By Jenette Levitz
Once Upon A Time, the Bat-Man of Gotham City was considered just another urban legend in a city infamous for its hallucinations, hoaxes, and hysterias. But for several years now, the number of unexplained phenomena, eyewitness accounts, and pieces of photographic evidence have grown and grown, until it has become virtually impossible to dispute the Bat-Man’s existence. And yet, what is concretely known about Gotham’s most shadowy figure is few and far between. Beyond the most basic facts, portrayals of this dark knight vary on virtually every point, creating dozens, if not hundreds of theories about just what kind of creature the Bat is.
Today, we at Justice Magazine would like to throw our hat into the ring, and quite possibly give you the definitive story on one of the greatest mysteries of the super-adventurer community.
While no one seems to agree on the Bat-Man’s goals-with arguments raging over whether he attacks civilians, whether he kills, and so on and so forth-everyone agrees that he (or she?) is a scourge to Gotham’s flourishing criminal underworld. So the first logical stop on any reporter’s investigation into the Bat is the creature’s most logical allies, the Gotham City Police Department (GCPD). Sadly, the Department’s silence on the subject is well-known, long lived, and resolute.
“No matter how many times I’m asked, or who asks me, my answer will always stay the same,” repeated Police Commissioner James Gordon. “The GCPD has not and does not have any information on, or affiliation with, any alleged Bat-Man prowling our fair city.”
Further questions did not elicit any more information, and the interview was rapidly ended upon mention of the long rumored Bat-Signal. The Signal is a device covertly donated by Wayne Enterprises that, supposedly, uses an invisible beam to covertly communicate between the GCPD and the Bat-Man.
“The Bat-Signal rumor is just a sign of how willing some people are to create a story where none exists,” Gordon concluded. “The device is merely an advanced spotlight for detecting criminal aircraft. The only reason we refuse to release further data on the device is so that it can still be effectively used without being countered.”
Further questions posed to other GCPD officers have largely been rebutted. The only affirmative response this reporter could get from the department came from an officer who wished to remain anonymous.
“Yeah, we work with the Bat-Man all the time,” our source confirmed. “That fancy pants geek has just about got the run of the place. Half the time it seems like we can’t take a [expletive] without asking for his opinion on how to do it. But we ain’t supposed to actually talk about it. Those liberal bleeding heart types get their panties in a twist whenever someone actually mans up and shows the scum of this city who’s boss. I don’t like having to ask some freak to do our job for us, but I’ll take him over either of those bunches of [expletive] any day.”
Following up on the Bat-Signal lead, our next stop was with the alleged device’s manufacturer, Wayne Enterprises. We spoke with the company’s CEO and co-president, Lucius Fox, on the subject.
“The device often erroneously referred to as a ‘Bat-Signal’ was indeed produced by our company,” Fox confirmed. “The Wayne name has long been associated with generous donations and cooperation with the many organizations doing good work in Gotham City.”
This, however, was not the last time Wayne Enterprises has been correlated with the Bat-Man. Wayne inventions and prototypes have often been inexplicably spotted during conflicts with criminals in both Gotham and beyond. We asked Fox about the theories that this technology had been supplied to the Bat-Man by Wayne Enterprises itself.
“Well, [laughter], if I’m to be totally honest,” Fox started, “most of the sightings of these supposed devices are by individuals with, to be frank, histories of dishonesty. But if any of Wayne Enterprises’ proprietary technologies were actually present during conflicts with the supercriminal community, that would not be entirely out of the norm. Wayne Enterprises is, after all, the leading funder and supplier for the Justice League.”
While Fox refused to elaborate any further, he did raise an interesting point. Since the founding of the Justice League, rumors have proliferated that the Bat-Man was secretly one of the team’s members, and many of the photos of the Gotham crimefighter have come from incidents involving the League. Our attempts to arrange an official interview with the League’s current chairwoman, Wonder Woman, fell through, but this reporter did manage to corner another founding member, Superman, and grill him on the subject.
“I can neither confirm nor deny an affiliation between the Gotham Bat and the Justice League,” Superman laughed. “Because that’s standard League policy when asked about any unconfirmed member. As I’m sure you and your readers know, the League isn’t allowed to divulge the secrets of all of our adventures. And if we start telling the public who our members definitely aren’t, then it’d become a lot easier for you all to figure out who they are, you know?”
Superman continued, “So while I would love to confirm that the Bat of Gotham, the Houma Swamp Monster, the internet legend called Oracle, and celebrity performer Zatanna Zatara are definitely not part of the Justice League, I sadly can’t [laughter]. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help!”
