In the months leading up to The Flash’s release, there was a lot of positive hype surrounding the movie, including a report comparing its quality to The Dark Knight. And yet, not only did the second of 2023’s DC movies receive more mixed critical reception, it ended up being a box office bomb, making just $268.5 million worldwide off a reported $300 million budget. As it turns out, The Flash’s commercial failure has negatively affected other corners of the DC Comics media empire, but as a silver lining, there is a fun way that Michael Keaton’s Batman has emerged a big winner in the aftermath.
Let’s start with the bad news first. According to Matt Devoe, co-founder of CovrPrivce, which keeps track of comic book sales online, The Flash’s failure to hit with audiences has resulted in sales of DC’s Flash comic books and products revolving around The Fastest Man Alive taking a blow. As Devoe told THR:
Flash books are down. Anything related to this film is kind of dropping. The Flash film didn’t have anything for fans to take and speculate on. In fact, it’s led to a lot of confusion of, ‘OK, what is DC doing with their future lineup?’
Flash comic books have been regularly published for decades now, and while it’s unlikely the movie’s underwhelming box office performance will result in DC cancelling the main title (which is focused on Wally West these days rather than Barry Allen, for what it’s worth), it’s nonetheless unfortunate to hear that it’s become collateral damage, particularly when it comes to the price of classic issues. This is a sharp contrast from another superhero entry on the 2023 movie release schedule, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, which now sees Miles Morales’ first appearance in the comics, Ultimate Fallout #4, once going for $2,000 and now leveling out at $1,600, vs. the $50 it fetched prior to the sequel’s release.
Now let’s talk the good news for Michael Keaton’s Batman. Toys are a pivotal aspect of a mainstream superhero movie’s merchandising tie-ins, and while sales on this front for The Flash also took a blow, Jordan Hembrough, founder of the toy retail site Hollywood Heroes, shared that the toys modeled after Keaton’s take on the Caped Crusader came out on top. In his words:
When you look at the Flash toys, the character from the movie that outsold everything else was Batman and the Batmobile. And it’s because people have this connection to Michael Keaton and his portrayal of the 1989 Batman.
Having starred as Gotham City’s shadowy protector in 1989’s Batman and 1992’s Batman Returns, Michael Keaton was the live-action Batman for a generation and continues to collect new fans. So it’s not surprising that there were plenty of people who wanted toys modeled after the actor and his character’s Batmobile, although ironically, that set of wheels were never taken out for a spin in The Flash. Kenton’s Batman only piloted the Batwing in this movie, while Ben Affleck’s Batman chased down Alberto Falcone and his goons on the Batcycle.
Sadly, for those of you who enjoyed seeing Kenton’s Batman back in action, it looks like this was his last hurrah. A few years back, the plan was for Keaton to take over as the DC Extended Universe’s Bruce Wayne from Affleck, which included him cameoing in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom and having a supporting role in Batgirl. Cut to the present day, Aquaman 2 has scrapped its Batman cameo, Batgirl was shelved and much of the DCEU continuity is being wiped away by the new DC Universe franchise. So while it’s now George Clooney who’s replaced Affleck as the DCEU’s Bruce, a new actor will put on the cape and cowl for The Brave and the Bold, which is part of the DC Universe’s Chapter One slate.
If you missed seeing The Flash in theaters, it’ll be available to stream with a Max subscription starting Friday. Otherwise, the latest DC movie, Blue Beetle, is now playing on the big screen, and be sure to check out what’s on the upcoming DC movies lineup.