You have no doubt seen somewhere, be it television, newspapers, or the internet, the story of BatKid saving San Francisco-turned Gotham City from the likes of The Riddler and The Penguin this week.
If you haven’t yet heard about it, take a second and Google “BatKid” and read a few stories about it and come back.
No worries. I’ll wait. I’ll even have a cup of tea while you do so.
(((sip of tea. moment to ponder. another sip of tea.)))
Okay, you’re back. Pretty wild stuff, right?
There’s not much I can add to this. Writers, journalists, photographers have covered pretty much every angle of the day. All I want to say is that I can not, for the life of me, think of a comparable time when I’ve seen that many people gather together on a mission of goodwill and making a child feel like a hero. Not only that, but my Facebook newsfeed blew up that day with people sharing links to stories, photos, and just generally being excited that this kid’s wish to be Batman came true. It came true courtesy of the Make-a-Wish Foundation and many, many volunteers and supporters. That last word is key though – supporters. You can throw all the money in the world at something and it may not resonate with anyone.
What is it about this young boy, this dream come true to be a hero, that led so many people to take part, stand in the streets in support, or just generally get excited and invested in his heroics that day?
It gives me a little hope for the world. I’m often accused of being much more cynical as I age than I was a decade ago., but something with all of this just struck a chord. Maybe, just maybe, we’re not all the judgmental, polarized, cynical, hopeless lot that so many come off as day in and day out. Could it be that deep down we all want to feel the joy that comes with seeing a five-year old save the day? That inside, we want to have that sense of triumph that was felt that afternoon when young Miles stopped The Riddler and foiled a plot by the Penguin and was then given the key to the city?
I say yes. We do. But don’t let it stop there. Don’t bottle up those feelings now that the event is over and the news stories begin to die down. No, no! It’s like people who only open their hearts at Christmas.
Rip them open, my friends! Find that hope once again, believe in a better world. Why? Because what’s the alternative? Five year old Miles is a hero and gained the support of a city and a nation. Isn’t it time the rest of us started living every day with our hearts open and were heroes as well?
In 1934, a great detective duo made their way into American pop culture, swigging drinks and jabs at each other like no married couple on screen before.
Five years later, in 1939, a great detective who offered up jabs on the chins of criminals would make his debut, dressed in an outrageous costume that resembled a bat.
40 years later, the three would meet, albeit briefly, and The Thin Man would come face to face with The Bat-Man.
Nick Charles was a hard-drinking, fast-talking, retired detective, who, with his beloved wife Nora at his side, constantly found himself pulled back into the crime solving business. Unlike any other couple on screen at the time, The Charles’ comedic rapport and crime solving adventures were such a hit, that they were featured in five sequels over the course of 13 years.
While the original novel that the first film was based on, “The Thin Man” by Dashiell Hammett was referring to the suspect in its title, “The Thin Man” quickly became synonymous with the character of Nick Charles (played by William Powell). It was so synonymous that it was used in the titles of all the sequels: “After The Thin Man,” “Another Thin Man,” “The Thin Man Goes Home” and “Song of the Thin Man.”
While the films blended comedy, adventure and mystery, they usually culminated with Nick Charles gathering everyone involved in the case in a room, and running through every motive and likelihood until the killer was revealed.
A favorite among move fans for decades, the original Thin Man film was added to the National Film Registry and Roger Ebert added it to his list of Great Movies in 2002.
In 1939, just a few years after William Powell and Myrna Loy left their indelible mark on Nick and Nora as well as pop culture, Bob Kane and Bill Finger introduced a very different type of detective in the form of Bruce Wayne, a billionaire playboy by day and a man who dresses like a bat and hunts criminals at night.
To try and sum up Batman’s place in pop culture could not even be contained to one article, let alone a single paragraph, as full books have been written on the topic. So it isn’t too surprising that, even if it was four decades after Batman’s debut, that the Bat-Man would cross paths with Nick and Nora Charles.
It was the late 1970s in Detective Comics #481, during the time when The Batman Family was prominently displayed on each cover of the comic, highlighting an adventure for everyone. Among those is “Ticket to Tragedy,” a tale written by Denny O’Neil and illustrated by the great Marshall Rogers. In it, Batman promises Alfred’s cousin, a renowned doctor in England that he can track down a killer and restore the doctor’s faith in humanity before he burns up his notes for a new technique in heart transplants.
Batman accomplishes his mission, of course, but along the way, while chasing the killer on a train bound for Gotham City, he comes across none other than Nick and Nora Charles. Nora instantly recognizes Batman and Nick asks Batman if he has a moment to compare crime solving notes. In typical loner fashion, Batman gives Nick the brush off.
Although I am admittedly a huge fan of purging and ridding the house of things that take up unnecessary space or has just accumulated over the years, there are still a few things that I know I will just always hold on to. Case in point, a particular piece of comic book art hanging in our home office that my son loves to stare at, reach for, and make noises at.
It’s been hanging on my walls in one residence or another, ever since I was 13.
It’s an image of Batman, as depicted in the never-to-be-surpassed Batman: The Animated Series of the 1990s. In it, he’s holding up a confused Riddler by the scruff, ready to cart him off to prison once again.
This isn’t an eBay or comic convention find. No, this was, and still remains, a large memory of my childhood. I won it, you see, in a letter writing contest in 1993. Yes, back in the day when letter columns were still a regular feature in all comic books. The Batman Adventures comic book would hold a contest each month, where the editor would pick two published letters in that month’s column and award the writers of those letters a piece of one of a kind comic art. It was an amazing concept for a young comic fan.
Well, one of those months, a letter of mine had been printed and chosen, and the result was this one of a kind piece, penciled by the late, great Mike Parobeck and inked by a wonderful artist in his own right, Rick Burchett.
Parobeck, a brilliant artistic talent, whether it be from his work on Batman, or my favorite modern-day run of the Justice Society, sadly died in 1996 from diabetic issues.
The work of Rick Burchett has gone on to have graced many a comic page, including a later Batman animated comic series, Batman: The Brave and the Bold and a slew of other DC Comics over the years. His art is graceful and beautiful stuff.
This powerhouse combination of artistic talents wowed me as a kid when I read their comics, and sent me over the moon when this piece of art arrived in the mail. I’m glad to know that their talents continue to be appreciated by my little guy, and hopefully many others in his generation and generations to come.
I was recently contacted by the folks with “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” who had stumbled across this blog and asked me if I would be a guest contributor/blogger for their companion website.
I had a great time and certainly hope it’s the first of many.
The result is this piece reflecting on all of the cartoons from my own youth that I can’t wait to watch with my son when he’s old enough:
I hope you get the chance to check it out.