MARTHA THOMASES: Mansion on the Hill
Every weekend, when I walk by the newsstands, I see cover stories in gossip magazines about Brad and Angelina, Jennifer, Reese, Lindsay, Britney and others. Although I only read these magazines at the hairdressers, I am fascinated by the lifestyles of people I will likely never meet. On Sunday, I enjoy the Real Estate section of The New York Times, looking at pictures of homes that can cost tens of millions of dollars.
And then, there are my favorite comics.
Batman has always been one of my favorite characters, at least in part because of Bruce Wayne. I am moved by the image of that little boy, watching his mother’s pearls scatter on the street as his parents are murdered. As a child, I was afraid the same thing could happen to my parents. As a parent, I wanted to spare my child from that tragedy.
(To his credit, my son wanted to do the right thing. “Don’t worry,” he assured me when he was five years old. “If you’re ever gunned down by criminals, I promise to avenge your death.”)
Most of the people who have written Batman over the years have concentrated on the Caped Crusader and his underground Bat Cave, not the billionaire playboy who lives in the manor above. Most of the more recent writers believe that Bruce Wayne is the disguise, that the little, traumatized boy grew up to be Batman, not Wayne.
That premise allows for many interesting stories, and I understand that it’s more fun to play with the driven, rage-filled Batman, the character with the high-tech equipment and the regimen of martial arts training. A person who fights bad guys is more likely to work in stories that require a beginning, a middle and an end than a single man rattling around in a mansion.
Did you ever think about what it must be like to live in Gotham City? Leaving aside the whole Dark Knight shtick, which most people don’t believe, it must still be very strange. I live in New York, a city remarkably similar to Gotham, except that our sociopaths don’t wear costumes in public. We have so many billionaires that we elected one mayor. Our daily newspapers have columnists whose entire job is to keep track of these billionaires – how they spend their money, what hobbies they pursue, what business deals they’re considering, their romantic relationships – and report it to us non-billionaires.
I mean, I know that Donald Trump has been married three times, that his oldest son just had a baby, that he went bankrupt when running casinos. I know he has hideous taste in interior design, and that his second wife, Marla Maples, said that being with him was “the best sex she ever had.”
(Which means that all the sex she had before that time was worse than sleeping with Donald Trump. Ick.)
I know that David Geffen, a billionaire who doesn’t live in New York, has a home in Malibu with beach frontage, and he tried to deny people access to the beach in defiance of California law until he was forced to accommodate the public. I also know that, although there was a rumor Geffen was married to Keanu Reeve, the rumor is false, and was apparently started because David’s boyfriend at the time (maybe still) is, in fact, just as cute as Keanu.
In Gotham, however, there appears to be no such obsession with the moneyed elite. There are no reporters, no paparazzi, outside Wayne Manor, hoping to get a scoop on who sleeps there overnight. Occasionally, a writer will allude to Wayne brilliantly planting stories in the press about a romance (thank you, Grant Morrison). However, the press never chases after this woman for the real story about the specifics. With OK! magazine and other tabloids paying millions of dollars for first-hand gossip, are we to believe that none of these women will talk?
In the Gotham City I’d believe, Gothamist would not only exist, but it would cover these issues. The hip kids in the punk district would have bat motifs on their torn t-shirts instead of the eagles in the Ramones logo. If Bruce Wayne ducked out of as many parties as he does in the comics, the rumors would be that he had a major coke habit, not a secret identity. And the parade of boys living in the house would not go un-noticed.
The Christopher Nolan Batman Begins played with these ideas, and I think that’s why it was a successful film. We not only believed in Batman, but we believed in Bruce Wayne. More important, we cared about Bruce, and wanted him to be happy. The comics could use of that.
Martha Thomases, Media Goddess of all things ComicMix, has clearly thought about this stuff way too much.
Artwork copyright DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.