No Bats, that’s not how we do things round here, said Captain Sparky to the boy who, for the past ten minutes, had been pretending to be Batman. Bats? replied the boy. Yes, said Cap Sparky, that’s the name I call him for short – you know, Batman? Bats? Oh, I see, said the boy, then what would you call Superman? I would call Superman Gravy Brain, replied the Captain.
Gravy Brain indeed. We all know you’d have to be a Milton Turner to do something as daft as calling Superman a Gravy Brain. He would zap you with his evil eye and rip out your gizzard with his hook. No question.
Milton Turner was once this close to creating the definitive Bob Dylan statement. But another Milton got there first. This was, of course, it may be noted, the same Milton who later created the I Heart New York thing that became both the pride of New Yorkers everywhere and a handy shorthand flag for nauseating nitwits.
Would that Milton be Milton Glaser? Aye, it would Dorian, it would.
And so, in the attic, the rotting picture of youth. You would have to be a Superman of some kind to see right through it.
But in the backyard of tenement block B8, there is a boy, dressed head to toe in a 1940s Batman costume who will, in twenty years’ time, create his own comic book superhero. He will be a giant among heroes. His name will be The Giant.
The Giant strides two blocks at a time in pursuit of a speeding bullet-riddled car that carries, in no particular order, the dead body of Jimmy the Spink, the alive and driving body of Fortunate Freddie, the alive and shooting (at The Giant) body of Pete the Purloiner and the dying – the very soon dead – body of Ellie ‘Two Hands’ Entropy.
Oh Ellie, what have I done! I left you to face the cops alone. And now you lie, bleeding to death, in the back of my Oldsmobile, as tortured by the sun. You wonder, do you Ellie, why I am driving no quicker? Because, my love, I want you to bleed to death. It will save me from nudging you from that cliff. The cliff of our honeymoon and go. Remember?
Tantalus Dave, all body parts and fumblings, reached out for a packet of cigarettes that swayed, as if from the movement of air that Dave’s reaching hand had caused, and fell off the back of the shelf where it bounced (as far as cigarette packets can actually bounce) three times on the floorboarded floor into the eyeline vision (as he looked down) of Tantalus Dave who, reaching down and stepping forward to retrieve this packet of cigarettes, kicked the damn thing out of reach beneath the counter.
Two blocks away, uptown and upstream, Dave’s sister was in the middle of a blazing row with Milton Glaser himself. And another thing, Dave’s sister shouted, that I fucking Heart fucking New fucking York thing you came up with was a piece of redundant, throwback, pop art, summer of love, simpleminded crap! If you truly believe that, replied Milton, then you are insulting not just me but the entire population of New York City. Those rat canal brained degenerates? said Dave’s sister. Yes, said Milton, the very same.
Eleven pm. Fortunate Freddie still blazing the city streets. The Oldsmobile running on air and the blessings of the Catholic church. The Giant, that giant-sized dimwit, still running around like the lumbering halfwit he truly he is. Eighteen bullets in his body, courtesy of Pete the Purloiner. And in the back of the car: Ellie. Not dead yet, despite the earlier statement to the contrary.
Unnh, I heard what you said there Freddie, I heard, unnnh, what you *cough* said. I heard *cough* how you *cough* were gonna *cough* let me bleed to death in the back *cough* of your walnut wrinkled Oldsmobile you *cough* bastard. I’m *cough* gonna *cough* get *cough* you *cough*, *cough*, unnnh, *cough*. Cough.
Ellie ‘Two Pantries’ Entropy was found in the back of an ice truck with an ice pick in her back – while lying frozen on a block of ice. It was an open and shut case. No, wait. Ellie ‘Two Corners’ Entropy was found bundled up inside a huge trunk whose door was flapping in the wind. That was an open and shut case.
The Giant was full out of breath. He leaned back on the Empire State Building and took his rest. Once recovered – just a short twenty-five minutes later – he resumed his chase. But, unknown to The Giant, the chase had ended almost fifteen minutes earlier when Freddie the Finger (or whatever he was called) sharp-turned his nut brown Oldsmobile into the welcoming bay of the Luggage Warehouse, 23 East 45th St.
The boy dressed as Batman returned home two minutes later than the agreed upon time of five pm. His father, he could tell, was waiting behind the door, no doubt with his severe, sharp hand raised in eager anticipation of it falling satisfyingly hard upon this little Batman’s backside. Or, rather, on his Batside. This youth of not yet even spotty, blinked a few times as he stood in silence before his apartment door. He removed his glasses and wiped the lenses on his sleeves. He scratched his head and stroked the nape of the neck of the passing neighbour’s cat. He leaned against the wall and wished that the elevator still worked. He paced up and down the landing. He ate the half of pretzel he’d saved from lunch. He slumped down on the railing and slept, fitfully (how else?), for at least thirty-five minutes. So. After all this activity it was suddenly the case that this Batboy was now two hours later than the agreed upon time of five pm. His father, it is true, would kill him. Or, rather, would have killed him – had he not quickly and quietly died while crouching behind the apartment door sometime during the past two hours. Whew! exclaimed Little Bat Jr when he was made aware (by his mother, screaming hysteria) of the tragic news.
Milton Glaser, surprisingly still alive, walks (slowly) the two short blocks from his Park Avenue apartment to his Milton Glaser Inc office – decked in suede, ermine and goldtooth fancies (his office, that is) – that overlooks, if he cranes his scraggy neck, the nebulae carpet float of the speckling Hudson River. Ah, a rare sight indeed. But one enjoyed completely by this father – if father is not too strong a word – of modern NYC. Above him, above his throne, just three inches above, a gold leaf, diamond buff impression of the original sketch for I Heart New York. And as he contemplates this slice of his – and our – history (by craning his scraggy neck right back) a pigeon slams hard into the window. Milton, who at that moment was looking up, misses that it was a pigeon. He assumes then, without evidence – but applying his own probability reasonings – that that something hitting his window, this high up, must have been a superhero. But which one?
Little Bats, decked out in the blacker version of the Batman costume – in honour of his father, at his father’s funeral – stares down at the pit into which, in a few moments, they will lower his father. He thinks, this little Bat Boy, that perhaps he should get some darkness inside. He thinks that maybe with the darkness inside he will be better equipped to face the evils of the night. He wonders whether this death of his only father will be enough to send him spiralling into the appropriate pits of self-examination and self-aggrandisement. Pits that will surely set him up as a vicious, unforgiving avenger of the poor, the meek and the stupid. Maybe being fatherless is all he needs. But then he catches his mother’s sad eyes and knows that those eyes will not remain sad for long – not as long as they can gaze upon her cherished little Bat Boy. The gaze of his mother driving away the darkness.
The sun is up, already. Fortunate Freddie at the wheel of his Oldsmobile, his neck snapped in three different places. Which explains why his head flops between the steering wheel and his chest, as it does. In the distance, outlined and auraed by the sun, The Giant. Exhausted, wounded and – were it not for his superb regenerative powers – close to death. Still, self-healing or not, this is one night-time adventure that’ll take more than a few days to recover from. The question though, is: was The Giant responsible for Freddie the Fruit’s snapped neck?
In the back of a quarter room, somewhere in Manhattan – hidden from sight – a lament for superheroes from the heart of old New York.