Tuesday, November 3, 2015

BATMAN LEADS AN INTERESTING LIFE : THE BAT-MITE HERO

"I was going to take the crooks to jail on a magic chariot!"

Batman's biggest fan in the Fifth Dimension has always been Bat-Mite, but the fact is that the mischievous, all-powerful imp has always been a bit fickle. Having failed on a number of occasions to earn Batman's appreciation for all of his assistance, Bat-Mite has thrown his magical weight behind other heroes in order to show the Caped Crusader just what he's missing.

Typically, these have been other Bat-Allies like Bat-Girl, Batwoman and Ace the Bat-Hound (a choice which I think we can fairly call a genuine Hail Mary Pass). However, as of Batman vol.1 No.161 (February 1964, "The Bat-Mite Hero"), Batman's unwanted otherworldly sidekick throws his weight behind an all-new hero branded with his name and face.

His boredom is an ominous thing.
With imagination clearly being at a premium, the hero in question is dubbed The Bat-Mite Hero and gets to run around in a crimson costume emblazoned with Bat-Mite's face across the front, or possible Patton Oswalt's, I never could tell those two apart. Well, it's memorable, whatever the case.

Three different contenders end up putting on the red suit and enjoying the magical whims of Bat-Mite, a character who is basically a baby dressed like a leather ferret. I never understood what the insignia on Bat-Mite's chest was meant to be, but I assumed it was some sort of electric fart. Basically, what I'm saying here is that the costume could be worse.

The first character is a passer-by named Jerome Withers - scrawny, gawking and awkward, he caps off his debut by stepping off of a magical flying carpet and promptly falling off a building. What we've just managed to explain here is why the rooftops of every major comic book city aren't crowded with amateur super-heroes - they're all on the streets, mashed into a fine jam.

Bat-Mite's second sucker ends up being "The Blond Bombshell," the so-called "King of the Ring" of professional wrestling, and probably sued out of existence by Vince McMahon for copyright infringement. Doing it for the publicity, Bombshell captures a trio of crooks thanks to Bat-Mite magically transforming their car into a stationary horse-drawn chariot, which then takes flight towards the nearest police station. I feel like there must have been a more efficient way to handle that.

Aw, whillikers.
Bombshell is forcibly retired in favor of a new, fully-trained crimefighting whiz named Bill Strong. Strong, however, turns out to be a phony crimefighter who cuddled up to Bat-Mite in order to trick the imp into allowing him to aid criminals rather than capture him. How did he slip up and let his secret agenda show? Well, okay, brace yourself.

Strong was supposed to be a college athlete turned private detective. Upon appearing to have defeated a couple of gunsels, he says the following to Bat-Mite: "How did you like that shot? Ha ha. It was just like the one I made to win the decathlon medal in basketball ..."

Possibly the weirdest part of this story is that Batman had to explain the decathlon blunder to Bat-Mite and, by the transitive property, to the reader. I hate to imagine the kid so bereft of contact with the outside world that he'd find this story gripping and also think basketball was a decathlon event ...

3 comments:

Patrick Clark said...

"Gunsel", by the way, is a word used to refer to a young gay man "kept" by an older man. Dashiell Hammett snuck it into The Maltese Falcon by using it in a way that made his editor think it simply meant "gunman".

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=gunsel

Cheryl Spoehr said...

You know,a lot of us hated sports,so I would never have caught the clue either...

Calamity Jon said...

Patricia: Neat! I imagine it's crossed over into the assumed meaning by now, though (a quick dictionary.com check says as much, although I know that's not the ultimate authority).

Cheryl: Whaddya mean "us," you in the Batman Family now?

Popular Posts