Monday, December 25, 2006

More mask talk

In the early, more prolific days of this blog, I wrote several posts about the nature and appeal of masks, beginning here. Now an idle hour of googling other subjects has inadvertently led me to this meditation on masking in art and life from a blog on opera.

Batman makes an appearance, of course, which is how I found the illustrated mini-essay in the first place, but there are also references to tribal cultures, Mexican wrestlers, the KKK, and, of course, opera. (I hasten to add that it's during a performance of Pagliacci, the opera cited in the post, that the Joker nearly unmasks Batman on live television in the 60s series.) I didn't realize until I read the post that the word "mask" is opera-talk for "the region of the nose and cheeks, back up by the sinuses"--more or less the part of Batman's cowl that does not cover his face.

Time to slip my own on and get to work!

Monday, December 18, 2006

I meant to do my work today...

I have a million things to do tonight, and instead of doing any of them I have paid my first return visit in years to this amazing photo archive of real cops and its 17 pages of motorcycle cops (not counting several more organized by country). Then I found myself reading this blog entry by a woman who appears to view these magnificent specimens of masculinity exactly the same way I do:

For years I have lusted [after] you and your brothers. I have lingered at the courthouse to watch you parked out front, lounging on your motorcycles, striding back and forth from the front steps of the courthouse. I have dawdled along parade routes just to catch a glimpse of your hard thighs and strong knees atop the oh so shiny jack boots. The very sight of you on the road, back straight, sunlight glinting off your boots, legs embracing steel makes me weak and breathless....

Actually, I'd argue that this woman thinks a lot like a gay man. Or maybe we both ...

Damn, now I'm too hot and bothered to finish writing.

This night is not going well.

Or else it's going very, very well indeed. All a matter of perspective.

PS. Allow me to conclude this entry with a photo contribution of my own:

PPS. Now that I look at the picture carefully, it strikes me that the cop I am surreptitiously checking out is himself scoping out a woman. Ah, the circle of life!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Real Dark Knight

(Two entries in one day--unbelievable!)

Here's an interesting little animated bat-film I just stumbled upon via with an intriguing premise that Dr. Freud might enjoy...

... I know I did.

(Leather-clad) strangers in the night

What do I do on a sleepless night? Turn to GlovdCopSF's site in search of his latest photo gallery. Upon discovering he hasn't updated that page since October (not that I am in any position to compain, mind you), I head to his amazing and extensive links page, where I stumble upon LeatherCops.US and several fine video clips, including this one:

Uniform fetishism so pure it borders on something Leni Riefenstahl would come up with, and I gotta say I like it.

Value added: I discover that YouTube is actually jam packed with similar material, including this delectable specialty offering that happens to scratch a particular itch of mine quite well indeed:

(Side note: I will never forget the day, about 6 or 7 years ago, when I walked into a local coffeehouse on the morning of a police funeral to find an entire room full of motorcycle cops from around the state all sitting with their boots off, relaxing before the motorcade. Hummina hummina!)

Here's to sleepless nights!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Atomic dawg

I have a passing, semi-academic interest in fetishes that I don't happen to share, perhaps because they shed light on the dynamic behind the stuff that does turn me on. Rubber dog masks (brought to my attention by a potential Robin-in-training) aren't entirely my cup of tea, fetishwise, but I admit there's something hot about these, especially when modelled by a tasty treat like this guy:

If you're interested, check out the "" site.

Woof, as they say.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Monday, November 06, 2006

"Beginnings" begins again (tentatively)

Unlike the characters in my on-again-off-again saga "Beginnings" (which is on again as of this morning), I've been a very busy bat/man lately--so much so that I haven't had time to write here nearly as often as I'd like. I'm hoping (yet again) to change that, so stay tuned. It's been a very full fall, full in terms of both activity and creative potential. When I don't write here for a while, it usually means I'm spending all my time actually doing things instead of writing about them, which is certainly the case this time, but I want to make more room for blog entries again, because reflecting on one's activities can be just as important as having the adventures in the first place. The challenge is carving out the time to do a bit of both. Never easy for me, even in the best of circumstances.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Sweet dreams, indeed

Time for yet another apology for not posting here or on my "Beginnings" blog more often, but I really see no reason to write every single day when there's nothing of substance to say; I'd rather spend that time fighting crime or pretending to do so. I'm a quality-over-quantity blogger. Trust me, I do have lots more to write about, but time is at a premium once again.

But here's a lovely music video I just discovered on YouTube this morning. Nothing more than a montage of B:TAS footage recut around a Marilyn Manson cover of a Eurhythmics song, but it works quite nicely if you ask me:

Much more to come in the days ahead, so stay tuned, batfan-fans!

PS. Thanks for all the recent compliments about this blog. Always nice to know your thoughts are heard and your fantasies are shared. Keep 'em comin'!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Knight After 11: Travels in inner space

Most of these "Knightfall"/"Knight After" entries have dealt with my adventures in cyberspace, but an equally important, and far older, dimension of my batlife happens offline. The boundaries between roleplay with online friends/enemies and solo batplay have always been a little blurry for me, so I thought I'd devote this entry to some resources and experiences that don't necessarily involve outside players. (Yes, faithful reader, this is the link-filled post I've been promising for some time now.) This time around I'm just gonna present a few of the active and potential tools in my virtual utility belt, in the hopes that eventually I'll say more about how I've actually been using them lately.

1. I've been looking for an opportunity to write about Daniel Pinchbeck's book Breaking Open the Head here ever since I first started reading it about a year ago. I finished it several months ago and moved on to other subjects in this blog before I had a chance to discuss it, but this recent profile of Pinchbeck in Rolling Stone gives me a handy excuse to bring him up at last. (Clicking the last two links will tell you much more about his work than I could possibly accomplish in any paraphrase.)

I first heard the guy in a late-night broadcast of the UFO/ESP/conspiracy-theory radio wonderland which is Coast to Coast with George Noory (successor to Art Bell's show) a few years back. I happened to be in the midst of a solo bat-adventure at the time, and Pinchbeck's tales of drug-induced conversations with the universe struck a chord with me. It took me quite a while to track down his book in a store (though I could easily have ordered it here), and when I did, I was fascinated by what I found. Also a little horrified, since most of his adventures involve travelling to remote rainforests, near-psychotic breaks, and lots of puking, none of which has ever appealed to me. But the core of his story is remarkable for how closely it mirrors my own much tamer explorations with expanded consciousness. (A magic brownie is about as far as I'm willing to go, and that, combined with my active imagination, takes me plennnnnnnty far for my purposes.)

I realize I should probably quote a relevant passage or two, but that would require more effort than I should probably exert if I'm ever to get this long-delayed entry posted. Maybe I'll track down a few key lines for a future post. For now, instead, here are four lengthy excerpts from the book plus one outtake I haven't read yet which should give you a representative taste. The RS article also tipped me off to Pinchbeck's followup book and his forthcoming magazine/business endeavor. Oh, and here's a link to the writer's own blog on, which includes his thoughts on the RS story.

1a. Sooner or later I'm gonna have to follow Pinchbeck's recommendation to learn more about Terence McKenna's writings on similar concerns. When I do, this page of audio clips is sure to come in handy. Even more enticing: this collection of "Psychedelic Salon" podcasts, featuring talks by Pinchbeck, McKenna, and a dozen or so fellow travellers.

2. The subject of lucid dreaming is another one I've been meaning to introduce here for quite a while. In a sense, solo (and even group) batplay is, for me, something very like a lucid dream, in that it is a fantasy state I can enter and find myself collaborating with ... something or other: my own subconscious? the great beyond? One of my first introductions to the phenomenon came through a CD I picked up used a while back, a spoken-word-and-ambient-electronic project on the always-interesting em:t label called em:t 0096: lucid dreams. The speaker is Celia Green, a British writer who was one of the first to address the topic way back in 1968. There are a few audio clips (and another Coast-to-Coast sighting, no surprise) on this page, in conjunction with this documentary I just learned about. More recently, I've explored some of the how-to advice offered along with much more info on LD at this site. I found the advice so helpful that I decided to order webmaster Marc VanDeKeere's self-published manual, though I haven't started reading it yet. (It's in digital form only, and that doesn't sound like much fun to wade through.)

