Every one of us Batfans has our “first” memorable experience of Batman.
Our first memorable experience in our lives, of when the will of the Batman breaks free of his two dimensional world and impresses himself onto our three dimensional world, and we are forever changed because of it.
My first memorable experiences were around the time of the 1989 Tim Burton / Micheal Keaton Batman movie. I didn’t see it at the cinema, I was only nine years old, and it was a bit dark for a sensitive kid like me. I only saw it much later on VHS when my dad rented it. No my experience was much more mundane, yet still exciting.
My experience was the mania that arrived around that film, the fever like high anticipation and of course the merchandise. Not to mention the frequent images and movie stills that mercilessly assaulted the public consciousness through advertising until BATMAN was forever burned into your retina.
In primary school, we all went nuts for the Topps brand collectible trading cards based on the movie, that were released in Series #1 and later Series #2. The first were mostly movie stills, the second series had a lot of cool concept art. Both were fun to collect.
At home, my birthday was coming up. My dad got me the most bad-ass gift you could give a nine year old son. He got me the Batmobile!
Not the real one, but a fantastically detailed 1/25 scale model kit by AMT ERTL that beat the the hell out of any matchbox car. This “toy” model kit looked exactly like the movie version, down to every detail.
This Batmobile was BIG, it was beautiful, it was sexy and sleek and it jumped straight from the land of dreams into my nine year old hands.
The Batmobile model kit had moving wheels and a detachable canopy. You could see inside the “cockpit” with the steering wheel, gear stick levers and the seat where Batman would sit (if he were real, which of course he is for us Bat-Fans).
It had the jet exhaust, the big 50s style shark like fins on the back, the odd looking vent thingys on the sides, optional gun turrets on the front, and that weird -but cool- looking pointy bit at the front, that drops a bomb in the movie. Guns and a bomb? Just how many people was Batman trying to kill in your movie Tim Burton? The movie had problems, but I still loved it.
I was never any good at model kits as a kid, so naturally my dad helped me put it together. It looked awe-inspiring!
Then he painted it. Not just in the boring “metal black” most people went with, no he did something special. He spray painted it in super high glossy paint that REFLECTED the light, at every angle, and looked amazing.
Then it got weird air bubbles all over it, as if Batman had run over Clayface and smooshed him all over his car, and it was COMPLETELY ruined. I don’t know if I cried, but I must have been pretty close. I was only nine, and the coolest birthday gift ever was now ruined.
My dad however was very reassuring. He told me quite simply he could fix it, and I believed him. Later that week he showed me the Batmobile model kit after school, and -huzzah- he had done it. It looked perfect again.
I didn’t know, or care HOW he had done it, but I hugged him and went away to play with the model and its cool moving wheels in the hallway. The bat-gods had been appeased, and my birthday gift was restored to its former glory.
I later learned that my dad had not fixed the Batmobile at all, he was good with cars but not THAT good. He just went out and bought another one. Pretty obvious to an adult, but to my nine year old self he may as well have been a magician.
It may have been only merchandise and mania, but the Bat-Fever had already begun at that age, and it would only grow in the years to come, even thought my first Batman comic was still some years off, for now it was all Whizzer and Chips and TMNT Adventures by Archie.