Tag Archives: Batman

Thereby Hangs a Tale

 A Texas cinema screening ‘The Batman’ this week was invaded by an actual bat (Irish Times 12/03/22)…

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On dark, dark nights in dark, dark caves, when black clouds scurry across blacker skies, bats gather and speak of The Batman.

The tale has passed from generation to generation. It tells of a bat who was bitten by a radioactive human and took on some human abilities, though since bats can already fly, rest upside down and see in the dark it is not clear what benefit these extra abilities conferred.

He is their greatest hero. The names Bruce and Wayne are common among males. The story is accepted as fact, and if this makes them sound foolish and superstitious just remember that in the bat world, vampires are a real thing.

Young Barry Bat was obsessed with The Batman. He wished he could be him. From the moment he woke every night he played at being him. He would sit alone on rooftops, staring moodily into the far distance. He would use a junction stop sign as the Bat-pole, a piece of thread as the Bat-rope and sycamore helicopter seeds as Batarangs as he played out the most famous of The Batman’s triumphs, the one in which, despite huge disparities in size and habitat location, he had met and defeated a penguin.

When word went around the colony that the local cinema would be showing a film called The Batman, Barry was determined to go. He knew that humans were good at this type of documentary, where a tiny camera and a hushed voice discreetly track some rarely seen creature. They would follow The Batman’s movements and would show him catching food, foiling predators and preening like an idiot to attract a female.

They would show where he lived. Barry could visit him and get his autograph. He might possibly become his sidekick.

On opening night he left the cave and flew into the small town. At the cinema he wriggled through an air vent, flitted along a short passage and emerged into the tiny theatre.

The room was filled with humans, chattering excitedly. Barry flew to the ceiling, settled himself upside down, and waited.

The lights slowly dimmed to total darkness. The chatter stopped. Barry flew down and picked a piece of popcorn from the carton of a teenage girl sitting below him. He tugged at it with his teeth and was disappointed to find that it had the taste and texture of styrofoam.

The screen lit up. Barry watched, wide-eyed, thrilled to his soul by the bright colours, the vibrant music, the excitement in the voice of the narrator.

The Burger King advert ended. The screen again filled with images, but these were darker, the music more sombre, the atmosphere more menacing.

The Batman had begun.

Barry watched eagerly, awaiting the first appearance of his hero. Then his mouth dropped open in shock.

The Batman was just a man in a bat suit.

Barry couldn’t believe it. He knew that humans weren’t that bright, but surely they could see that this wasn’t real, that it was just some sort of Bigfoot hoax made to scam money from gullible film producers. Barry went white. Very white.

Then he realised why. He was in the glare of the flashlight of a mobile phone.

His mouth dropping open had not just been a turn of phrase. He had dropped his popcorn onto the head of the girl he had stolen it from. She had looked up, turned on her phone light and now had him pinned in its beam.

“It’s a bat!” she screamed.

Other lights were instantly waved, since nobody had turned off their phones as requested. These sent shadows darting across the ceiling, each shadow another bat in the minds of the crowd below. Some flapped wildly at their hair. Some stood on their seats. One young man hurled his raspberry slushy. This opened in mid-air, covering the audience in what seemed to be freezing blood. They went, well, batshit crazy, and raced for the door.

Time to go, thought Barry. He swooped, picked another piece of popcorn – it was oddly addictive – out of a discarded carton and looked around for a way out.

He saw an illuminated sign saying ‘Exit’ and flew towards it. Just then, on the screen, The Bogus Batman spoke. His deep growl, like a earth tremor in a bucket of gravel, completely threw off Barry’s echolocation. This would usually have warned Barry that for some reason humans put a clearly-lit and easy visible ‘Exit’ sign not on the actual exit, but two feet above it.

Barry flew full-tilt into the sign.