3. I'm finding tremendous parallels between the material above and various Buddhist lectures from the Insight Meditation Center in California, archived as podcasts at the amazing site Audio Dharma, a real treasure trove of information. I found the site while searching for information on Vipassana meditation, and I'm slowly making my way through the nearly 200 lectures available for free thus far.

4. Grant Morrison's website contains his wild, tongue-in-cheek treatise on "Pop Magic", the premise of which is essentially that the way to go beyond the surface layers of reality is to "Declare yourself a magician, behave like a magician, practise magic every day." The author of Batman: Arkham Asylum then provides you with brief lessons on focus, meditation, and the construction of sigils, among other things. It's fun and funny, and maybe some day I'll actually try some of the exercises Morrison proposes. (BTW, if Morrison's site doesn't keep you busy enough, head over to fellow comics writer Warren Ellis's blog--another must-read, as my links list to the right suggests.)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Holy Hullaballoo!

A tip o' the cowl to AdventureMan for creating a "Batman Film Festival" on his blog. Here are two highlights I'd never seen before (though the blog also contains snippets from fan films and the animated series, plus links to lots of consumable goodies). First, the never-aired pilot to a proposed Batgirl spinoff series:

What's most exciting to me about ths one, needless to say, is the existence of a whole new battrap I never knew existed. It's almost like stumbling upon a lost episode of the '66 series!

Next, a dance treat that's doubly nostalgic for me, even though I've never seen it before (as far as I know):

You really don't see dancing like that anymore, and I for one lament the loss.

Thanks again, AdventureMan! Keep fighting the good fight!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Back in action at last (sort of)

I know, I know: I disappear for weeks, and then come back with nothing more than this:

Sort like Thomas Pynchon, only it's no Vineland and I didn't even write it.

But it's still kinda funny.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Knight After 10: Circle game

Robin has turned in his resignation. Superman claims he, too, is ready to switch sides. And Batman--yours truly--has willingly composed a loyalty oath to his former archenemy and hunts down his longtime allies with abandon.

As radical as the events of DC's latest Crisis and Marvel's Wars may be (and I still haven't read either one), I don't think they involve quite as fundamental a shakeup as this. In the nearly four months since my "enlightenment," everything has changed. The old divisions of my Yahoo buddy list--Heroes/Villains--no longer apply. Most of the men in those two categories have been redesignated Friends or Enemies (and most of the old "heroes" are now "enemies"), while the Monk, with whom my relationship is infinitely more complicated, gets a category of his own. I myself have been labelled a fool, a traitor, a puppet, and far worse--and I love it all.

My personal Extreme Makeover (which, admittedly, still probably looks a lot like classic Stockholm Syndrome to the naked eye) dovetails beautifully with the premise of a book I found in a used book sale at a local church around the same time I returned to the Monk's welcoming embrace. I picked up Carol Pearson's The Hero Within: Six Archetypes We Live By for its title, of course, and was hooked by the brief explanation of its "six heroic archetypes" on the back cover:

the Innocent, who learns to trust; the Orphan, to mourn; the Wanderer, to find and name personal truth; the Warrior, to assert that truth in order to change the world; the Martyr, to love, to commit, to let go; and, finally, the Magician, who learns to recognize and receive the abundance of the universe.

Having read roughly half the book by now (it's only 176 pages, but it's been a very busy summer), I wouldn't say those are the clearest capsule descriptions of the six stages for my purposes here, but they give you a rough idea. And perhaps, like me, you can immediately sense how accurately they capture the trajectory of the comic book Batman (as well as many other mythic superheroes): from Innocent to trust-seeking Orphan to clarity-oriented Wanderer to power-ful Warrior. (That is, of course, the trajectory of Batman Begins, while Superman Returns focuses on role 5, the Martyr, which accounts for its much-discussed similarity to the Christ story.)

Pearson's book came out in 1986, and its opening chapters are a little heavy on New Age jibberjabber, but if you can look past that stuff, she's really on to something. If I quoted every passage that resonated for me, this entry would be at least ten times longer than it already is. Perhaps I'll devote another post to some key passages, but what I really want to call attention to for the time being is her insistence that life is not a linear progression from Innocent to Magician, and that the Magician phase is not meant to be the final or highest form of existence. Rather, we repeat the journey over and over throughout various dimensions of our lives, learning new lessons each time, and we can exist simultaneously at different points on "the Hero's Wheel." For example, one might be a Wanderer in one's career path while working out Martyr issues in a relationship and feeling like an Orphan on the spiritual front. And so on. You may find all of this a little too tidy, but Pearson does a convincing job of laying out the journey.

Parallels to my Bat-life are crystal clear to me: like many people my age, I first encountered the character as a pre-teen, enchanted by good-guy Adam West and his bad-guy adversaries on the tv show and in the relatively simple DC comics of the early-to-mid-1960s. My innocence was shattered in 1970 when my older brother (a clear father figure and the Batman to my Robin) died and various other awful things happened. leaving me to feel like an orphan for a good two decades or so, until I adopted the mantle of the Bat myself, embracing in adult life the central myth of my childhood. During this Wanderer phase (amply documented in this blog, along with the online conquests of my Warrior period), I came to see how immersing myself in superhero fantasy was not only sexually exciting but a valuable tool of spiritual exploration. Then I met the Monk--the villain that every myth requires, battled him, was defeated and caged by him (thus becoming a Martyr), then escaped his clutches and wandered a bit more, only to conclude that perhaps he was not a villain after all but a teacher, one I could gladly serve. Enter the Magician phase, in which, to use more of Pearson's handy oversimplifications, the hero "takes responsibility for his life" (ie, for the actions I performed as Ratman, when I was still a captive) and "confronts the Shadow." That pretty much sums up where I think I'm at these days, at least on the Bat-front. (My Bruce Wayne life is a whole 'nother story, believe me--but then, I've long been able to use the lessons I've learned in Bat-fantasy as a template for my work as a teacher, an artist, and a member of a longterm couple.)

There is much, much more I'd like to say about all this, and I know I promised plenty more links last time (because in addition to Pearson I've been encountering lots of other material that helps shed light on the saga, too), but this will have to do for now. Life has calmed down ever so slightly for a wee bit, so I will try to write here more often. The Monk saga doesn't move as quickly these days, now that I'm a willing student of magic rather than a captive warrior struggling to free myself, so I'd like to devote more time to the lessons I'm learning from all this rather than simply recapping plot developments.

Stay tuned for more thrilling adventures, dear reader--and best wishes on your own journeys around the Hero's Wheel.

PS. The "soul-stealing" tagline above comes from this bizarre 1973 Brave and the Bold story I came across at Dial B for Blog. Check it out!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Still still here

Heading out for a week in the woods (sort of) with the Hub, which I'm hoping will include a little batsex. Reports on this or rather other matters to follow. Check back soon.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Still here, sort of

Apologies for not posting more often lately. Between work and travel, there hasn't been much opportunity to do so, though my schedule does seem to be easing off in the near future, at least for a little while. (So much for summer being the slow time of the year.)

To try and ease back into the blogosphere, I just posted a couple of new chapters of my ongoing bat-serial, beginning with this one. Expect more in the days ahead.

Rest assured I continue to report to and learn from the Monk, much to my great joy; I'll have more to say on that in the near future as well.

Finally, a couple of bat-sightings you might enjoy as much as I have. First, an elaborate chalk drawing drawing by a street artist in action:

(I hope you can make out Bats' handsome mug to the artist's right; he's working on a Batman Beyond drawing in this shot.)

