As of 2019, Batman has been around for 80 years, which is an amazing feat for such a strange idea. The fact that a fictional man who dresses as a vague approximation of a hated, rabid animal has become a universal conversation piece about heroism is nothing short of surreal. And his 80th year has been exceptional when it comes to weird Batman collectibles. We’ve rebounded from the overly-gritty Nolan and Dawn of Justice Batmen and back into a world of absolutely absurd Rainbow and Zebra Batmen, which everyone knows are the best ones.
This strange bounce back into Batman’s lighter days is accompanied by a newfound appreciation for Batman’s darkest, dorkiest period ever: the Schumacher films.
Batman & Robin and Batman Forever are regarded as cinematic trash, and the movies that tore Batman off the big screen for almost a full decade. But in retrospect, decades later, they don’t get enough credit for what they were. Sure, they weren’t able to mix the ridiculousness of comic books with the quirky darkness that Tim Burton brought to the series, but they instead went whole hog into being comic book movies, in every way that comics are gloriously strange and impossible and don’t feel the need to explain themselves. Whether this was accidental or intentional, who cares? It’s over 20 years later.
The Schumacher films hit at the perfect intersection between goofy 90s/early-00s movies and mechandising. The period was lousy with ill-conceived merch tie-ins, like the 1998 Nestle Nuclear Chocolate bar tie-in with the movie Armageddon. In 2002, kids were encouraged to suck on Jar Jar Binks’ tongue with Mega Mouth Candy. As late as 2004, Spidey Signal toys were trying to poison your morning cereal with mercury. The shamelessness is admirable.
Companies like Funko are now resurfacing the weirdo costume aesthetics from Batman & Robin with their Pop! line of bobbleheads, and even Chinese bootlego makers are giving us Clooney Batman after exhausting everything from Tartan Batman to Deadpool Batman… but it’s the authentic 1990s collectibles that are excellent. Enter : pogs. Or should we say ‘SkyCaps’, because Pogs is a registered trademark that Warner Bros. was not allowed to borrow.
They glow in the dark (or ‘GLoW iN ThE DaRk’, as the packaging says), they come with cardboard weapons, and they’re wonderful. Merits of the movie aside, you have to respect a set of pogs that has so little care for Robin that they can barely find different pictures of him to use. Robin, Closer Robin, Slightly Rotated Robin, Same Robin on White Background, and Smiling Robin all agree : this was low-effort. And it’s also a great example of how boring pogs could be.
The set, eight sheets of nine pogs each, covers the main characters of the movie : Batman, Two-Face, Riddler… all of the classics. Of course, no Batman pog is a bad pog, even if they’re just different lighting effects on the same shot. And it’s a good mix of Batman’s classic costume, and his less-fortunate, late-movie costume.
The villains, for what they are, are another aspect of this that are pure comic book, and kind of a relief from the washed-out tones that every modern hero and villain on the big screen wears. Two-Face was a few decades ahead of his time with his exceptional neon patterning, and everyone gets to enjoy at least one costume change by the end of the movie. Does Jim Carrey’s Riddler from two very slightly different angles make for a great SkyCap? Nope, but Two-Face using The Club to immobilize a helicopter’s steering wheel didn’t age well either.
While Tommy Lee Jones and Carrey both compete to do their worst Joker impersonations to a truly embarrassing degree, Nicole Kidman’s Dr. Chase Meridian is equally unsubtle in her confused, unmitigated lust for anyone with a fat wallet. The pogs also express an odd fixation on ‘Sugar’, played by Drew Barrymore, with nary a pog for Debi Mazar’s ‘Spice’, which is truly unfair.
All said, it’s a pretty stunning film visually. Between its neon-soaked moments and its series of Riddler clues that really look like they were made by a strung-out inventor in his arts-and-crafts lab, it’s a movie that was built for toys and trading cards. Ignore Jim Carrey jacking himself around every other scene and you have a pretty solid goofy movie.
These Batman Forever SkyCaps with into a few subsets of pog collecting : Batman pogs, (which includes a complete set based around the Knightfall storyline and a small set from Batman Returns, and even a few completely different Batman Forever sets), and really unnecessary movie pogs, which spans things like The Brady Bunch Movie, Junior, and Congo. Technically, this set also meets perfectly with the height of Jim Carrey’s career, so keeping these right next to your Mask and Dumb and Dumber pogs (both real things) would be a fitting tribute to how briefly popular both experiences were.
Even more specifically, in 1995, pogs were so popular that retailers could dedicate display cases to these large sheets of pogs, and would would actually spend a few bucks per sheet. Less than 2 years later, pogs were tossed into the trash, and nobody wanted to make pogs from The Cable Guy or Ace Ventura : When Nature Calls. You won’t even find pogs for 1997’s Batman & Robin. The phenomenon was dead. But for one brief, shining moment, the crappy stars aligned, and there was at least one overly elaborate, glowing, weaponized set of Batman Forever pogs.
C. David is a writer and artist living in the Hudson Valley, NY. He loves pinball, Wazmo Nariz, Rem Lezar, MODOK, pogs, Ultra Monsters, 80s horror, and is secretly very enthusiastic about everything else not listed here.