Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Close but no cigar (and cigars are NMF, too, for that matter)

Two items that beautifully illustrate/complicate what I mean by the "Not My Fetish" category among the list of blogpost tags/labels to the right over there:


Thanks to an item in tonight's news, I learned about Pierre the Penguin who has lost much of his feathers and has been outfitted with a neoprene replacement suit. This recent post notwithstanding, I am not particularly into the sight of animals in outfits that would look great if they were worn by balding adult human males, and yet I still visited this page of penguincams (no sightings of Burgess Meredith or Danny deVito, btw) and even watched this brief CNN clip of Pierre in his fetish gear.


I've had a link to this now-defunct blog from a now-defunct art project bookmarked as "bloggable" for half a year or more and it took Pierre up there to remind me of it. I can't remember where I heard about this thing, but I assume it too was NPR-related. (Hell, maybe I should ditch the whole Batman/Cop focus of this blog and just write down all my favorite NPR items; that would surely entice a larger readership, anyway.)

This should be clear, but to spell it out, I love leather gloves on men's hands--my own, or almost anyone else's--and spandexy/lyrcraish ones on superheroes' hands, and I have even been known to lust after empty pairs of them hanging on a store rack, but when they are lying in the street, not so much.

(Here is a still-lively site that elaborates on and even markets the same basic concept as above. Handsome design, but still not my fetish.)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Why So Serious, indeed

I guess I'm way out of the bat-loop, because when the Anonymous Donor and Gray Fox each alerted me within a day of each other that I should check out the premiere episode of the new animated series online, I didn't know what they were talking about. Both friends said the same thing about the show: that it was pretty good, pretty funny, and pretty hot.

Being more of an Old Media sort, I waited to see Batman: The Brave and the Bold on tv (took me a while to figure out that new episodes air every Friday night on the Cartoon Network), and the first episode I caught all the way through was the one guest-starring Plastic Man. Only later did I see the one they'd sent me the link for, which features Blue Beetle. (Each ep also features a surprise cameo, and I'll leave you to discover those for yourself.)

Turns out my pals are right on all counts. After the now-legendary Batman: The Animated Series kiddified itself in its final seasons, only to be followed by the somewhat less interesting Batman Beyond and the MUCH less interesting The Batman, I'd pretty much given up on animated versions of my favorite fictional character, but lo and behold, this one is something completely different. It's not nearly as serious as B:TAS, but neither is it as a child-centric as that show's successors. Gray Fox referred to it as "campy," but that's not quite the word I'd use--"smartass" is more like it. The tone is nothing like the '66 live-action series; it's closer to the recent Teen Titans show (not that I've watched that more than once, mind you) and almost as much a genre spoof as The Venture Brothers, which is why it's a perfect fit for Cartoon Network's patented postmodern blend of kid-friendly action/attitude and parent-friendly nostalgia/parody.

The primary joke in the two episodes I've seen thus far is that Batman's partners are neither brave nor bold, at least not until they learn the sorts of valuable lessons one picks up from an apprenticeship with the master. The Blue Beetle episode--the first of the series--is as self-reflexive as they come, opening (after a prologue and the catchy, stylized theme song) with two teenage Bat-fans watching their hero on tv and engaging in a round of the ever-popular "If Superman and Batman got in a fight, which one would win?" debate. As for that prologue, it's a deathtrap-fetishist's delight, featuring two beltless captives in the clutches of the latest incarnation of the Clock King. Both episodes I've seen so far cut right to the chase, or rather to the kind of cliffhanger scenario that my six-year-old self had to wait 25 minutes to see Adam West and Burt Ward encounter. No more! The pace here is fast, the jokes actually make me laugh out loud, and the artwork evokes the burly, husky Bat of the comics of the late 40s through the early 60s. (There's a higher degree of sci-fi content than I prefer in my bat-stories--lots of flying around in outer space and whatnot--but it works, it works.)

Given how somber the Christopher Nolan-era Batfilms are (and, for that matter, the last two James Bond flicks), I find it intriguing that the Powers That Be at Warner Bros would allow the folks behind the very latest incarnation of the Dark Knight to lighten up so much. I'm all for a balance in tone--I'm no fan of the spoofy/over-the-top approach of the Clooney/Schumacher movie (or Moonraker in Bond-land), but the ultra-seriousness of the Bale/Nolan movies (and even more so Quantum of Solace) doesn't do much more for me, either. What the '66 series did so very well was function on (at least) two levels simultaneously, and The Brave and the Bold shows promising signs of creating its own unique stance in that department. Can't wait to see more.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

You animal!

I was intrigued by the film Zoo from the moment I heard about it. Way back in the taboo-shattering mid-70s, my late mother contended that bestiality was going to be the last taboo. (That should tell you a lot about her.) I should point out right away that neither she nor I was "into" sex with animals, to use the parlance of the day, except as an intriguing topic of conversation on a long car trip. In the intervening years I have of course come out, first as a gay man, and then--to a far smaller public--as a man with several powerful fetishes, and I've often found it interesting to learn more about sexual attractions I don't share, both because they help to shed light on sexuality in general and because I feel a certain empathy for other people with minority tastes.