He fell to the floor, and had a terrifying few minutes desperately curled in a ball among running feet. Then he reached out a wing, brushed the leg of a young man in shorts, and in the small circle cleared by the teenager’s yells he forced himself to focus. He finally saw the vent through which he had entered and – same bat channel – went out the way he had come in.

Once outside he flew gratefully home. The humans watched as he went, his silhouette dark against the brightness of a full moon, like a Bat-signal.

-o0o-

On dark, dark nights in dark, dark caves, when black clouds scurry across blacker skies, bats gather and speak of The Batman.

The tale has passed from generation to generation. It tells of a bat who was bitten by a radioactive human and took on some human abilities, such as the ability to eat their snacks. It tells of how he once defeated an imposter by scaring off hundreds of those who might have been fooled by him. He is their greatest hero.

Barry, now older, smiles as he listens. He had wished he was The Batman. Now he is.

 

 

 

 

 

It Should Have Been Me

His eyes widened as he stared at the television.

This caused his monocle to pop out. His left hand opened automatically, the monocle dropped into it, and the Penguin put it back in place without taking his eyes from the screen.

He couldn’t believe it. They were making a film about the Joker.

About that loser, he raged. A failed comedian who fell into a vat of chemicals, giving him a face like Jack Nicholson wearing Bette Davis’s make-up, and a homicidal rage. Just how dumb do you have to be, thought the Penguin, to leave an open vat of chemicals lying around, never mind how dumb do you have to be to fall into it. Yet for some reason people were now making this documentary about him, presumably making him more sympathetic, offering the rationale behind his actions, depicting him as the real victim.

They were going to tell his back-story or, as it used to be called, his story.

What about my story, yelled the Penguin at the TV. Lost as a child, raised by penguins – how would that be for an opening.

It was true. His parents had been scientists, and the type of parents who believe that having a baby should in no way affect your life-style, the kind who go to football matches with infants wearing ear-protectors and think this is endearing. Therefore they had eagerly signed up for an Antarctic expedition just weeks after their son had been born. The rest was all too predictable – the vessel had sunk, the baby’s cot had drifted onto the ice, and a mother penguin, acting out of the deep-rooted maternal instinct that has protected the tiny new-born of all species since the beginning of time, had fed him tiny scraps of fish.

The colony had accepted him, and he had grown up, effectively, as a penguin, the Tarzan of the Tundra. It had been an idyllic childhood. He had learned the thrill of sliding along the ice on his tummy. He had learned how to catch fish in his mouth. He had learned how to walk, though in the manner of a penguin, so he looked like he was trying to perform Riverdance in a sleeping-bag.

Then, when he was five, his parents had showed up.

The vessel-sinking had taken deep-root in his psyche, a way of coping with his situation. The truth had been even more poignant. His parents, engrossed in their work, had laid his cot beside them on the ice, and then forgotten about him.

Now they were back – whether they had been actively searching for him or just happened upon him while studying ice migration he was never sure. What he was sure of, though, was that he was taken from his huge playful family, where he was called Hu-hu-hu-he-huh-hoo (he never knew that the name is penguin for “baldy”) and installed in his small, severe one.

Where his name was Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot.

He was bullied at school. This was only to be expected, given his name, his singular walk and his strange eating habits (he used to put his sandwich horizontally into his mouth, like a harmonica, then work it in a series of gulps down his throat), and his classmates came up with the nickname they thought would hurt him most.

They called him the Penguin. He was secretly thrilled.

He inherited his parents’ work-obsessed scientific thought processes, and after school he set to work as an inventor. His chief creation was inspired by the fact that he had been snowed upon for three hundred days a year while growing up. He invented an umbrella, but no ordinary one – the ferrule could spurt nerve-gas, stun-darts, or coffee, the canopy acted as helicopter-blades, bullet-proof shield or Sky Sports satellite-dish, the handle could serve as an exercise pulley, a knuckle-duster or a lunch-box for your banana. He launched it at a gala event at which he wore for the first time, and fell in love with, evening dress, since it reminded him of home.

