Sept. 15 to be a ‘Batman Day’ to remember

DC Comics is making Sept. 15 a Batman Day to remember.

Batman Day, a promotional gimmick the publisher has offered since 2014, usually has a variety of freebies and specials at participating comic shops, bookstores and libraries, and this year will be no exception. But this year’s Batman Day will have a huge video component, as it will see the launch of DC’s new streaming service, DC Universe.

Here in the analog world, fans can nab a free copy of “Batman: The White Knight” #1 at participating shops. “White Knight” was an eight-issue miniseries featuring a Joker cured of madness, by writer/artist Sean Murphy. The freebie arrives a month before the collected edition does, and includes a preview of “Batman: Damned,” a new mature-readers series by writer Brian Azzarello and artist Lee Bermejo.

Younger readers can snag an issue of “Batman: A Lot of Li’l Gotham,” which features chibi versions of Gotham’s famous cast. Some shops will have activity kits aimed at younger fans.

Digital retailers like Amazon Kindle, comiXology and ReadDC.com will offer sales on Batman titles. DC has also partnered with DK, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Random House Children’s Books, Scholastic and Simon & Schuster, so Batman Day might pop up at any given bookstore or library.

For more information on Batman Day, go to dccomics.com/batmanday. To find a participating comic shop, go to comicshoplocator.com.

Meanwhile, as they say in comics, Kevin Smith – movie director, actor and occasional comics writer – hosted a 150-minute live stream Aug. 29 touted as the first edition of “DC Daily” – a weekday program that will appear on the new streaming service with “breaking news, panels, special guests and exclusive giveaways.”

The daily show will be hosted by longtime DC presenters Tiffany Smith and Hector Navarro. They will be supported in unspecified ways by John Barrowman (Merlyn on “Arrow”), Harley Quinn Smith (Kevin Smith’s daughter) and Samm Levine (“Freaks and Geeks”). But while he was on “DC Daily,” Smith took the opportunity to break the news on the DC Universe launch date.

“Batman Day, Saturday, Sept. 15, DC is pulling out all the stops,” he said. “So you definitely want to be locked in with DC Universe on the 15th – on Batman Day. Doesn’t that make sense? That’s the day we celebrate the death of Batman’s parents. It’s a very confusing holiday.”

All jokes aside, that’s pretty soon, and it looks like DC may have rushed the launch a bit. One of the attractions of the service is new programming based on DC properties. But the first – a live-action show called “Titans” – won’t begin until Oct. 12. (The first episode will be previewed Oct. 3 at the New York Comic Con.)

That show will be based loosely on the comic book series “New Teen Titans,”which rebooted the 1960s “team of sidekicks” concept in 1980 with a more sophisticated take. From the seven characters who starred in that book 30-plus years ago, “Titans” will feature four:

 Dick “Robin” Grayson (Brandon Thwaites), recently separated from Batman and finding his own way;

 Gar “Beast Boy” Logan (Ryan Potter), a former Doom Patrol mascot with the power to change into any animal;

 Koriand’r (Anna Diop), known as “Starfire,” an alien princess super-charged with solar energy; and

 Rachel “Raven” Roth (Teagan Croft), a mystic born from the union of a human woman and an other-dimensional demon.

Not included are three characters busy elsewhere. You may have seen Wally “Kid Flash” West on various CW shows. The second is Donna “Wonder Girl” Troy, who was played by Debra Winger on the 1975 “Wonder Woman” TV series, and will probably appear in the Wonder Woman movies. The third is Victor “Cyborg” Stone, who was re-written to be a founding member of the Justice League in 2011 – and is also scheduled for another DC Universe show.

What is that show? Spinning off from “Titans” in 2019 is the heavily anticipated live-action adaptation called “Doom Patrol.” Billed in the 1960s as “The World’s Strangest Heroes,” the D.P. is a group of people who were victims of crippling tragedies but re-built with super-powers. The show will include the entire original lineup, which consisted of Niles “The Chief” Caulder (no casting announced), a genius in a wheelchair; Cliff “Robotman” Steele (Brendan Fraser), a human brain in a robot body; Rita “Elasti-Girl” Farr (April Bowlby), who can shrink or increase any part or all of her body; and Larry “Negative Man” Trainor (Dwain Murphy), who has a radioactive creature living in his body.