That said, Zoo isn't really the movie I was expecting at all. It's not a wide-ranging documentary about "zoophilia" in general so much as a true-crime examination of a specific case. Granted, it avoids the snickering tone of other chronicles of the saga of "Mr. Hands", but it doesn't really shed much light on the phenomenon of people who identify really closely with their pets and other animals. (Stylistically, it's a blatant ripoff of Errol Morris's aesthetic, and I could never quite get past that.) As far as parallels with other fetishes, the only one that really struck me was the huge role that the internet has played in bringing people together. Hard to imagine the circle that gathered around Mr. Hands forming without it--just as I can't really fathom meeting (virtually, at least) as many people into masks, gloves, and lycra-clad superheroes as I have without the aid of Yahoo groups, sites like GearFetish, and this very blog.

Beyond that one commonality, I'm on the outside looking in. (The Hub was there with me for about 30 minutes, but lost interest after that.)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Catch-up, continued: The (mostly) Bat Edition

More stuff that's been clogging the batcomputer waiting for me to mention it here. I've got plenty, on all sorts of topics, so here's a bunch that's specifically bat-centric (with one exception) ...

•Let's begin by watching the single hottest sequence from the whole of the legendary Animated Series (thanks as always, Anonymous Donor!):

•Hot off the press (at least more so than any of the following items), reports of a real-life Batman in the U.K.

•In the interest of balance, however, behold a naughty real-life Captain America. (Fans of unmasking and/or heroes in handcuffs will want to catch the video footage from jail of the bad good-guy being booked.)

Arkham After Midnight: Riddle Me Deadly, an interesting fan film experiment combining found bat-footage from various sources to create a faux silent film. One Arkham inmate after another finds a parallel from silent classics, and the result suggests that Batman has a lot more in common with German Expressionism and surrealism (among other things) than you might guess; it's also considerably meatier--and more ominous--than the actual bat-serials it samples.

•A now-old (Batman Begins-era) but still functional guide to "How the Batsuit Works," in the tradition of those techno-fetishistic geek guides to the blueprints of the Enterprise, Millenium Falcon, etc. Only difference is, this one's something I've been fetishizing myself for four decades and counting.

•In a related vein, a catalog of "the Great Batman Equipment Archive."

•From 2005, the answer to the question all America has asked at least once: "Is Batman Nuts?"

•Bat-bloggery from ...
Again with the Comics
I Found All Six (Slylock Fox in da house!)
Blockade Boy (RIP)

•More YouTube fun to wrap up this installment:

Saturday, December 06, 2008

"Our past belongs to us; we can change it if we want."

So says Mia Farrow's character at a critical moment in Be Kind Rewind. (Spoiler alert: It arrives two thirds of the way into the movie, and there's no way to make the point I want to make without revealing at least a little of the final third, so you may want to skip the rest of this post if you enjoy surprises.)

As a big fan of Michel Gondry's earlier films and music videos, I'd been meaning to see this 2008 feature during its brief run in theaters, despite the mediocre-to-bad reviews I'd read, but I never quite got around to it until now. I fully understand the poor reception, even from fellow lovers of Eternal Sunshine and The Science of Sleep (for the record, I even love Human Nature, which nobody seems to like). Throughout its first two acts, I kept thinking Rewind was his worst film, marred by a farfetched/downright silly premise and a gratingly generic performance by Jack Black. (The best thing on the DVD is not the movie, but an accompanying short, "Passaic Mosaic," which makes a beautiful if unspoken case for BWR as the missing link between Gondry's surreal features and his otherwise utterly uncharacteristic documentary/concert film, Dave Chapelle's Block Party.)

If you're familiar with Rewind, here's the high-concept part you know: Black's character becomes magnetized and erases all the stock in the last shop in Passaic, NJ (if not America) that still rents VHS tapes, which leads him and clerk Mos Def to shoot amateur remakes of each one. (This practice is called "sweding" in the movie, but they're basically fanfilms.) A wacky enough idea, I suppose, and the best bits are in the official trailer. But it all seemed beneath the talents of Gondry, one of the most imaginative writer/directors around. It also begs two questions: What about DVDs? and Isn't this whole thing a massive violation of copyright? Question #1 is dismissed in five seconds, but the second one proves a doozy. To make matters worse, our heroes learn that one of the major subthemes of the story has been completely fabricated. Fortunately, there's an entire third act not really hinted at in the trailer.

That's when things get interesting--and Gondryesque. Farrow's character states the premise pretty directly in the line above. What began as two guys covering up an accident evolves into a communitywide art project. I'll spare you further details, but it's interesting that the major studio's lawyers are the bad guys (way to stick it to the Man, New Line!) and that the entire film is a defense of fans' rights to retell and extend their favorite corporate fictions. I'd suggest, in the spirit of sweding, that you could even tweak Farrow's line to read "Our fantasies belong to us; we can refine them however we like." There's an intriguing invitation in the final credits directing us to the official website to see the "sweded" films excerpted in the movie, but that site has disappeared and there's no trace of them on the one that remains to plug the DVD. (I kinda wonder if maybe actual copyright lawyers made them go away.) However, you can see a few examples on this YouTube channel.