His invention was not a success. The reason was that each umbrella would have retailed at two million dollars, but he took it personally, feeling again an acute sense of not really belonging. It was this that drove him toward crime, along with the fact that he wanted money. It was his tendency to over-elaboration, though, that drove him toward ludicrously compex plots, and thus to the attention of Batman.

It was never a contest – the Penguin was so strapped for cash that he had to employ henchmen so dim that they had the word “henchman” on their shirts to remind them of their job, while Batman had a seemingly infinite supply of resources, equipment and sheer good luck. The Penguin was arrested, did his time, and upon his release, stayed away from crime.

Not because he had reformed, though. It was simply that while he was in jail he invented another umbrella – one that would fold away to fit into a handbag, one that would blow inside -out in the gentlest of breezes, one that would survive about two outings before collapsing like a drunken, kilt-wearing spider.

One that brought him in more money for a rainy day, every rainy day.

And now he sat in the mansion where he had lived quietly for many years, eating fish fingers (a food, he reflected, that bore as much relationship to fish as buffalo mozzarella did to buffaloes) disconsolately watching the news report about the upcoming Joker film. They were saying that it was wonderful, the film of the year, a possible Oscar winner.

Make a film about me, he thought, then we’ll see who gets to the Oscars. I wouldn’t even have to hire a tuxedo.

 

 

Parting Shot

When Batman actor Adam West fell on hard times in the 1970s he agreed to be fired out of a giant cannon at a town carnival (BBC’s 10 Things we Didn’t Know Last Week) ….

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Adam West adjusted the mask on his face, straightened his cape and looked at himself in the mirror in the small changing-room that the town of Big Butte, Wyoming, had alloted him.

“Holy Broke, Batman,” he muttered.

The joyousness of the sixties had been replaced by the grimness of the seventies. Hot pants and Beatles haircuts had given way to flared trousers and massive sideburns. Hope and flower-power had yielded to strikes and recession. Sixties pop had morphed into seventies rock, with its indecipherable lyrics and twenty-minute guitar solos.

Yet inexplicably, despite all of this people wanted realism instead of escapism. They no longer wanted the fun provided by Batman and his conveyor-belt of goon-accompanied villains. They wanted dour, “normal” cops solving dour, “normal” murders.

And look where it got them, reflected Adam to his reflection. They got Kojak, a grown man who sucked lollipops. They got Columbo, with a coat that looked like he’d slept in it (he could have been in our show, as The Flasher, thought Adam). They got Charlie’s Angels, who successfully went undercover in any situation despite being the three best-looking girls in any room they entered.

Call that realism, snorted Adam to himself. For God’s sake, they had phones that they could use in their cars.

In the face of all of this, the Bat-signal no longer lit up the night sky. Adam found himself out of work, and increasingly reduced to turning up at small-town small-minded events, wearing the suit whilst putting himself through a series of soul-eating humiliations.

Such as this one. Adam sighed and turned the handle of his dressing-room door. He emerged into a field, where a crowd of people clapped as he climbed a short step-ladder and lowered himself feet-first into the mouth of a cannon. He spun himself around onto his front so that he could look out. He could see a man wearing a chain of office approaching, and, some fifty feet beyond him, a safety net.

The man climbed the ladder so that he could look directly into Adam’s face. His eyes were wild with excitement and, it seemed to Adam, glee.

“I am The Mayor,” he pronounced.

“I know,” said Adam. “You’re wearing the chain.”

“Not the mayor,” said the man, “The Mayor“.

“I don’t get it,” said Adam. “You just said the same thing twice.”

“Don’t you see?” snapped the man. “The Mayor is my super-villain name.”

“Oh, very good,” said Adam. “We’re going to do all this as characters, are we?”

“Don’t patronise me,” said The Mayor. “I know who you are …. Batman.”

“Um,” said Adam, “I’m just an actor -”

“By day, yes,” said The Mayor. “Batman obviously has to have an alter-ego.”