Superman, sadly, wasn’t the only Justice Leaguer who couldn’t give us information on the Bat. There have been a myriad of vigilantes and adventurers to come out of Gotham and join the broader superheroic community. However, most of these adventurers are almost as elusive as the Bat-Man himself. Regardless of whether they would have anything to say about their city’s most elusive figure or not, Huntress of the Justice League, Nightwing of the Titans, and Robin of Young Justice have all historically avoided interviews except for on very rare occasions. There is one crimefighter to have spent time in Gotham, who has been willing to interact with the press, but...
...let us just say that a self-proclaimed ‘Creeper’ is not very easy to use as a professional source. Not that that has stopped this reporter from trying. The only time we were able to track down the Creeper for an interview, and finally got him to stop rambling and address the question, the macabre manhunter only had this to say:
“[laughter] Oh, you want to know about the big bad Bat, huh? Well, I can’t imagine why you’d want to know about that grump when a prime specimen of manhood like me is running around in a loincloth, but I never could account for taste! [laughter] Where was I? Oh, yes! Look, gorgeous, I can talk of many things. Of wealth and plays and wayward guns, of shattered pearls in blood, and why orphans run to the east, and so many robins!”
The Creeper paused before continuing, “But who’d listen to a yellow-skinned cuckoo like me, eh? Certainly not the sheep who read your magazine! [laughter] If you want anything worth hearing on old gargoyle face, you’ll have to talk to another class of lunatic entirely. A class with no class at all, you might say. Arrivederci!”
And with that, our last hope of getting information from the Bat-Man’s allies bounced away, cackling louder than ever. And so, as the Creeper suggested, we moved on to the enemies of the Bat.
Many have tried to interview the residents of Blackgate Penitentiary about the Bat, but with disappointing results. Much like Gotham’s general populace, the normal criminals of the city have only had brief encounters with the Bat-Man, who frequently knocks them into unconsciousness before they can get a good luck at their mysterious assailant. The resultantly wild and contradictory accounts are...memetic.
“The way I hear it, he isn’t even human! He’s like, a giant pterodactyl beast,” Ziggy Adams, a conman, infamously claimed. “Ten feet tall he is! With big bat ears, what could hear a pin drop a mile away. And big fangs and talons! And when he sees one of us, he swoops down from the sky and carries them off... Skree! Skree! Never mess around with the Bat-Man.”
Even more colorful was the early description by a car thief named Ronnie Dander. “That old Batwings is a real live dude. Nothing spooky about him, except how he comes on! All those muscles, and the tight rubber armor. He’s loaded with trick-gadgets! Got shiny plastic wings run by motors, jet-propelled by tiny rockets! And that flashy car... I heard it can drive up walls! And he just sniffs out trouble, like a hound dog, using one of them electronic sniffing gizmos. He’s one down-to-earth hip dude; a one-man army! The Bat-Man is Muhammed Ali, Jim Brown, Shaft, and Super Fly all rolled into one!”
But easily the most memorable account came from the mob hitman called Porkchop Mickey. “The Bat-Man is everywhere, and nowhere! In the first place, he’s like this living shadow. If you ever saw him, he’s so big, he covers all of Gotham! He’s got x-ray eyes! Sees through walls and stuff. Nothing escapes him! Man, Bats slips right through walls, like they wasn’t even there! Everytime a guy gets a hand on him, he disappears back into the other shadows, then pops out somewhere else! Even bullets zip through him like nothing! But [laughter], when the Bat-Man connects, it’s with a fist of iron!”
Needless to say, the accounts of Gotham’s criminal working class have been thoroughly recorded in the past, and all they seem to provide is a good laugh. Because of this, any investigator worth their salt will quickly move on to the costumed supercriminals who have had the most contact with Gotham’s crimefighting mystery.
Sadly, however, most of Gotham’s supercriminals are kept in the Elizabeth Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane. Not only are most of these criminals mentally ill, but also uncooperative and dishonest. Several, like Harvey Dent, Bane, Prof. Hugo Strange, and Dr. Thomas Elliot, refused to comment at all, but even those who did talk were of barely any help.
The first dialogue to be permitted by both the patient and the asylum was Maximillian Zeus, a gangster and terrorist.
“Bat-Man? Oh, you mean my brother Lord Hades! Yes, he has been rather impertinent of late, hasn’t he? The gall of him, dethroning Lord Zeus! Still, it is the nature of the gods to occasionally betray each other or swear revenge, now isn’t it? I have no doubt that before long, the Fates will find me humbling him and reclaiming my authority over Mount Olympus.”
This set the mood for the next dozen or so subjects.
“Batsy-Watsy’s a big meany pants who stopped me and my family from getting back together,” cried Mary Dahl. “He’s even meaner than my cousin, Spunky! I don’t like him.”