And if those aren't enough, check out this handy list of Sweded films made for a contest including a parody of Batman Begins featuring a rather fetching Bruce Wayne/Bat.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I heard a rumor from Ground Control ...

Warning: Do not click on any of the following links if you don't want spoilers, or DC-generated rumors that look like spoilers. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure it will be impossible to avoid this for a few weeks.

Haven't been following the sometimes beautifully written, sometimes baffling-to-a-nongeek-like-me Batman RIP too closely lately since the first couple of issues, but a friend just passed this along. Surprised I haven't seen word of it in the comics blogs I visit the most often (see sidebar to the right), but maybe that's because everyone's been too busy eating turkey and passing out. I'm sure the world will be abuzz shortly... This is the sort of thing that gets the mainstream news all hot and bothered about comics (at least to the point of running brief what-will-they-think-of-next stories every couple of years--see also: Captain America, Death of; Superman, Death of; Spider-Man, Unmasking of).

For the record, assuming there is more to this than the Old Switcheroo, the villain in me loves the sheer sacrilege suggested in who the killer claims to be, and the resulting implication that our hero's entire quest has been wrong-headed. That's the kind of deconstruction/mindfuck I can really get behind.

UPDATE! Speculation, plus a couple of news stories that repeat the same skimpy info as above, here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bad acting, corny script ...

... but you gotta love the outfit:

(For the record, there was a time when I was that alarmingly thin, too, though in my case it ended about 15 years ago.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Playing catch-up

Some bat-odds and bat-ends I've been stockpiling for a while:

1. Welcome to the Dollhouse, a blog--or perhaps a semi-random collection of stray bits--that covers a variety of subjects, including funny books. Good writing, nice beefcake sketches. Of particular interest to you, I'm guessing, is the multi-part "ComicArt Chest Fest,' a celebration of semi-naked fictional characters baring flesh. Me, I happen to find this sketch incredibly enticing:

2. On Scans Daily, "Dreadful Birthday, Dear Joker," featuring one of the all-time hottest deathtraps in comics, presented in its entirety. Behold its awesome cover!

3. Finally, a fun little Spanish-language music video I stumbled upon (though not via StumbleUpon) :

I've got more stuff for ya, but I'm falling asleep in my chair at the moment, so this will have to do for now. Stay tuned, boys and girls.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The horror! The horror!

I come late to the web phenom which is Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog--my first exposure came not through any viral campaign or bloggery but this "oral history" of the project in Entertainment Weekly and this interview with Dr. Horrible himself, Neil Patrick Harris, on Fresh Air. And yesterday I finally tracked the thing down and watched all 45 delightful minutes.

I've never gotten the whole Joss Whedon cult--I'm sure he's very clever, but the concepts behind Buffy and Firefly didn't do much for me. Now, you do a musical about a budding supervillain's quest for acceptance by his peers (one of whom is a horse, another a Thomas Jefferson impersonator) and I am there. (Is it possible I have never written about my affection for The Tick here?) No lycra, sadly (the low-rent outfits are fetish-free for me, aside from Captain Hammer's studly leather gauntlets), but the songs are catchy and the cast--particularly Harris--is a joy to watch.

I particularly enjoy Whedon's reversal of the good guy/bad guy dynamic; you totally root for Dr. Horrible, while ostensible hero Captain Hammer is an arrogant, self-obsessed bully. (I never got around to seeing Hancock, since the reviews were all so mediocre, but Hammer seems like a variation on the same basic concept.) Perhaps it's the musical-comedy aspect of the project that made the connection in my mind, but I couldn't help thinking of Broadway's Wicked, in which all the "good" folks in Oz are exposed as bubbleheads (or worse--far worse) and the "evildoers" are tragically misunderstood. (War on terror, anyone?) The fact that moral ambiguity can still do well at the box office bodes well in the era of you're-either-with-us-or-you're-with-the-terrorists.

PS. All the press suggests that your chance to watch for free is done and that you must now purchase the thing via iTunes (or wait for the promised DVD), but that's not true as of yesterday. Look, it's right here!

Friday, August 22, 2008

High and dry

I often think of the Olympics as high holy days for lycra fetishists, but sadly--after gawking at that mind-blowing opening ceremony (which was both dazzling and the purest expression of a fascist aesthetic I've ever witnessed)--I've paid little or no attention to the actual games. I'm not much for sports in general, beyond the outfits. And frankly, every single time I've tuned in to try and catch some men-in-lycra action, I've ended up with women's beach volleyball, which is so not my game on so many levels.

This is disappointing, because I kept hearing about the amazing new swimsuits--the ones detractors compare to steroids as an unfair supplement to the human body--and wanted to see them in action. (Let me repeat: I have no particular interest in the sport of swimming; I only wanted to see men wearing skin-tight, full-body lycra. That's all I ask.) In my attempt to find visuals to accompany this post, though, I did come across a truly funny Mo Rocca bit, featuring some guy named Phelps, maybe you've heard of 'im:

Meanwhile, if you ever needed any further evidence that we already live in a creepy sci-fi-movie future, behold this Italian promo for the "Aqualab" where kinkwear is developed and modeled:

Got between $290 and $550 to burn? Never mind overpriced leather fetish wear or simulated movie batsuits; just buy your own Olympic gold!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Gay spies wanted

Stumbled across an interesting story in Time about the British secret service's new quest for out gay people to serve as spies this morning. I had no idea! Apparently the old reason for not wanting 'mos to serve their country (they were bad security risks because they led double lives and therefore could not be trusted) has been flipped on its ear (because they lead double lives, they have developed an excellent skillset for spying).