“Exactly,” said Adam. “He’s called Bruce Wayne, and he -”

“Oh, please,” snorted The Mayor. “A millionaire play-boy who’d fight crime when he could be partying, dating super-models, and wearing Versace ball-gowns in the privacy of his own home?”

Adam raised an eyebrow, and The Mayor blushed for a second. “Never mind that last bit,” he said. “The point is, everyone knows that he isn’t real.”

“But Batman is?”

“Of course,” said The Mayor. “Otherwise, who fights the super-villains?”

“The super-villains aren’t real either,” said Adam gently.

“Rubbish,” said The Mayor. “The Penguin, with his ridiculous walk? The Joker, with his awful jokes? Two Face, with his, well, two faces? I mean, you couldn’t make them up.”

“Exactly,” said Adam.

“So they have to be real,” said The Mayor.

Adam stared at him. There was really no answer to that.

“And they’re useless,” said The Mayor, “with their wild schemes. I am a proper super-villain.”

“How so?” said Adam.

“I am The Mayor,” said The Mayor. “I control all the planning. I buy up land, then zone it for housing. I take money from developers to let them build where they want. I knock down cottages to build factories. Nothing happens in this town without me making money out of it. I have a really tight grip on Big Butte.”

“Wow,” said Adam. “And you think The Joker’s jokes are bad.”

“And now,” said The Mayor, “I’m going to prove myself the greatest villain of them all – by killing Batman!”

“By firing an out-of work actor into a safety-net?”

“Never mind the safety-net,” said The Mayor. “I’ve loaded five times the amount of gunpowder I was supposed to. You’re going to be blown sky-high, quite literally.”

He took a match raised it to the crowd, who applauded enthusiastically, then struck it against the side of the cannon. “Look,” said Adam desperately, “you’re making a big -”

The Mayor touched the match to the fuse.

“Get out of my town,” he said.

The cannon fired, and as Adam left the muzzle he could swear that, just for a second, the word “kaboom!” appeared in the air.

He shot over the safety-net, over the hot-dog stalls and the carousel, over the ferris-wheel and out into the open sky.

And landed some two miles away, drifting gently to earth beside a long, sleek tail-finned black car. The woman in the driver’s seat looked calmly at him.

“Tried to kill you, then, did he?” asked Julie Newmar.

“He did indeed,” said Adam. “Good thing I had my Bat Air-Floating-Through Device with me.”

“Your parachute, you mean.”

“Whatever,” said Batman.

“Where to next?” asked Catwoman.

“Red Neck, Nebraska,” said Batman. “A guy called The Blacksmith wants me to advertise his forge by tying me to an anvil and dropping me into the river.”

“Another villain?”

“I reckon so. Who owns a forge these days? He’ll put on a big padlock that he hasn’t told anyone about, I’ll open it underwater with the Bat-key and you can pick me up about a mile downstream.”

“Make sure you get paid in advance,” said Catwoman.

“Always do,” said Batman.

Catwoman started the Batmobile, and they drove in silence for a while. “Do you reckon, “she asked eventually, “that the public will ever figure out that we really are the people we’re supposed to be playing?”

“Doubt it,” said Batman. “They haven’t figured out yet that Leonard Nimoy is really a Vulcan, and look at the ears on him.”

 

 

Knocked Off His Perch

The prompt at our writers’ group tonight was to write a piece beginning with the line “It was the first time I killed a man”…..

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It was the first time I killed a man. I’d fought villains for years, of course, wrestling with the Penguin, struggling with the Joker, grappling with Catwoman.

And I’d fought their henchmen. With Robin by my side I had engaged in many a punch-up, filling the air both audibly and visibly with “Pow!”s, “Thwack!”s, and “Shit, that really hurt!”s.

But no-one ever died. The henchmen ended up in a pile, the villains ended up in a cell, and the Batpistol ended up unused in the Bat Utility Belt.

