Spinner Rack: BATman the BATchelor, Part One
Posted: 12/16/2010 by Joanna Sandsmark
The Dark Knight's fierce reputation is well deserved. He's moody, a little bitter, frightening to his foes and loyal to those close to him. For the past few decades, Batman's writers have kept him close to those brooding roots. In the Silver Age, this wasn't quite the case.
With a goofy, campy TV series on the air, the bat books had focused as much on wackiness as on his skills as a detective. This was the Batman whose punches went "POW!", "WHACK!", and "ZONK!". His villains were plentiful and a little odd (the weekly guest villains on the TV series were often very memorable, from Vincent Price's Egghead to Julie Newmar's Catwoman to Cesar Romaro's Joker. To see a full list of the guest villains, check out this blog: http://listoftheday.blogspot.com/2008/02/batman-tv-series-villains.html ). Women loved him, and as millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne he dated plenty. But Batman himself remained aloof when it came to the fairer sex, other than sharing some adventures with Batgirl.
It's this lack of female companionship that the villains in "Batman's Marriage Trap" (Batman #214, August, 1969) want to exploit. As I open the comic, I'm hoping for one thing: Will we see a bad girl with a heart of gold? I have to admit I love that device. It's almost always used to tug the heartstrings. There's not a lot of time to develop the kind of depth this character type would need to be multifaceted, but it's the shortcuts that make it fun.
The story begins with the Queen of Gotham beauty contest. The winner (who looks quite wholesome and probably hasn't a bad-girl cell in her body) gets a night on the town with Batman. The entire evening will be televised and Robin tells the announcer he'll be glued to his set, living vicariously through his batty companion. Can anyone see the problem with all of this?
If you said, "With Bats' every move being televised, every crook in Gotham can just go wherever Batman isn't," then you win the prize. That's exactly why Strack sends his thugs to follow in Batman's wake, since the Dark Knight's appearance brings in record-breaking earnings wherever he goes. "Operation Monitor" yields big money and no one is in any danger of being captured by Batman. Apparently the police in Gotham have gotten lazy or inept, since they don't even give them a parking ticket despite the pattern of following Batman's every move.
Overjoyed with their success, Strack and his gang want every night to be like that one. Strack has an idea that just may make it happen. He wants to marry off Batman, assuming that no wife would let him out on the town every night. With Batman henpecked and at home, Strack and his gang would be free to pillage Gotham to their heart's content. To make this plan a reality, he calls in Cleo.
Ah, Cleo – she has bad girl written all over her. She's wearing a mod minidress with maroon leggings, go-go boots, bangle bracelets, long blonde hair and lots of attitude. Strack tells Cleo that she's the bait and Batman's the prize.
We cut away to Cleo standing in an advertising agency, telling the receptionist that she has a million dollars to spend, courtesy of the group W.E.B. (Women to End BATchelorhood – yeah, they used that corny, capped 'BAT' to drive the point home, just as I did for this article. I am filled with shame.) Cleo says she wants to eliminate the "one barrier to happy marriage in Gotham!" The barrier is apparently Batman. She doesn't say why Batman being single affects other women marrying.
After assuring the admen that she wants nothing to do with Bats, she asks for "…a saturation campaign! Hard sell – soft sell! Liminal – sub-liminal – anything that'll do the job! I want Batman driven up a wall! A wall he can't back away from – and he'll have to choose a mate!"
A bat-shaped panel tells us: "The most brilliant minds in selling anything – go to work! And in days, all over Gotham City…" Oh, boy, now we get to see what these brilliant guys came up with for the campaign! I can't wait to see.
It's a…a wanted poster. With "Wanted!" on top, a picture of Batman in the middle and "for Marriage" at the bottom. That's it? That's the brilliant campaign? This same stupid poster is a billboard, on TV, dropped from an airplane and delivered by a milkman. Golly, Batman doesn't stand a chance. After all, a wanted poster with your milk – irresistible.
Bruce and Dick didn't see any of the posters, apparently, but they noticed the article in the morning paper ("Mysterious Grass-Roots Gal-Revolt Rocks Gotham!"). Bruce glares while Alfred frets and Dick says a bizarre little joke. Meanwhile, at Commissioner Gordon's house, the article is noticed by both the Commissioner and his daughter Barbara (Batgirl) Gordon. She silently vows to look into it further.
While Batgirl greets the ladies of W.E.B, Commissioner Gordon frantically calls Batman. It appears women have the building under siege and Gordon acts like a scared ninny at the sight of them. At this point, the message of "women are scary, needy, and will do anything to land a husband" would be boiling my blood if it all weren't so darn silly. Women are portrayed as desperate harpies, it's true, but men (including Batman) aren't looking much better. Terrified little boys running away for fear of cooties act more mature than the guys in this story.
Be sure to come back next month to see if a group of single women will do what the Joker, Riddler and Penguin never could: reduce Batman into a simpering pile of Jell-O. Oooh, those scary, scary "femmes"!
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This is a guest article. The thoughts and opinions in this piece are those of their author and are not necessarily the thoughts of the Certified Collectibles Group.