The most significant male influence on my life, outside of my immediate family and close friends, is a billionaire who dresses up as a flying rodent to fight crime. He’s been around for nearly a century, and means a lot to a lot of different people, but for me he has been key to many moments within my life. I am talking, of course, about Batman.
My first word was ‘wheel.’ I used to watch cars on TV or out the window and loved seeing them drive around. As a toddler I would pick up saucepan lids and pretend I was racing, or I would empty a kitchen cupboard and climb inside with a plate and shut the door, responding to questioning by explaining I was “driving a truck.” As I became more aware of characters and pop culture, I remained vehicularly focused. I had a particular fondness for Transformers, for obvious reasons, and for Batman.
Without doubt Batman had the most exciting car I had ever seen. I say this not as a memory, but a retelling of a second-hand account. For as long as I can remember, as far back as I can recall, Batman has been a central character to my imagination. I can only presume I saw something or other on TV as a very young child and Batman just stuck with me.
What I find interesting is the specific iteration of Batman. I was around five years old when Tim Burton’s Batman was released, and looking at the dates, I think that must have been when I showed an interest in the caped crusader. I know exactly what caused it as well: the Batmobile.
I had a toy Batmobile which was a tie-in for the movie release. It was the Burton-era design, with a yellow and black Bat-symbol on the roof which would be pushed down, resulting in guns rising from the bonnet. It was amazing. Then, after repeatedly asking for one, I was given a Batman suit for my birthday. I spent the day in a hot plastic outfit that collected sweat as slimy condensation on the inside but I was happy. I was Batman.
My first foray into fiction—not just writing stories, but making my own little book out of folded paper stapled together—was heavily influenced by Batman. Perhaps I’ll write about that another day, as I still remember the details. I’m not one much for comics, but I’ve read a few. I’ve seen every Batman film, plus episodes of the various TV shows including the really old black and white one.
My biggest Batman story happens later, when I was an adult. Batman introduced me to my wife.
Being something of a Batman fan, and especially being interested in the Joker as a villain and the duality of Batman and the Joker as antagonists, I was particularly excited to see Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. I saw the first teaser trailer a few years before the film—a coin, burned and scratched on one side, slowly flipping through the air, with the Joker’s laugh ringing out, and then the title and a blast of music—and from that moment I was in a state of eager anticipation. When the film finally arrived, I went with a few friends. Normally we would go to one of the local independent cinemas, but this was Batman. This needed to be on the biggest screen with the best sound and the comfiest seats. We went to the multiplex.
We arrived early for the late showing. The only thing to do when you get to a cinema early is eat and drink, so that is what we did. We sat in the lobby and snacked and drank and talked, and then I noticed an attractive woman on the ice cream stand. Ice cream is not my dessert of choice, usually, however this woman was looking at me as I was looking at her and so I decided to go over. We talked, I tried a few ice cream flavours, we flirted a little, and I gave her my details. I left the choice with her as to whether to contact me or not.
The film was brilliant, of course, and afterwards in the lobby I looked around to see if the ice cream attendant was still there, but the stand had closed and she was gone. I hoped I would see her again, but that would be down to whether I heard from her.
We met up for drinks a few days later. Fast forward thirteen years: we are now married. We have a child, we have a life together, and it is all thanks to Batman. I even thanked Batman in my speech at our wedding, where I told this story.
Thank you, Batman.