Everyone remembers their first time.For me it was a sweltering summer’s day in 1988. My father was an avid reader of pulp crime novels, in particular by James Hadley Chase, and we tagged along on an excursion to the local book exchange. For those that don’t know, a Book Exchange was merely a second-hand book depot where you could either swap books or buy dog-eared pre-owned copies of pretty much anything. My father, although loving, was a man of little patience, so while he perused the overcrowded shelves, my 8-year old brother and I were perched on the floor next to two piles of old comics, under the menacing and judgemental gaze of the store owner. She was an older woman who obviously had no love for children and maintained her stereotype by telling us to behave and not make a mess once my father was out of earshot. We had comics at home, mostly Archie and Casper, and the 2 piles we were flipping through were mostly superheroes. My brother watched over my shoulder, hands in lap while I was in the driving seat, gently displacing comic after comic, trying to keep the pile neat, lest our warden unleash another grumbling remark. That’s when I saw it. Perhaps it was the orange background. Or maybe the Alan Davis rendition of him with slightly longer ears than I was accustomed to. Or perhaps it was the gun. Yep, it was the gun.
Batman was holding a gun.
Batman.The cover of Detective Comics number 575 (Batman: Year 2, by Bar, Davis and Neary) changed my perception of the character. My only real reference thus far had been the campy Adam West version, and this couldn’t of been any further from the gun toting Batman I now saw before me. Underneath was the next part (number 576) and Batman was in shreds at the mercy of a sickle wielding villain. I had to have these comics. As I mentioned before, my father wielded little patience so to convince him to get me these two comics was an easy feat to cease my begging, and because my brother was along I had to select 2 comics for him – I hastily took 2 issues of The Flash, promising him they also continued from each other. They didn’t. When I got home I devoured the two issues over and over again. I wasn’t too clued up on his history or the continuity of the character, but was intrigued by Batman having flaws and actually having the living stuffing kicked, punched and sliced out of him by the enigmatic Reaper. Batman was losing… and that was cool with me. It made him human and relatable – something a young me never realised before. I didn’t realise at the time the arc was in three parts and I’d wait nearly two decades to finish the story, but it didn’t matter… this was MY Batman. Lone Dark Knight on an insatiable quest for justice. Hell, I could be this guy when I grew up… it was a serious consideration my ten-year old mind contemplated. That fateful day opened the door to the Batcave for me. And when Michael Keaton said ‘I’m Batman’ in 1989, there was no turning back. I still read Batman today. Watch the movies – good and bad. I have the figurines, magnets, coasters, keyrings and mugs. And despite the weight of adult responsibilities having taken hold, there is still a part of me wondering what if…
Guess that’s why I still keep in shape.
Written by: Batfan 1214