Thursday, March 01, 2007

Exactly How Much Free Time Does Batman Have?

If you answered 'a lot,' you are correct.

Local comic book kingpin, Cal Johnston, was kind enough to give me a copy of Superman Annual no. 9 because he knows I love nothing more than an elaborate Batman prank played on Superman.

This is a well-timed gift because I have been wanting to post about one of my favourite comics of all-time, Action Comics no. 241, anyway. Now I have a nice little theme going.

You may recognize this story from Showcase Presents Superman vol. 1. It's really the greatest. It opens with Superman writing in his giant, metal diary with his heat vision (even though later in the same comic he says that he scratches his diary entries into the metal pages with his fingernails, which...yiiii. I can't even think about that. It makes my teeth curl).

We get to see a whole lot of the fortress of solitude in this issue, which is excellent. We learn that Batman isn't the only superhero with plenty of time to waste on ridiculous shit. Granted, Superman's hobbies are a little nicer.

I love Clark's face in those panels. So grim. As if he's thinking "You'll get that car soon enough, Jimmy. When you die. Next week."

But what is he thinking about, really? Why the lovely and elaborate gifts he's making for his pals.

Wait. Roll back. Jimmy gets the sports car...when Superman dies?! Huh? Why can't he just have it when it's finished? And how would anyone be able to get Jimmy the car in the event of Superman's death? It's in the Fortress of Damn Solitude!
Also, I don't know if Batman necessarily needs that robot detective machine thing, but the thought is nice. And I like that Superman says that Batman is the one person he can trust with all his secrets. Too bad that's gonna bite him in the ass in a minute.

Because our hero finds this message!

Freaky! And there's more!

Yes, the mystery intruder is fiendishly finishing Superman's psychedelic crappy, crappy paintings. I should clarify that the only thing the mystery man added to the painting was the crystal structures. So the Grinch hands coming out of the ground and that hairy pile of soft serve against the yellow sky? Supe painted those. But it's the crystals that make the thing "weird--utterly weird!" Whatever, Superman. Anyway, he's so broken up about it that he immediately plays some chess against a robot. He beats the robot, and then...

Oh. Right. Intruder. Important.

This whole ordeal starts to wear down the Man of Steel's sanity, which is good for no one. He has comical nightmares:

And generally does some sloppy hero work because he is distracted. Boy, whoever is doing this to him is a cruel, cruel individual.

Finally all is revealed when Superman gets trapped by some kryptonite and an avalanche.

Oh, Batman! You jackass! Now look what you've done. You may as well fill us in as you both wait for death.

Eat it, Batman! Superman's been in the kitchen all day cookin' up a big batch of YOUR OWN MEDICINE with a side of DEM APPLES. How you like 'em, Batman?

As an aside, I think it was an extra kick in the nuts for Batman to melt down that statue of himself. Superman worked hard on that. Don't be surprised when the next one that Superman makes of you has ACNE, Batman, you big jerk.

Now these last few panels are comepletely adorable:

There is so much that rules about the above panels.

1. Batman goes shopping in full Batman costume for a gift for Superman.
2. "Thanks, Batman. You really scared the hell out of me." "You, too, buddy. Now let's go have some cake."
3. THAT CAKE! First of all...when did Batman bake it? It would have to be at least a week old because he's been hiding in the Fortress all that time. And since when did Batman bake? And how cute does Batman look, hands behind his back, all "I baked it myself!" And why is it so big?! Superman is a normal-sized person. He doesn't need a giant cake any more than he needs a giant diary. Where did Batman even bake it? And how did he move it into the Batcave? Where did he get that giant knife? Did he carve those candles himself? Does it concern anyone that if someone saw that cake they would know Superman's secret identity? I hate to break it to Batman, but Superman obviously would need super-strength to cut that cake because of the giant knife and all. Did Batman make that banner himself? Is Superman going to blow out those candles? Would that destroy the cake? Did they just hang out all night after this, eating several metric tons of cake and perhaps cracking a few beers? Could that be made into a movie?

