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A Comic-al Campaign

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By Brian Funk, Editor

It was a political prank worthy of The Joker himself.

On Monday, motorists in Galax were startled, befuddled and — if they know their Batman comics and movies — maybe amused by a group of phony political campaigners handing out literature near Twin County Cinema III.

Three well-dressed teens held balloons and signs that read “Take Back Gotham City — Vote Harvey Dent.”

No, you haven’t missed Dent’s bid for president, and he’s not running for state office or city council.

Dent is a fictional district attorney in Batman’s hometown of Gotham City. He’s a character in the newest Batman film, “The Dark Knight,” which opens Friday.

The campaigners were actually cinema employees — Kati Gentry, Chris Reyes and Aaren Wilson — putting on a promotional stunt to promote the movie’s midnight show on Thursday.

The campaign posters feature a photo of actor Aaron Eckhart, who portrays Dent in the film.

Cinema Manager Mike Steinsberger stood on the sidelines as his enthusiastic team approached bewildered motorists stopped at the U.S. 58 intersection near the theater.

Wilson goes up to a car and unleashes her practiced campaign spiel — “Vote for Harvey Dent — put a dent in crime!” The power window slowly rolls up.

“I don’t vote!” shouts another driver, as Gentry hands her a flyer promoting the midnight show.

Some drivers move over into the left lane, or pull into the shopping center to avoid them completely. “They’re scared of us!” marvels Wilson.

Reyes shouts Dent’s political slogans in Spanish, hoping to win the Latino vote.

Others get the joke and laugh with the campaigners.

Harvey Dent has been a mainstay in the Batman comics for decades, a crusading district attorney who wants to clean up crime-ridden Gotham City with Batman’s help.

Not to give anything away, but while Dent starts out noble, he eventually turns into a typical “two-faced” politician after an encounter with the maniacal Joker.

Steinsberger said he planned an even more elaborate publicity stunt, until police talked him out of it.

He and another theater employee were going to wear Joker masks and attack the campaigners.

Steinsberger called the Galax Police Department to warn them about the stunt, but officers advised him against any masked mischief.

Better safe than sorry, he reckoned.

After all, threatening a friend of Batman is usually a very bad idea.

• For more information about “The Dark Knight” or other movies, call Twin County Cinema at 236-7469 or e-mail tccinema@yahoo.com.