Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Here we go again...

I've seen two episodes so far of The Batman, The WB's latest attempt to relaunch/reinvent their cash cow in animated form. Can't say I'm that impressed: the animation is kind of interesting, the opening credits are nice, and the theme song is a nice break from the School of Danny Elfman, but everything else about the show is ... well...

The premise is simple, if not exactly original: early adventures of our hero, who is beginning his vigilante career in the new century. And he appears to be, uh, some kind of 20something multi-millionaire hipster dude, the sort that was just littering the streets of Manhattan and San Francisco during the internet boom years. Bruce Wayne is forever hosting rave-inspired fundraisers, which I guess is okay, but even his Bat persona is prone to expressions like (I'm paraphrasing here because I didn't take the time to transcribe actual episode banter) "dude" and "awesome." (Reminds me of B-Man's adventures in the Swingin' 70s, when he'd occasionally blurt out something like "We dig" when a writer decided to make him more "relevant" to America's youth.)

The problem here, if I even have to spell it out, is that Batman is a man outside time; he's completely out of step with his surroundings. His moral code comes from the late 1930s, which is probably why the art direction in both the Tim Burton movies and the Bruce Timm animated series is so deliberately difficult to place chronologically: a lot of the distant past, a little bit of the near future, not much of the immediate present.

I'm all for a Batman who is still finding his way, but this ain't workin' for me so far. The Batman feels less like a retelling of BM's early days than a relaunch of Batman Beyond with Bruce himself in the Terry McGuiness role.

Political pundits love the 10-dollar word "gravitas," but if there's ever been a character to whom it applies--other than, say, Oedipus--it's Bats. This latest incarnation belongs on The O.C., not The W.B.

PS. What the hell is Bane doing in Episode Three, let alone Season One? It made sense -- and was emotionally loaded -- for a character in the comics to come out of nowhere and nearly destroy years and years of the Batman's work (which paves the way for BM's extended family to pick up the slack), but to introduce this guy as the third villain in a young crimefighter's career is crazy talk.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Knightfall 4: Broken Bat

Walking around in public and going to work wearing the same crusty pair of undies day after day is not my idea of sexy. But--and The Monk was absolutely right to predict this--doing so as a reminder of my submission to another man (one who by this point knew ten times more about me than I did about him) was an enormous turn-on, if I may borrow the favorite word of Playmates everywhere.

When I finally got the go-ahead to remove this cruel mockery of my old crimefighting attire, I felt a huge wave of relief. Freedom--of a sort. But now the "canvas" (as The Monk called it, referring to the "painting" I was doing on the inside of the briefs day after day) became a "flag" I was ordered to display prominently in my cage.

What all of this dipping back and forth into fantasy and reality taught me was that there has to be what I call a Level of Acceptable Risk in s/m-themed roleplay. In solo batplay, that has sometimes meant a small amount of some illegal, mind-altering substance. The risk is obvious (within the story, it means that Batman is committing a crime--and in my real life, it means the same thing about me), but it's an acceptable one for me. No risk means little or no incentive to transcend day-to-day experience; too much risk means you go off the deep end.

And if you did not know better, you would surely assume after finding all these messages on my voicemail and seeing the nonstop lump in my pants that The Monk was a stalker and/or I was an obsessive nutcase. Risky indeed, especially since I honestly did not know much about the guy at all (in real life, as well as within the story). But that was by my own design, a way for me to experience genuine vulnerability in a very visceral way. (I've since asked The Monk to feed me clues about his own "real" identity now and then, just as a little assurance that he's not going to go all Fatal Attraction on me at some point.)

The day the undies came off was also The Monk's last day online for a week and a half, and I didn't want this chapter of our collaborative story to end without some kind of breakthrough. And I got one, on a huge scale indeed: later that day, I realized he'd done exactly what he threatened he would do. He had broken me (ie, Batman) "mind, body, and soul." I was no longer Batman. I was Ratman.

I've read and heard about bottoms being broken, but never really knew what the sensation would feel like until it happened to me. (I'll vow to write more about all this in a future entry... mainly trying to get the plot out for now, before it progresses much further.) As of that afternoon, I've abandoned the Batman role--packed up the costume and equipment, moved it out of the Cave (which I've now rechristened "The Rat's Nest"), and tried to come to terms with the fact that the organizing metaphor of my life has been taken away from me (uh, metaphorically speaking, of course... jope you're still with me on this). Evidently I'll be "allowed" to play that role again someday, but only on The Monk's terms. For now, I'm embracing my new transitional role as Ratman, devising a new costume for myself (which is appropriately unpleasant to wear, by the way), and replacing the many bat-related images and figures in my cave/cage/nest with rat equivalents. I'm even reading Robert Sullivan's much hyped recent book, Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants," learning as much as I can about these wingless rodents.

