A Boy and his BAT(MAN)

BATMAN - as imagined by my 9 year old nephew Kyle!

BATMAN – as imagined by my 9 year old nephew Kyle!

As the superhero of my youth, I dreamed I could fly.
So, as a young lad of 6 or 7, I’d grab my mother’s finest tea towel, tie it a bit too tightly around my neck, and jump, joyfully and willfully, off of any ledge, platform, or stairwell I encountered. Naturally, this led not to me soaring through the sky like some super-powered avenger as I’d planned, but rather sprawled out, bruised and battered on the floor, surrounded by cracked tables, shattered lamps, overturned sofas, and, for my crowning achievement, a large piece of glass stuck firmly in my right leg (something that has left one mean looking and DEEP two inch scar to this day!)

At a loss of what to do and fearing I’d probably kill myself if I carried on this way, my parents sought to put a stop to my high flying heroics. Suddenly my stash of capes – or, my mom’s tea towels – moved to a higher shelf, my Spidey action figure was nowhere to be found in my toy box, and my Superman pajamas were mysteriously missing from my closet. But it was all to no avail, because these super-villainous parental figures of mine couldn’t stop me! Why, I had too many crimes to solve, and evil to keep in check, and nothing they could say or do could ever thwart my passion for superheroics! Finally resigned to this, they opted for a new tactic: they would steer me away from the big blue boy scout Superman, he who could leap over tall buildings in a single bound, or Spider-man, that wall crawling, web slinging masked menace, and instead feed my crazed obsession with someone a little more grounded and down to earth. Someone a little more human. Someone called…. the BATMAN!

Batman? But wait a darn minute… he doesn’t DO anything! He doesn’t even have ANY cool powers! He’s not from some distant alien planet! A radioactive spider didn’t mutate him! He’s just some dude in a pointy-eared mask! But my dad said that’s where I was wrong… and started telling me all about his old favourite television series, starring this Batman and his boy sidekick Robin, who fought crime as they cruised through Gotham City in the Batmobile. These were characters that’d been around in comics ever since he was a little boy, and what was most special about Batman was that he was just a normal man who stood against crime.

And I thought, “WOW, I’m a normal dude and I stand against crime.  That’s just like me!”

Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder



Still, I was suspicious about their distraction. “But what about the bad guys?” I’d ask, because as much as I was an expert crime fighter, I secretly LOVED the villains. (Truth be told, I always wanted Wile E to catch that damn Road Runner, and when it came to Archie and the gang, Reggie was totally da man!) He then proceeded to tell me all about the clown prince of crime, the Joker, and the hideous and tormented Two Face, the dangerous and deranged Penguin, the clever but dastardly Riddler, and the sultry and cunning Catwoman. With a cast of characters like that, how could I refuse? And so before long, there I was, crouched on the edge of the sofa, almost overcome with excitement, ready to watch some old reruns of my dad’s old favourite show, fully prepared to be completely and utterly amazed…

And then the show started and…

Who were these buffoons clowning around and winking at the camera? This was supposed to be about the very serious business of superheroes thwarting super villains – there was no time for FUN!! Why did Batman have big ol’ eyebrows on his mask? Why did the Joker look like my aunt when she wore too much makeup? Why did Catwoman purr instead of talk?? Why did that man they called Robin, who was supposed to be a kid but who sure looked like a man in TOO short shorts, keep yelling “HOLY” all the time? (GASP! Had I been tricked?? WAS THIS SOME KIND OF CHURCH?) Whatever foul deed was afoot, leaving the room in disgust, I swore I was DONE with THIS Batman dude.


Angry Bird Batman Cake


But that didn’t last long.
Flash-forward a few weeks later and I’m at a corner store with my mom, and I’m allowed to choose just ONE comic book from an overstuffed spinner rack to accompany me on a long car ride.  This is so it will:

1) keep me quiet so I don’t torment my younger sister, who unbeknownst to her has already been secretly cast as the Incredible Hulk to my Superman for this very ride, and

2) stop me from bouncing and flailing around too much so my infamous motion sickness doesn’t make an appearance and force me to projectile vomit all over the car, Exorcist style.  

Stuck with the hard task of choosing just one,  I remember being drawn to a cover of this dollar size digest comic book called Batman Family starring Robin, Batgirl, and, as the tagline read, “Batman, the Dark Knight Detective!”

