Tuesday, January 20, 2015


If  you were to ask me what Batman’s greatest superpower is, I’d have to suggest that it’s his ability to outright lie to little kids – or, at the very least, that’s the skill which serves him best in Batman vol.1 No.88, “The Son of Batman” (December 1954).

In a scene which I’ve decided for no good reason is reminiscent of the opening to Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, the story begins with common crooks shooting Batman in the back when he’s not looking. Good heavens, why did those other guys ever bother with all their lures, tricks, deathtraps and clues? Hadn’t anyone ever tried shooting the guy before now?

Naturally, the victim turns out to not be the real Batman, who shows up at police headquarters with Robin in tow to take a look at the still-warm corpse. The ersatz Batman (“Ersatzman”) turns out to be Ed Wilson, a possibly-framed ex-con recently released from prison. To pass the time while he was in the pokey, Ed’s wife explained his absence to their young son Tommy by claiming that the boy’s jailbird pop was, in fact, Batman!

Sadly, the mom snuffed it (somehow, the story don’t bother to explain) just before Ed is released from prison and, fearing that the double whammy of “dead mom” and “dad was never actually Batman” would shatter the little tyke’s pre-adolescent brain in two, Ed was yutzing around in a rubber ferret costume with the intent of pretending to retire his cape-and-cowl. Well, he retired all right – the hard way.

Batman is touched by the tale, and who wouldn’t be? Is there anything quite as sweet as a mother’s blatant fabrication to her young child?

How's the plan working out, Batman?
With Ed slipping off this mortal coil, Batman promises to disguise himself as Tommy’s father and pretend to be Ed for a while. Until … what, exactly? What is the fucking endgame here? Batman says he’ll pretend to be Tommy’s father until he feels the boy is old enough to accept the truth – you know, that his recently deceased mom lied about his Bat-Papa, in fact he was actually cooling his heels in the big house, oh and by the way dad’s also dead, okay thanks I’m the real Batman bye bye.

It’s an amazingly short-sighted plan which only really serves to put a child immediately in mortal and emotional danger on every level. Naturally, Tommy follows Batman one night as the caped crusader answers an emergency call on his Bat-Belt Loudspeaker Phone, coincidentally off to catch the crooks who shot Tommy’s dad. Tommy tags along and ends up a hostage in short order. Hey, this guy’s really racking up a collection! Maybe he shot mom, too, and that’s why she’s dead. This is a cheery story.

Anyway, it all kind of resolves, if you can forgive what a bright blue fuckup it was from the git-go. Tommy is saved, the guy who shot his dad is arrested, Ed actually pulls through (it was only a light case of death) and he and the dynamic duo explain to Tommy the extent of the lies which made his life up to that point, which Tommy takes surprisingly well. Mom is still dead, though.

When his father explains that, despite being a jailbird, he’d always been innocent of the crime for which he was convicted, he asks Tommy if he can count on his son’s faith. “Gosh dad – ‘course I believe you” he replies, “A guy’s gotta believe his own father!” Is Tommy just being really sarcastic here? Very likely.

I wonder who Tommy thought Robin was all this time, his dad’s other kid? That musta kept him up at night.

Just staring out the window, wishing for a better dad.

1 comment:

Brad S. said...

Just discovered your awesome blog! Superman used to pull this shit on kids in the. 50s, too (and also as Superboy)

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