BATMAN ON FILM, 'The Dark Knight Fansite!' Est. 1998.

The Joker in San Diego

The following is a detailed report of the "WHY SO SERIOUS" viral marketing campaign in San Diego from reader Derek Mason.

Well, well, folks. It has been some time since we have had seen a great deal of chaos in the marketing of THE DARK KNIGHT. As I recall, we had a huge heap of disruption during the infamous spiel, and we had a few malicious sparks of excitement in between; such as the Batpod, spy photos, press conference, and the great Caped Crusader himself! But, as many of you know, we were essentially in a period of the doldrums news and excitement wise. And to make matters worse and to dampen the Batfan’s spirits, there was information given out that TDK would NOT have presence at Comic Con San Diego (SDCC). Boy, were we in for a surprise. We were not in the “doldrums,” as I previously stated, but rather, we were in the ca;m before the storm.

The first sound of thunder initiating the storm was the new viral site in TDK’s marketing scheme: It boasted a picture of Uncle Sam who had been “Jokerized.” It also stated that there would be teamwork involved – an “internet squad” and a “ground squad.”

Batfans began their crazy fan screams with the presence of a new site, and to make things better, there was a countdown clock in the upper right corner counting down to a specific time. It also had coordinates that fans were to punch in and find out where the location was -- it was a spot right across from the convention center in San Diego. This was beyond coincidence for it to coincide with Comic Con -- the glass frame of the said “no Dark Knight presence at Comic Con” was shattered. Fans began counting down the minutes until we would be revealed with whatever was going to be revealed.

To make matters worse – ahem, excuse me, to make matters “more exciting” was the revelation of “Jokerized” 1 dollar bills found that day at Comic Con. (It is believed that this is how Why So Serious was found in the first place, similar to IBIHDT, no?) The bills were noted with “WHY SO SERIOUS?” down at the bottom of the bill.

“What is going to happen now?” was the question of the next long hours ahead for Batfans. Tension and suspense grew as the clock had only one hour to go. Batfans exclaimed extreme excitement and nervousness. The clock ticked and ticked and ticked until finally we saw those famous seconds: 10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1…0!!!!!

The page began to recreate itself, loading for a long time, complaints came of fan’s impatience. Fans roared with suspense. It was time to launch off the next lightning bolt of TDK’s marketing storm! Location, location, location...or rather…Checkpoint, checkpoint, checkpoint.

It seemed that the job of the teamwork of the combined “internet and ground squads” was to go through a series of locations, checkpoints, to reveal some prize of hopeful grandeur. Immediately, fans started sprawling all over the place, looking for clues…but of course, the first clue was up to the ground squad. The Joker (presumably) was letting his “wannabees” know that the ground squad needed to look up in the sky for a clue.

The clue was a phone number, which would lead fans to another clue. Fans immediately called the phone number, which led to a pre-recorded event of a man and The Joker (presumably). The man was in fits, tears, and derision. The answer to The Joker’s joke “How many clowns does it take to get a good laugh?” the man asked, “Four-hundred and one.” Apparently, this turns out to be an “Inside Joke,” the first code to get on to the next point. The man also exclaimed other codes, such as: 401 and button up.

After that terrible event of an innocent man’s death, the internet squad got to Checkpoint 2. This gave another photo that the internet squad was to instruct the ground squad to their next location. Meanwhile, while the ground squad was approaching said location, the internet squad had to find out the meaning to the question stated in the picture above, what did the four girls have in common? It turned out to be Jack the Ripper. The internet squad typed in that code and were directed onto part two of Checkpoint 2.

Before fans read Joker’s next challenge, they had to redirect their fellow ground squad members to a location to meet the “sales associates,” and they read of The Joker’s admiration of Jack the Ripper…followed by the challenge: which included an MP3 file of a series of laughs. The hint of “dots” and “dashes” led many to believe that it was Morse code – well, that was right!

After much trouble, it was decoded and the Morse was read as, “Mountebank.” Fans typed in Mountebank at once and were then redirected onto the third Checkpoint out of eight.

The ground squad now had to go under the treatment of the “sales associates” and make themselves “beautiful and pretty.”

Meanwhile, the internet squad had to figure out the next step to become a cohort of the Joker…an anagram. But this one was easily and quickly deciphered to mean “Crime of Passion.”

This led the internet squad onto the next part of Checkpoint 3…it gave a reminiscence of the Jokerized dollar bills. The next task in the application was for the internet squad to tell the ground squad to go to the next location, where they would “tell one of them” about the Joker-bill. And the internet squad would receive from the ground squad of the “keyphrase” that would move them onto the next checkpoint.

They keyphrase was “head games.” As soon as the internet squad was informed, they typed it in and they got redirected to the new Checkpoint page – Checkpoint 4!

You now had to figure out what the Joker was talking about when he mentioned “Prison,” which turns out to be the next code, and you received an interesting little article on Mr. J.

Turns out the code was 74 Bars – relating to the 74 Bars of a prison cell, perhaps? Anyway, onto Checkpoint 5!

The first part of Checkpoint 5 was for the internet squad to instruct the ground squad on the next location to go to. While on their way, the internet squad was supposed to look up some trivia for the J-Man. It asked about a lawyer that accidentally shot himself in 1871 that resulted in his defendant (accused of murder) getting acquitted.

Turns out the lawyer’s name was “Vallandigham.” So, naturally, the internet squad punched it in, leading to part two of Checkpoint 5.