Why? Because I want to see where all of this takes me. Back when he was still dismantling my Batman-self, The Monk threatened that he'd either destroy me or make me stronger. (Thanks, Nietzsche... and Conan.) He's accomplished the first of those ends; now, with his help, I want to strive for the latter. So the man who was my greatest enemy has become my mentor. I thought before it happened that "breaking" Batman would be like brainwashing him. But I'm fully aware of what I've gone through, who I used to be, and who did it to me--and that knowledge is even more devastating than amnesia would be.

His ten-day absence is almost up, and The Monk will soon be back. Progress reports will follow here. If I sound like I have jumped into deep water, that's because I have--or, I should say, I've allowed a fantasy to pass dangerously close into my daily existence. Fortunately, I have several reliable lifeguards on call, and I do know how to swim.

I don't know where my future encounters with The Monk will leave me yet, but I do know they've already and irreversibly changed me--both my Bat-self and the one under the mask--and I have faith that the final destination will be well worth the trip.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Knightfall 3: Knightsend

Apologies if the narrative and language in this story is a little too elusive; I realize as I try to talk about my adventure that it requires all sorts of background info I don't have the energy to provide. But hopefully you'll get the basic idea, which is that I've been willingly surrendering more and more power to a really impressive Top in an ongoing roleplaying game that continues to blur the boundaries between "fantasy" and "reality."

(When we last left our hero, he was enduring a 24-hour cum ban imposed by his unseen online archenemy...)

The special guest villain turned out to be a no-show, which was a mild relief. But the Hub was still ready for some bat action himself, and, thinking quickly, I realized I had a one-hour window during which to meet The Monk and get some real relief from my torments. In my weakened condition, he attempted to learn my real name--I gave him a pseudonym, of course--and then he presented me with a choice: either surrender my mask forever, or, er, relieve myself (in that most special way) inside it and wear it the rest of the evening with the Hub.

I went with Option A, but just as I was about to do the deed, the Hub walked in on me, not in any sort of character, and forcing me out of the one I was in. I blocked the monitor and webcam with my cape until he left the room. In the interim, I suddenly sensed I had yet another option: opting out of Monk's control altogether. (He had planted this seed in my mind the night before, by pointing out that I never said "no" to any of his demands. So I wondered what a "no" might mean, within the storyline.) I turned off the webcam, shut down the chat, and walked away.

But once I did, I felt ... like I was missing something. While my character might have been trying everything in his power to escape The Monk's clutches, the me underneath him was not so eager to leave. Complicating matters further, the scene with the Hub was merely so-so: a thousand shades lighter and campier than what I'd just been through, for starters, and what was supposed to be ambiguous (was he a good guy or a bad guy?) proved merely confusing. I broke the cum ban with H (knowing that if I ever returned to The Monk's cage, I'd be punished one way or the other), and even that was kind of a letdown. That night, some final fragments of our online chat told me that my unseen adversary had taken my actions in a completely unintended way--as a personal brushoff. A long discussion with M followed the next day, and once we finally had things hashed out on the real-world level, I found myself in that awkward position of a prisoner crawling back to his jailer. The Monk took full advantage of the situation, and a new punishment was indeed levied: stripped of my batsuit, I had to produce just the right pair of undies (which happened to be dirty to begin with, since I didn't know what was ... coming) and then wear them nonstop for the next three and a half days as they served as a reservoir for certain vital fluids which have a tendency to leak out of me when I least want them to.

The night before, as The Monk began to call me by the name he assumed to be my real one, I felt left out. I could tell what he was trying to do, but it just wasn't working. (Saying, "I know all your secrets, Bill" to someone whose name isn't Bill doesn't leave non-Bill feeling much of anything.) And the thing was, I wanted to experience the mindfuck he was cooking up for me, so during the followup encounter, I told him the name my parents gave me, something I've never done before. Which made me feel .... really, really vulnerable. Definitely another unmasking.

My fake-real and real-real names having been revealed, I was stripped of the last shreds of my Bat-identity and rechristened "Ratman." Over the next several days, I received taunting phone calls from The Monk on a regular basis during the course of the morning or afternoon, each of which I replayed over and over again, even as my increasingly filthy underwear reminded me of his mastery over me.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Knightfall 2: Who Rules the (K)night?

