics #27, where Batman made his first appearance in 1939. In addition, the Keyes Library has a special event planned for children Thursday.
Other items available, according to the DC Entertainment website, include a Batman 75th anniversary cape, bookmarks featuring essential Batman graphic novels and Batman masks designed by comic book artist Ryan Sook that spotlight a variety of the character’s iconic looks over the years, including those from Detective Comics #27; Batman ’66, inspired by the TV series starring Adam West; Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns”; and DC Comics – The New 52 series. Not all locations celebrating Batman Day will have all of the items to give away.
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For more than seven decades, Batman and his numerous incarnations have protected Gotham City from a litany of crazed villains. He’s evolved from starring in the original comic book to that kitschy Adam West TV series in the 1960s to several films, in which Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney and Christian Bale have taken turns residing in Wayne Manor. Ben Affleck next dons the cowl for a 2016 movie in which the Dark Knight faces his fellow senior citizen superhero: “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” (Side note: Superman turned 76 this year.)
Beyond his comic book origins, TV shows and films, there have been numerous cartoons, video games and books based on the Caped Crusader and the villains he’s faced down.
Jeff Allen, co-owner of Bonanza Books & Comics in Modesto, said 75 years have not diminished the character’s following. “Batman is probably the most popular thing that DC Comics is publishing right now,” Allen said. “They revitalized everything almost three years ago and it’s an excellent series to read.”
Bonanza and Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Modesto, as well as Sky High Comics in Turlock, will participate in Batman Day.
Bonanza, 2308 McHenry Ave., will celebrate the superhero from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday with a “Batnanza” of giveaways and appearances by characters from the comic series, including the Joker, Catwoman and Harley Quinn.
Allen said they’re expecting a crowd for the event and are bringing in extra staff. Among the giveaways will be promotional materials, some of the DC Batman masks and the special issue Detective Comics #27.
At Sky High Comics, 120 W. Main St. in Turlock, Glenda Brannon said they’ll have “Batman everything coming up for Batman Day,” including memorabilia, comics, posters and some of the giveaways from DC. The store will celebrate the superhero from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
In addition, artists will be on hand to do sketch covers for customers at Sky High. Sketch covers are comic books with blank white covers that artists draw images on to make one-of-a-kind items. People can purchase their sketch-cover comics and the artists will draw whatever image a client has in mind for an additional $5 to $10, depending on how complicated the artwork, Brannon said.
Barnes & Noble nationwide is making Batman Day part of its summer “Get Pop Cultured” series, which runs now through Aug. 10. The Modesto store, 3501 McHenry Ave., will celebrate Batman’s birthday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. with a costume contest for kids, giveaways and a chance for participants to win a mini Bat-Signal and limited edition T-shirt.
Christine Krippene, merchandise manager at the Modesto Barnes & Noble, said items given away will include the Detective Comics reprint and a limited number of the DC masks, bags, bookmarks and buttons.
Part of the children’s book department in the store will be decorated to look like the Gotham City skyline. For the costume contest, kids can go in anytime during the day to have their pictures taken in front of the skyline (with a parent-signed release). Pictures will be judged at the end of the day, and the winner will be contacted later.
At the Keyes Library, 4420 Maud Ave., the celebration will be Thursday beginning at 3 p.m. Children can play “Pin the Symbol on Batman,” make superhero crafts and pose for pictures with the Caped Crusader, who will make an appearance. Participants can attend dressed as their favorite superheroes, although costumes are not required. Cake and light refreshments will be available at the event sponsored by the Friends of the Keyes Library.
Despite his 75 years, Batman remains a vital superhero on the grand pop culture landscape.
“At the core, Batman still doesn’t kill people,” Bonanza’s Allen said of the character’s enduring popularity. “He still tries to do the right things in life.”