Monday, October 20, 2008

Secret Origins, Pt. 3

I don't know how old I was when it happened, when I met the 20th century myth. I think it was either in a Justice League of America or a Detective Comics 100 pager. Who am I talking about?

The World Greatest Detective, of course. Batman.

Him who has legions of fanboys and is probably the most re-iterated character in history outside of Jesus Christ. (Ain't blasphemy, just a fact. O.K. maybe Superman beats him, but just barely.)

I grew up with Batman being drawn by Dick Giordano, Neal Adams, Michael Golden and Jim Aparo. You've got to remember - this was before the movies. The only time I ever saw the Dark Knight on film was the lamentable camp version made famous by Adam West.

Oh, it broke my heart. All coolness was destroyed. The mythical dark, brooding intellect that hunted criminals at night using his skills, his wealth and his ultra-advanced technology was reduced to a sad parody, an act of humilation for us who sulked in our suburban bedrooms over the injustices of life, casting longing glances at the crimson haze of big city lights glowering over our neighbors' rooftops.

We knew there was a noble urban warrior reflecting and reasoning somewhere, brilliantly deducing the way to stop the latest atrocities being committed in our cities. Urban blight was being broadcast in full-color on our Magnavox TVs and no pre-teen could escape noticing it. The city had troubles, and it needed help. Big serious help.

We didn't need a joke. We needed a dark avenger -a man who had committed all of his resources to stopping the criminal elite.

Even the Mego action figure was a disappointment. After an initial casting with a REMOVABLE hood (shown here) - and I owned one that I had to return because it had a broken hand - they switched us to that wretched "almost-but-not-quite Burt Ward" camp-friendly version.


ARRRRGGGHH!!

So those artists who kept his dark knight/warrior image alive for us were our heroes. They knew. They understood. Even today, that early 70s art and its atmospheric coloring in bluish reds and aqua blues still takes my breath away.

Batman has recently been returned to urban glory - and we are grateful. We middle-aged men now snuggle warmly with our Christian Bale likeness action figures. (I mean... uhmmmm... I don't.... OTHER men do. Friends I know.)

But one thing always bothered me as a Christian. I always liked Batman, but I couldn't find an archetype in scripture to compare him to. He should be there, somewhere. Superman is a conglomeration of Moses/Samson/Jesus. Shouldn't his most famous ally in fighting crime have a similar Biblical counterpart or two?

A wealthy man. A man willing to wage war against crime. A fearless man. An international man of mystery. King David or Solomon his son? Close. But I realized that was just part of it. They were not quite right, though I dug David's acting insane to escape from his enemies. Kudos for that. But something was always missing.

When I thought of Abraham and of Gideon, it suddenly clicked.

Abraham was very wealthy but never let that stop him from risking his life, fighting evil and trusting God. Gideon was more fearful, but he stood up in the middle of corrupt society, after striking a blow for God under teh cover of darkness, and ended up using a little night-time theatrics to soundly defeat Israel's enemies.

Warriors. Wealthy and wise, but warriors nonetheless.

But what made them click together in my mind was that they were nighttime warriors. "After-hours" heroes, so to speak.
Genesis 14:11-16
The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they went away. They also carried off Abram's nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom.

One who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew. Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother of Eshcol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram. When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan.

During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.
And in Gideon's case:
Judges 7:19-21
Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars.

Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, "A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!" While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled.

I never saw this before, but these men had to do their hardest warfare in the middle of the night. The stronghold of evil, and they took them on - and scared the Hell out of them! Literally!

So I rest easier now I have discovered this. That God sends some of us out in the darkest night so we can be Dark Knights. We take evil on in its home ground and rescue the lost and wounded.

But we have more resources that our favorite detective. We are, like Gideon, empowered by God and like Abraham called by God.

So geek out and slip on that mask and fill up your utility belts, kids.

God likes dark detectives and caped crusaders who generously use all their resources and wits in His service. Especially at night. Especially at night.

Amen.

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