Back in 1992, the weirdly named “Street Kids” company sought to capitalize on Batman’s box office successes with TORTILLA CHIPS SHAPED LIKE HIS LOGO.
Street Kids already had major product tie-in successes with the first Batman flick, but the chips coincided with Batman Returns – easily my favorite Batman movie, and actually one of my favorite movies, period. I know there was (and continues to be) a mixed reaction to that film, but I gush about it with no asterisks. I loved everything about it in 1992, and I appreciate it even more in 2013. From an opening credits sequence that still gives me goosebumps, to a distracted Penguin fantasizing about his “French flipper trick,” Batman Returns succeeded on every front.
I would’ve been more than happy to eat tortilla chips in its honor. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to recall Batman Tortilla Chips being locally available at the time.
…which is odd, because from everything I’ve read, the chips were IMMENSELY popular. I’ve even found an old newspaper article that heralded them as a great game-changer for the junk food industry — a veritable evolutionary jump that would surely pave way for other chip brands to come up with cooler shapes.
Chances are, more than a few of you ate these chips. You lucky bastards.
Before we continue, one note! Due to the packaging’s “first movie” color scheme, many fans remember it as something that came out in 1989. But from everything I’ve found, the chips definitely debuted in ’92. If you’re ready to swear that you ate these in 1989, prove it.
I should’ve Photoshopped seven halos onto that photo. Batman Tortilla Chips were beautiful, and though the ratio of intact-to-broken chips was likely around 10:1, the ones that did keep their shape were almost too cool to eat. That’s fine with me, because they’re now twenty-years-old and stink like milky paint.
You have to understand, Batman was a huuuge deal back then. He didn’t have much competition in the way of other “comic book movies,” and even so, his popularity transcended that anyway. I think part of the palpable resistance to Batman Returns was that it was simply too weird a movie to be the “everything for everyone” that the first film was. In the years between the two, Batman was THE man.
So no, these chips weren’t about “sparking interest” or selling tickets. The interest was already there. People ate these because it was a cardinal sin to choose the chips that weren’t shaped like bat logos. If you had the option, there was only one option.
Tortilla chips have a nasty habit of breaking, but there’s always a way to spin a negative. The broken chips were secretly even more fun than the whole ones, since you got to fabricate your own meanings for their shapes.
Plus, the broken ones helped to absolve you of guilt. Look, I didn’t eat these in 1992, but if I did, I know I would’ve been apprehensive about chomping intact Batman logos to death. I was born with the grating instinct to treat ephemera like it has a different definition, and ruining picture perfect corn bat logos would’ve seemed unbelievably wasteful. In that sense, the broken chips were a necessary evil. I could eat them without crying.
The back of each bag had a special offer for a Batman Nite Lite. Even within Street Kids’ own item description, “nite lite” and “night light” are used interchangeably.
The nite lites were not new. Street Kids sold a bazillion of the things back in ’89, and it was perhaps those successes that inspired them to make Batman Tortilla Chips in the first place.
The nite lites were three bucks each, shipping included. As you can see, I have one. Incredibly, it still works!
It’s tremendously difficult to photograph an illuminated nite lite, but I did my best. The order form on the bags championed it as being “too low to be distracting, but bright enough to prevent accidents.”
I must take issue with that first part. How could a glowing Batman logo be anything but distracting? How could I walk into a room and IGNORE the glowing Batman logo? I’d need to be blind or at least hardened by military training to pull that off.
Final note: The last ingredient listed on the chip bag is “trace of lime.” I didn’t think I could like these any more than I did, and then I go and read that. “Trace of lime.” Not lime, or lime juice. “Trace of lime.” It sounds like some ancient artifact we should all be competitively hunting for.