Nor had I ever heard anything about this before:

Until gay sex was decriminalized in 1967, Britain's gay community protected itself against potential prosecution by conducting conversations in a special argot, Polari, a mixture of Italian, Romany and London slang.

What's Polari for "You learn something new everyday?"

Sunday, August 17, 2008

OK, OK, I finally saw it...

The Hub and I celebrated his return to town tonight with a long-delayed trip to the movies (our first in weeks, maybe months) to see The Dark Knight. Kinda wish I hadn't waited so long, because all the glowing reviews from press and friends alike had my expectations way up, and thus it came as a shock when I found it ...

*kinda slow, because it was
*really, really unnecessarily complicated, and thus
*WAY too long.

(Insert obligatory spoiler alert here, although I am keeping this all as vague as I possibly can, mainly because I couldn't follow 70% of it anyway.)

Throughout the film I kept getting seriously lost, thanks to jumps in time (wait a sec--I thought Character X was in Location A, but now he's on the other side of town and it's tomorrow, and now he's back where he was a second ago--I ... think), baffling plot turns (let's all go to Hong Kong for five minutes!), and--more than anything else--highly improbable, uh, coincidences. (Where exactly does Joker get the time and personnel, and money for that matter, to run all over town planting devices on boats, in skyscrapers, INSIDE PEOPLE, FER CHRISSAKES--devices whose single function is based on his flawless grasp of human nature? And let's not EVEN get into that whole hey-look-what-I-can-do-with-every-cellphone-in-Gotham-City business.)

I felt like it was a mix of a James Bond movie (the labyrinthine plot, the globetrotting, the gadgets, the discussion of the gadgets, the revelation of the new gadgets, the requisition forms for the new gadgets), a Die Hard movie (the endless sequences of people being held hostage in buildings or other public spaces that were about to be blown up), a Hannibal Lecter movie (does NO ONE ELSE feel a strong sense of deja vu during the Joker-in-a-cagelike-cell-conveniently-located-in-the-center-of-the-jail sequence?), and one of those police-corruption movies that Sidney Lumet specializes in. I have enjoyed each of these subgenres now and then, other than the police-corruption one, but they have little to do with what appeals to me about the Bat saga. I appreciate the fact that Nolan and company have taken that saga to previously unexplored places in their two films, and I am impressed by the way they've worked in things from the comics that haven't appeared in earlier movies or tv series, but those things only slightly interest me; they certainly don't excite me.

As for the much-ballyhooed Heath Ledger performance, I basically enjoyed it, but I'm not really sure I get what's so amazing about it. It is different from any previous interpretation, but that's not necessarily a plus in my book. I spent the first hour thinking: That voice he's using ... I recognize it from somewhere .... --but it wasn't until he became a more prominent player, oh, about FOUR HOURS IN, that it hit me: Dear lord, he's channelling Al Franken!

At various points I wondered: if this movie were my first exposure to the Batman character, would I have found his story anywhere near as significant as I do? I think I can pretty easily answer: no. I don't see any bat-blogs, bat-roleplay, bat-slash, or bat-anything else coming out of me if this were my sole, or primary, sense of the masked manhunter. It's a smart action film that hints at deeper moral issues in a post-9/11 world (though I'm not sure I get the point), and that's all nice, but no more so than, say, a Bourne movie. It's also, I'm tempted to say, the least erotic rendering of the Bat I've ever seen, and that's including SuperFriends and the current WB incarnation of Bruce Wayne as a 30something GQ subscriber.

On the bright side, I think it's a real testament to Bob Kane's creation that the character can assume so many radically different forms over so many years and still basically read as "the Batman." This version doesn't seem to fuck up anything too seriously. It's as much a product of--and representation of--the early 21st century as Kane's early comics were of the late 1930s, or the Adam West series was of the 1960s, or Denny O'Neill's comics were of the 1970s, or Burton's movies were of the late 1980s, and so on. There were plenty of little moments here and there that I enjoyed, and I'm very intrigued by the setup for the third film, which may well be the most radical rethinking of all.

Your thoughts, anyone?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The ecstasy of Saint Adam

A quick tip o' the cowl to my new buddy Daredevil for tipping me off to Helpless Heroes, a Japanese site devoted to images of the Bat, Spider-Man, Ultraman, and miscellaneous other tights-clad crimefighters in various states of distress.

I don't know the language, but I get the basic idea, and I particularly appreciate this recent collection of stills of an open-mouthed Adam West, which for some reason takes me back to my grad school days and an essay by Jacques Lacan about the true nature of the, wink wink, nudge nudge, "ecstasy" of St. Theresa. Even if you're not particularly versed in French post-modern psychoanalysis, I have a feeling you'll get the idea from just two images:

Open wide and say, "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

"Superhero or Sidekick: Which one are you?"

