Friday, July 31, 2009

A Collection Kicks Off...

This is the figure that kicked off my Bat-collection.

I bought him in 1986 while at the local grocery/drug store. I had no idea what this figure would lead to! I just bought him because I thought he looked cool and would be fun to have on my shelf next to my comics. I had no plans to start a collection of any kind, at that point. Apparently, I paid $4.39 for him. That seems like a lot for 1986.

I opened him but saved the card back and comic book. I'm sure I have the comic book around, somewhere. The packaging is a bit worn but the figure has held up nicely. Of course, I bought him when I was around 19 and just let him sit on a shelf and stay minty.

Kenner's Super Powers Batman (to the best of my knowledge) was the first Batman action figure produced by a company other than Mego. In retrospect, it's kind of funny to think that there was basically only one new Batman figure produced during the entire 1980's until 1989 when Tim Burton's first Batman film was released. If you wanted a Batman figure in the mid-80's, this was your guy.

Send a photo of your first Batman to and we'll post it next week.

Brian A

The One That Started It All

Brian B here and this is the first item in my Bat-collection.

It was a key chain that the Applause company released in 1989 before Tim Burton's Batman movie came out.

I carried this around with me for quite a while.

I was glad when I found the key chain.
I was twenty four and newly married yet I wanted a Batman toy.
I thought the key chain was a good compromise, a toy yet practical.

Not many pictures were leaked before the movie came out and I was confused when I saw some Applause figures that had Batman dressed in all black.

"Batman's suit isn't black." I thought. So most of the early things I bought held to my ideal of how Batman should look.

Even today when I have a choice between a black suited Batman or a blue and gray one. Blue and gray still wins out.

Oh, I no longer struggle with buying toys.
That year people gave me plenty of toys and my wife threw me a great Bat-party with a Bat-cake that had other Applause toys on it.

Bat-blog even posted pictures of it HERE.
What was your first Bat-item in your collection?

Mail us a picture and a short story and we will post them here next week.
Mail them to

Friday, July 24, 2009

Q and A: Meet the Hosts of UTGP

When did you first encounter Batman?

Brian B = I was first exposed to Batman through the Adam West television series in the 1960's. I was born in 1965 and the television series began in 1966. So, my parents must have watched it with me. They said my first three words were "Momma, Dada and Batman."

Brian A = My earliest memories of Batman are from the very early 1970's when I first saw the 60's Batman television show at a friend's house (no cable at my house). I also remember having a Ben Cooper Jiggler rubber figure and a few comics before the Batman Mego characters started showing up on toy store shelves. My strongest childhood Batman memories revolve around the Mego figures, dressing up in Batman costumes, and catching as many episodes of the TV show as I could.

Were there any early indications that you would still be "tuning in" to Batman in your adulthood?

Brian B = Well, besides my first words, my Mom also said one of my early elementary school report cards had a note written on it that said "Brian daydreams about being Batman during class.". I think that showed that this would be a continual thought pattern from early on in life.

Brian A = Not really. If only I had carried a "Batman Forever" credit card as a child. That might have tipped me off.

Do you have any Batman memorabilia from your childhood?

Brian B = Sadly, I don't think so. I had plenty of Batman toys growing up but they were well played with and the ones that didn't get thrown away probably fell victim to yards sales.
I do have fond memories and photos of some but I am hoping I will come across one of my originals as I dig though my collection for Under The Giant Penny.

Brian A = Although I've replaced many Batman items I had as a child, I don't really have any original childhood items left. With that being said, I do have the gray jumpsuit and body from my first Mego Batman figure. I've since added pieces to those two items to put together a complete Mego Batman with my childhood toy parts as a base. So, I guess that's kind of a "yes" and "no" answer.

After 40 plus years of comics, t.v., and movies, why Batman?

Brian B = First of all, there are a lot of Batmen out there today be it in movies or comics and I only like certain ones. I cling to the old school versions of Batman not the dirtier, grittier ones. I like the innocent Batmen. The pure in heart, the fighters for justice. My Batman doesn't swear and though he is a vigilante he works as much within the confines of just laws as possible.
I have and old radio show of Batman and it calls him "a fighter for righteousness and battling the evil forces of crime" yeah. No super powers either. Just will and determination. Oh, and a lot of money. Thats why I am still a Batman fan.

Brian A = He's such a great character. There's just something so cool about the imagery and his gallery of villains that keeps it fresh and fun. It also doesn't hurt that the character's massive popularity allows for an almost constant stream of movies and animated incarnations of the character to keep things interesting and "new." Plus, deep down, I want to be Batman (don't we all?). It was particularly funny (and stinging) to me that the pathetic Batman "wannabe" in The Dark Knight that gets killed by the Joker is named Brian.