One night, as I gazed up into a webcam at a man somewhere who could see me but not be seen by me, the Monk began referring to my (bat)Cave as a Cage. And a new scenario began: I was his virtual prisoner, dutifully reporting to him every night, sometimes masked, sometimes not (what did it matter anymore?), eagerly anticipating another encounter.

During some of these sessions, or more often after they were officially over for the evening, we shared our own perspectives on the Batman myth. Here was a man who took his fantasy role as Villain as seriously as I take mine as Hero. I'd boast (as heroes do) that he'd never win in the end, that I would never be defeated, and he'd reply (as villains do) that I was dead wrong. He pointed out once that heroes can always be undone because they must adhere to a moral code, and all a good villain--who is bound by no such thing--has to do is to subvert that code and force his opponent into an impossible situation. (Sort of like what I recently heard described as Karl Rove's strategy as architect of Bush's campaigns: don't just attack an opponent's weaknesses, but find a way to exploit and attack his strengths, too.)

I told The Monk my theory that Batman is really a Bottom at heart, because why else would he keep getting himself into one deathtrap after another? I've long suspected that the Caped Crusader's true motive is not to avenge the death of his parents, but to punish himself for allowing it to happen in the first place (the typical "logic" of a child who encounters destructive forces he doesn't understand and can't control).

I've never been comfortable with that age-old dichotomy of Top/Bottom (or Butch/Femme, etc) in the first place; I firmly believe that people are way more complicated than such simple oppositions would suggest. Sure, you can prefer being the fuck-er or the fuck-ee, but I refuse to see those as inflexible, life-defining categories. I do tend to feel Bottom-y 90% of the time, but I have my Top days now and then, and to be honest, neither role totally suits what I really do in bed anyway.

But maybe my claims of versatility are just an evasion, since, as a close friend of mine pointed out two decades ago, there's a real taboo against declaring yourself a Bottom, as if you're surrendering an essential part of your masculinity. (And yes, gay men tend to buy into myths of masculine identity every bit as much as straight men do.)

In any case, The Monk insists he's a born Top, and I'll be damned if he isn't right. More than anyone else I know, he seems to embody the essence of the role, creating inescapable traps for me, learning what turns me on and then using it to lure me into further traps, and so on.

And I love it, which explains why, night after night, I've been reporting to my unseen opponent and allowing him to peel away at my defenses (and my various identities) with delicious skill. Sometimes I'd feel like succumbing, sometimes I'd feel like fighting back. In my role as Batman, I'm basically obliged to resist, of course, and that inner tension was driving me nuts. One night I resisted one of his demands, and to "punish" me he forbade me from cumming until he gave me his permission.

Now, it's human nature that the minute you're told you can't do something, it's the only thing you want to do. The next 24 hours were sheer hell, as I walked around Gotham with the biggest permanent boner I've had since I was a horny teenager nearly 30 years ago. I've read about these kinds of games before, but I'd never played them, and I'm here to tell you that it was an amazingly intense experience. Hardly pleasant, but eye-opening to say the least. (I hoped the eyes of my coworkers weren't directed to the bulge in my pants, and my job seemed next to impossible to contentrate on.) At one point I was hurting so much I could barely walk. My lives as Batman and Bruce Wayne were intersecting with painful passion, and that thought turned me on even more. (Hmm, that metaphor of "turning on" gives me a good way to explain this: it's like I had a lamp that was turned on even when I wanted/needed it off, and its light kept shining in my eyes, blinding me.)

And, as chance would have it, when our next rendezvous neared and I was about to be granted freedom at last, I ran into a pretty major snag. Two, to be precise: another virtual villain I'd been wanting to combat was suddenly available for the first time in weeks (that is, he IM'd me to say he'd be online that night), and the Hub told me he was coming home from work early, and suggested we plan on a little duo Batplay.

Holy cliffhangers!

Monday, September 20, 2004

Knightfall 1: Meet The Monk

When I first started this blog back in mid-2003, it wasn't with the sole intention of logging interesting manifestations of the Batman myth in pop culture. That's mostly what I've done here lately, and it's still a lot of fun, but I always meant to use this site as a place to think and write about (and encourage fellow travellers to think and write about) the deeper psychological, political, and spiritual dimensions of what I call "batplay"--ie, what happens when I suit up and proudly indulge the fetish I once harbored in secrecy and shame.