Then came that awful night. You could argue, of course, that I didn’t actually kill him. The Batsignal lit up in the night sky, Robin rushed into my room to tell me about it, and I hastily pulled up the sheets to cover my modesty and the fact that I was once again grappling with Catwoman.

Robin stepped onto the rubber suit that I had discarded on the floor, slid halfway across the room, tripped over the pair of pyramids presented by Catwoman’s equally discarded outfit, and shot out of the window.

I’m not sure why we had picked Robin as a name for him, but it certainly wasn’t because he could fly.

You could argue, of course, that I didn’t actually kill him, that it was an accident, but that didn’t make me feel any better. It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t succumbed to Catwoman’s womanly wiles. It wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t strewn our clothes all over a polished wooden floor. It wouldn’t have happened if I’d given Commissioner Gordon my mobile number, so that he didn’t have to use that stupid Batsignal.

I raced down the five flights of stairs and out the front door of Wayne Manor. Robin lay sprawled on the gravel drive, surrounded by five letters spelling out the word “splat”.

You could argue, of course, that I didn’t actually kill him, because he wasn’t dead. This was Gotham City, after all, so as I stood looking sadly down at him he suddenly sat up and said “Holy High Dive, Batman!”

I hated it when he came out with crap like that, so I hit him. With a bat.

You could argue, of course, that I did actually kill him, except that being hit with what’s essentially a winged hamster doesn’t do a lot of harm, so fear not, the Boy Wonder will still be stunning our enemies with his fists, and our audience with his clichés next week at the same Bat-time, on the same Bat-channel.

Behind Every Good Man

Sidey’s Weekend Theme this week was “women”……………………

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The book club was in full swing. In other words they had mentioned the selected book, all admitted that they hadn’t read it, and had now settled into chat, which was why they had all come.

“He was out all night again last night,” said Mary-Jane.

“Mine too,” said Lois. “Came in at five and collapsed onto the bed snoring, leaving me awake for the rest of the night.”

“I’m awake all night most nights,” said Vicky. The others moved slightly forward in their seats, but she said “Not like that. Unfortunately. We have to have the curtains open all night in case the Batsignal appears in the sky. I’ll tell you, being Mrs Batman is not easy.”

“Well, in fairness,” said Pepper, Mrs Ironman, “they have to be out at night, because that’s when most of the crime happens.”

The others looked at Pepper. She was the most recently married of them all, and still looking at life as a Superhero WAG through honeymoon-pink spectacles. Lois Lane, Mrs Superman, snorted.

“Wait till you settle into it, Pepper,” she said. “I spend all day in the shops buying Clark clothes, because he keeps leaving his in phone booths.”

“I have to fill my guy’s Bat Utility Belt every morning,” said Vicky Vale, Mrs Batman. “I’ve to make sure he has Bat-Rockets, Bat-Rope, Bat-Laser-Cutters, and two cheese-and-tuna sandwiches.”

“Mine has a big lunch-box,” said Lois.

“Lucky you,” murmured Mary-Jane, Mrs Spiderman.

“I spend a fortune on sea-sickness tablets,” said Steve Trevor. “All that spinning around in a circle makes Diana really dizzy.”

There was silence after this. The girls had never been sure whether to let Mr Wonder Woman into their little group, but since they were all a little jealous of her they’d been hoping that they’d get some good gossip out of him. They had always known that as a Superhero’s husband he’d be really whipped, and they were hoping to find out if there was more than one meaning to that phrase.

“The thing about it is,” said Vicky, “we have to remember that they’re good men, doing good work. It could be worse. I met Mrs Penguin at bridge last week. Her husband spends half his time in jail, he walks like a duck, and she thinks he might be having an affair with Catwoman.”

“Really?” said Mary-Jane. “I always thought that Catwoman fancied -”

“Don’t you dare finish that sentence,” said Vicky.