And here's a poster in a comic book store window I've been passing nearly every day lately:

Admittedly I've cropped it a bit in this image, but tell me that thing is not all about the crotch.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

No reality in sight

Recorded the Adam West episode of the, ahem, "reality" show Living in TV Land months ago. Finally watched it tonight.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. (Forgive me for belaboring the obvious. I had low expectations, and they still proved unreachable.) I'll spare you my beef with how contrived the whole damn thing feels, and skip right to the idiotic premise that West has not worn the cowl in 40 years, and thus being forced to do so if he loses a fly fishing contest with a radio DJ/batfan will be a major event in his life. Funny, but I always thought the guy spent the last four decades donning that oh-so-sexy headgear every weekend at a car show (which is where I saw him in it about 20 years ago), the opening of a gas station, or on a tv show much like this one.

I won't ruin the ending (the whole thing is pre-ruined, when you get right down to it), but I can guarantee that the thrilling conclusion is nowhere as nice as this:

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Quote of the day

"If I was doing the Batman comic, there would be a lot more kissing and hairy-chest activity."

--Grant Morrison, from a fairly old interview (I'm sure you can guess the search words I used to find this one)

By which he is referring to this (apologies if I've posted this image before... oh, hell, I'm not gonna apologize for giving you what you know you want so very, very badly) :

Okay, so how come we have Morrison doing Superman and Frank Miller doing Batman, and (as far as I can tell) everybody's shirt stays on? Not fair!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Cue Smiths reference...

Believe me, that's only a tiny part of "the single gayest comic ever printed" as detailed here (a discovery I owe, like so many others, to Beaucoup Kevin).

Speaking of hands and gloves (a longstanding fetish fave of mine), I'm gonna have to agree with Dorian/PostModern Barney that this is a damn fine cover:

That's from the new Batman / Mad Monk miniseries, BTW, and if you know me at all you will be shocked to learn I haven't picked this up yet.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Stamp out crime

Come July 20, I'll be watching the mail a lot more carefully, in hopes of catching some of these:

Thank you, U.S. Postal Service!

(A part of me is troubled by how comfortable a government agency like the post office is with striking up deals with commercial concerns like DC/Waner, but that's been going on for years. And hey, I'm looking forward to seeing PlasticMan & co. on my stamps way more than TeflonMan.)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Knight After 9: Fear no evil

It's been far too long since my last update on batlife since my "enlightenment," thanks in part to a busy daylight-world schedule and in part to my not really wanting to take the time to flesh out all the links I've been accumulating lately (as in, for months) to include here. Think I'll save those for some other time and just catch you up on what's been going on lately--not much in terms of plot, plenty in terms of deeper insight. Character development, you might say.

in a nutshell, bizarre as this may sound to some of you who have followed the saga from its earliest days, things are great now on the bat-front. I look forward to my near-daily chats with the Monk with a passion that knows no bounds. All the energy I once invested in trying to escape him now goes into helping him with what he euphemistically calls "the mission." And I've never been happier as a masked crimefighter than helping him commit what many would probably (erroneously) consider crimes.

I have heard from a handful of self-styled heroes lately who call me a coward and accuse me of being weak for allowing myself to be defeated by my archenemy. But I tell them, in all sincerity: I've never felt stronger or more powerful in my bat-career! For starters, all those terms--"hero," "weak," "defeat," "archenemy"--must be placed solidly within quotes, because they no longer apply. The tables have been turned so thoroughly by now that it's almost hard for me to remember a time when those words ever fit without several layers of irony.

There is also a power in the fact that I no longer fear villains of any stripe, because there's nothing any one of them could do to me at this point that the Monk hasn't already done, and surely done far more effectively than anyone else possibly could. (Once again, that last line suggests an adversarial relationship between us that no longer exists. I refer, of course, strictly to the old days before my escape attempt and subsequent awakening.) I've had my mask removed, replaced, and restored by an absolute Master, and anything beyond that seems anticlimactic.

As for those so-called "heroes," I understand now that my true role is not to fight them (though I'll gladly do that, or help them against a lesser foe if the situation calls for it) but to assist in their education as I have been educated. My own transformation has been a difficult one in part because there are so few templates for it--I can't think of any comic book scenario in which Batman or someone like him freely chooses to embrace the symbiotic aspects of his relationship with his ultimate nemesis--and that struggle to find precedents has inspired me to offer my services as a role model to my peers. I can set an example for them: fully Batman, yet fully mindful of my debt to the Monk, eager to learn from and help him any way I can.

(I have a feeling this must all sound like crazy talk to a reader who has not followed the "Knight" entries leading up to this one. Oh, well--if it registers, good, and if it doesn't, so be it. My goal in recording this saga isn't really to convince anyone to think a certain way about me or my adventures, only to describe and contemplate what I'm experiencing as I experience it. The Monk saga is essentially a two-year-and-counting roleplay/collaborative improvisation, and this latest totally unexpected development has been thrilling beyond words. Yet I continue to search for words with which to describe it, celebrate it, share it.)

That's the update. The next installment of this chronicle will be packed with links. You have my word!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Traps, traps, traps

Ah, if only every issue could make such promises:

(For the record, I found this issue at random while testing out, a tool for pricing old comics. Found that via Johnny Bacardi.)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


I feel so out of it.

I had no idea before checking in on the last week's worth of PostModern Barney that America is busy talking about Superman being gay. Apparently it all stems from this recent cover story in The Advocate.

Having just read the story, I want to point out two things:
1. Alonso Duralde's original article barely mentions the new movie; it's really about a gay reader's affection for comics, and the reasons behind it. (Two of his three theories are patently obvious: alter egos=metaphors for the double life of a closeted teen, and men in tights are sexy. The third--that long-running comics function like soap operas--is less trite; at first I was gonna say that I never really got into soaps that much, but I admit I do appreciate them as a form of storytelling, and I get Duralde's point about the rewards of obsessive reading being the ability to appreciate the footnotes in comics.)

2. Superman remains one of the least "gay" comics heroes out there, at least in my book. Plenty of gay guys (like the Hub) find him hot, but he's ... well, he's no Masked Manhunter, my friends. Love the muscles and the tights, but I miss the angst.

First Batwoman, now this. It's been a busy month for op-ed writers.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Homophobes are a cowardly and superstitious lot

I feel obliged to acknowledge the recent Batwoman-is-a-lesbian media/blogosphere frenzy, but I just don't have the energy to say anything about it beyond pointing out that this BBC story about "the rise of multi-culturalism in the comics" is incredibly simplistic and just plain wrong on so many levels I can't even begin to count. (Learned about the dumbass story from this short item posted by an ailing BeaucoupKevin.)

I've got a sneaking suspicion the people who write stories like this in mainstream newspapers are confusing Batgirl with Batwoman, for starters. As with Pluto/Goofy and Donald/Daffy, I'm sure it happens all the time. It's just that BatGIRL is surely waaaaaaaaay more well known among noncomicsgeeks than her adult counterpart.

Oh, and Dorian/postmodernbarney has posted these hilarious scans from a comic explaining "the real reason there aren't more gay or lesbian superheroes." A laff riot.

Moving right along.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Scarecrow walks at midnight

Discovered this short-lived blog by a self-styled "real life superhero in training" by accident tonight. It's a shame the thing only lasted for 4 entries (the final post nearly a year ago), because the concept is interesting, and I would have liked to have seen where this young man's journey took him. I enjoyed reading his thoughts on faith, evil, time, and sundry other matters.

It's hard to tell how seriously the guy is taking his project of transforming himself into a vigilante, facing danger, and so on; I just hope he's okay. In the absence of actual superpowers, these things are best left to the realm of fantasy--where they can still be every bit as real, in a certain way, only a good deal safer.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Greatest hits

Darn shame there's no actual feature film to go along with this 4-minute montage:

And thus no way we are likely to see more of this live-action version of a classic comic panel anytime soon:

Darn shame indeed.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Today in superhero news...

