Announcing a recent acquisition by the McGlinchey Family Library: "The Essential Batman Encyclopedia." According to Connor, this book is a must-have - but I'm fairly sure that it is redundant.
My children are walking, talking Batman encyclopedias as it is. The obsession with the Dark Knight began at some point prior to Connor's third birthday, it had waned by his sixth, but it wasn't long after that that Parker (who, as a significantly younger sib, is your classic "early adopter") jumped on the BatWagon, and the whole thing began anew - then grew exponentially.
Why? Well, in part because Mom encouraged it the second time around. Honestly, I was only half-paying attention during Batman Obssession Phase I, but I tend to absorb a lot by osmosis (as is evidenced by the undergraduate and law school degrees hanging on my office wall - not that, ahem, I skipped class much, or tended to drift off during longer lectures), so when the Batman and Batman Beyond videos came out of retirement at the beginning of Batman Obsession Phase II, I was surprised at how much I remembered about the Justice League gang. I was also surprised at how much I enjoyed the characterizations.
Also enjoyable: the fact that the boys, five years apart in age and one of them still quite tender in years, could obsess about the Justice League together. Superheroes are timeless, it seems, and so Connor was actually willing to play Batman with his brother or sit and watch a Batman video, whereas other Parker-appropriate characters (Diego, The Backyardigans) were things that Connor only suffered through (and not particularly silently). And Parker desperately wanted to be "into" something that his brother liked - but Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon seemed just a wee bit age-inappropriate.
So I encouraged the Batman/Justice League thing - and, at some point, I remembered that, once upon a time, I, too, was sort of obsessed with Batman. The Adam West version. When we lived in California, I can remember watching Batman every day after elementary school. And, thanks to the HUB channel, I can now share these precious memories with my own children, except - what the what? Why did I ever think this show was cool? Now I find it ironically entertaining, on account of how awful it is - kind of the way I feel when I watch George Clooney in the nippled Batman suit - but it's alarming to think that I actually took the show at face value. And I'm not the only one who is alarmed by this. "REALLY, Mom? You watched this VOLUNTARILY? Did you now realize how stupid it was?" Um, apparently not.
Thus, none of the Adam West Batman shows have made it into our permanent collection, but the video collection certainly has grown past - well, actual videos. Connor - poor, neglected, born-in-1999 kid that he is - only had VCR tapes of the Bat. Fast forward a couple of years (small VCR pun intended), and I think that there are 26 Batman- and Justice League-related DVDs floating around my room. And they do stay in my room because, for whatever reason, the master bedroom is the designated Batman-watching location. Probably because Mom's movies end up in the master, Dad's movies are located in the den, and Dad is just meh about the Batman - he'll watch AT the shows, and he halfway pays attention to the kids' rapid-fire exchanges about superhero minutiae - but only halfway. He gets that Batman occasionally macks on Wonder Woman, and that Wonder Woman is totally hot. He understands that there is more than one Robin, but he cannot tell them apart. He certainly cannot rank them in order of coolness. He is somewhat aware of the fact that Batman Beyond is an entirely different guy than Batman Classic. And, I THINK, he has finally gained some understanding of the reasons why Batman is cool and Superman is, like, a totally lame boy scout who represents every dumb jock in high school who couldn't carry on an intelligent conversation but thought that he was all that and a bag of chips. Really, it's true - ask my kids. And, yes, they arrived at this conclusion on their own. This isn't Mom-projection - well, okay, maybe the last part.
So I have custody of the Batman video collection, which is pretty diverse:
- All of the episodes from the first run of Justice League, and most of the episodes from the second (for the unitiated, the original run featured the seven founding heroes and was a bit more adult than the follow-up, and the second series, which I believe was the Cartoon Network version, is campier and features all of the peripheral heroes - Green Arrow, Black Canary, Huntress, The Question, etc.).
- Various episodes of the Batman-specific series (Batman The Animated Series, The Batman, Batman Beyond).
- Stand-alone animated Batman movies like "The Mystery of the Batwoman."
- The more recent "Batman/Superman: Public Enemies" movie and the sequel, which are both pretty dark, so Mom has to censor some parts.
- Some of the more artsy animated works - can't remember titles, but one harkens back to the early days, and original back stories, of the various characters (it takes place during World War II), and another is a series of shorts done in various animation styles by filmamking auteurs.
- And - because we don't discriminate against actual human beings in our household, much - the collected live-action works of Messrs. Keaton, Kilmer, Clooney and Bale.
Parker's room houses most of the rest of the Batman collection, consisting of: books out the wazoo; a giant Batmobile that folds out into the Batcave (a gift from the uncles, I think it's a Dark Knight tie-in); an Imaginext Batcave; a different Batcave; a bazillion Batmobiles, Batplanes, Batcopters and Batcycles; and a bucket and a half of action figures. Oh, and costumes. Lots of costumes. And shirts with Batman on them. Also pajamas.
And socks. Oh, yeah, and Parker's sheets and comforter. Roller skates - we have Batman roller skates, with matching knee and elbow pads. And Batman Crocs . . . .
Connor retains custody of the LEGO Batman software and video games, and at one point, he also insisted on keeping certain of the action figures in his room, but I think that they have migrated to Parker's over time. Two Wonder Women, a Batman in a purple suit (AKA "TCU Batman") and two Bruce Wayne action figures are in protective custody (from the action figure-devouring dog) at my office, and a couple of others are on a bookshelf in the master bedroom, having been placed into Mom's care once Parker realized that they were the only Batmen remaining that had all of their limbs intact.
And now we have a Batman encyclopedia. Which tells us a lot, but doesn't contain the really important information, like:
- Tim Drake is the coolest Robin. Dick Grayson is a close second.
- Best live-action Batman voices, in order, are: Val Kilmer (seriously - he didn't look like Bruce at all, but he had the voice DOWN - close your eyes, and you will totally get it); Christian Bale in "Batman Begins"; Michael Keaton when he says "I'm Batman" and "I've gotta go to work"; Michael Keaton at other points in the first film; George Clooney by virtue of the fact that anything is better than the next two names on the list; Adam West; and Christian Bale in the "Dark Knight." Who sounds like he's trying to impersonate Billy Bob Thornton in "Slingblade." Seriously, did he forget how to do the voice between films one and two? By the way, none of the above hold a candle to the guy who did his voice of Batman in the Justice League cartoons. His voice is like buttah. Like a big ol' stick of buttah.
- Hawkgirl and the mom on "Witches of Waverly Place" are the same person. Really. The actress who plays Alex's mother was the voice of Hawkgirl.
- Superman is a big dork.
See? You can't get that kind of information from an encyclopedia. Except for the living, breathing kind. And apparently we have three of those living in our house.