“WAIT A MINUTE, Batman is a DETECTIVE!?! NO ONE told me THAT!” And so with the realization that Bats and I both might be a super sleuths – a piece of information I’d clearly missed up to this point – he suddenly appeared much more interesting to me. Maybe his super power was his big brain, and he used THAT to solve crime, just like I did! Well that did it…I had to have the book. And for weeks I carried it and brought it everywhere.  I read it so often  that the staples started to come apart at the seams, and the pages became smudged and hard to read. But…the capes! The spandex! The batarangs! The super sleuthing! I was HOOKED!


Batman Cookie Jar




Barbara Gordon Batgirl, DC DIRECT

Barbara Gordon Batgirl, DC DIRECT

And so the obsession began, and it’s continued unabated to this day Comics were the medium in which I came to understand “the Bat”, and discovered the things about him that I related to or admired the most. And in my imagination, comic book creators like Frank Miller, Denny O’Neill, Jim Aparo, and Neal Adams literally scripted and animated my childhood, just as the new champions of the Bat Family mythos like Scott Snyder, Gail Simone, and Jim Lee excite and inspire me today.  But others have grown to know and love him through many different mediums: the Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan movies, the Batman Animated Series, the Arkham Asylum games, or, yes, even, Adam West and his crazy television antics. And soon we’ll enter the era of “Batffleck” as Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill bring the ultimate bromance to life in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”. What’s interesting about Batman, and what sets him apart from most other superheroes, is that he CAN exist in all these different forms and interpretations – over his 75 years he’s been a vigilante, a “cop”, a detective, a space faring superhero, a scientist, a jokester, a grizzled war veteran, and a dark brooding anti-hero – and still remain as valid, relevant and truthful to the times today as he was way back then.  Batman’s origin – as a young boy he witnessed his parents murder in a dark alley and vowed to to one day rid the city of the evil that took his parents lives – has stuck mostly to its basic premise over the course of time, and there’s a reason for that – it simply works.  To echo what my father said many years ago, what’s at Batman’s core – what makes Batman BATMAN -is that he COULD be someone just like you or me. What makes him most a hero is that he’s someone who became obsessed over a terrible childhood tragedy, and then used that tragedy as motivation to achieve a state of physical and mental perfection in order to become the absolute pinnacle of what a human being could be. Soneone who would stand as guardian of his city, its greatest protector, so that no one under his watch would ever share the same fate he did. Taking tragedy like that and somehow turning it into triumph is something we can all relate to and admire.

Because that’s noble. That’s heroic. That’s BADASS.

And that’s Batman.


Keep Calm and Call Batman


Drawn by my then 8 year old nephew Kyle :)

Drawn by my then 8 year old nephew Kyle 🙂

Big Gay Superheroes Part 2 – The Dangerous Lives of Queerish Heroes!

One of my favourite writers (comic book or otherwise), is Gail Simone, a woman whose grasp of dialogue and nuances of character is so sharp she begs few parallels amonsgst her contemporaries – yup, she’s that good folks. In the late 1990s, Gail created a website with the rather disturbing title “Women in Refrigerators”, a site that took a rather sharp and disparaging look at the ill-advised treatment of female characters in the comic book industry, many of whom had been injured, killed, raped, sexually assaulted or depowered as some form of “plot device” to “further” some story. Her unblinking view of the portrayal of women in the medium encouraged both creators and fans, for better or worse, to reevaluate the effect and impact of these stories, and encouraged and spearheaded some widespread, positive change for the better throughout the industry in regards to the respect and treatment of these important female characters. And so, inspired as I’ve been by Gail’s quiet but forceful movement for change, I couldn’t help but ponder over the treatment of LGBT characters in this industry that I’d loved since my childhood.

And first of all…can I just say it’s 2011. And times, they are a-changing. And that’s not to take away by any means from the gay rights movement and the many issues faced by gay, lesbian bi and trans people on a day-to-day basis. But in my mind…really, who CARES at this point? Hasn’t gay culture saturated the media enough, with at least a handful of recognizable to most real life role models of actors and singers and athletes now loud, proud, and out…and yet still loved and admired by their adoring fans? Knowing this, how bad could the comic book landscape be?

Pretty bad it seems.

And if you belong to Marvel, downright dangerous to your being.

Read More

Big Gay Superheroes Part 1 – Where Are All The Sisters??

I’ve been a comic book fan, or more precisely, a super hero fan, most of my life. As part of my pop culture oeuvre, I am a reigning expert in most things spandex-y and superheroic, and my vast knowledge of these amazing creatures in capes and tights dates back to one icy cold December day in the late 1970s, in the beautiful seaside town of Baddeck.

