Thursday, March 23, 2006

Guess who

I was thinking the other day how ironic it is that the heart of the blogging phenomenon is all about self-disclosure, while this one is just as much about concealment. I am willing to reveal all sorts of innermost fantasies and desires here, yet I closely protect some of the most basic aspects of who I am, like my name, where I live, or where I work.All the things you would know about me if you "knew" me in the daylight world, in other words. In my bat-fantasies, the mere act of showing my naked face to someone is a giant, giant thing (sometimes an act of trust, sometimes a marker of defeat) with potentially major consequences.

A short while later, I happened to hear an episode of the NPR show To the Best of Our Knowledge devoted to the subject of "Identity Crisis." (Sadly, the DC series of that name never came up.) I'm pretty sure it was a rerun, and I could swear I wrote about this very episode here over a year ago, but what the hell, I'll bring it up again and save us all a trip to the bat-archives.

Nice interview with the media/performance artist Lynn Hershman Leeson about (among other things) creating a fictional alter ego for herself and then living in and out of that persona for years, eventually hiring actors to play the part instead. (She even sent the character to a shrink at one point.) And an interesting segment on Edward Castronova's research into online roleplaying games, too--though it was less about the obvious issues of pretending to be someone else and more about the implications when real-world economic exchange enter the picture.

I spend a significant amount of my waking hours surrounded by pretend cops, make-believe superheroes, and imaginary criminals--and I don't really see anything wrong with that. For one thing, TV, movies, and video games (or whatever they're called these days) offer the same promise of fantasy, only in a far more passive way. The same could be said for fiction and drama for centuries; I think all of these things, like our dreams, offer us access to an alternate universe (or two, or a thousand alternatives), where we can conceivably learn things of use in consensus reality. I was about to use the term "escapism" in there a sentence or two ago, but then I remembered that I don't really use my batlife to escape so much as to confront things that I'm either too scared to deal with in my everyday life or would never otherwise encounter.

As the student revolutionaries of the sixties and the surrealists before them used to say, "All power to the imagination!"

If we cannot conceive of better, more interesting worlds, then we are doomed to spend our days toiling away in the "real" one, right?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Knight After 1: Since U Been Gone

Regular readers of this blog (keep those e-mails and IM's comin', gentlemen) may be wondering what has happened to my batself after the "Knightfall" saga ended. The short answer? After a lapse of several months, it resumed and heated up again a while ago. I've been debating whether to continue writing about it here, or not--and, believe it or not, one of the main things that held me back was the absence of a good name for those adventures. I had already decided to retire the "Knightfall" title for entries on that subject, because that referred to a very specific era of my "career" as a masked (and then unmasked) crimefighter. I liked the idea of changing it to reflect a new chapter of my life, much as multi-part storylines in comic books now present themselves as miniseries. I just couldn't come up with the right one.

And then, a few days ago, the new series title presented itself to me. Welcome to the first installment of "The Knight After." And that pretty much sets the tone for the current era: like the hero of my "Beginnings" saga, I am rebuilding my career after a major blow that nearly ended it altogether. That process was quite slow at first, but after a few months back on the job, I can now say things are as busy as ever. The current cast of characters is larger, or at least different. Some familiar faces remain: a Tim Drake-styled Robin, a Dick Grayson-ish former sidekick who has changed his alias name and continues to work primarily on his own, and various superhero colleagues who still drop by from time to time. (Hello, Superman! Greetings, MotorMan!) But there are new arrivals, as well: on the hero front, we have a handsome Batman/Flash whose collection of superhero suits is truly astounding, sundry villains who pop in with threats every now and then, and one Jervis Tetch (batfans will recognize that as the nom de chapeau of the Mad Hatter) who is obsessed--like so many ne'er-do-wells before him--with capturing, unmasking, and enslaving me.