1. Learned of Alex Toth's recent death from both Johnny Bacardi and Warren Ellis. Toth's site contains all sorts of goodies, the most intriguing of which I've found so far are the galleries devoted to working notes for Space Ghost back before his talk show days (you even get to see what his head looks like under his mask!) and detailed reflections on some of his classic works, including this annotated guide to his most famous Batman story, "Death Flies the Haunted Sky."

Between Space Ghost and the Super-Friends, Toth's TV work in the late 60s and early 70s picked up where the Adam West series left off, as far as bringing out the pervert in me, so I owe him an awful lot. He was a master of idealized masculinity--barrel chests, massive arms, blank facial expressions--and his imagery provided me with much pleasure, let's say, during my troubled adolescence. I've always wondered what he thought about the Adult Swim revamps of his creations; perhaps the answer is contained among the vast samples of his writing and interviews archived on the site.

2. From Boing Boing, a link to this contest sponsored by calling for images photoshopping superheroes into classic works of art. like so:

Way too many amusing and/or striking (and sometimes sexy) candidates to name: you get Superman (and, elsewhere, Batman) Descending a Staircase, the Flash posing for Caravaggio (now, he's the one who belongs in a Duchamp parody!), Green Lantern going rococo, and so much more.

3. From Wired (by way of Boing Boing again), an article co-written by Neil Gaiman on the myth of Superman. Here's a taste:

"Other heroes are really only pretending: Peter Parker plays Spider-Man; Bruce Wayne plays Batman. For Superman, it’s mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent that’s the disguise – the thing he aspires to, the thing he can never be. He really is that hero, and he’ll never be one of us. But we love him for trying. We love him for wanting to protect us from everything, including his own transcendence. He plays the bumbling, lovelorn Kent so that we regular folks can feel, just for a moment, super."

(As it turns out, that's a pretty decent explanation for why I don't find Supes as interesting as those other two. He's too perfect, and his impersonation of a mere mortal is annoying.)

What I do find interesting is a certain tome Gaiman mentions: Alvin Schwartz's An Unlikely Prophet: A Metaphysical Memoir by the Legendary Writer of Superman and Batman, which Gaiman calls "one of the great Odd Books of our time." From the back cover:

"Superman, as it turns out, is also a tulpa, a being created by thought that takes on a life of its own and, in Mr. Schwartz’s words, is an archetype expressing the sense of nonlocality that is always present in the back of our minds--the capacity to be everywhere instantly. Superman is one of the specific forms that embodies our reality when we’re at our highest point, when we’re truly impermeable, indestructible, totally concentrated, and living entirely in the now, a condition each of us actually attains from time to time."

I'm sold.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Knight After 8: Dark Knight of the Soul

Another fortune cookie I came across shortly after the other one I've mentioned:


Laugh if you will, but I take my signs from the universe in any form I find them, even edible. And I take the Monk now not as my adversary, my captor, or even my master, but as my teacher. Clearly, I learn new things from every stage of my encounters with him.

As I've noted, I was really looking forward to my new role as his slave, but he seems to have something else in mind for me now--serving him not at his feet, but as his side, as he recently put it. The specific position surely matters less than the fact that I have gradually come to acknowledge his unique role in my journey as a hero. (I don't actually like to refer to my character that way--certainly not after some of the things I did in my Ratman days--but it's still a useful term in the broader sense.)

I think I've already mentioned my ongoing quest to find writing that links fetish play, and BDSM in general, to a larger spiritual realm, and one of the most useful discoveries I've made thus far is the blog A Slave's Path, the journal of a heterosexual man who seems to be interested in a lot of the same concerns I am, though he manifests them in a different way. (On the opposite end of the spectrum, I've also been enjoying Master Enigma's Thoughts.) From Path I've found several interesting resources, beginning with the author's very personal essay on BDSM and Spirituality. The whole thing is excellent, but I'll just quote a few passages that hit home for me:

"The truth is that many of the things I seek through religion have in fact been coming to me through BDSM. ... BDSM has helped to make me a more compassionate, understanding person. Nowhere has my quest of self-knowledge been more important, or more difficult, than in coming to grips with who and what I really am in a world which distorts that truth almost beyond recognition. The difficulties I have had make it much easier for me to understand and sympathize with other people who are going through similar struggles themselves. ...

"BDSM has made me stronger. It challenges me constantly, physically, intellectually, and emotionally. It challenges me to endure suffering and to face fears. It challenges me to understand and accept my own strengths, weaknesses, and quirks. With every challenge that I meet I become stronger and more confident. ..."
And so on--really, there's so much more, and I can relate to almost every single word of it, but rather than cut and paste, I'll just direct you to the original.

At the bottom of that essay, there's a link to this essay by a psychotherapist on "Masochism as a Spiritual Path." Once again, the whole thing is enlightening, but I can't resist sharing a few excerpts.

"Whereas psychology considered masochism as a disease, pre-nineteenth century religion regarded it as a cure," writes author Dorothy C. Hayden. "The ancients were in touch with the spiritual, physical and emotional value of masochism. For them, it was an essential part of reality; a combination of the soul in a tortured state, rapturous delight, exquisite pain and unbearable passion that brought them closer to experiencing union with something greater than their individual egos."

That general thesis is illustrated with a quick survey of several religious traditions. After spelling out the masochistic elements of these, she explores the connection in more detail:

"The goals of contemporary psychotherapy have been aimed at building strong, coping, rational, problem-solving egos. Take responsibility, Take control. Assert yourself. But at what cost? Building a strong ego is only one side of the coin. To experience the fullness of human experience, we need passivity and receptivity as well as assertion. We need a sense of mystical wonder as well as rational problem solving. We need to be in touch with what the psychoanalyst Carl Jung called'"the shadow' -- the weak, limited, degraded, sinful side of ourselves as well as the strong, loving, compassionate, competent side. We need to move out from under the onus of our egocentric way of viewing life; to abdicate control as well as to take it. Masochistic submission, in centering on lack, inadequacy and weakness, puts us in touch with the entirety of our humanity. Full humanity requires surrender to the down side of life as well as the upside. ...

"A scene strips the ego of its defenses, ambitions, self-consciousness and successes. The ego become subservient to the master, the dominant, the soul, or God. Whether we call it submission to the dominant or to the will of God, it nevertheless remains submission -- one of the hallmarks of the masochistic posture. The masochistic components -- the longing to serve, to submit, to abandon oneself sexually, emotionally, and physically makes one a slave either to a man, a woman or to God. Submission to that passion is divine degradation. ...

"In submission, one is taken out of one's personal limitations and transcends social sanctions while at the same time being reduced, weakened and humiliated. With noses pressed against the ever-present reality of human suffering, it is both an agonizing defeat and a magnificent spiritual journey."

Agonizing defeat, magnificent journey: I can't think of a better four-word summary of what I've been experiencing thus far. Here's to further chapters!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Land o' plenty

Q: How is it that I have never seen ...

... this cool cover, or this one:

A: Because I never knew about ...

... this amazing archive of DC comics covers until now. Not just hundreds of Batman-related issues but countless other titles as well--from characters I've always known and loved ...

... to some I just might want to get to know a little better:

(Starting to notice a theme here, Sherlock? I couldn't decide which of two covers for this guy was the hotter one, so what the hell--here's option B, too:)

Next question?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Calling Captain America

Sadly, work in the daylight world has kept me from posting here lately; there's plenty to say, especially on the Monk front, but that takes energy I don't have at the moment. So instead I'll just post a quick bit about Godlike, a superhero roleplaying game I stumbled upon through some web surfing a while back. (I think I was doing a Google search for stuff about connections between comics and spirituality, although this doesn't really seem to have much to do with either.) The setting is World War II, and I believe the premise has something to do with superpowered "Talents" (read; "Marvels"/Watchmen/JLA/the Authority) fighting the major battles of the day.