At that time, I, along with my parents and younger sister, were visiting my great aunt Jessie, who lived in the neighboring community of South Haven. It was almost Christmas, and we were delivering presents to this woman who was like a grandmother to me, and at the same time running about this small town doing errands and stocking up on winter supplies for her modest, turn of the century farmhouse. Because I was so helpful carrying bags and boxes and holding doors for others, I was rewarded with a whole dollar – a king’s ransom at the time I assure you- to splurge on anything that caught my fancy at Stone’s Drugstore, our final stop for the day, and the closest thing to a shopping experience in this sleepy little town. Wandering the aisles, my eyes darting up and down and all around, as I considered candy treats and coloring books, yellow parachute men and silver slinkys, until finally I came, face to face and dead in my tracks, to a large “spinner rack”, full to overflowing with brightly colored and ever so inviting comic books. As I scanned the various titles starring Spider-man and Fantastic Four, Superman and Batman, I found myself drawn to one called the Justice League of America, and within a story titled “2000 Light Years to Christmas” (I’m not even kidding!) Being the holiday season, I took the whole story theme as a sign, and snatched the book up and ran off to the counter to pay the massive cover price of 60 cents, not caring to spend my left over change on candy or chocolate bars, but instead jumping up and down pleading COULD WE PLEASE GO so I could snuggle up in the back of the car and begin to consume my new treasure. But instead of consuming it, it seemed the book, and the very comic book world itself, was about to consume me.

I had seen comic books before of course, and was familiar with most of their costumed adventurers, but never had I seen them gathered together before so gallantly, fighting for truth, justice and the American way (whatever that meant!) Superman! Wonder Woman! Batman! The Flash! Green Lantern! Green Arrow! Black Canary! Firestorm! It was a pantheon of heroes, eager to transport me away on their noble adventures. And truly god like and heroic they seemed….not the Marvel everyman that Spidey represented, or the cutting edge sci fi technology of the Fantastic Four or Iron Man, the utter Id run wild of the Incredible Hulk or the rah rah Americana of Captain America himself. No, these mythical creatures seemed to watch over and protect all mankind, to walk among us but not be one of us, and I was truly captivated by that very divide and distinction in their nature.

But then I grew up. Sort of.

Read More

Nerd Nation: Rise of the Geeks!!!

Truth be told, i’m a bit of a geek. A nerd. A lover of all things so uncool they actually become cool. But, at first glance, you wouldn’t know this. In fact, upon closer inspection, I bear a remarkable resemblance to some youngish upwardly mobile urban professional. Yet still,even though you might have to scratch the surface a bit to see…peer deep into my inner soul even… you’ll find it. My inner geek, shining ever so brightly, in his ripped jeans and faded Superman T, totally getting his nerd-adelic freak on. A side not readily, not easily shown to everyone. In fact, truth be told again, I traverse these two secret worlds, one foot in each other, but never truly a flag waving, card carrying, look-at-me-I’m-in-da-HOUSE member of either. Therefore, I can stroll into some fancy dinner party or extravagant fundraiser, wearing my (borrowed) Armani shirt and Hugo Boss tie, and fake my way through some intellectual conversation on world politics, the economic crisis or how stunningly prepared the bacon wrapped scallops truly are (which technically I…um…licked the bacon grease off of, spit the rest in a napkin, and stuffed it into the nearest potted rose bush plant). Or I might hunker down in my favourite comic shop Strange Adventures, listen to some heated discussion between two portly bespectacled and surprisingly hairy middle aged gents, and try not to interfere but instead burst out with “it was Greedo OK? NOT Han! Greedo shot first!”

Yes, living this double life can be stressful. And at times, I tremble every so slightly in fear, as I sip my sparkling wine spritzer, gossiping and looking about with an air of boredom and feigned disapproval, along with Mitzi,LuLu and Bernard at some high class over priced function, half expecting some burly security guard type in European shoes to tap me on the shoulder and say “you and your Batman underwear wearing self are out of here! And furthermore… no swag bag for you!!” Or perhaps the aforementioned comic book dudes to suddenly start pelting me with half eaten veggie dogs and Sun Chip wrappers (those noisy, crinkly, eco-friendly bio-degradable kind) and say “get outta here you yuppie bastard, or I’ll lift my stomach and show you my hidden piercings!” Yes, as you can see, living two secret lives can be stressful indeed

But what if I’m not alone in this? What if, on any given day, you’d find tons of inner geeks wandering silently but nerdiliicously amongst you? What if that nice middle aged accountant type that finds you all kinds of hidden rebates at tax time is actually and Orc Overlord of the 13th Dimension in some Dungeons and Dragons fantasy? Or that shaggy haired thirty something dude, slightly too mature maybe for that tramp stamp tattoo you can’t help notice above his ever creepin’ lower skinny jeans, that nearly ran you over whisking by with his moch choco latte a la skateboard transforms magically at night into this amazing, toast of the town wunder chef at your favourite restaurant, preparing this beef tenderloin that makes you want to open your pants after comsuming and sobbingly weep your way into hysterics for the mere joy of it?

