I am the Night: Batman revealed - and the twisted truth behind Deathtraps-R-us | Street Jazz

Sunday, June 3, 2012

I am the Night: Batman revealed - and the twisted truth behind Deathtraps-R-us

Posted By on Sun, Jun 3, 2012 at 11:02 AM

I first wrote this for the Grapevine in the early 1990s, and it has gone through several revisions since then, this being the last, for the Ozark Gazette in 1998, before Christian Bale put his stamp on the role.

The Batman has long been my psychotic super-hero of choice, though I’m not all that sure I’d want to live in a city inhabited by these well-intentioned characters.

There is a slight revision in this version; I have removed the insipid word “awesome” for something else entirely. Think you can spot where I did it?

I am the Night . . .
Batman revealed - and the twisted truth behind Deathtraps-R-us

Bob Kane died this past week. For those who don’t know him, Kane was the creator of the Batman, a “super-hero” who had captured the hearts and imaginations of readers for almost 60 years.

He has survived evil geniuses, camp, deathtraps, and the even the forces of Adam West and George Clooney.

Though others went on to helm the adventures of this most grim avenger, Kane set the tone with his dark, tortured hero, and bizarre villains.

Batman was different from most heroes - no super powers, but a quick and agile mind. He also had a tendency to settle most disputes with his fists. Who would you rather have arrest you? Superman, with his sense of fair play, even to lawbreakers, or a dark, brooding Dark Knight, who always seemed just this close to total psychosis?

In fact, there is a particularly telling scene which for inexplicable reasons was cut from the first Batman film directed by Tim Burton.

A suburban couple and their young son are waylaid by thugs and robbed in one of Gotham City’s dark alleys. The robbers retreat to the roof, where they count their ill-gotten gains. Suddenly, a dark figure comes from out of nowhere, and attacks the two hoodlums.

In the film version, one thug asks, “Who are you?” whereupon Michael Keaton replies, “I’m Batman.”

In the original script, Batman tells the thug to tell all his friends about him, because there just won’t be this sort of thing going on anymore in Gotham at night.

Despite his fear, the thug sneers. “You don't own the night,” he tells the masked man.

Batman smiles - a cold, pitiless smile - and replies with a voice devoid of all humanity, “I am the Night.”

And of course, now we have George Clooney. Still, Clooney wasn't the first to shrink inside the Batcowl. In the 1960s, we had the ABC series, Batman. I was in a particularly cynical mood some time ago, when I happened upon some of the old Adam West adventures on video. I noticed a lot more this time around.

As in the films, the television Gotham City is apparently in the midst of an economic downturn. Surely a thriving city would not have had nearly the number of abandoned warehouses that Gotham appears to have,. All with utilities turned on, no less.

A depressed city makes for a large number of underemployed citizens, which leads me to my next observation. Those hapless henchmen that the Joker, Catwoman, and Egghead, etc. employed were really not members of the criminal underclass at all, but men and women whose unemployment benefits had run out, and who had to settle for any work they could find.

The major employers just happened to be the so-called “super-villains.” Hell, they probably had ongoing contracts with local temp agencies.

And what was the first thing that they made their new employees do? They made them wear silly outfits, even worse than those foisted off upon fast food workers. Catwoman made her men wear plastic hats and furry ears, while the Penguin called his crew by bird names. Is it any wonder that Batman and Robin were able to defeat whole gangs so easily? Their essential human dignity had already been stripped away, making them easy prey.

They probably wanted to be knocked out.

And what about those escape-proof death traps? I can easily imagine Bruce Wayne owning Deathtraps-R-us, a company specializing in contraptions designed to rid the world of Batman once and for all. Since he designed, sold, and probably serviced them, getting out of the contrivances would have been child’s play.

Haven’t you ever wondered why the most reliable death trap, 18 guys with assault rifles, never seemed to be an option? “No, Batman, simply killing you is too easy. First I’ll humiliate you with this solar powered nut cracker.”

Would it really be worth it, living in a city inhabited by vigilantes in long underwear? Imagine the eventual effect on your property values, having, Batman, Flash, or the Hulk (there goes the neighborhood - literally) running amuck, demolishing your neighborhoods, just to stop a few nut cases with equally bad dress sense?

Yes, Batman might stop a few muggings and the odd megalomaniac or two, but there are more practical thoughts to consider here. How would you like to be driving behind the Batmobile and all of a sudden this idiot yells, “Robin! Release the Batbrakes!” Instantly this parachute comes whistling out of their vehicle and covers your windshield.

Allstate probably wouldn’t even bother setting up a Gotham branch office.

And what about all that nuclear waste from the Batnuclear reactor? You know, the one that Alfred was always dusting? “I’ll be right there with your tea, Master Bruce.”

Tea, indeed.

Thank you, Bob Kane.

Ozark Gazette - November 16, 1998

sdrake@cox.net

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