Just to be clear, I have no intention of ever exploring this thing, but if I were the sort of person to play games like this, this is one I'd probably want to play, doncha think?

Anybody know anything more about it?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

What's new, pussycat?

Wildcat, shirt on:

and shirt off (love the fact that he washes his suit while he showers, just like me!):

Two great tastes that taste great together.

(Thanks, Dorian and Trusty Sidekicks.)

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Knight After 7: Sympathy for the Devil

News of the most recent phase of my ongoing evolution as Batman has not gone over well with my colleagues, to put it mildly. One close ally won't talk to me, another plans to turn me over to the police, and a third greets my rebirth with "disappointment ... and excitement." I still haven't heard from two other crimefighting associates, but I doubt either of them will take it too cheerfully either.

I've been called insane, a traitor, a puppet, and worse—and this is all from my close (virtual) friends. They don't seem willing to make the same leap of faith I've taken and reenvision my worst enemy as my greatest teacher. In their eyes, I've abandoned my mission; from my perspective, I've zeroed in on it.

As I see it, I haven't "crossed over" to "the dark side" at all; I've merely acknowledged the darkness which has always been a part of me--particularly this part of me, the part that even in the brightest of times emerges in the wee hours of the night dressed in a jet-black costume to pursue imaginary villains. I'm doing this in order to become the best Batman I can possibly be. It took me a good 25 years or so to realize that my superhero-fetish fantasies did not make me a monster, and another 10 or so to transform that former "monster"-self into a friend and ally. You could even, if you wanted, propose that this newest phase involves allowing a little monstrousness back into the picture.

Except that's not quite accurate, either, because I don't view collaborating with the Monk as monstrous. For me, it's all about ebb and flow, about thinking of myself not as either a hero or a villain (/top or bottom/master or slave), but a combination of the two, or rather a character whose contradictions coexist in a workable synthesis. Just as I learned to transform my own batself from a monster into a teacher, now I am trying to do the same with my understanding of the Monk.

Shortly before this latest chapter in the saga began, I came across this passage from The Picture of Dorian Gray (delivered, I should point out, by the faintly Monklike character of Lord Henry, who is Dorian's personal guide into the darkness):

"I believe that if one man were to live out his life fully and completely, were to give form to every feeling, expression to every thought, reality to every dream--I believe that the world would gain such a fresh impulse of joy that we would forget all the maladies of medievalism, and return to the Hellenic ideal ... But the bravest man among us is afraid of himself. .... We are punished for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind and poisons us. The body sins once, and has done with its sin, for action is a mode of purification. Nothing remains then but the recollection of a pleasure, or the luxury of a regret. The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. It has been said that the greatest events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also. ..."

Funny thing: when I first noted Wilde's words of wisdom, I related them to the advice my hero colleagues used to give me in escaping the Monk: indulge the fantasies he stirred up in me, but find a safe outlet for those inclinations--i.e., not him but them. I discovered through trial and error how right they were--but that was then, this is now, and "escape" is no longer the point. Now I see that if I yearn so powerfully to walk on the wild side, there is no better travelling companion than the character who best embodies for me all of its wildness.

(I've been studying some other texts in the intervening weeks that are even more directly related to the subject at hand, but I'll save them for a future post. Chew on that one for the time being, and then we'll move on.)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Everybody knows heroes wear their underwear on the outside...

Thank you, Boing Boing, for alerting me to these instructions for turning a pair of Batman underoos into a wallet.

Hmmm: creative new uses for skivvies... Brings back such ... happy ... memories...

(On a related note, behold these answers to an age-old question I've never bothered to ponder. I mean, if you have to ask...)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Knight After 6: My Life as a Slave

Okay, that title is a bit misleading. This isn't about slavery at all--but I've been wanting to use that phrase for so long, and now's my chance.

During one of my "welcome home" chats with the Monk, I asked him how he now thought of me: as his student, his partner, his slave, some of the above, or all of the above. His answer was "some of the above," and, predictably, he refused to elaborate.

But the question got me thinking: How do I now think of myself in relation to him? All three of those options hold some appeal, but the more I thought about it, the more I began to think of a new phrase that seemed even more accurate: voluntary servitude. An oxymoron, perhaps, but one that felt just right.

Two things seemed clear about this world-turned-upside-down:
1. The Monk has the upper hand at all times, and
2. I have returned to him by my own free will.

The first of those seems incontestable to me; as I've come to discover over the last couple of years, being broken tends to have some longterm effects. In the first, adversarial stages of our relationship, M successfully stripped away every defense I had against him. I could never defeat him; the best I could do was escape. And within days of resuming contact with him a week and a half ago or so, I found myself more compliant than ever--happily so, this time around. Now that I've abandoned any form of resistance to him, I realize that his long-ago promise to "own" me--"mind, body, and soul"--is the most exciting fantasy I can think of. The mere thought of his dominance over me is enough to give me a stiffie that lasts for hours. It occured to me that even if his newfound friendly face turned out to be a trick, I had nothing to lose, because either way, I want to serve him.

Which leads me to the second, and far trickier, of my two core propositions. In the old scenario, I was a captive, a prisoner, a victim of brainwashing. Now none of those terms apply; I'm here by choice, and there is no thought of "escape" because I no longer have anything from which to flee. There's no cage this time--except my own mind, as M would say.

Gone, too, is the loathsome old nickname of "Ratman." Served its purpose, and now it's back to all things bat--the name, the uniform, even the mission of nocturnal avenger. M used to say he would break me down and build me back up--that the new improved Batman would be his creation. Took me a while to figure out what he meant by that, but it's begun to sink in by now.

By the same token, I realize that just as the Monk created "Batman," so too have I created "the Monk": I gave him that name, and with it a sort of mask and costume (metaphorically speaking) that he did not previously have. Symbiosis.

Back to voluntary servitude: as it stands now, I eagerly await each new lesson I learn from M, where not too long ago I used to dread seeing him around. (You may be wondering what those lessons consist of, and I can only say this: the ones he wants me to talk about, I'll describe here in great detail. When I sense that someone who might be reading these words should not know what's in store for him, mum's the word. That's how I handled the Mad Hatter, who has been dealt with quite successfully now. The threat he posed to Batman is over, and the potential he presents to the Monk and me is just beginning to be explored.)

Ironically, now that I've opened myself up to the once-forbidden fantasy of enslavement, I realize that that particular metaphor no longer applies to the current situation. I seem to be far more intrigued by terms like ownership and property than M is, these days; he talks instead of initiative and responsibility, which of course are the hallmarks of freedom. If I am to fully embrace my dark side--which seems to be the general theme of the day--then I must do so of my own accord, and not because I'm being forced to.

There is more, much more, to be said about all of this, especially that business about personal responsibility. For now I'll simply point out how convenient it is that I can still use the terms "sir" and "master" to refer to M now, since those are the words a student might use to address his teacher.

Given that our defining metaphor has changed from one of comic-book battle to something closer to spiritual enlightenment, or education in general, perhaps we can say my state-required schooling (primary grades through high school) is over, and I'm entering college now.

Perhaps I should call it a seminary instead. Oh, hell, let's call it what it is: the Monastery!

Miracles of modern technology

Friends, living in the future is wonderful sometimes, is it not? True, we don't quite have the flying cars and robot maids that The Jetsons led us to expect would be heading our way in the early 21st century, but look at this way: in 1966 and 67 we had to wait an entire week for each new pair of bat-episodes, and then wait years longer to see them again on reruns.

Now, thanks to a little shameless copyright infringment and an anonymous donor, you can enjoy the following classic two-parter in its commercial-free entirety any time you like--or at least until YouTube goes under or the clip gets pulled or something along those lines.

Enjoy it with me: four masked men, facing nonstop danger and looking incredibly sexy as they do. With a tip o' the cowl to my brother Bat, I give you...