He'll have to take a number, though, because a relatively minor character from the Monk days (it was M who first introduced us, in fact) has come to play a relatively major role in the new era. Let's call him "the Ranger"--a name that reflects his past as a Good Guy, perhaps bearing a family resemblance to the Lone Ranger. If I remember correctly, M had assigned me to help him lead the onetime hero down the path of Eeeeeevil--and in the months since we'd last tangled, it looks like my old nemesis's mission was a roaring success. When we remet, the Ranger assured me he had cleaned up his act, gone straight, returned to the crimefighting biz...

... but this turned out to be a ruse designed to re-earn my trust. Once he had it, he mounted a fullscale attack on me involving an extraordinary arsenal of poison darts, mind-altering/will-demolishing gases, and the like. I fought back with every resource at my disposal, but he proved too smart for me. The turning point came when he captured me and worked me over during an on-camera session. I thought fast and used all his own weapons against him, ostensibly making him as submissive to me as I was to him. Moments later, when he ordered me to unmask, I resisted and made the same demand of him--and to my great surprise, he did as told. It was a brilliant strategy on his part: seeing my adversary remove his most treasured defense caught me off guard, and I was putty in his hands. More drugs came my way, and in no time I found myself unable to resist his next command to expose my face to him.

The rest, as they say, is history: a history of servitude to the Ranger. Whether I like it or not, I am his to be "milked" (easily the sexiest verb in the entire lexicon of superhero roleplay) whenever and however he pleases.

Okay, I realize this is all going to sound suspicious to longtime readers, but you'll have to take my word for it when I say this was not a fate (however temporary) that I freely chose for myself, but one that has been thrust upon me.The situation may similar to that with the Monk, but--and here's what makes this a worthy sequel--the circumstances are different enough to hold my interest. With apologies to Rod Stewart, the first cut really is the deepest, yet this new descent into enforced submission bears a couple of distinctive traits:

1. The Ranger has allowed me to continue to operate as Batman, and to make contact with other heroes and villains even as I agree to serve as his secret lover, and
2. He does not have the kind of taste restrictions that kept the Monk from interacting with my two key sidekicks (past and present).
Both of these cases mean that the situation will likely play itself out quite differently. (If it plays out at all--the Ranger has been mighty quiet of late, and it's possible he's lost interest in the scenario now that he seems to have won for the time being. Sometimes the battle is more exciting than the victory, you know.)

That's the backstory--what has happened between "Knightfall" and "The Knight After." I just wanted to get all that out before I discussed its significance, which I'll do soon. Meanwhile, you have my word that I'll keep you posted on future develoments as they occur.

To the batpole!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

What if Batman were one of us? Just a slob like one of us?

This is how we do it around here: I don't post a damn thing for weeks, months, and then it's bam bam bam, one entry after another...

Just got an e-mail alert from the ever-reliable Batman Fan Filmssite about the latest completed project featured there. (Seems like every day there's a new teaser, trailer, or script, but those usually just don't cut it. I want the real deal in all its full-length, batsuited glory, not some promise of things to come!) It's a movie called The Bat Man--and the space between the words turns out to be very important indeed. It's not a flawless work by any means, and not the best fan film I've ever seen, but it's well worth a viewing.

The premise tosses out one of the most fundamental aspects of the whole Bat myth: that Bruce Wayne is an enormously wealthy man with no day job who can afford to take years off to train his body and mind, and to purchase all those gadgets that make up for his essential mortality. In this version, things are very, very different, and the result may well be the most "realistic" (if that's the right word) spin on the story I've come across (aside from my own sordid fantasies, that is). It's actually scary, in the sense that you realize just how dangerous this guy's obsession really is, and how vulnerable it leaves him. (He's more like Peter Parker than the Bruce Wayne we know and love--only he's got no spidey powers to protect him from the gun-wielding bad guys.)

I didn't find the movie in any way erotic, mind you (and I admit that's normally a big part of the appeal for me, as you've prooooooobably noticed by now), but it's certainly thought-provoking--sort of in the way that The Last Temptation of Christ tweaks its core material just enough to make you look at the story of Christ through new eyes. I had a socialist friend once who turned his nose up at the Bat-saga because it revolves around a rich capitalist, but I've always seen the hero as more politically complicated than that. He can be embraced by the left as well as the right--and written off by both camps, too.

