Two weeks ago I was in Kuala Lumpur for a short break. I stayed on Jalan Bukit Bintang next to the Pavilion a fairly recently built shopping mall. The Pavilion is full of upscale stores like Louis Vuitton, some bars, restaurants, and also the DC Comics store. Yes the DC store. Indeed the DC Comics store is a prominent occupant of the mall as you can see in this photo taken from my hotel room:
The Superman and Batman logos are highly visible from the street and shine brightly in the evening.
The KL store is not the only DC Comics store in Malaysia or Southeast Asia. There are stores in Melaka and Singapore.
All of these stores are in new or centrally located malls. These stores are somewhat reminiscent of the Warner Bros stores (DC’s parent company) that used to be a ubiquitous presence in American shopping malls before mostly shutting down in 2001. I am not sure how well these stores are doing but the one in Melaka has been there two years at least which suggests some degree of success.
There is a story here about the success of American comic book characters in English speaking Southeast Asia. Indeed American comic book movies do well in this part of the world too. It would seem that the Superman and Batman logos are familiar enough signs that they can be used to draw customers to the KL store.
But another experience in KL, about five minutes walk from the Pavilion on the other side of my hotel, opens up this story a little. Here in a small shop in a very large complex of tightly packed shops and where a shopper would be more likely to find fake Louis Vuitton goods than genuine products, I discovered these tee shirts:
To me these suggest a familiarity with the characters and a playful irreverence. Although labeled as official DC product complete with copyright and trademark registered symbols I doubt these are the sort of products DC would license.
Update September 29, 2014:
But how wrong I was these are licensed. And if these seem playful then what about these tee shirts, which are over the line: http://www.theouthousers.com/index.php/news/129154-licensed-dc-comics-shirts-congratulate-superman-for-banging-wonder-woman-prepare-young-women-to-marry-batman.html