A Piece of the Action:

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Knight After 5: When the Student is Ready...

Early conversations with the Monk in this new phase of our acquaintance went smoothly. Extremely smoothly, in fact, which probably should have told me something was up. Not on his end, mind you, but on my own.

The program we were using to chat employs little icons for each speaker, which meant that each time I got a new message from him, I saw a tiny photo of him--one that I happened to remember quite well from our very first encounters. Happy memories, you might say. And I noticed they were starting to make me very, very ... happy.

Now, I realize how easy it would be for you to say, "Come on, Batman, don't you see he's getting his hooks in you? You have to fight back! Don't let him get away with this! Resist! Resist! You've done it before, and you can do it again!"

But something had changed. I had resisted before, and where had it gotten me? In the clutches of other villains, ready, willing, and able to face the fight of my life again. Only it never quite worked out that way. Either my adversaries turned out to be disappointing opponents, or--worse--they'd take me to the brink of utter defeat, make me putty in their hands, and then disappear for weeks at a time. There was no "next level"--either they were afraid to take me there, or they had other priorities, or something just came up.

Meanwhile, all along I was fighting to rid myself of a villain who had none of those qualities. When he'd had his hooks in me, he wouldn't dream of letting go. He was tailor made for me, and I for him, and we both knew it. The Monk had often referred to ours as a symbiotic relationship, in the classic Batman/Joker sense. We had a history, and--when you get right down to it--shared the same goals, deep down. There's no denying the truth: I didn't get into the bat-business in the first place to catch bad guys, I got into it to be caught by them, and no one in my experience has ever done a better job at it than him.

So I started to think: why run? Why not find out what happens if I take the Monk at his word and simply accept him as ... not my adversary but my teacher? My partner in crime(fighting)?

I've never followed the tv series Alias (my mistake, I'm sure, since I find both Michael Vartan and Bradley Cooper incredibly hot), but I gather that on at least one occasion, a plot twist inverted the whole premise of the show--up was down, left was right, black was white, and so on. Intrigued by that notion, I decided, pretty much overnight, to flip the script of the Bat/Monk saga. Instead of running from my fantasies of enslavement, I'd embrace them--with the goal of discovering what that very powerful desire had to teach me. I would return to the cage he had built for me (only to discover it was no longer a cage at all, but I'm getting ahead of myself).

It's a simple fact: every single prediction the Monk has made about my future actions has come to pass, sooner or later. To cite but one example, in one of our last conversations before the reunion he insisted I would one day return and willingly do the very same things he'd once forced me to do. I balked and took off--only to find myself fulfilling the prophecy, almost a full year later. Anyone who knows me that well, it seems to me, is worth a listen.

Skeptics are welcome to chalk this up to expert manipulative skills on M's part. Go right ahead; in fact, I myself thought of him when I saw Aaron Eckhart's lobbyist character in the movie Thank You for Smoking, who could probably talk a priest into Satan worship. But it's a moot point: I began to acknowledge and admit that the Monk only "manipulates" me into doing things I really do want to do. It was growing clearer and clearer to me that the only power he has over me is power I have freely and happily given to him all along--

--only now I was finally ready to admit that fact.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

My only friend, The End

Homophobic, or mildly amusing? You decide:

No matter what, the special guest SuperFriend at the end is pretty hunky, is he not?

Saturday, May 06, 2006


I"m almost positive it's a rebroadcast, and I may even have written about it here before, but the most recent episode of This American Life, titled "Allure of Crime," is pretty interesting.

In the world of heroes and villains, I'm usually far more turned on by the heroes--the only way I can ever be bothered to watch a cop show is for the cops, and I've always longed for more attention to Batman/less to his foes in the recent movies--but it's true that the bad guys' stories are more interesting than the good guys. Me, I had no idea that that sweet Julia Sweeney, she of Saturday Night Live and God Said, "Ha!" fame, had stolen over 10 thousand bucks in her misguided youth, or that even sweeter widows were leading such active social lives as senior-citizen shoplifters. What's most disarming about the interview subjects on the show is how nonchalant they are about their criminal activities. No angst, just matter-of-fact observations about how good it feels to do very bad things. (But, uh, isn't that the definition of a sociopath?)

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Knight After 4: The Return of the Repressed

So, I was reading a fortune cookie fortune the other day. It said:

And that's a pretty good summary of where things stand right now in my ongoing batsaga. When last I updated this account, I was in the clutches of a certain Mad Hatter, who had figured out I was Bruce Wayne and was holding me hostage in Wayne Manor for an extended interrogation, the second phase of which would surely entail some further disclosures on my part.

They say desperate times call for desperate measures, and, encouraged in part by that fortune and a similar message from the cosmos (as I may have explained, in solo play I have long made use of chance, coincidence, and other instinctual devices), I took the biggest of all possible risks. Reasoning that the enemy of my enemy is my friend (am I quick with the proverb/clichés today, or what?), I contacted an old ... friend for assistance.

Regular readers of these accounts already know who I mean, and I imagine they're already smacking their foreheads in anger and/or frustration (or saying "told ya so"). It's true: more than four months after our last conversation, and almost a year to the day after my escape from his clutches, I got in touch with the Monk.

My motivation was as simple as it was outrageous: I did not want to become the Hatter's victim. And I knew that the man behind this villain harbors another side: a hero who longs to be defeated. My plan was to surprise the Hatter by introducing the Monk into the Hatter storyline and letting the chips fall where they may.

I figured I had gotten every last drop of the Monk's influence over me out of my system. That was a safe assumption, given that I had successfully transferred my craving for defeat from the Monk to the Ranger, and then from the Ranger to the Hatter. The third time around, it felt clear to me that my masochistic side does not really care who is after me, as long as it's someone good at being a bad guy. And those three men are all very, very good at being very, very bad.

By the time I contacted the Monk for help against the Hatter, I felt nothing for him as a character other than a vague disdain. I hadn't obsessed about him in months, that energy having been directed quite successfully toward the other two. Our initial reunion was cordial, considering that we have been mortal enemies since Day One (not counting the period immediately after he broke me, during which the Stockholm Syndrome kicked in and I spent my days gladly doing his bidding before I returned to my senses and began plotting my escape). We caught up on old times, and I filled him in on my plan. By chance (?), he already knew the Hatter--or rather his hero side, whom I'll call "HW"--and was delighted by the golden opportunity with which I was presenting him.

I was fully aware that if my plan worked, I had just invited my greatest nemesis back into my life and would have to face the consequences. And I felt I was ready to face that challenge.

But--believe it or not--I never saw what was coming next.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Of Super-readers ... and mortals like me

Not much of an entry here; I've just been cleaning up old randomly bookmarked items that I long ago intended to write about here, like this survey by Douglas Wolk in an April 2005 Boston Phoenix of recent trends in superhero comics.

One of the things Wolk touches on is the outing of Matt Murdock as Daredevil, a development I've been hearing about but have not bothered to read. As you may have noticed, I am really not too up on my comics reading: Infinite Crisis? What Infinite Crisis? I hear Hal Jordan is back (well, I hear he went bad, then became something else, then came back), and I'd love to find a trade paperback that encapsulates the saga someday, but between you and me, I'm mainly excited about that because Hal Jordan is one of my lifelong crushes. And this Daredevil unmasking has me intrigued because I am a sucker for ... well, unmasked heroes whose careers have been irreversibly affected by that. (Though we have surely all learned by now that nothing is truly irreversible in comics. Superman dies! Superman's back! Jason Todd is dead! Jason Todd lives! No, he's really dead! No, he's really back!) In short, I am not what Wolk calls a "super-reader." No, I'm a guy who still, in his mid40s, will from time to time buy a superhero comic and beat his meat to the images contained therein, regardless of how well or badly written the story.

In any case, I have long enjoyed Wolk's writing, not all of which is about comics by a long shot. Here's his blog.