I've been engaging in batplay for about nine years now: putting on one of several "batsuits" and masks, in the process honoring a childhood fascination with a certain obsessive costumed crimefighter. It feels good, and it turns me on, but it's never been simply "fun" for me; like the comic book character before me, I've turned to these nocturnal pursuits and disguises as a way of working through childhood trauma. It's not about jerking off, it's about breaking through.

Well, that's the theory, at least. But the last few years of batplay, either solo or with my partner, haven't usually been as transcendent as I'd have liked. More often than not, I felt like I'd hit a dead end, like I was just going through the motions. The storylines I'd created in solo play had become so complicated and so layered that they just didn't go anywhere meaningful anymore. There's only so far you can lead yourself when a path leads entirely through your own imagination. Moreover, my opportunities to suit up in private have been more and more limited in recent years for various real-world reasons, and I've learned the hard way that there's no point in trying when I'm tired or in the wrong mood. Meanwhile, batplay with the Hub, while rewarding in its own way, has never been primarily about the quest for transcendence, because the saga doesn't carry the same emotional weight for him as it does for me. For him, it's a little light kink every now and then, which probably reminds him of Adam West's campy tv show and little more. That's not a complaint at all; there are plenty of other interests and experiences we don't share, too, and we're both fine with that. Duo batplay really is more about having fun, and if I learn things in the process--which I often have, like about how to communicate my sexual desires to my partner, or how to share my most private fantasies with him--then all the better.

The dead end came to an end a month and a half ago when, through one of those accidents that feels more purposeful in retrospect, I decided to install Yahoo Messenger on my computer and chat with a few fellow batfans, as I wrote here in early August. I'm still as unimpressed with the chat mode as ever (probably because so much of the dialogue it encourages really is just "chat"--i.e., idle blather that I wouldn't want to engage in offline, either). But the best thing to come of it by far has been my encounters with The Monk.

I'm nicknaming this guy The Monk out of respect for his anonymity (and as you'll soon see, I don't have much more to call him at this point beyond another pseudonym anyway). I've picked "The Monk" as a name for two reasons: first, because that's the name of one of Batman's earliest and most dangerous adversaries in the comics. The first story in the excellent 1988 DC compilation The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told recounts their one and (I think) only adventure, from a 1939 two-parter (back in those pre-Comics Code days when Batman packed heat, as the final page reveals). The opening tease reads: "The Batman--weird menace to all crime--at last meets an opponent worthy of his mettle. A strange creature, cowled like a monk, but possessing the powers of a Satan! A man whose powers are uncanny, whose brain is the product of years of intense study and seclusion!" The comic-book Monk's abilities are mighty indeed, twice nearly killing our hero and seizing control of his brain.

And that description is fairly accurate for my Monk, too. (You want the second reason for that particular pseudonym? All things in time...) Our earliest online encounters were fairly routine--if still hot--roleplaying scenarios, text-only and full of the stuff of every batperv's fantasies: he'd lure me to his hideout, overpower me, trap me, threaten to unmask me, yadda yadda yadda. One of the biggest limitations of textplay is that when I get into it, I tend to forget and then violate various fictional groundrules (can't hit somebody because my arm is shackled, that sort of thing), which of course works for me but not for my storytelling collaborator. Aside from a rather complicated three-parter, these nightly bouts were self-contained (if I got unmasked one night, we'd start from scratch the next night, the slate magically cleared).

After I'd developed a certain trust for The Monk, and an equal respect for his imagination (finally! somebody who played the game well enough that I didn't have to do all the work!), we added photos, then the phone, and finally a webcam to our sessions. And for the first time, a stranger saw my unmasked face. For real (though that word "real" is rather slippery, as we shall see...) My one stipulation was that once The Monk knew what I really look like beneath the disguise, we could never again pretend that he didn't.

And that's when things started to get really, really interesting.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Hero? Villain? Your call

I have the new Yahoo group DCComicsM4M to thank for first telling me about the guy dressed as Batman who scaled the ledge of Buckingham Palace during a protest. Since then, of course, the story has been everywhere, including a funny segment at the top of The Daily Show (Jon Stewart acknowledged the guy was probably crazy, but gave him props for resurrecting the Old School Adam West outfit instead of the more fashionable Kilmer/Keaton/Clooney variation).

I keep wondering if this is the same guy who dresed up as Spider-Man earlier in the summer as part of a similar-sounding U.K. campaign for fathers' rights to see their children, which I found out about through a segment on NPR that I don't have the energy to track down right now.