“I met Mrs Riddler at the supermarket yesterday,” said Pepper really quickly, to change the subject. “Or rather, ex-Mrs Riddler.”

“Holy Alimony, Pepper!” said Vicky. The others glared at her. “You promised you’d stop doing that,” said Lois.

“Sorry,” said Vicky, “but if you had that twit Robin in your house all day you’d eventually start talking like him too.”

“The Riddlers are breaking up?” asked Steve.

“Yes, she said that she got fed up with his riddles,” said Pepper. “She was going to the shop one day last week and asked did he need anything, and he said “what’s made of beef but is called ham, and comes in a bun, not with raspberry jam?”.”

“Did she figure out what he needed?” asked Mary-Jane.

“Sort of,” said Pepper. “She figured he needed a good smack in the head with a frying-pan. That’s why they’ve split up.”

Weekly Photo Challenge: Kiss

Tinman’s weekly camera-less attempt at the WordPress Photo Challenge…

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“Thwack!”

With one mighty punch Batman knocked one of Catwoman’s henchmen into another one, and they both fell backwards down a staircase.

“Biff!” A well-placed kick sent another though a mirror, onto a black-cat and flat against up against a door, causing the horseshoe above it to drop onto his head.

“Kapoww!!!” the final henchman, a stereotype of large muscle and small brain, flipped backwards under a ladder, had a bucket fall from it onto his head and stumbled blindly over to a window, fell out through it and dropped eleven storeys into the Gotham City river.

“Now there’s just you and me, Catwoman,” said Batman.

“Good job I brought my whip, then,” said Catwoman, flicking it with a loud snap.

“Good job I brought my Bat-Whip-Fighter-Offer, then” said Batman, seemingly oblivious to the suggestiveness of Catwoman’s remark. Her astonishingly long legs did not excite him either, nor her remarkably upright bosom.

This was because Batman was five years old, and Catwoman was his sister’s Barbie.

His name was not Bruce, though it was Wayne. He was Wayne Murphy, bachelor schoolboy by day, crime-fighter by, well, later on in the day. He fought the Riddler (an Action Man), the Penguin (a Happy Feet toy from Burger King) and he fought Catwoman.

He supplied all of the voices, all of the sound-effects of “thwack”, “biff” and “kapoww”, and even an imaginary friend, Robin, whose sole contribution to the proceedings was to say things like “holy evil dastards, Batman!” and generally recognise how brilliant Batman was, like a really dense version of Doctor Watson.

Batman put Catwoman into the Gotham City jail, an old hamster cage, late home to an even later hamster, and looked around for other crimes to solve. He jumped onto the Batcycle (well, Bat-tricycle, really), shouted “come on, Robin!” and set off down the garden path in search of further villainy.

Perhaps it was the speed at which Robin leapt onto the back of the Batcycle, perhaps it was the left rear wheel driving over the garden-hose, perhaps Batman was exhausted after his grappling with Catwoman (I know I would be), but for whatever reason the Batcycle suddenly toppled sideways, with disastrous results.

Batman grazed his knee.

His mouth opened and there was absolute silence for a second, as if his indrawing breath was sucking all of the sound out of all of the universe, and then all of that sound escaped in one long, tear-filled wail.

It was his very own Batsignal, summoning Batmum.

She ran to see what had happened and carried him into the house, his little arms around her neck, his little fists clinging to the back of her blouse. She dabbed at the graze with a wet cloth, and then she said the magic words.

“Would you like me to kiss it better?”

He nodded. She bent and kissed his knee, and he felt all of the pain drain away, as if she had sucked the poison from a snake-bite. She stuck on a plaster that would serve no purpose over the next few days other than to show the world how brave he was, and he snuggled down on the sofa, stuck one thumb into his mouth, and watched cartoons for the rest of the afternoon.

And Mum went back to her kitchen, with a heart full of love and a mind trying not to think of the fact that she had just kissed what was essentially an open sore.

Behind every Superhero there’s a supermum.