Batman Day? Batman Forever

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As the Caped Crusader turns 80, a fangirl journeys down memory lane in her Batmobile, armed with her Bat Signal Torch and warmed by mulligatawny soup.

In eighty years, the Dark Knight has been through so much and come a long way from the little boy who cried over his murdered parents in Crime Alley.

The first time I donned the Batsuit was when I was five years old. Though it wasn’t made of kevlar with a cape made from memory cloth, it was more than enough for me to live out my fantasy of being the caped crusader. My Gotham was my playground (or is it the other way around?) and though I didn’t have to deal with the likes of the Joker, Clayface or the Riddler or face life-threatening situations (other than maybe a tango with a deadly wasp that once bit me) I did my fair share of vigilantism fighting the local bullies. My operating hours differed from the original Batman, instead of the darkest night it was leaning more towards the late evening ending with perhaps an ice cream as a treat for a job well done.

My second Batsuit I debuted for Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005) when I was seven. By then the first one was in bad shape from being worn (out) daily. Gulu chacha — my Jedi master in all matters comic and fellow Batman fan — and I walked into the Gurgaon theatre in costume much to the amusement of the general public. (Cosplay hadn’t become a thing yet, but then again when I was not cosplaying Batman I was Batman!) It was my first Batman film — until then I had been fed on a steady diet of Batman comics (courtesy again my chacha), the Batman: The Animated Series aired on the Cartoon Network those days and the DVDs of the impossibly cheesy Batman series starring Adam West.

 

Dear reader if you are a true-blue Batman fan you must treat yourself by watching Adam West doing his Batman dance, but be warned that possessing ‘killer’ dance moves does not translate well when it comes to keeping Gotham safe in real life. Gotham, for a nomad like me, is almost the hometown that I never had, I know its every street, alley, walkway and rooftop (playing the games repeatedly makes you an expert) better than the city I live in.

As the Bat Signal lights up the night skies across select cities around the globe on the September 21 (Batman Day) bat fans all over raise a toast to eighty years of the Caped Crusader. In eighty years, the Dark Knight has been through so much and come a long way from the little boy crying over his murdered parents in Crime Alley. He’s lived, lost, died (many times) and resurrected. The face beneath the cowl even changes sometimes — from Dick Grayson, the first Robin, to Jean-Paul Valley (Azrael), to Terry McGinnis (Batman Beyond). More than being Bruce Wayne’s secret identity, Batman has evolved into a symbol of hope, of fear (depending on which side you’re on).

What makes Batman distinct is that he is human. He doesn’t have superpowers — no super strength, no laser vision; all he possesses is a brilliant mind. Of course, he has all his gadgets and other paraphernalia, an important part of being Batman… can one really imagine the Batman without the Batarangs or the famed grappling hook? In the Adam West Batman series, the gadgets in Batman’s utility belt saved his and his protégé’s lives on countless occasions, (a few memorable ones being the Experimental Heel and Toe Bat-Rockets, Small Echoing Seal Pulsator and even the African Death Bee Antidote Pill). The Batman games take it to the next level — explosive gel, Remote Hacking Device, etc.

And while the gizmos are an integral part of Batman, they don’t necessarily define him; he’s can still pack a mean punch minus the gadgetry. He’s the most human of all superheroes — vulnerable, sensitive, constantly battling his inner demons. Batman doesn’t operate in black and white; he works in shades of grey — his life mirrors the dark gloomy Gotham City. He’s made mistakes and risen from them, he’s not Mr. Perfect like the other superheroes, with as many skeletons in his closet as there are in Gotham Cemetery. He’s the one superhero that doesn’t kill — ever. Not even in self defence. No matter how deadly the enemy or the crime (the Joker, for example, cripples Batgirl Barbara Gordon permanently), the worst Batman does is send them to Arkham Asylum or Blackgate Penitentiary. Not even when the Joker tortured and killed the second Robin (Jason Todd) did Batman go against his code. His strong sense of justice along with his iron will make him a truly formidable opponent. His intimidation tactics and intelligence are on a whole new level — there is a reason he’s called the World’s Greatest Detective.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwOGhEqMOPc

 

There are many different takes on Batman, many timelines, many universes and multiple perspectives. A very interesting take is the one in Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? (written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Andy Kubert), released a decade ago to commemorate seventy years of Batman.

Here we find the Batman attending his own funeral surrounded by friends and foes alike. Each of them delivers a eulogy. From Catwoman to the Joker. But the most intriguing one was Alfred’s, in which we discover that it was the loyal butler of Wayne Manor who played the Joker himself and conjured up various villains (played by members of his old theatre troupe) in order to give young master Wayne a purpose in life when he was shattered by his parents’ death. While this is not part of the DC Universe canon, it is nevertheless an interesting read.

To commemorate eighty years of Batman, DC comics has released Detective Comics #1000 with nine variant covers from the 1930s to 2010s. It’s comprised by a series of shorts, some nostalgic and touching (‘Return to Crime Alley’, ‘Manufactured For Use’) and some hilarious (‘The Legend of Knute Brody’) signing off with the first appearance of the Arkham Knight!

My copy (a birthday present from my Bat-Uncle) has the 1970s cover and it’s only fitting that I sit with my own Bat Signal torch, poring over my Bat Files with a steaming bowl of Mulligatawny soup (Batman’s favorite dish), sadly as the Bat Signal will not light up these parts.

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