But what does all that mean? Sure it’s easy to say never judge a book by its cover and call it a day, but that’s too easy a life lesson. I think there’s more to it then that. What if Geek Culture is truly on the rise? What if all things uncool were suddenly – GASP- cool, not just to me but to everyone?
Superman S Symbol

To investigate further, let’s look at the evidence. On television, that love it or hate it barometer of all things pop culture worthy, shows like Glee (a show centred around a high school glee club people – how the hell did show choir become cool????) and The Big Bang Theory, (so very geek-tastic, I don’t even get half of what they’re referencing!) rule the airwaves. Can you imagine a show like Dynasty, or worst, LA Law, premiering these days? Why, the nerds would have that mutha off the airwaves in weeks I tell you! Go to the cinemas, and you can’t possibly escape the glut of superhero movies that abound (Thor, Green Lantern, Captain America) with more scheduled to come next year and the year after that (The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, Superman: The Man of Steel, Iron Man 3, Thor 2)….it may be sad I know this, but trust me folks, the list simply goes on and on. Who are they making these movies for, dear reader? YOU? I didn’t think so! So, at this rate, look out when Entertainment Weekly is saying you must run, not walk, to the latest adventures of “The Yellow Armadillo” or “The Rainbow Chandelier”. And as for comic books themselves, DC Comics is making world news with a massive rebooting of their entire universe come September – a back to basics for their entire superhero line. Newsworthy? Sure. These much beloved characters have existed in some form of another for 75 plus years keep in mind. But the front page of the New York Times people, as well as all major media outlets around the world? What….there was nothing else newsworthy to report on that day?? And look to the music industry, and Mother Monster herself, Lady Gaga, our current Queen of Haute Couture. I saw Gaga perform live last March and got to hear her describe firsthand her insecurities in her youth, and what it was like being an outsider and being bullied by peers growing up in upstate New York, where she was a suprising good student (she even spent summers in “nerd camps”, aka enriched learning courses learning about NASA and cow dairies and the like) and was often viewed as too provocative or too eccentric, and therefore a freak of nature, and that didn’t fit in. Well, let me tell you, this uber-freak is gathering an army – an armada even – the likes of which we may have never yet seen in our pop culture world. And this is after Michael Jackson made red leather jackets sell like crazy. And her message to the disenfranchised is powerful, heartfelt, ever reaching, and real. Enough to move a nation even…a nation on the rise. But, it’s important to note that Ms. Stephanie Germano would know a little something herself about traversing these two worlds. She described her childhood as lower middle class, yet she grew up in one of the more expensive neighborhoods in New York City and attended the same private school as Paris and Nicky Hilton. But then again, who’s to say she didn’t pop out of the womb a first class nerd and decided then, the self aware genius that she is, that the time had come to infiltrate society right from the very beginning? I mean, who’s to say that she didn’t look around with wide unblinking eyes to all those pocket protectors and taped glasses and empty champagne glasses and discarded boas and said “You know what? I can work with this!” Hmmmm….

Lady Gaga, Mother Monster

Lady Gaga in Boston, MA, March 8, 2011

So maybe, all things considered, this double life of mine isn’t such a bad thing. Hell, it seems to have worked for Gaga, didn’t it? Perhaps straddling that twilight world between all things cultured and all things geektacular, between what’s seemingly all grown up and possibly pretentious to all things simple and childlike and downright silly, really isn’t such a bad thing after all. Maybe a good plan would be to keep that Superman shirt with its bright S logo on underneath that borrowed Armani shirt, so I might easily slip and slide into whatever disguise the moment calls for (damn, where’s that phone booth when you really need it?? Stupid cellular age!) Maybe keeping my CNN app and Anderson Cooper’s favourite Twitter updates at the ready, along with my links to AintItCoolNews and PerezHilton will keep me prepared at a moment’s notice for some heavy intellectual commentary or some hard hittin’ nerd throw down. Seems I DO have a plan to navigate through this strange and wonderful new world. So what the hell am I worried about. But….do you, dear reader, do YOU? Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you! 🙂

Know Your Geeks!

Know Your Geeks!