Normally I would post a link to the film and you'd click on it and be directed to some other site to watch it, but through the magic of the internet, or at least the magic of, you can watch it right here. Enjoy--and please post your comments on the movie below, if you're so inclined. (If you want to reach writer/director/star Oliver Ferrasci with your feedback, head to the main BFF site.)

Videos by vMix Member:

Moral of the story: who needs years of study in the Mysterious East when you've got Google?

Men without shirts

When it rains, it pours, batfans. Follow the ongoing trail o' links in its latest twists and turns:

First, a return visit to Man's Adventure yielded only one new illustration, but one of the homo-licious links to the right of the main text brought me to ...

Brian's Drive-In Theater, a spiffy site packed with tributes to B-movie stars and character actors, beefcake and cheesecake shots, film noir stars, beach movie cast members, and so much more. We're talking lavishly illustrated filmographies and links to DVDs, batfans. Pure gold! I dove straight into the section devoted to "Low-Budget Superheroes", where I found shots of Tom Tyler (the Phantom in the 1943 serial) and Reb Brown (Captain America in two low-budget 1979 movies), among others. Re Reb, if you love the lycra and the Cap as much as I do, you owe it to yourself to rent (as cheaply as possible) at least the first of his CA films. (I thiink the first one is the, ahem, "better" of the two, and features a nice bondage shot or two, but then it's been over 10 years since I saw either one). Come on: it may not exactly be standard issue, but how can you resist this... package...

... especially when you know this is what lies beneath that tight-fitting uniform:

And speaking of beefcake (and the bare flesh of superheroes), the same section of Brian's Drive-In also features a tribute to Van Williams, the very Green Hornet whose praises I was singing just two entries back. Here I found not only a dense collection of GH/Lone Ranger stuff but the first shirtless shots of Van I've ever seen; bear with me if I go overboard on posting these, but I'm beside myself with joy. Let us begin with a technicolor treasure in which not only the backdrop but Mr. Williams' entire body appears to be 100% airbrushed for your viewing pleasure:

Next, here he is doing a bit of yardwork. That's right: no matter how pumped you may be, you still have to break out the lawncare implements every now and then. May I fetch you a glass of iced tea, Mister Future Green Hornet, sir?

Finally, say hello to Captain Van (and his treasure of a chest):

I'll stop there, but trust me: Mr. Hornet seems to have been called upon to remove his shirt at least as often as Jim "Wild, Wild" West (though not in his crimefighting days, alas).

There are several other low-budget superheroes on the site, but we must move on to the obvious piece de resistance. In case you're wondering, there is a shirtless shot of Adam West, but to be honest, I've always been a little disappointed by that particular hairless wonder ever since I first saw it exposed in the final episode of the Batman series. No, the real treat on West's page is a link to video footage of a 1977 showdown between the (un)caped crusader and Jerry Lawler (in one of the least erotic Superman-based outfits of all time). Adam is wearing a bizarre but sexy all-black variation on the batsuit that seems to foreshadow the sort of ninja get-ups favored by Christian Bale in early sections of Batman Begins:

Okay, time to wrap this up before I sacrifice an entire evening of my life to photos of manly men baring their hairy, muscular chests.

All right, so it wouldn't be the first time. But still...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Bruce Wayne, Lapsed Episcopalian?

While doing a little background research for a certain supporting character whose easy-to-guess alter ego was just revealed in my Beginnings story, I came across this site devoted to "The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters." (That link takes you to a page of text; if you want to make a more dramatic entrance, check out this far more visually interesting one, which groups the gang by faith, making for some wacky juxtapositions, like Black Lighting, Rogue, and someone named Playback as part of the "Legion of Baptist Superheroes.")