When did you start collecting the Caped Crusader?

Brian B = I have always liked Batman and Bat "things" but after the 70's there wasn't much Bat-stuff around until 1989. With the release of the Tim Burton movie, Batman, Bat-stuff was everywhere.
The movie came out pretty close to my birthday and friends and family, knowing me well, pretty much gave me a good collection in a single day. So July 1989 for me.

Brian A = I started collecting in the mid-1980's. I had started reading Batman comics again and was really enjoying the stuff that was being published at the time. Frank Miller's Dark Knight series was really the catalyst that got the ball rolling again. I picked up a Super Powers Batman figure while at the grocery store. I felt a little odd as a 19 year-old buying an action figure (these days I'm so old that no one bats an eye, they probably assume I'm buying for my kids) but it just seemed like it would be fun to have a little plastic Batman on my shelf with my comics. I bought a few Batman items here and there afterwards (the large Hamilton Gifts Batman, Robin, and Joker come to mind) but didn't really start collecting Batman as a hobby until the first film in 1989 and the merchandising blitz that came with it.

Do you display your collection?

Brian B = Yes. In 1989, it was just a few figures arranged on the VCR beside the television. These came down when my children learned to pull themselves up and began jamming the figures into the VCR. I have always had some Bat-things around at work through the years but the Bat-room didn't happen until about three years ago.
My family and I had toured the "Heroes" museum and my wife finally saw my collection as more than just Brian's stuff. She said, "You know your collection isn't that different than this. You should display it." That was the fastest wife project I ever jumped on. We now have a room that is still functional to the family but is affectionately called "The Bat-room."

Brian A = Somewhat. I'm an illustrator and it's always been fun to have Batman memorabilia displayed around my studio (figures, Batmobiles, etc.). I tend to rotate what's on display from time to time by pulling some items out of storage and, likewise, storing some of the items that have had some display time. I only wish I had the space to display much more of my collection. It's a dream of mine to one day have enough display space to show the majority of my collection. It will probably never happen but it's fun to think about what it would be like to be able to see my collection all at once.

Where do you store the items not being displayed?

Brian B = In cardboard boxes and storage containers which are in the attic, garage, closet, car and at work.

Brian A = Locked away in the, crawlspace. It looks like the final scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark down there. Boxes and boxes and boxes.

Do you dress up as Batman?

Brian B = In full Batman mode? No. I do not have a full costume. I do wear Batman attire nearly everyday. This is in the form of T-shirts, hats and yes, underwear. Tmi?

Brian A = Only when crime starts ramping up a bit where I live. Actually, no, not on purpose. I illustrated a graphic novel once (Batman: Absolution) that required photos of a model in a Batman suit for drawing reference. Once, my model couldn't make it to a photo shoot and I was behind on my deadline. So, I put on the cowl and spandex to shoot very dimly lit shots with my camera's timer to use for art reference. It wasn't pretty. So, I DO have a full Batman costume. Do I wear it? No, not if I can help it. I have enough "body image issues," thank you.

What does your wife think of your collection?

Brian B = I think she has grown to love it because she loves me.
Here is a recent conversation though.
Me looking through her phone, "You have more pictures of the dog on here than you do of me!"
Wife's reply, "You have more pictures of Batman than me on yours."
Wife wins.

Brian A = "Collection? What collection?" (she's in denial) My wife tolerates my obsession with the Bat-stuff. She gets a little upset sometimes with the amount of space that my collection takes up. She's a trooper, though, and supports my addiction on Christmas, Anniversaries, and Birthdays. It's my hobby and it helps to keep me sane. So, for the most part, she's okay with it. She even calls me from toy aisles every once in awhile to see if I "need" anything. Although, a question I hear all-too-often is, "Why do you keep buying things just to store them away in boxes?!"

How about the kids or extended family?

Brian B = My kids love it. They love everything superheros just like their Dad.

Brian A = My two older kids don't have much interest in Batman. They are probably a little embarrassed about Dad having so much Batman stuff around. Although, deep down I think they enjoy it. My two younger boys are still into Batman and Superheroes. So, they love seeing all the stuff on display. My ten year-old has quite a collection of his own.

Does your collection "concern" people in your family?

Brian B = I think it does some people. The "Aren't you a grown man?" kinda looks with the eye roll as they turn away kinda stuff. I don't care. I like it.
As a matter of fact, the extended family loves the fact that I collect Batman when it is Christmas or birthdays roll around. They say its like shopping for a ten year old.
My wife has stopped me every now and then, grabbed me by the arm and said "You do know Batman isn't real, right?"