With the second part of Checkpoint 5, the internet squad was to instruct the ground squad to find out what “Dr. Death’s” real name was at a set location. After directing the ground squad to the location, the ground squad found this little block of information:

“Dr. Death’s” real name is surprisingly a strange one, “Gaslamp Dan Haslam.” (What is up with all of these weird-German-like names?)

After finding out the name of “Dr. Death,” the ground squad contacted the internet squad with the name of the dear doctor. Internet squads immediately typed it in and were then rewarded with the next step – Checkpoint 6. Only two Checkpoints left to go.

Once again the internet squad had to instruct the ground squad to go to the next location; meanwhile, the internet crew had an interesting task in front of them. A layout of cards. Now, if you had a trained eye, you would notice that some of the enlarged cards were also found below in the smaller, nonrecurring cards. Also, you may have counted the smaller cards down at the bottom – which were a curious number of 26, the same number of letters that are in the English alphabet. So the first thing to guess was that the larger cards spelled something, and they, of course, did!

The outcome of the little “card game” yielded a new code: Unforgivable. The internet squad were then hurried on to the second part of Checkpoint 6.

The internet squad was to inform the ground squad that somewhere around the set location’s street there would be a statue of a father teaching his son how to use “a weapon.” It also called for the internet squad to instruct the ground squad that they should be wary of hidden cameras…and to, of course, smile.

Whilst the ground squad was epically searching for the statue, the internet squad got to read the latest update of the police’s files of The Joker:

The Joker has got the police’s panties up in a bunch, hasn’t he? But more interesting then The Joker article is that if you clicked on the word “knife,” you would be rewarded with a (presumable) scene from the movie, which included “The Heath-Joker” and the new (and lovely) “Maggie-Rachel.”

After soaking in all this new information, the ground squad contacted the internet squad with the supposed “weapon.” Turns out that it is not a father teaching his son how to use a weapon, but a father teaching his son how to play the game of baseball. The “weapon,” as Joker’s sick mind sees it, is none other then a baseball bat – the next code.

After applying this newly found information into Joker’s application, you were then finally onto Checkpoint 7, the semi-final to the last checkpoint. And again the internet squad needs to tell the ground squad where to go, and again while the ground squad is on their way, the internet squad needs to use their noggins to find out the meaning behind Joker’s next question for his long (and rewarding) application. Joker tells us how it is a vital skill to use newspaper clippings to give a ransom note.

So off to the dictionaries the internet squads go! After some research, we find the next code: Larceny.

n theft: the unlawful taking and removal of another person's property”

Makes sense doesn’t it? Stealing something…or someone unlawfully. Possibly Joker will do this in the movie? Hmmm….

The conclusion of typing in “Larceny” as the code revealed the second part of Checkpoint 7. The Joker instructs the internet squad to tell the ground squad for them to go find the Gotham Girl Scout and attack and steal her cookies.

We then came about on the next code, appropriate since Mr. J informed the internet squad that the ground squad is probably hungry. The code was: starve. After entering the code “starve,” the internet squad was redirected to the final part – Checkpoint 8.

Upon arriving at Checkpoint 8, the internet squad heard a loud beeping…and a picture of a bomb. The bomb ticked and ticked down its menacing seconds, the viewer waiting to see if it would explode. But instead of it exploding, we saw a very Joker-esque surprise: the reader of the bomb said: “HA HA HA”

After instructing the ground squad to head back to the vans where they received their “beauty kits,” the internet squad was faced with figuring out what the new code could be, with no help from the ground squad. The possible clues was that you could not read what the reader was saying below “HA HA HA,” but first one may think that it is a time – but that would be impossible to figure out and why would there be a time signature when the bomb was supposed all ready explode? The next logical guess is that it is a word, consisting of 6 letters. The bomb also represented death, so some internet squad players guessed “Reaper,” and they were right. After brilliant figuring out the code, those players were kind enough to inform other players, and the word spread.

After successfully figuring out the “Reaper” code, the internet squad was rewarded with the second part of Checkpoint 8. The second part of Checkpoint 8 was the most unique of them all. It required the ground squad to submit the code himself. The code was a license plate number of one of the vans.

Finally, someone submitted the code and told his internet squad of the code – the license plate code then spread like wild fire – 2971759. After typing in the license plate code, internet squads were rewarded with the final page – the grand finale.

Internet squads were rewarded with a final message from Joker, a final police report, and the teaser trailer (with multiple computer qualities to fit different Batfan’s needs). I presume that the first ground squad member to make it back to the van was rewarded with being a part of the viral marketing…too bad his outcome wasn’t that great.

And here is a list of the codes in order (for those of you who haven’t finished or need help):

401 or Inside Joke or Button Up
Jack the Ripper
Crime of Passion
Head games or headgames
74 Bars
Gaslamp Dan Haslam
Baseball Bat

Wow! What a long ride it has been today! I hope you enjoyed this recap and a BIG thanks goes out the wonderful WB team for this exciting and very involved marketing scheme! Also, thank you Christopher Nolan for giving us a new Batman movie to look forward too.

And I think that we can all agree that this is the best marketing for a movie – ever.

P.S. I wonder what the whole, “But don’t stick around – we don’t want her to be able to recognize him in the perp-walk tomorrow….” is about?

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"BATMAN" artwork © DC COMICS.