Making fun of Batman

Two Batman cartoons have just come to me. Passed on by Chris Hansen, this uncaptioned (and unsourced) cartoon:


Batman at a bustop with four old women: what to make of the scene?

And in today’s comics feed, this Bizarro:


(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 13 in this strip! — see this Page.)

Bus stop Batman. #1 is very much a puzzle in interpretation. Of course, you have to recognize the figure of Batman and the setting, a bus stop, but that doesn’t get you very far. If you don’t know a crucial thing about the 1960s tv series Batman, you’re lost. You also need to know this English word, from NOAD2:

noun nana: informal one’s grandmother. ORIGIN mid 19th century: child’s pronunciation of nanny or gran.

But unless you know the first, even the caption won’t help:


(Yes, the bus stop is irrevelant; it’s just a place to get four grandmothers and the Caped Crusader together.)

What you need to supply is the title theme song from the tv series, which you can listen to in my 8/4/12 posting “Batmaaaan!”. The words are those in the caption of #3 (where nana is meaningless filler).

Getting turned. #2 has its own interpretive demands (beyond your recognizing the two characters as a vampire and the superhero Batman). You need to know that in modern vampire lore someone becomes a vampire by being bitten by a vampire. Similarly for werewolves. And zombies. So it’s natural for the vampire to suppose that someone gets to become a superhero by being bitten by a superhero. (Well, Peter Parker becomes Spider-Man by being bitten by a radioactive spider, which is close to this notion. However, Spider-Man doesn’t go around creating a legion of fresh Spideys by biting people.)

The experience of changing one’s nature, of taking on a new identity, of becoming something new, can be referred to with the intransitive inchoative verb turn (suggesting turn into X, where X is the new identity), and the act of causing someone to change their nature in this fashion can be referred to by the transitive causative verb turn (suggesting turn s.o. into X). These verbs can be applied to many changes: becoming a monster (vampire, werewolf, zombie), becoming a prostitute, becoming a corrupt police officer, becoming a spy or a traitor, becoming a gang member, etc. In these usages, the new identities are viewed negatively by the society as a whole, so that transitive turn is roughly like recruit, but with a strongly negative societal judgment on the new state (you can recruit someone for good purposes or bad, but if you turn them, you’re probably inducing them to become something society disapproves of).

Batgeon. These two cartoons led me to more playing with the Batman image. Notably, the following three-panel webcomic Fredo and Pid’jin:


Play on two possible interpretations of the compound catwoman: ‘(superhero) woman who is (that is, takes on the appearace of) a cat’ vs. (very roughly) ‘woman who is a cat fancier’ (and so accumulates cats she cares for).

Fredo and Pid’jin are pigeons; the webcomic has been written by Eugen Erhan and drawn by Tudor Muscalu (two Romanian friends) since 2006.

Now two comics parodies of Batman.

Parody comic: Darkwing Duck. From Wikipedia:


Darkwing Duck is an American animated action-adventure comedy television series produced by Walt Disney Television Animation that first ran from 1991 to 1992 on both the syndicated programming block The Disney Afternoon and Saturday mornings on ABC. It featured the eponymous anthropomorphic duck superhero whose alter ego is suburban father Drake Mallard.

Darkwing Duck tells the adventures of the titular superhero, aided by his sidekick and pilot Launchpad McQuack (from Ducktales). In his secret identity of Drake Mallard (a parody of Kent Allard, the alter ego of the Shadow), he lives in an unassuming suburban house with his adopted daughter Gosalyn, next door to the bafflingly dim-witted Muddlefoot family. Darkwing struggles to balance his egotistical craving for fame and attention against his desire to be a good father to Gosalyn and help do good in St. Canard. Most episodes put these two aspects of Darkwing’s character in direct conflict, though Darkwing’s better nature usually prevails.

Parody comic: Mad magazine. The magazine returned to the figure of Batman for parodic effect a number of times, as here:


(putting the magazine’s mascot Alfred E. Neuman into Superbat costume).

Artistic parody: Superhero Gothic. Parodies of Grant Wood’s American Gothic abound, and of course superheroes find their place. Here are Batman and Superman, with                      Batman in the feminine slot:


Artistic parody: Bathero Gothic. Now sticking to the Batverse, here are Robin and Batman, with Robin in the feminine slot:


Breaking news. From Variety yesterday, “Adam West, TV’s ‘Batman,’ Dies at 88” by Brian Lowry:

Adam West — an actor defined and also constrained by his role in the 1960s series “Batman” — died Friday night in Los Angeles. He was 88. A rep said that he died after a short battle with leukemia.

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