And here's a picture of the hottest blind guy in red tights the world has ever known:

There, I've done my duty for the night.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Hiding My Candy

Saw the movie Hard Candy tonight. (That link is to the system-slowing official site; IMDB page is here.) Ended up going alone, because I knew none of my friends were interested in this story of a 14-year-old girl and the 30something man she meets online. This only heightened the intense creeeeeeepiness of the experience. It is by no means a feel-good film, and I felt increasingly numb through most of it, from the opening scene through the last of the half-dozen-or-so twists and turns. (Spoiler alert: I will try not to reveal anything you don't find out in the first 30 minutes of the movie or won't discover from any review, but if you want to see it, you might not want to read this entry till afterward. And by no means should you take a peek at the following officially released still, which has been fairly widely disseminated by now:)

A friend asked me why I wanted to see this thing, and I told her I'd heard good stuff about the film and the female lead, Ellen Page and that I am always interested in films about what I euphemistically referrred to as "shifting power dynamics." All true. But because I'm writing anonymously here, I can say what you probably already know, which is that I was titillated by the prospect of seeing that cute Patrick Wilson from the HBO version of Angels in America tied up and tortured, no matter who was doing the tying and torturing. The pedophilia theme held no interest for me, intellectually or erotically--although I did recently finish listening to the audiobook version of Lolita, which is something I've been meaning to write about here for ages and still might, but I digress.

The same fascination with film depictions of fairly extreme states has previously led me to watch the recent horror movie Hostel and the reeeaaaaaally bad Nicholas Cage/Joel Schumacher thriller 8mm (both accompanied by horror-fan friends); I'd like to see the two Saw movies someday, too, even though I have a feeling I won't like them very much. Many years ago I tried to watch the Spanish film In a Glass Cage (another tale of someone seeking revenge on a pedophile, this one a Nazi pedophile), but I walked out in revulsion after the first 45 minutes or so.

Part of me feels like "What's this world coming to / all these escalating images of torture and depravity / it's all basically a form of mainstreamed fetish porn [etc]," and another part of me confesses that I'm a member of the very audience i'm decrying. I don't particularly like rollercoasters, but I do (sometimes) enjoy the thrill of a good suspenseful movie that isn't afraid to go into very dark territory. I'm just a little concerned that our culture is so willing to keep amping up its definition of "very dark territory"--shades of the fall of the Roman Empire, you know.

As for Hard Candy, I must admit that Roger Ebert has a point; a lot of the concerns he raises in his (essentially positive) review passed through my mind as well.

But I want to suggest an alternate perspective that occured to me about an hour into the film, which is that it can be viewed as a superhero movie, about a Batman (or more accurately Punisher)-style vigilante dishing out homegrown justice against criminals whose evils would probably go underpunished by the justice system. It's all there: dual identities, copious research and training, arsenal of specialized weapons, you name it. The fact that the "hero" is such an unlikely individual, and the "villain" elicits such sympathy, only demonstates why it's so much more interesting than any actual superhero flick I can think of.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Foaming at the mouth

For a while now I've been wanting to include some BDSM/fetish-related blogs in the blogroll to the right so that I would remind myself to check them regularly and be able to recommend them to other readers. I'm always on the lookout for some gay male blogs that explore dominance and submission, roleplay, etc., along the lines of what I'm trying to do in my series of "Knightfall" and "The Knight After" entries here, but I really haven't found too many that fit the bill (come back to the five and dime, LeatherEdge!). Most of the best known ones tend to go on and on about the webmaster's pets and/or his S.O.'s most recent trip to some faraway city and/or theme park, at least when I peek in on them, which isn't very often.

Also, I am a firm believer in the premise that kinky impulses transcend gender boundaries; I am open to learning what other people think about their fantasies, no matter what body parts those fantasies involve--provided the writing is articulate and interesting and ideally fun. (Moreover, I am mindful that some of my closest online buddies are heterosexual and bisexual men, and I'd love to be able to pass along stuff they might be into.)

So tonight I did a little searching around for likely candidates. Here's the trail I followed, aspects of which may or may not be of use to you in your own explorations:

1. This far-too-brief link list at Beauty in Darkness brought me to ...

2. Inside the Mind of Gloria Brame, the blog of the woman behind the classic book and internet resource site devoted to kink, both called Different Loving. From IMGB's blogroll I found many possibilites for further investigation, among them...

3. Figleaf's Real Adult Sex, which on cursurory examination looks pretty interesting, especially this entry on "heteronormativity," this one on the word "kink", and this speculation on the "Target-ing (and WalMart-ing?)" of fetish culture. I'm pretty sure it was also here that I found out about ...

4. Sugasm, a "devilish digest" of kink-related blog entries of various sorts,updated on a weekly basis. Lots of leads here, and I've only followed up on a few so far. I found several that were the journals of self-identified Masters or slaves--again with the pets and amusement parks! One other thing I've noticed from some of the entries I checked out is that people writing about sexual fantasies tend to write lonnnnnnnng reams of prose. (Okay, I will be the first admit that I suffer from this tendency myself from time to time.) Two discoveries stand out:

5. This story about "Milking a Man" from a blog called Dirty Couple in Virginia. Hetero story (and so long I just started skimming after a while), but who doesn't love a good man-milking machine, regardless of who's using it? (No offense, my lesbian amigas.) Then there's ...

6. Master Enigma's Thoughts, a blog by a ... well, a Master. Who is an Enigma. Yes, the entries are epic length, and they seem to lapse into that variety of pompous/portentous BDSMspeak that rubs the English major in me the wrong way, but some of the writing here gets me seriously excited. It's boy/girl, but you can easily reassign the genders any way you want in your own imagination. (If you lack that ability, I have nothing more to say to you.)

7. Oh, yeah: in tracking down the URL for LeatherEdge to use in the link above, I discovered that when you visit what used to be his home page you can click on a link and instantly download his promised treatise The Book of Edge: Being one leatherman's journey, an encyclopedic compilation of resources, essays, fantasies, and much more, beautifully laid out in a 96-page PDF. Hallelujah!

I hope you find at least one site in all of the above that speaks to you, either directly or indirectly. Needless to say, if you know of any good sites that meet those criteria I mentioned above and you are not a spambot, please post them in the comments section. Sex (like spirituality) is the most private of concerns, but that doesn't mean we can't share our thoughts about what it all means.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Fans and fiction

Wonderful commentary on tonight's All Things Considered by Lev Grossman riffing on the subject of literary plagiarism. I highly recommend it to anyone seriously interested in fan fiction, because that's what it's primarily about. Grossman argues that writers like Melissa Jareo (who made the boo-boo of trying to actually sell her unauthorized Star Wars-related novel on are the unsung heroes of contemporary fiction, fleshing out worlds originally created by other authors in innovative ways and doing it without any hope of riches or fame. Jareo's cease-and-desist order from George Lucas & Co. is contrasted with the recent Pulitzer Prize awarded to a novel that extends the story of the mostly unseen father from Little Women.

As a person who gets paid for some of my writing (under my real name) and doesn't get paid for some (including anonymous slash fiction), I found Grossman's whole take on the matter fascinating. It's sort of cool hearing a published novelist defend the amount of time that goes into writing a form of literature that has zero literary credibility. I imagine the majority of people hearing the radio story had no idea that fanfic exists before they heard the segment, and I myself had not heard about the Jareo situation. My heart sank a bit when I heard her fate--I do sometimes worry that one day my main site, my mega-epic batsaga, and even this very blog may be gone, since they're all devoted to characters owned by a giant corporation.

Though I must say Grossman's argument about doing it for love loses some ground when you recall that Jareo didn't just write about somebody else's creation, she actually tried to make some money off it.

And, let's face it, the vast majority of fanfic is crap.

