Scribbler’s Saga #74 – The Inescapable Bat

Posted: November 26, 2018 in Uncategorized

© 2018 G.N. Jacobs

“Every time I get out, they pull me back in!”

With apologies to Michael Corleone, what pulls me back in are certain comic book and pulp characters that still circle like buzzards over a carcass in the desert. Specifically, Batman…and now at the risk of sounding like a Big Two Editorial Department famous for – “reversing a reversal that had already been reversed” – I’m back in Gotham, my version at least.

When I last swore off comic books characters moved over to fan fiction to get the story out of my head while waiting for my ship to come in, I was trying to force Wonder Woman into a marriage with Batman where she then takes over Wayne Enterprises. In previous posts, I covered the fact of a mild feminist objection to Wonder Woman, of all fictional strong women, marrying into her brass ring and then winning knife fights in the boardroom. Really, I also created the far more lethal failure of imagination as to why the story involved either Batman or Wonder Woman when nothing about the story as it fleshed out needed anyone in a Four-Color Spandex suit.

So what changed? Well, after a year of buildup, Catwoman recently backed out of marrying Batman citing that the Bat’s ongoing existential unrequited rage over being an orphan was necessary for his role as Gotham’s protector. Essentially, allowing Bruce Wayne to have his pain scab over and finding a small bit of happiness positively scared the shit out of DC’s Editorial Department. Many fans, tired of dredging up version after version of the alley mugging behind or near the Monarch Theater, blew up online.

This conflict expresses divergent views about what the Batman fandom wants from the character. Do we stall Bruce Wayne/Batman’s character arc in the metaphorical second act where he remains the tireless force of justice for Gotham City and will never permanently land on any woman, let alone Catwoman (his soulmate, hands down accept no substitutes)? Or could the writers make a case for scabs forming and the momentum of years of being the Bat keeps driving him forward? I’m in the let him get married and explore the relationship camp whenever this subject comes up at the comic book store.

Official Batman hasn’t helped much deciding between the two extremes of his character arc. Batman goes dark and grim. Batman lightens up, possibly as a result of the Kefauver-Wurtham Hearings that killed the Golden Age. Batman goes dark and grim, again. Batman has yet to lighten up a second time.

Where the average fan falls on this spectrum probably says a lot about how old they are and what their version is. A devoted fan of Adam West Batman can appreciate Michael Keaton Batman or Kevin Conroy Animated Batman, but still loves Adam West. Fans of other Batmen will usually say nice things about Adam West, sometimes with a believable straight face.

It matters because the Adam West show is the ultimate expression of Batman who seems to act like emotional scabs have formed and he’s just getting on with things as a detective and unofficial reserve officer of the Gotham Police Department. Yes, he’s a billionaire playboy with the ladies mostly as protective cover for his secret identity (a feature of all versions of the character), but he doesn’t wallow in the pain over the mugging that made him.

Adam West Batman cracks jokes – “Commissioner, one of them would be after Gotham. Two would be after regional power. Three of them and they want America. But, all four of them could only be after the world itself.” Or “Admiral, you sold off a submarine and you didn’t even get a drivers license.” Adam West Batman also parked in the Batmobile with Catwoman and danced the Batusi having great moments with all three actresses playing the Cat.

Many other versions of Batman have made use of movies having looser rules because the ratings system can replace the network Standards & Practices Department. This style of Batman wallows in showing the murder of the Waynes in the first movie in the series. Batman growls “I’m Batman” when trying to intimidate bad guys. And the Bat never seems to crack a smile.

The few examples of movies that played against this trope were so uniformly bad in failing to understand that a lighter Batman doesn’t have to mean an unreservedly stupid Batman that the suits that decide these things must be scared of taking their hands off the pendulum. Everyone loved Michael Keaton Batman, but divided on Christian Bale Batman between “good for the prevailing style” and “fuck you, Man, take a throat lozenge!”

So it is this larger context that guides my rumination about my current trip to Gotham to report the story. My list of needs, stories I can toss off for free to help drive eyeballs to this site. A concern that putting original work up on my site and my Wattpad mirror page damages the ability to publish that work for money later. I really want to see the Bat and Cat as a couple. And nothing about Batman is going to let me get out clean, like Michael Corleone.

Even still I had to wake up one night recently with the idea that I can’t explain beyond I get cool ideas all the time and I write them down to get back to them eventually. I solved the is this really a spandex story question by simply pushing Bruce Wayne down a ski slope in Vermont where he promptly breaks his leg and he sends out telepresence robots to control Gotham. I solved the let him be happy question by assuming that Catwoman had other reasons to break off the wedding the first time and simply comes home to take care of her man like Grace Kelly did for Jimmy Stewart.

And I continue to assert jettisoning Wonder Woman out of the story cycle works narrative miracles. Catwoman is a jewel thief and there’s no way she stops…completely. I see her as breaking into places with jewels she wants only to take selfies wearing the rock before putting it back. Batman gets his revenge by making her write the security report. Basically, Batman told in the style of a Tracy-Hepburn movie. Why not, can we not have some fun in Gotham?

However, there is another hidden purpose to putting Batman in the same house as a strong committed woman whether Catwoman or Wonder Woman (if absolutely necessary). Some people question Batman at a philosophical level that expresses discomfort with Gotham needing such a damaged billionaire to dress up in vampire fetish gear to break criminals’ and other poor people’s arms. I won’t go so far, but I have observed that speaking charitably Batman might be what Gotham needs, but what has Bruce Wayne the billionaire playboy done for his city?

The easiest way to mine this discomfort with the prototype spandex vigilante is to throw him in with a woman who will force him to actually use his philanthropic foundations as more than cover for the Bat. Wonder Woman is an Amazon rooted in love; she could’ve pushed her husband into a soup kitchen. Catwoman would be better than this coming from Gotham’s worst neighborhoods and she’s known and cared for the Bat for far longer.

All of this wakes me up one night for Batman: First Person Bat. An excellent way to have fun while saying one or two things that matter. But, please don’t take this to mean everything is all worked out here in Gotham, I still need to figure out which of the many villains available across the DC mythology need to show up to ruin the Bat and Cat’s day. Villains are good.

But, then again maybe I simply wanted to make the picture of Batman in a cast flopped on his couch with TV remote learning yet again about “500 channels and nothing on.” Check back later if I stay with this story…

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