Alright, enough about that. Let's fast forward a few decades and look at Annual no 9 from 1983. Here we see another elaborate Bat-prank, this time even weirder. It's only two pages long, so here's the whole thing:

Ok, so that was weird. Bruce Wayne bothered to get himself a convincing Italian hotdog vendor costume, and a hotdog cart. Then he bothered to set it all up in Metropolis in the hopes that Clark Kent would stop by for a dog. Then he decided to throw on a jarringly stereotypical Italian American accent. And what is the punchline of this prank? To make Superman think his hotdog costs $72.50. Well, that's...awesome. What a tremendous amount of effort to go through.

I know there is some debate as to whether or not Batman is mentally stable, but I offer both of these comics as pretty strong evidence that he is not.


paperghost said...

Batman shopping in costume is awesome.

There's some guy where I live who goes round the shops dressed as a Viking.

Yes, he's homeless, before you ask.

Johnathan said...

That's pretty great right there. Batman should still be playing elaborate and confusing pranks on Superman - maybe he will! Maybe the prank-playing Batman got re-integrated with his personality when the multiverse collapsed! whee!

These comics are also great because they come from the "Clark Kent looks like Stephen Colbert" era.

In Victoria, we had a wizard - if somebody lives in a neighborhood where someone habitually dresses as an elf or a valkyrie then I think that we can safely assume that the characters from Gauntlet have become trapped in our dimension.

"Elf needs food badly."
"Wizard shot the food."

running42k said...

Look at Batman's cape while shopping. Do they have the air conditioner set on hurricane setting or does he shop really fast like the Flash.

Anonymous said...

I love the fact it's a private party in the Batcave - no other superheroes allowed!

Jeff said...

The moral of these comics is that Batman may call himself your friend, but he's really just kind of a jackass. He's that guy who'll call you at 2am and tell you that Mitch got shot and he's at the ER, so you go to the ER and him and Mitch are sitting there with a six pack going 'oh man, psych! psych so hard!' Or the guy who will tell you that some girl is totally making eyes at you just after he sees the girl's monster of a boyfriend go to the mens' room.

None of this affects my desire to be Batman, but I sure as hell don't want to be pals with the guy.

rachelle said...

If anything, Batman's devotion to jerking his friends around only strengthens my desire to be Batman.

running42k: I love Batman's little short cape. I call it his afternoon cape. Perfect for boutique shopping, recreational painting or entertaining guests.

You know what occurred to me about the hotdog prank today? Batman could very easily have been parked out on that street corner for days...weeks, even...waiting for Clark Kent to stroll by.
Of course, knowing Batman (and I DO), he probably had some sort of hotdog-craving subliminal message thing rigged up in Clark's ear.

Joe Louis said...

This is a great comic. I reviewed the issue myself back in July of 2006. It's such an easy target.
Batman is a complete jerk in it, great fun!

Jon Hex said...

Oh my God, is there anything Batman can't do?

Did you read the latest Robin? I think Batman was trying to prank Tim on his first date.

"The look on your face while that guy was trying to kill me and you needed to protect your identity, ha ha ha. Priceless."

jayunderscorezero said...

I can understand the concept that Batman can beat Superman in a fight, but that second page of the second 'prank' seems to imply that Batman is actually faster than Superman. Since when?

Anonymous said...

I like that the narrator refers to the chess-playing robot as being "great". Presumably meaning large or immense, or maybe the narrator just thinks the robot looks awesome. Which it does. Kinda like a giant, metallic Baby Huey.


David said...

I love your take on things- you crack me up so much. Batman really should just learn to send an anniversary card and be done with it, but alas, that would not make for fun comic reading.

rachelle said...


Sometimes in comics the use of the word 'awesome' cracks me up. I know it means 'great' or 'awe-inspiring' but it still sounds like surfer talk to me. Like, I think in Cosmic Odyssey, Orion says "My power is awesome!" and it made me laugh. "It's totally awesome! Seriously! Check it out!"

David said...

One of my favourite lines in comics is when Superman says in Superman 22 (where he meets Matrix aka Supergirl) 'this is getting redundant'. That one cracked me up. You're awesome!

When are we going to see some comments on current continuity? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the direction Action is going in or current Superman titles (I thought the latest Superman 659 sucked!)