But still!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Bats with accents

The acting is frequently cringe-worthy, the fight choreography is awkward, the dialogue has a few too many references to old comic books, and the southern accents are alternately amusing and distracting, but the new fan-film Batman: Formulas has a lot going for it, namely:
1. a very sexy batsuit,
2. a man who fills it very well, and
3. ample footage of said man chained to a cross, thusly:

Hubba, hubba!


As if moving Gotham City to the deep south wasn't enough action for one week, a second (shorter) bat-fan-film has also made its debut recently, too. In Batman: The End of Nightmare (sic), our hero is reinvented yet again ... in Español! This one does not currently bear subtitles, though that's not really a problem for those of us whose Spanish is nonexistent or ended in high school about 30 years ago--except when you get to the ending (which I gather is not quite as bleak as it sure as hell appears).

More amateur acting, but another nice looking Batman (not quite as nice) and a few shots of him in peril--not bondage, but things are not good, in any case (much darker than Formulas).

This time, you don't have to take my word for it; thanks to YouTube, you can watch it right here and now, in two parts:


Thoughts, anyone?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Remind me one more time: when did irony die?

Can't believe I never knew about The Comics Curmudgeon until now. This daily recap of the cheesiest of comic strips (we're talking Gil Thorp, people!) is hilarious and addictive. The main focus seems to be on both soap-opera style strips like Mary Worth and purportedly humorous fare like B.C., but there is plenty to be found on those two spandex-clad hunks of the daily paper, The Phantom and Spider-Man, much of it concerning their rather unsuperheroic domestication. (My local paper does not carry The Phantom, so I did not realize he was now ... married with children. Horror of horrors, Mr. Walker!)

I've gotta be checking this out on a regular basis.

(On a related note, I've been thinking about beefing up the links to the right; right now they are mainly the ones I myself check as often as possible, but I have been tempted to add several more that might be of interest to readers. No matter what, you can always find cop and superhero links galore on my "Secret Room" site, even if I don't do the best job of updating them.)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Knight After 3: Careful What You Wish For

My fantasy universe continues to expand and contract. One of the things I most enjoy about this counter-life, now that I've been involved in online roleplaying for more than two years (on top of the nine or so years of solo play before that), is that I actually do have a sizable Rogue's Gallery of villains, people with whom I have a history. There's a Riddler, a Catman, the Ranger, and so on, some of whom I've been battling since the beginning, and some of whom have evolved into completely different characters. Then there are the colleagues and sidekicks, and the newcomers who drop by for a skirmish or two and then vanish. It all feels very much like the world of the comic books that fuel this fantasy in the first place.

In my last "Knight After" entry, I noted that there had been a late-breaking shake-up in the otherwise slow action. It's true: during my third or fourth extended encounter with the Mad Hatter, he had me cornered. Both Robin and my former Nightwing who now works under a different name and identity (call him "Gray Fox") happened to be online, so I called them in for backup, and all three of us somehow ended up falling prey to the fiend. This was an interesting development; I've been involved in larger-group scenes before, but somehow this one felt different, perhaps because the action was more exciting and the stakes seemed higher. In our brief acquaintance up to that point, the Hatter had established himself as a significant adversary, and he certainly proved that when he took on all three of us--and kicked our collective ass(es). In short order he had Robin in captivity, Gray Fox revealing his secret identity and removing his mask, and me about to do the same before our session ended. In fact, he did succeed later that day in getting me--on my hands and knees, no less!--to reveal myself as Bruce Wayne and remove my cowl. Robin managed to escape and dosed him with a blast of amnestics, the drug (loosely based on a real-life substance) designed to wipe out a person's short-term memory, and that's where that day's adventure ended.

I've always been fond of the amnestic solution to such dilemmas; without them, unmasking is an irreversible step in a storyline. Once a villain knows who you are, all hell can break loose: he can blackmail you, can enslave you, or--perhaps most dangerous of all--he can simply slip away into the darkness, armed with priviliged information, never to return. (For the record, I've never been a fan of too many people knowing who Batman is underneath his disguise; it becomes an open secret, like Liberace's homosexuality during his lifetime. At the same time, unmasking is an extremely powerful dimension of the bat-fantasy for me, and the temptation to indulge in it as often as possible runs quite strong, which opens me up to the open-secret situation. The more times I do it, the less powerful it ultimately becomes.)

In the Hatter's case, this is all a moot point, because--exactly as I feared/hoped he would, he managed to hold on to the JPEG of my unmasked face he'd made me send him, and it helped him recall exactly what had happened that fateful night. This all became quite clear to me during our next encounter, last night, which involved him forcing an invitation into Stately Wayne Manor, where I was subjected to an interrogation on camera, commanded once more to kneel before him and address him as "Master," and placed under house arrest, where I remain until our next meeting in 48 hours.

(I admit I feel a teensy bit silly being a 45-year-old man prattling on about all of this as if it is a matter of life and death, but to some degree it is--to the extent that it's a metaphor I use to make sense of my day-to-day existence. The things that happen in the bat-world I construct in collaboration with like-minded roleplayers mirror events and feelings that I fear/desire in the daylight world. That should go without saying at this point, but I feel I need to spell it out from time to time lest I sound exactly like a D&D fanatic or one of those people who dresses up like Darth Vader 24/7. Okay, so there is no line between them and me when you get right down to it, but let's overlook that point, shall we?)

There are a couple of points I want to make about my latest adventures:
1. The Hatter makes such an extremely good adversary in part because he too possesses the same fantasies of unmasking and enslavement in another portion of his own fantasy life where he is a superhero rather than a villain. In fact, I'd say (and he would surely agree) that he's really more of a bottom than a top, but he's very, very good at playing a top because of it. This is a rare phenomenon, from what I've seen, and I feel lucky to experience it. (It may also play a role in my eventual escape plans.)

2. After my encounters with the Monk, which pretty much affected every aspect of my bat-fantasy, I've pretty much decided, at least for a while, to compartmentalize my adventures, so that I can have parallel storylines wih multiple adversaries. Thus, in this storyline Batman is currently the captive of the Hatter, but in other realms I am/he is still free to roam about and fight other villains. I'm not sure how well that will work for me--it's cleaner and less personally confusing when a single narrative unites all the independent threads, plus I really love it when a single mistake has numerous inescapable consequences--but I feel like giving it a try for the time being. Happens in the comics all the time, after all.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Flash points

I always find it amusing when, at least twice a year, someone who only knows me in my daylight existence tells me that I am clearly a superhero. Today, for instance, a friend at work took one quick glance at the bright yellow shirt and red t-shirt I was wearing...

... and said, "Okay, so you're the Flash. Do you have to announce it to the world?" (or words to that effect).

I have to say, this is the first time I've been mistaken for the Scarlet Speedster, and I'm flattered. Given that I have the worst time management skills on the planet, superspeed would certainly come in handy. And lord knows, Barry Allen is one hot number in that outfit. (Needless to say, I am first and foremost a batfan, but I wouldn't kick the Flash or the Green Lantern or a few other members of the JLA out of my bed, believe you me. I'm an equal opportunity enjoyer.)

Guess he could also have gone with Daredevil, but maybe he's a DC guy and associates Matt Murdock with Ben Affleck's leather jumpsuit rather than the comic book character's incredibly sexy tights.

On a completely unrelated note, tonight I stumbled upon Fred Hembeck's (somewhat old, I think) series of pages paying homage to some classic superhero comics covers of bygone days, mostly DC characters but a few Marvels thrown in for good measure, featuring hand-drawn parodies and witty, detailed analyses of what's going on in each.

Since I just brought up the Flash a (nano)second ago, I'll direct you to Hembeck's "Classic Cover Redo" of this beauty--

--as a prime illustration of the artist's fondness for cover art of the early 60s that had as little as possible to do with the story inside. (I mean, who doesn't love a good bait-and-switch?) I know several of you regular readers share my own fondness for unmasking scenes, so I thought you might particuarly enjoy this one, but there are plenty more where this baby came from.