Batman – “A Word to the Wise” – Review
Branded content has been around for a long time. It’s usually pretty good for marketing. You provide content that people will enjoy and attach your name to it. Branded podcasts are starting to pop up now.
But never before have I seen a branded comic book, apart from Batman “A Word to the Wise”. Here’s an excerpt from the fine print on the first page:
This comic book has been sponsored by Zellers Inc. to support and promote the cause for literacy in Canada.
No kidding on the fine print here – I actually used a magnifying glass to read it.
The comic begins in Montreal, Quebec, where some kids are trying to get a good view of fireworks. Batman swoops in to save the day when one such kid ignores warning signs on a rickety fire escape, suggesting that a little bit of reading goes a long way!
We turn to Toronto, where Joey is trying to convince Joanie to ditch the boring library and go to the Canadian National Exhibition – which apparently won’t wait forever, you know.
Meanwhile, Batman, driving in the middle of the road between Montreal and Toronto, comments on how nice the drive is, and that it’s no wonder The Joker would make his way down to Toronto. I guess there’s logic there? The Joker likes farmhouses and country side? Moving on.
Apparently The Joker is after a rare 1867 edition of “The Geography of Canada”, and was making his way across the country, starting in Newfoundland. He’s made his way to Toronto, and that’s where Batman is headed (thanks to insight from his Bat-Computer). Thanks to the wonders of 90’s technology, Batman is able to immediately fax a copy of his reports to the RCMP!
Batman tracks down Joker to a library, but he escapes. But the book The Joker is after is with Joanie – who is now in danger! Batman tracks down Joanie, but The Joker follows Batman and traps them all in the CNE.
The Joker gets his hand on the rare geography book, and tears it in half – disappointed that “it” isn’t in the book. Apparently, there’s something inside this rare geography book that he’s looking for. What could it be?
Batman, using Joanie and Joey’s help (after all, they know more about Canada than Batman does!), head west after the Joker to Alberta, and make stop “at the local Zellers store just outside Edmonton.” They proceed to note that it’s “terrific that there’s always a Zellers nearby when you need one”.
Batman is too late, as the Joker found the parchment in the binding of the geography book he was looking for. It looks like Joker’s headed to the Calgary Stampede (or perhaps, just a rodeo?) to make some sort of announcement to the world.
Joker claims that the parchment he found was a land grant, giving him full legal claim to all of North America west of Cape Spear. He demands to be proclaimed rightful ruler of the entire continent within 24 hours or have the entire populace evicted.
Batman hog-ties The Joker in record time, and saves the day. The RCMP arrive to deal with everything else Batman leaves behind, leaving the issue of this strange land grant!
Apparently the option on the deed had to be exercised within 125 years of the date of signing, but this very day happens to be 125 years and ONE day after the signing! So Joker’s claim is void. His henchmen tell him he should have read the fine print, and Joey realizes that reading DOES have its uses after all!
This book is as cheesy as it gets, and definitely follows the mold of Adam West’s Batman with lines like:
“You heard the lady! This is a library – and your card’s just been cancelled!”
There are some other gems, like:
“Look, can we just shelve this reading stuff for the time being?”
The writing is actually not that bad, for a commercial tie-in. I think the best moment in the book is when Batman hog ties The Joker, and yells out, “Clear!” – clearly knowing exactly what to do in a rodeo. You see, children, Batman is well-read. See how useful reading is?
Throughout the entire book, there are double-sided, single page ads with coupons advertising various products sold only at Zellers. As an adult, it’s fairly obvious that this comic book was designed completely to advertise, but if you were a kid reading it, it would just be a fun Batman story.
And for a piece of branded content, this was actually quite good. The Joker seems to be very much in character (he has some cheesy tricks up his sleeve – literally – and dresses up like a cowboy). The plot, while simple, doesn’t seem to have any holes in it. I think that’s BECAUSE it’s so simple.
Anyway, if you ever come across this book – it’s worth picking up for some of the strange appearances in it; I mean, seeing a big Zellers store front show up on one of the pages is something you don’t normally see (and naturally, will never see again).
2.5 out of 5!