Needless to say, that teaser on the cover of the Hub's copy of the August Instinct caught my eye, so I had to turn to page 56 right away. I'm not a particularly big fan of the magazine (and there goes my shot at a plug in its pages!)--the models, Photoshopped pictures of which constitute the bulk of the "content," are almost all twinks, the articles are generally glib if not mindless, and would it kill them to hire a proofreader? Even so, I was hooked, and it seemed a good sign that the story was written by a psychologist rather than a staff writer.

The page-and-a-half article itself is basically a Reader's Digest-style paraphrase of Dr. Keith Swain's theory (expressed at greater length in his book Dynamic Duos: The Alpha/Beta Key to Unlocking Success in Gay Relationships) that long-lasting gay couples tend to unite alpha males with beta counterparts. One tends to lead, the other to follow; one takes care of the finances, the other nurtures the emotional bond ... not unlike an idealized 1950s style heterosexual marriage, in fact.

It's hard not to chuckle when Swain begins a sentence, "If we think about this idea on a gut level, it makes sense, like Batman and Robin seem natural" -- one can hear old Doc Wertham spinning in his grave -- but he continues "If we put Superman with Captain America, less so." And it's true, I have never been that interested in the whole Clash of the Titans dynamic, often seen in comic book crossovers, like the one pitting Batman against Captain America or the Punisher. Even the banter and clashing egos among Justice League members (and all other superhero teamups) bores me.

For Swain, this comic book metaphor has its parallels in other "variations in masculinity among gay men--we have even developed our own terminology for this: daddy and son, bear and cub, even, to a degree, top and bottom." To a degree?! That last one seems to me the ultimate example of the dynamic, taken almost to the point of parody.

A natural-born skeptic, I don't want to buy into the theory, or any formulaic approach to human behavior for that matter, but Swain's premise does seem to make sense--not as a surefire recipe for happiness or "key to success," but at least as a potentially useful way to deal with male/male interactions. (Butch/femme archetypes aside, I don't see this operating as blatantly in lesbian relationships, nor does Swain bring up women in the article, but then maybe an actual biological female might want to weigh in here. You reading, Teresa?)

I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that, taking the 5-obvious-question quiz in the sidebar ("A or B ... Or Somewhere In Between?: Test Your Inner Superhero!"), I was a 5-for-5 Sidekick and the Hub is a 5-for-5 Superhero. Well, maybe not 5-for-5: a true Sidekick, I suppose, I took the test for him, and thus I don't know for sure whether his second and fourth fingers are the same size or not. That question was kinda wacky anyway, given the others, which were easier to guess the "correct" answers to. ("Which is more attractive to you, a man with a rugged, masculine face or one with a fresh, youthful face?" Well, duh! But hey, I know my answer and I'm stickin' to it.)

The reason that's embarrassing is that I prefer to think of myself, in bat-land, as a lone Batman, with no sidekick myself and no use for one, and 90% of my roleplay adventures pit me against a villain, mano a mano, and it's a bit of a blow to my ego to be revealed as the underdog. I have no interest in playing Robin to someone else's Bat. That said, I should point out:

1. When the '66 tv series was first airing and subtly creating the pervert that I am today, I totally identified as the Boy Wonder. I was 6 and my older brother, 10 years my senior, was clearly Batman. (More on that relationship--one of the most important in my life--in future posts, the kind I keep meaning to write here but have never quite gotten around to.)

2. There is a Robin in my own personal mythology (or rather was, for years ago he hung up the yellow cape in a favor of his own batsuit). Ironically enough, while I was working on this entry we had a bit of a scene together, during which he totally topped me for the first time. Didn't see that coming, but totally enjoyed it--way more exciting to me than the standard mentor/mentee dynamic, though Doc Freud might point out that this latest twist is entirely within that "standard."

No matter what, real life, even real fantasy-life, is a lot more complicated, and therefore more interesting, than any theory. But bring capes and cowls into your theory and I'm bound to pay attention.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


A bat-friend of mine tells me he's custom-ordering a cape from this costume maker. He sends the photo above as a rough example of what he's getting. Out of my price range at the moment, mind you, but it looks great. As does the model!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cave-ing in

A friend just passed along "When Batman Was Gay," a post/essay about my favorite character's oft-discussed sexuality on The Bilerico Project: Daily Experiments in LGBTQ. Not a whole lot of new stuff there, if you've spent the last few decades reading and thinking about this issue, but author Tyrion Lannister does a fine job bringing together the familiar touchstones (Wertham, the changing role of Alfred, introduction of Batwoman and Batgirl, etc.), and the illustrations are those "Subtext? What subtext?" innuendo-loaded images we all know and love.