They will be joined by Cyborg (Joivan Wade), who will send them on missions, and Kay “Crazy Jane” Challis (Diane Guerrero), whose multiple personalities have different super-powers. Crazy Jane was added in a famous 1990s “Doom Patrol” run written by the legendary Grant Morrison (“Happy!”), a run which included the villain Mr. Nobody, who will be played by Alan Tudyk (“Powerless”) on the show.

Other new shows planned for 2019 are “Harley Quinn” (animated), “Stargirl” (live action), “Swamp Thing” (live action) and “Young Justice: Outsiders” (animated). That last is a different take on the Teen Titans concept, which had previously appeared for two seasons on Cartoon Network from 2010 to 2013.

Smith went on to describe a great amount of pre-existing material that will be available on the service. There’s a lot, so let me sum it up for you.

Live action

Given the Batman Day launch, you could guess that a lot of Bat-movies would be available – and you’d be right. Look for “Batman” (1989), “Batman Begins,” “Batman Forever,” “Batman Returns” and “The Dark Knight.” Other movies include “Superman: The Movie,” “Superman II” and “Superman III.”

From TV, the 1975 “Wonder Woman” show will be available in HD for the first time. Other shows include “The Adventures of Superboy,” “Birds of Prey,” “Constantine,” “The Flash” (1990) and “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.”

Animated

In addition to all the various animated shows DC has produced over the years, Warner Home Video has released dozens of made-for-video movies featuring DC characters. That’s all available for the service.

Is there plenty of Batman? Oh, yes. Look for “Batman: The Animated Series” (in HD for the first time), “Batman Beyond,” “Batman: The Brave and Bold,” “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.” “Batman: Gotham by Gaslight,” “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm,” “Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman,” “Batman vs. Robin,” Batman: Year One” and “Son of Batman.”

Non-Bat material includes “Green Lantern: First Flight,” “Justice League,” “Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox,” “Justice League Unlimited,” “Static Shock,” “Super Friends” (all nine seasons), “Teen Titans” (2003), “Wonder Woman” and “Young Justice” (the first two seasons).

Like the live-action material, the animated content will be rotated every month or so.

Comic books

Yep, you can read comics on this service, too – thousands of them to start, according to Smith. And you can read them, he said, on “the best online comic reader in the game.”

“The suits in marketing call it Living Room Experience,” he said. “But we call it Couch Mode.”

The comics will be broken up into sections – if the “DC Daily” presentation is to be believed – such as First Appearances, Classic Stories, Essentials, Classic Moments and Fan Favorites. And the lineup is impressive: “The Death of Superman,” “Identity Crisis,” Jack Kirby’s “New Gods,” “Flashpoint” and Wonder Woman’s first full story in “Sensation Comics” #1 (1942), paired with her revamp in the second “Wonder Woman” #1 (1987). These are significant turning points in DC history that deserve wider exposure.

Smith says the issues available will be refreshed every few months, and even new comics will be available (although he wasn’t specific). It seems unlikely that DC would undercut their comic-shop sales with too many new comics on the service, but any would be welcome.

There’s more still, from message boards to exclusive merchandise. What that means is something we’ll all find out on Sept. 15.

To sign up for DC Universe, go to https://www.dcuniverse.com. It costs $7.99 per month, or $74.99 a year. Pre-subscribers (before Sept. 15) who buy the annual option will get three additional months and be entered in a sweepstakes, the winner of which gets a tour of the Batman studio, a tour of the DC Comics headquarters and a ride in the Batmobile.

So Batman Day 2018 is a pretty big deal. But don’t worry that Batman Day 2019 will be a letdown – next year is Batman’s 80th anniversary. The year-long celebration begins Sept. 16!