For the record, Dahl’s ‘family reunion’ comprised of attempting to use dynamite to kill herself, as well as all of her former co-stars from the television show Love That Baby .
My next subject, a gangster named Arnold Wesker, suffers from dissociative identity disorder, causing him to treat his ventriloquist’s dummy, Scarface, as a second personality.
“The Bat-Man’s a Grade A pain in the [expletive],” Scarface barked. “As if dealing with other wiseguys and coppers weren’t bad enough, I’ve gotta deal with this loser constantly biting at my heels? When’d this town get taken over by lunatics, I ask you?”
Wesker interjected, “Sir, please don’t get too excited. You know the sawbones warned you to keep your blood pressure down!”
“Don’t try to tell me what to do, dummy,” Scarface shushed.
“Bat-Man is a bleeding heart son of a [expletive] who spits in the face of every good, hard-working American who was ever foolish enough to believe in the system,” bellowed the vigilante named Lyle Bolton. “The scum of the city deserve nothing more than to be locked up for good, and that’s the merciful alternative! Bat-Man’s ludicrous attempts to treat these vermin ‘humanely’ or to ‘rehabilitate’ them are childish at best and malicious at worst! He must be stopped to save the few remaining decent citizens of Gotham!”
“The Bat-Man is a charlatan who pretends to stand for justice while continuing to support an obviously outdated system that only exists to oppress humanity,” exhorted teenaged political terrorist Lonnie Machin. “I don’t know if the Bat-Man is being paid off, or if he’s just foolish enough to actually believe in his outdated code of ethics, but either way he is just as guilty and will face judgement in due time!”
“Batsy’s just a lonely freak who’s got no love in his life and takes out his emotional insecurity on everybody else,” proclaimed Dr. Harleen Quinzel, on-and-off girlfriend of the Joker, and an experienced criminal in her own right. “That’s why he can’t find nothing better to do with his time than make my puddin’s life a living hell! I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that Batman [expletive] himself after every night of taking out his anger on the poor, innocent criminals of this city! But he’ll get his, you’ll see! You’ll all see!”
“Well, obviously, the Bat-Man is just a wage slave to his capitalist overlords,” theorized ecoterrorist Dr. Pamela Isley. “Why else would he possibly have any reason to continue helping to oppress me and my kind? It’s pathetic, to be honest.”
Next up was criminal inventor Jervis Tetch, who suffers under the delusion that he is the Mad Hatter character from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland .
“What was that, Alice,” Tetch asked, “you want to know who the little bat is? Why, he’s none other than the General of the Red Queen’s playing cards, specially tasked to stop me from keeping you safe! Now, I know that most people would tell you that there are no bats in a deck of cards, but that is because most people don’t know about the secret fifth deck! But that’s all rather important stuff for a young lady like you to be worrying about. Would you like some tea?”
“The Bat,” questioned serial killer Victor Zsasz, “which one? I don’t know if you noticed, but Gotham has a lot of bats, and I don’t really bother telling them apart. They’ll all be liberated before too long, just like the rest of you zombies. It doesn’t matter if you’re a blonde haired baby, a blood haired [expletive], or a [expletive] without an inch of meat showing; you’ll all just become marks on my flesh.”
As you may be able to tell, Zsasz, like many of Gotham’s residents, seems to have a problem distinguishing between the Bat-Man and his various reported partners, such as the Bat-Woman or the Bat-Girls.
“You wanna know about the Bat,” guffawed cannibalistic gangster Waylon Jones. “Bah, he ain’t nothing. Nothing but my next meal! He don’t stand a chance against a genuine apex predator like myself! Unless, of course, you wanted to be tonight’s dinner?”
After Jones’ threat caused him to be quickly returned to his cell, it took longer for Arkham to allow us to speak with another patient. But we eventually received an audience with the criminal terrorist Dr. Jonathan Crane.
“The Bat is but a false god to the people of Gotham,” Crane declared. “He claims to be the god of fear, but his power is crude and weak! It is I, the Scarecrow, who is the real lord of Gotham, and I shall soon come in power and fury to reclaim my throne! And all those who doubted me shall feel my wrath! Hroo! Hraaa!”
The real sign that we were running out of options was when we tried to get a straight answer out of Gotham’s most deranged criminal, the mass-murdering, all-purpose criminal known as the Joker.
“Oh, you wanna know about Batty-Man,” Joker laughed. “Well, can’t help you there! As anyone can tell you around here, I prefer my answers to be multiple choice! [laughter] No routine is the same with him and I, so Bat-Guano’s just a little different each time his fist serves as the straight man to my face! [laughter] And that’s just the way I like it!”
It seemed that we had just about used the last of our options until we remembered to ask the often underestimated thief named Edward Nigma.
