THE DARK KNIGHT STYLE B “WHY SO SERIOUS?” POSTER
There’s been quite a bit of mystery surrounding The Dark Knight Style B poster. Released around December 2007, it generated quite a stir due to its striking artwork depicting Batman’s greatest foe. Dark and disturbing, it’s become one of the most startling poster images of the past year or so, but due to a tragic event in the middle of its advertising campaign, it’s since become one of the most sought after posters of recent times, commanding upwards of $150 online, even from “reputable” sellers. Heath Ledger’s passing was not only tragic for the film industry, it also fuelled an immense amount of greed amongst those who suddenly found a perfect way to cash in on his demise.
Ever since Ledger departed us at the age of 28 on Jan 22nd 2008, rumours have been flying that Warner Bros. demanded a recall on all known copies of this specific design. Some suggested the likelihood was that the distributors were already preparing the next phase of their marketing campaign. In fact, one week prior to the news of the actor’s death, theatres had been receiving the Style A posters, so we can take it to mean that these would have replaced the more popular Style B “Why So Serious?” regardless. This assumption is further substantiated by the arrival of a studio memo included in poster shipments for theatres. Thus, we can remove some unwanted stigma surrounding Ledger’s untimely death and simply state that, no matter what any seller is saying with regards to this poster being recalled, they’re handing out false information as the poster was never recalled.
It’s no surprise, then, that the reproductions would make an appearance relatively sharpish in order for others to rake in the kind of cash that the original double-sided (DS) had been enjoying for the past few months. The good thing is that the current run of reproduced Style B posters have so many patchy areas that they’re simple enough to spot. The following is a run down of differences between one such example and the original, both in my personal collection. I should point out that the lighting conditions under which these photos were taken under are not to the best standard. Some areas proved trickier than others and had to be done under different light, so please ignore any orange-y type hues. The differences illustrated between both posters, I feel, are significantly noticeable nonetheless, and I have made efforts to get most as close as possible in appearance.
The original 1-sheet is shown on the right:
STOCK & DIMENSIONS:
The most immediate difference is in how differently the quality of paper feels. The official DS 1-sheet has a much smoother sheen to it, whereas the reproduction feels a tad rougher on both sides, particularly on the bottom half, presumably on account of a darker ink base. First of all, we’ll take a look at the sizes between these posters. The official DS 1-sheet measures 27 x 40.1 inches next to this reproduction at 27 x 39.9 inches. Therefore, there is noticeable cropping both vertically and horizontally on the reproduction.
Picture 2 Picture 3 Picture 6
If we look at picture 2 (original on the right), not only is the colour balance different – more of which later - but the building farthest right is slightly cropped in the reproduction. If you look toward the top right of the building on the original poster to the right, you will see that there is an evident corner there, whereas in the repro it shows no signs of ending. Picture 3 (original on the left) also shows cropping, but this portion of the poster is more hindered by the darker hues, which makes the angled lines above the chimney even less defined than on the original. Incidentally, it’s in this area that I find both posters to be oddly designed. It’s almost impossible to make the distinction that those lines are in fact belonging to an office building in the background. Picture 6 (original on the right) shows an example of how much is cropped off the top, while also showing off the heavy blue colours in the reproduction. Though, again, I stress lighting conditions probably make it look worse than it is.
COLOURS, GRADIENTS & TONE
Also easily discerned is that the reproduction (suspected of being a bootleg rather than a reprint) is generally darker all around, having crushed blacks/higher contrast levels which all but eliminate shadow detail. Take a look at the following picture and notice the Joker’s apparent lack of digits and lost sleeve detail in the reproduction on the left. In the second photo below, you’ll notice that the lighter shaded area of which the ‘E’ overlaps is missing on the reproduction (poster on right) and is instead black.
Similarly, look at the disturbing smile: see how the red smear is almost missing in the reproduction on the right (also worth pointing out here the overly blue tint in his hair). Furthermore, see the bottom of the next image (original bottom) and notice how the bat symbol has a darker shade, but sharpness is less defined.
And here we have the “Why so serious?“, with the original’s red balance having a lighter tone (upper poster), whilst the reproduction has a curiously more bloodied tint. Not that the official print’s isn’t grim enough, mind you, in addition to featuring heavier grain and harsher blue tones.
The original DS has a much cooler/frostier blue, which gives off a glacial feel in the background, while the reproduction (to the left) goes overboard with high saturation and lacks a certain amount of subtlety. The following photo shows the slightly harsher blue shade again. This was a detail more difficult to capture on camera, however, as on the left reproduced poster vertical streaking is far more noticeable to the naked eye.
And while on the general quality of the printing, the reproduction also has some shoddy scan lines, both vertically and horizontally. The worst offender appears in the following photo, although there are several other examples, notably at the top of the image which show minor blue vertical lines, both front and reverse.
Now you’ll notice I’ve taken shots of both posters front and back, but not gone into incredible detail surrounding the differences between the reverse sides. Well that’s basically because there isn’t any. That is to say the reverse side of the original is identical to the front, and likewise the reproduction’s back is the same as it’s front. It’s something of a rare occasion in that the original run of Style B posters didn’t have a lighter colour gradient applied; something often used for posters designed to be displayed in theatre light-boxes. This final photo shows an imperfection on the original DS 1-sheet that isn’t present on the reproduction. Notice to the lower right of the ‘T’ on the right poster a small pink-ish dot. It could well be that only my copy is affected by this, much like the reproduction’s black scan lines might only be on my copy. But it’s worth a mention, just in case.
Special thanks to “The Archie Leach Experience” for the use of the photos of the Warners request letter.
(Kev can be found on the NSFGE poster forum.)
* ALERT ADDENDUM 7/19/08*
As of the release of this movie on 7/18/08, reprints of THE DARK KNIGHT Style B “Why So Serious?” poster have been appearing in stores and on eBay. They are packaged with a gold seal sticker label on the outside plastic claiming “Double-sided Original Theatrical Movie Posters”. These are not original movie posters meant for use in movie theaters. These posters are reprints intended for commercial use.
As soon as we can, we will provide photos and a comparison authentication.