On a related note, THE BEAT has been tracking sightings of superheroes (or at least men dressed like them) doing villainous things for quite a while, in an amusing running tally. Oh, and I just checked for the first time in a while, and they not only have a piece on the Buckingham Palace story but confirm its connection to the Spider-Man incident.

What a wondrous world we live in, with costumed vigilantes flooding in from all directions. At last!

Friday, September 10, 2004

Madam, I'm Adam

Holy, makeover, Batman! I hadn't checked out The Official Adam West Web Site in ages--at least a year--so when a new Yahoo Group alerted me to it, I thought I'd pay a visit. (To be honest, the message subject line--"Adam West lives"--made me think that maybe he didn't any more... I mean, he's not exactly the youngest crimefighter on the block these days... but fortunately he seems to still be fit as a fiddle.)

Talk about your major site improvements: in addition to a design overhaul, there are now enough photos to keep you busy for ages (oh, if only I'd been able to lay my hands on some of these when I was a young closeted batfetishist) and the promise of more to come, plus news clippings, trivia games, and (of course) stuff to buy.

I see Adam is now referred to as "Classic Batman," which reminds me of "Classic Coke" for some reason. But hey, he'll always be a classic in my book, right alongside Homer and Ovid.

Thursday, September 09, 2004


At last--someone has made a batfanflick to rival THE DEATH OF BATMAN in terms of darkness, violence, and all that good stuff. Leave it to the French to turn the Very Dark Knight's saga into an NC-17 (or so) leap into the existential abyss. OSCILLATIONS features all the jump cuts, weird sci-fi gadgetry, and ultra-heavy dialogue that Americans love to giggle at in French experimental film, along with a really interesting costume variation for our hero (the familiar mask plus trenchcoat, sometimes business attire), awkward subtitles, and plenty o' gore and bat-on-cat action. The climactic torture scene is so hot that I wish it had gone on way longer, but I'll take what I can get.

To be honest, I wanted to like this more than I really did, but it's still well worth checking out. (ADULTS ONLY--but then, if you're a kid, you really shouldn't be checking out my blog, either.) Many thanks to the folks at Batman Fan Films for spreading the word about it.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Going public (Sort of)

A quick glance at my site-visitor-tracking-doodad a couple of days ago told me that my slashblog (how's that for neologisms?) "Beginnings" was suddenly getting a whole lot of new visitors courtesy of this entry in a vanilla comics blog. (Hmmm, "slashblog" is catchy, but I need to come up with something better than "vanilla comics blog" to describe the latter... "vanilla" and "slash" don't make very good opposites. Any suggestions, anybody?)

I'm not really sure why "those with weak stomachs" are advised not to check out my tale; that phrase makes me think of violence rather than the unconsummated lust and sublimated bondage fantasy that our heroes have been facing so far. Hmmmmm...

Anyway, if you're one of the people who has found his or her way here through "The Beat: The News Blog of Comics Culture," then welcome. As you've probably figured out by now, I write from a fairly particular point of view for a fairly particular audience, and if your stomach is, uh, strong enough, please keep checking back. Drop me a line, whether you're straight or gay, boy or girl, or anything in between any of the above.

On the other hand, if you're a regular reader of THIS blog and haven't yet checked out "The Beat," I encourage you to give it a look if you love comics. I'm really happy to have discovered it myself: the writing is excellent, and it's packed with info.

As for our boys in tights over at "Beginnings," I do believe the newly active Robin is about to find a new and unintended audience of his own, too. Let's just hope he's not getting in over his head...

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

That's "Incredible"

It takes an annoyingly long time to load on my computer, but " The Official Movie Website of The Incredibles" bodes well for the film. I might be even happier if Craig T. Nelson and Jason Lee were live-action heroes in those suits since I find both of them incredible-ly hot, but I'll take their voices if that's all I get. (There was talk of Lee playing the Green Hornet for a while, and I do believe I would have had trouble sitting still in the theater if that had come to pass. As for Nelson, he's been floating my bat-boat ever since the first Poltergeist.) Allow me to report that Mr. Incredible's outfit is damn near perfect, and there's a tiny clip of him suiting up that rivals the beginnings of the Schumacher Bat-movies for fetishy fun.

The "countdown to opening" clock on the site tells me that (as of this very second) there are 64 days, 11 hours, 30 minutes, and 33 seconds--no, 32--no, 31--till the movie opens. Can't wait.

Are we allowed to lust after the animated stars of a kid movie? Hell, I've been doing a variation on that my entire life, so why stop now?