When I read that Lannister first climbed on board the batmobile in the Dark Knight Returns era, I suddenly felt old, or saw him as a youngun, or something. But he makes a provocative point: that, while Boomers take the campy Batman of the Silver Age comics and the '66 tv show for granted, readers his age have always known a darker, butcher Knight. I was also intrigued by his assertion that Silver Age Batman's partisans miss the central reason why Batman is a compelling and fascinating figure in the first place. Batman's most important relationships have always been with criminals. What drives him to pursue them? How does he distinguish himself from his queries? How is vigilantism anything but criminal? Indeed, Batman's most provocative implications have centered around the distinction between law and justice - Batman's dedication to the latter, often at the expense of the former.

Indeed, 98% of my bat-fantasies are hero/villain, not hero/sidekick or hero/fellow hero. (Probably because there's just not much narrative tension in two guys on the same side of a conflict going at it.) Still, for me, the most eye-opening part of the Bilerico piece was not Lannister's own remarks but this comment from a reader named Brian:

As a queer kid growing up in the sixties and seventies, before I even knew what queer meant, Batman represented the ultimate in cool. He drove a cool car, wore a cool costume and lived in a cool house with a secret cave underneath it. And my secret was safe as long as his was. It didn't matter if he was gay or not. What mattered was how well he kept his secret identity. Batman helped keep millions of us in the closet (i.e. "Batcave") long after we should have taken off our masks.

Fascinating! And it's true, in my case, that the core of the Batman myth is the high premium it places on disguise, on secrecy, on masking. I'm not sure I would blame the comic for keeping me in the closet/cave, though; coming out was my own responsibility. But damn, Batman made having a double life sexy, and the requisite costuming even sexier.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Nope, I haven't seen the movie yet ...

... and probably won't have time to for at least a week or two, but in the meantime, ya gotta check out Dial B for Blog's "16 Days of the Batman." (The first installment is here.) This series, like the blog itself, is a pop culture treasure trove, full of artifacts both real and fabricated. (One fun fact about the '66 series I did not know: The switch in the Shakespeare bust that Bruce flips to open the secret entrance to the batcave actually turned on a light backstage, signalling the stage hands to open the doors by hand.)

PS. The image above would make a lot more sense in context, but I'm including it here anyway because the artwork in those trading cards is so damn hot.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Comics on the radio

Time for one of my signature posts on a subject about which I have incredibly incomplete knowledge. (I realize now that if I only wrote about things I know well, I would post here even less than I already do. Guess it's better to think of these entries as reminders to myself to follow through on things sometime in the future.)

I caught only random tidbits of this episode of the public radio show To the Best of Our Knowledge last week devoted to "Heroes, Anti-Heroes, and Regular Folks." I have a sneaking suspicion it's a rebroadcast, because I could swear I'd already heard the interview with Austin Grossman, author of the novel Soon I Will Be Invincible, told from the POV of an archetypal comic book villain. I've been wanting to read the book since I first heard about it, probably on some other NPR-ish program in the last year or so. And yet I have not, which further establishes my lack of knowledge!

Other interview subjects during the hour are Douglas Wolk, whose book Reading Comics sounds great, and artists/writers Ulli Lust, Roberta Gregory, and Terry Moore. I'd recommend the whole thing, except of course I haven't actually heard all of it myself. I do know I particularly enjoyed Wolk's remarks on the operatic/mythological dimensions of superhero comics, which helped me realize why, even though I am in my late 40s and therefore a grownup who should prefer grownup things like jazz, classical music, and "graphic novels" about the minutiae of everyday people's lives, I am still way more turned on by books about men in tights than about Average Joes. (Can I just say, for the record, that I have never in my life read a Harvey Pekar story I enjoyed as much, or learned as much from, as The Killing Joke, The Long Halloween, or some of the Batman: Black and White stories?)

Value added: In looking up the link to Wolk's excellent blog, I came across a recent entry on it that directed me to his Salon essay comparing the Batman of the Nolan films (and accompanying anime DVD) to the character in the comic books. Once again, he does a great job of explaining what's missing from the movie incarnation--the very thing (beyond the erotic appeal of a hunky man in a mask and tights) that drew me to the character when I was an intellectual, not-at-all athletic or gadget-crazed teenager in the 70s. He was a detective, dammit!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

While I was out ... summer reading

A while back I picked up used copies of the trade paperback versions of a couple of Bat stories I knew from way back, though when they first appeared in comic book form I'd only read portions of them. I freely admit my initial interest in both was purely prurient, but as is so often the case, when I actually paid attention to the storylines I was intrigued.

Or, in its more recent but equally studly edition:

Batman: Tales of the Demon collects Dennis O'Neil's first 11 stories about R'as al Ghul. RAG is a character that I've generally found more interesting in the classic animated series and the 2005 movie than in the comics, but come on, this is the storyline that includes the images that made me gay and the single hottest comic book cover of my adolescence.

O'Neil, writing in a 1991 afterword, apologizes for the whiz-bang nature of the dialogue and faux-Marvel-isms of the narration, and seems very upset about a certain plot inconsistency, but that's hardly my concern. These stories come from the heyday of late 70s/early 80s bat-beefcake, so the musculature is always gloriously pronounced and our hero is constantly getting bonked on the head so that he can lie prone on the floor for several panels an issue. Hooray! As a side bonus, we get to see the origins of Bats' "Matches Malone" alter ego, and O'Neil rightly notes that these stories marked an important part of the character's evolution out of 60s camp and into 90s gloom. But really now: shirts come off (a lot), cowls get lifted, and it's all good, people. It's allllll goooooood.