Brian A = Not that I'm aware of. They're probably just being nice...and hoping I don't "snap."

Why did you agree to call this blog "Under the Giant Penny"?

Brian B = Because Batman is a collector too. He has a trophy room in the Batcave. He is sentimental. He can't just throw stuff away because it is old or outdated either. He has all of his old Batmobiles. And I don't think he would jump into the an old model to pursue a criminal today so it's memories and nostalgia. I have no life size Batmobiles or T-rexes. My stuff would be found under the giant penny.

Brian A = For one thing, I kind of like the fact that it's probably a little odd sounding to those unfamiliar with Batman and the Batcave. Also, whenever you see all of Batman's trophies and memorabilia in the Batcave, there's always that giant penny looming in the background. It just seems fitting to consider all the great Batman memorabilia from the past 70 years to be "under the penny," as well.

Have you ever considered seeking "professional help" to curb your collecting habits?

Brian B = Nope. Unless they would give me money to install a Bat-pole in the house. I think this would be good therapy. If they would agree to this then, yes, I would consider help.

Brian A = No, but I definitely find myself in fleeting moments of rationality thinking, "What am I doing? Why do I need all this stuff?" I still don't have an answer. Maybe I do need help.

Is there a particular item you "left on the shelf" in the past that has you kicking yourself with regret now?

Brian B = Pretty much anything left on the shelf I kick myself for not buying a couple of years later.
One thing I wish I would have bought though extends way back into the 1970's. The Corgi 1970's Batmobile and Batboat. My Mom owned a store when I was a kid and in the summer I would go to work with her. I would always go to the toy store and stare at these in the glass, locked cabinet. I never knew how much they were and I don't think I ever even asked my parents for them. In my mind if they were in a lit, glass cabinet that was locked I figured it was to expensive for me to even know the price. I wish I would have gotten them though.

Brian A = I used to love to wander around the Warner Brothers Studio stores (RIP) in the 1990's when I would visit other cities. They always had gobs of Batman stuff and it was always one of the highlights of the trip. They usually had some kind of really cool expensive thing that I wanted to take home but couldn't because of the price. One time, they had a really nice-looking Batman maquette/statue from the Animated Series that was an "outrageous" $150. Now, the maquette goes for $400 - $500. Sigh. They released a really cool Batman Beyond one, also, that cries out to me from time to time.

Do you see yourself continuing to collect in 10 years? 20 years?

Brian B = Oh yeah! I don't see Batman going anywhere. So yes, I will continue to add to my collection.

Brian A = I don't see an end to my sickness. I don't think there's a cure. Even if the character falls out of favor with the general public, there's oodles and oodles of Batman collectibles already out there to keep me collecting for a long, long time. So, I'll probably be a pathetic old man sitting in my Bat Rocking Chair still searching ebay for one more cool Batman item to put on the shelf...or in a box.

Do you have a "holy grail" type item missing from your collection that you would like to have?

Brian B = I would say that I would love to have anything from the 1960's television series. A pencil, book or foam rock. Just something that I could find on the show and pause it and say, "I have that."

Brian A = I'm also a classic video game and pinball machine enthusiast. So, I'd love to have the pinball machine from the first 1989 Batman movie...or the video arcade game. Space issues (and a wife keenly aware of space issues) will probably keep these items out of reach for the foreseeable future, if ever. I would also love to have some of the Batman Mego toys mint and still sealed.

Do you have any specific plans for your collection when you are "gone?"

Brian B = My wife refuses to let me answer this question. She doesn't like to think about me being gone.

Brian A = I'll let Robin figure out what to do with it all.

What is your favorite Batman movie?

Brian B = I would have to say Batman Begins. As much as I love all the other Bat-movies I like how this one showed him becoming Batman and I liked that. I know this would be considered a grittier Batman but he held to all the basics of Batman. My number two choice would be Batman Returns.

Brian A = Tough question. I like 3 or 4 of them quite a bit. If forced, I would pick the first 1989 Tim Burton Batman film. It was so cool to see a modern "take" on Batman in a live-action film for the first time. It was also a fun time to be a Batman collector with all the goodies on store shelves that accompanied the release of the film. A close second would be Batman Begins. It got SO MANY things right. I only wish that its version of Gotham City had more of that "timeless quality" that it did in Burton's films.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Hello and Welcome!

Welcome to Under the Giant Penny. We'll be showcasing toys and collectibles from many different eras of the Batman. One week, you might see something from the 1960s and then, the next, you might see something released this year.

This won't be any kind of definitive collecting guide... more like a random exploration of all the cool, wacky, and odd Batman toys and collectibles that have been on the market during the life of everyone's favorite Dark Knight Detective... the Batman.