“Riddle me this, ink slinger,” Nigma posited, “if the world believes its greatest criminal mind is out of his mind, why would it listen to him? In other words, why are you asking me about the Bat-Man when we both know the uncultured masses won’t give my words a second’s thought? Sure, I can probably tell you more about the Bat’s technology, methodology, and psychology than anyone else in this rat eaten town, but what would actually be in it for either of us?”
“[sigh] Look, maybe a different question will be more informative,” Nigma suggested. “Who could weaken Poison Ivy and stall Killer Croc, but keeps Egghead safe and makes the Penguin stronger? [pause] Ah, finally a glimmer of intelligence peaks through! Yes, if you actually want a cooperative, reliable testimony, you’ll want to go bother Mr. Freeze and leave me to finish the infantile imitation of a crossword puzzle from today’s Gotham Globe .”
For those who are unaware, Mr. Freeze is the alias of Dr. Victor Fries, a robber with a medical condition that require him to be kept at subzero temperatures in order to avoid a fatal heat stroke. He is not considered to be legally insane, and is only incarcerated in Arkham Asylum because Blackgate does not have the facilities to house metahuman criminals. Because of this, most investigative reports on the Asylum tend to neglect to involve Fries, but I decided to take Nigma’s advice.
It turned out that Fries actually made for an ideal subject, agreeing to give as objective a description of the Bat-Man as he could.
“The Bat-Man is a vigilante, concerned only with apprehending criminals and saving civilians” Fries began. “While he clearly has allies within Gotham’s police force, and communicates with them using the Bat-Signal, my research has determined that he is not supplied, funded, or commanded by them. I have never witnessed any evidence that he is inhuman in abilities or appearance. He is merely an extremely intelligent, versatile, trained human being in a theatrical costume. He has access to a wide variety of advanced technology, though he tends to use less colorful choices than people like Ronald Dander suggest.”
Fries let out a wry chuckle, then continued.
“Furthermore, he acts according to a personal code instead of following anyone else’s orders, implying a man of personal wealth and influence motivated by an extreme sense of personal responsibility. This code includes his rigid insistence on nonlethal combat. He has served as a close ally or mentor to virtually every crimefighter in Gotham, even though most of them do not acknowledge that to the general public.”
“Finally,” Fries sighed, “unlike some of the other residents of this institution, I am under no delusion that the Bat-Man is some villain enforcing an unfair government, acting out a brutal vendetta against us, or compensating for his own insecurities. In a city as dangerous as Gotham, the Bat-Man is doing exactly what the inhabitants of this city need.”
“The only reason we continue to fight is because of my own complete disinterest in the wellbeing of my fellow man.”
On that rather cryptic note, this reporter prepared to leave. It may have only been one quote, but it was one of the best quotes any reporter had ever gotten concerning the Bat-Man. But Fries had one last thing to say.
“I am a little surprised you came to Arkham Asylum to learn about the Bat-Man, though. You could probably get more information from any one of the world’s prisons for supercriminals. It is hard to be a founding member of the Justice League without a lot of people knowing about you.”
Needless to say, that threw us for a bit of a loop.
“You want to know about the Bat-Man,” I was soon asked by a robber named Leonard Snart from Central City. “that crimefighter in a halloween costume from out of Gotham? Yeah, I’ve fought him a couple of times. Why do you want to know?”
“I just fought Bat-Man last month,” confirmed Metropolis hitman Roger Corben. “I mean, who hasn’t? That son of a [expletive] has probably gotten into a scrap with just about every supercriminal on the planet by this point!”
“Wait, the Bat-Man’s still supposed to be some kind of mystery,” questioned international mercenary Barbara Minerva. “How?! The entire global underworld have all had at least one conflict with him by this point! He’s been a part of, like, half the fights I’ve had with the Justice League alone! How have you reporters not picked up on that yet?!”
And so it went. We were able to procure dozens of descriptions of the Bat-Man from every supercriminal penitentiary on the planet. We have so many, in fact, we couldn’t fit most of them into the article. It seems that the case of the Bat-Man has finally been cracked wide open, with his true nature available for public consumption. The Bat-Man is simply a nonleathal masked vigilante, with no powers other than his skills and his technology. And also a Justice Leaguer, despite claims to the contrary. And with that, the story seems to be just about wrapped up, with only one last quote to finish it up.
“You had to ask how many cons about the Bat before they gave you a straight answer,” asked mercenary Floyd Lawton, currently an inmate at Belle Reve Penitentiary. “Man, thank God I got out of that [expletive] town! It’s only gotten nuttier since I left!”
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the original author and other contributors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Justice Magazine or any employee thereof.