Here's a lengthy review by "the Masked Bookwyrm," someone who clearly knows and thinks (and cares) a lot more about this kind of thing than I do.

Before we leave RAG for another late-era supervillain, let's savor the animated incarnation I was just talking about, shall we? (There's a good chance I've already posted this clip, because I've been saving it for this purpose for at least two years, but the initial tunic-removal scene bears repeating.)

Batman: The Cult. I know, I know, we're really not supposed to like this thing, because it's ultracynical and hyperviolent and cryptofascist, and all of that is true, but come on, how could I pass up a cover image like this?

To be honest, I lost interest after the second of four parts when this initially came out, but boy, that first issue was hot: Batman bound, broken, on his damn knees before his captor... Need I go on? Years later, I read an interview with Frank Miller about the thing; Miller hated it for all the reasons cited above plus the fact that the premise and even the panel structure owed so much to Dark Knight Returns, but as a BDSM stroke book, issue one is nearly unparalleled in mainstream comics.

I was amused to read writer Jim Starlin's explanation that ubervillain Deacon Blackfire was loosely inspired by the hypocritical right-wing demagogues of the Culture Wars of the late 80s (including the now freshly deceased Jesse Helms), because that certainly doesn't come through in the text. But no matter: Like the RAG story cycle, this makes an interesting pop culture lens on the issues of its time, both inside and outside the comics universe.

Once again, here's the Bookwyrm's take.

(PS. Between my last post here and this one, I caught a good-sized chunk of Skidoo on late-night TV. I'd heard for years about this legendary Hollywood-hippie-era bad-acid-trip of a movie, but had no idea its eclectic cast reunited Frank Gorshin, Cesar Romero, and Burgess Meredith--all directed by Mr. Freeze himself, Otto Preminger!)

Friday, July 11, 2008

While I was out ... Yaoi edition

Boy, time DOES fly between these posts, doesn't it?

I'll leave most of what I've been up to to your imagination, which may or may not be more exciting than the reality. But here are a few things I've collected since last we spoke:

•Couple of Bat/Joker slash images, courtesy of my British counterpart (and former sidekick):

•Couple more B/J (love that acronym!) Yaoi images, I forget the source (I'm betting it was the Anonymous Donor):

I'm not usually a big fan of the genre--I think it's a generational thing, akin to the way I just don't get manga or anime, or even karaoke--and I don't spend a lot of time fantasizing about Bat on Joker action, but these are pretty damned hot.

More (non-yaoi) updates to come, soon.

(PS. What was on while I was writing this? Why, a 1990 interview with Bob Kane on Fresh Air, conveniently enough.)

Friday, March 28, 2008

How to spend that $60K that's burning a hole in your utility belt

Bid away.

(Another tip o' the cowl to the Anonymous Donor, who now appears to provide all material for this blog. Although he has not yet donated the above item, in the flesh. Er, rubber.)

Monday, March 24, 2008

... And here's what I don't love about comics

I got about a third of the way through this explanation of (relatively) recent developments in the DC uni/multiverse before throwing my hands up in despair. I was referred to the entry by the Anonymous Donor when I said I didn't get the whole "Superboy Prime" business I've heard a wee bit about.

Hey, look, I just want hot guys in tight outfits to be tied up, like they were in my youth. Is that too much to ask?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Here's what I love about comics

Every few years, some lunatic ties Batman to a chair for an entire issue and taunts him relentlessly. In my spotty memory, the lunatic role has been performed by Scarecrow (multiple times, not always limiting himself to a mere chair), one of several Clayfaces (that whole thing is way too complicated for me to sort out), and someone called the Obeah Man (and the Batman was actually Dick Grayson, if you want to get technical). Now comes Batman issue 674, which I believe is currently on newsstands, if you can find an actual newsstand anywhere.

The intentions are crystal clear on the cover:

That's right: the one and only Grant Morrison is behind this one! The story, which as far as I can tell is more or less self-contained, is a typically trippy Morrisonesque tale of hallucinations and false flashbacks and other twists of the sort that always get me going. But of course what really gets me going about the issue is imagery like this splash page--

--which, you will note, features one of my favorite bat-fetishes, the desecration (in this case, the absolute removal) of the chest emblem. The empty space allows some nice hair to poke through the hole, but that pales in comparison to what happens later. I'm cropping the next panel so as not to spoil anything, but then if you're reading a blog like this and you don't know that our hero is about to do something heroic, you are probably too young and/or innocent to be here at all:

Hooray to Mr. Morrison, and a big thank you to my Anonymous Donor for continuing to slip me the images that make my heart beat so.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Check out that bat-crotch!

From Bat-Blog, a link to a political ad campaign in Brussels depicting superheroes as various minorities. Interesting concept, but I'm a little too distracted by this blind Batman's bunching briefs. Can I get an "amen"?!