There is a voluminous amount of information and speculation here, both about the fictional characters and the real-life religions they may or may not be affiliated with. Needless to say, I had to check out the entry on Batman right away. Evidently the big controversy is: lapsed Episcopalian, or, in the webmaster's words, "an exquisitely bad Catholic"? Along the way, there is talk of the character's creator's Judaism and the years that young Bruce Wayne spent studying Eastern religion. Much is made of panels like these:

which I, of course, include here not for their theological content but for their depictions of the sexiest man on Earth in his Tibetan skivvies.

I've long contended that there is a strong spiritual dimension to my own bat-centric fantasy life, so it's interesting to see someone devote so much time to actually mapping out the beliefs of these characters. It's a variation on those "Superhero Science" books and TV shows, and it reminds me that I've seen a couple of books on the philosophical and religious lessons of comic book heroes that I mean to pick up some day. I'd provide links to them on Amazon, but the last time I set out to do that I got distracted by a bunch of other fascinating-looking volumes and never quite found the ones I had in mind.

And that's a lesson I've already learned.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Follow that bat-link...

It's been a great evening for bat action on the web! First, my British batfriend told me about this Yahoo group devoted to the Adam West batsuit. Photos, links, trivia, audio clips, the works.

From the links page there, I came across this message board devoted to the 1966 show. Too much stuff to mention here, but I must call your attention to two items of interest:

1. Green Hornet fans will want to check out the section of the Bat-board devoted to GH. From there I learned--be still, my beating heart!--that Starz's ACTION channel is currently broadcasting the TV show. Hip, hip, hooray! The last time I am aware of that this was on the air, more than 10 years ago, I didn't have cable, and couldn't lure my friends into taping every single episode for me. But the TiVO era changes everything. Word is, the episodes are uncut and (I think) shown in original sequence. (The board also led me to this nifty site devoted to the costumes and weaponry from the GH series.)

2. The cool comics blog DIAL B FOR BLOG did a six-part retrospective on the "Secret Origins" of the legendary series a couple of months ago to mark the--gulp!--40th anniversary of its premiere on January 12, 1966. It begins here, and is a profusely illustrated, trivia-packed account that actually taught me plenty of stuff I didn't already know. (Were you aware, for instance, that the Batmobile actually appeared in this movie before it was transformed into the vehicle we all know and love?)

Somewhere in there, I came across...

...this shot of Lyle Waggoner in an early version of the batsuit, from his screen test. (Heretical though this may sound, I wouldn't have minded him in the part. I always enjoyed him on Wonder Woman, which also called for lots of bondage fun. Plus, come on, he's just fucking handsome in that shot.)

Finally, from the final installment of the DIAL B six-parter, I discovered this site where you can buy all 120 episodes of the series on DVD for $36. They are bootlegs, of course (from the TV Land airing of the series, which I think may have been edited a bit as I recall), and the packaging is ultra-minimal, but the episodes are presented in sequence, and I can finally get rid of the endless half-labelled VHS copies I made of random episodes. Besides, at that price, if an official version EVER comes out, I won't mind shelling out a second time if there are any worthwhile extras. So, needless to say, I bought 'em immediately.

And set my TiVO for Tuesday morning's 6 a.m. airing of The Green Hornet. Life is good, batfriends, life is good. (Thanks again, BritBat--I owe ya one.)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Hooray for superheroes!

Talk about answered prayers: Just as I was trying to think of something quick and simple to write about here as a subtle way of pointing out that I still exist, along comes Johnny Bacardi directing my attention to the artist Bone's blog called "Man's Adventure". All drawings of manly men, all the time. Lots of superheroes lately. And I was delighted to learn that Bone was responsible for this funny yet sexy satire about Batman's penchant for getting into bondage-y situations. (It's all the bad guys' fault.) I hope Mr. Bone will forgive me for infringing copyright and reprinting a panel:

"Fruit-Bat" appeared in a copy of Love in Tights, an indie comic whose other contents also pulled off the difficult feat of juggling amusing satire with hot imagery. I gather it no longer exists, and I treasure the lone copy I managed to find a few years ago.

You can be sure I'll be revisiting the Bone Yard often, especially if he continues those discussions about superhero chest hair and drawing JLA members like Tom of Finland models. To the batpole, indeed.