Update:The point of the ad campaign was to encourage voters to think about, say, blind people as capable of holding higher office--and, irony of ironies, I posted the above image shortly before New York state got its first sight-impaired, African American governor. Of course, mentioning that here only forces me to admit that if I were really serious about this blog's stated theme, I'd be waxing eloquent on the whole Eliot Spitzer saga, and I just don't have the time or energy to do so. But come on! The man who until about a week ago was frequently portrayed as practically a real-life superhero (or at least the new Eliot Ness, as we were often reminded) falls from grace into utter villainy? A saga worthy of Marvel comics! (Good thing I'm a DC guy from way back, and thus less interested in moral ambiguities than rippling muscles.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

NOW we're talkin'

I had heard nothing about this particular Batman fan film till tonight, but one look at Patrick Thistle's Deadlock and I'm sold.
Why? Let me count the ways:
*actual film, not a teaser or trailer for something that may never get made
*cast of grownups, not a bunch of well-meaning kids (nothing wrong with kids making movies, but I start to feel uncomfortable if I am more than 30 years older than the main character, for several reasons)
*compelling storyline that totally works with my understanding of the Bat
*feels a bit like one of the Batman: Black & White stories--simple, direct, illuminating
*genuinely holds my interest--I wondered how our hero was going to get out of the deathtrap
*you heard me: deathtrap! deathtrap, deathtrap, deathtrap! at last!
*very nice soundtrack, full of industrial/electronic noise (NIN, Aphex Twin, etc.), all used quite effectively
*solid performances by the actors (who double as producer, director, and crew) who play Batman and the Riddler
*one word: bat-stubble!

The sound is a bit hard to make out (allow me to recommend headphones), but that kinda works--the setting is claustrophobic and the film is grainy and it all feels just right. It's shot on a low budget, but then so are some of the most interesting films ever made.

But why take my word for it? Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Deadlock, parts one...

... and two ...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Sympathy for the Devil

Tonight's interview with Stanford Psychology professor (emeritus) Philip Zimbardo on The Colbert Report reminds me that maybe one day I should actually read his latest book, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, if I ever want to think seriously about the notion of "heroes" and "villains."

I meant to write about Zimbardo here when I first watched this recent documentary about his infamous Stanford Prison Experiments among other "Human Behavior Experiments" demonstrating how ordinary people can be prompted to do extraordinarily awful things to each other. Never quite got around to that--but it turns out those two programs are merely the tip of the media iceberg. (Lots more TV and print appearances are catalogued here.)

I see, too, that Zimbardo is quite the master packager of himself--in addition to the site for the book, he's got a snazzy little home page and another devoted to the prison experiments, complete with slide show and discussion points. One such note does a nice job of decoding one of my favorite bits of police fetishism: "Consider the police procedures which make arrestees feel confused, fearful, and dehumanized. Note that this policeman is wearing sunglasses just like those we had our 'guards' wear and as did the head of the National Guards at Attica Prison during its bloody 1971 riot!"

Friday, February 01, 2008

Hours of fun

"The world does not need another site that makes fun of comic books; there are many, and they are much more complete and exhaustive than this one. Who cares? It’s the internet. There’s room for all!"

That's the raison d'etre of Funny Books: Dubious Moments in Comic History, which is loaded with classic covers like this:

and this:

Of course, for a spandex/deathtrap fetishist like moi, the images are a treat in themselves, but you won't want to miss webmaster James Lileks' high-larious captions/commentaries, like this and this. (Love the reference to Hal's "stupid-sexy-flanders-butt ... but that's inevitable when you're in good shape and wear underwear about in public.") Believe me, it's hard to pick just two examples from this "almost infinite amount of Superman-related crap, bad sci-fi, junky TV-show tie-ins, and the rest of the endless drecktitude."

Only downside: no easy way to navigate through the innards of the site; as far as I can tell, your only options are to start with the earliest or the latest post, which is a bit of a pain on repeat visits, or when you want to skip to a particular title or character. But hey: if you're visiting this particular corner of the blogosphere, you're probably not in any particular hurry to cure cancer or save the world.

Oh, and if you have the same soft spot for this stuff that I do, then you'll want to check out the other related mini-sites collected under one roof as "the Institute of Official Cheer."

I confess

I could swear I've written about the documentary Confessions of a Superhero here already, but I'll be damned if I want to track down the post to be sure. Still haven't seen it, but this intriguing review of the film reminds me it's out there, and on DVD now to boot.

Crystal meth, mob ties, incarceration...

... and that's just Batman.

(Pssst: more nice photos and some video clips on the official site; see link above.)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

No Joke(r)

I know, I know: I should really compose a tribute to Heath Ledger. To tell the truth, I'm still kind of reeling from the news--what little of it there is at this point. So I'll save those thoughts for another post (ah, if only more people would hold off on reporting news when there is no news to report), and instead share a wonderful 3-D animation of an entirely different Joker. This is very brief, but features some quite nice bondage and beltlessness. You can't wrong with that combo in my book.

(Courtesy of the always-informative Bat-Blog. Check the post there for a darker alternate ending with cameos by two other superfriends.)

Friday, January 25, 2008

You'd better be good, for goodness' sake

I've frequently made the parallel between Batman and Santa Claus. Here's a fan film whose title--if not its content--picks up on that idea: