Saturday, August 27, 2005

My wings are like a shield of steel!

Apparently, not everyone knows who Batfink is. Fortunately, the Absorbascon exists to correct just this kind of cultural injustice. For those not yet in the know, let me add Batfink to your geek-repertoire.

Within mere months of the premiere of the Batman television series in 1966, the Hal Seeger Studio produced "Batfink", a series of short cartoons parodying the runaway hit show. Batfink had a large but ineffective sidekick/chaffeur named "Karate" (a snipe at the Green Hornet's Kato). They rode around in their Batillac (I mean, obviously!). Their chief recurring foe was the mad scientist Hugo A-Go-Go; if the Joker and Lex Luthor had a love-child, that child would be Hugo A-Go-Go.

Batfink had two principal powers (other than superstrength and, you know, flying), and a catch phrase for each one when he used it...

1. His wings were indestructible/made of steel (whichever the plot required), and when he used them he usually said:

"Your bullets [or whatever the threat was] cannot harm me; my wings are like a shield of steel!"

2. He also could emit a bat-radar sound in order to find things, whereupon he would invariably say:

"My supersonic sonar-radar will help me!"

The supersonic sonar-radar was represented by a large white-lettered BEEP that seemed at times to have a life and intelligence at its own. You'd have to see it to believe it.

These are two phrases of extraordinary power and utility in geekspeak. The first can be used on any occasion when an attack against you fails, whether it be verbal, conceptual, physical, or metaphysical. It's great for Heroclix games. The second comes in handy when, in the process of struggling with some problem or puzzle, you suddenly think of something that will help you do it. Finding the right internet resource, running a computer diagnostic program, picking up a flyswatter -- those kinds of things. I have soundclips of both sayings, but, sadly, I don't know how to make them accessible to you.

Parodying a parody is not easy, but Batfink did. It also had a marvelous theme song (a simple but memorable trumpet piece). What's more, there were more episodes of Batfink than there were of Batman! Exactly 100 truly lunatic episodes, culminating in a final, retrospective episode, "Batfink, This is Your Life!"

When I was a lad, Batfink was on the air at odds times, like Sunday afternoon, or early, early, early in the morning. But the episodes went out of distribution in the 1980s, so many younger folk have never seen any Batfink. Fortunately, all 100 episodes are available on DVD; unfortunately, they are only available in the UK and Australia (don't ask why).

Be forewarned; there is a reason a Batfink cartoon is only 5 minutes long. The animation is abominable and the best parody is a SHORT parody. Do NOT sit down and watch the whole DVD. Instead, every time you watch an episode of JLU or The Batman, watch a Batfink episode before or after.

That, you will enjoy.


Ian said...

Didn't this show employ a really cheap device in that Batfink would get in some death trap, only to show up later unharmed? When asked howq he got out he would only say "there's no time to explain that now" or something to that effect.

I think I remember that from when this show was on Weinerville.

Marionette said...

Your comment spam cannot harm me for my wings are like a Shield of Steel!

Another DVD to add to the "must buy" list.

(BTW Scipio there's a treat I made specially for you over on my blog. This is not ad spam, it's true)

walaka said...

I have been muttering "my wings are like a shield of steel" (in appropriate instances) for years and years and years, and have never met anyone who got it. Until now. Thanks!

BTW, I finally saw some JLU episodes (I don't do TV) and while I liked some bits, overall it feels more like The Avengers Unlimited than it does the JLA I remember. But then, I don't think they ever should have moved out of that cave...

Konstantinos Stamoulis said...

Batfink was wonderful and I loved it. I disagree with your opinion that the show's animation was abominable; imo, it was perfect for it.

I remember this fantastic line from Hugo-a-go-go, when he was teaching his gang members the basics of crime: What do you do if you fail at first? Try a gun.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone tell me whether the UK DVD box set includes the original Batfink Theme song? The repeats I have seen only have the instrumental music at the start of each episode... but there was a whole marvellous song, some of the lyrics of which were "...and Batfink has a supersonic radar. The capable Karate's always right behind, Especially when the shooting starts you will find. The hotline gives a buzz the chief is on the screen, He need our hero's help he wants him on the scene, That's Batfink."

Anonymous said...

I got the DVD set and it's fantastic to have the whole collection of episodes. I live in HK and watched Batfink at sporadic intervals on local TV when I was a kid. They were usually used as fillers in between other cartoons or kids programmes.

I also was a bit disappointed when only the instrumental themes were played at the beginning of each episode. I also would have loved to sing along with the full lyrics of the memorable theme song...but unfortunately its not on the compilation DVD. Also, a few extras would have been nice too, but since it was made in the '50s, I guess very little remains...
All in all - a must-buy if you're a Batfink fan.

T.A. Palmer said...

When I was a kid Batfink come on at times (and reception quality) that were unpredicably bizarre. Channel 3 from Newark, NJ tyransmitteed up to us in Connecticut - some 50+ miles away - and it depended upon the rabbit ear"calibration" and the weather. Courageous Cat, Speed Racer, Magilla Gorilla, Gigantor,... were all in this "lousy Black+White static interference" dimension of broadcast.

There was a movie: Billy the Kid meets Dracula that we saw one rainy Sunday afternoon. There were no more than 20 kids, placed around the theatre in groups of 2 or 3. Billy shoots Dracula and Dracula says "your bullets can not harm me" From about a dozen corners of the theatre there was a response (in perfect unison) "my wings are like a shield of Steel"!!! Followed by cheering and piss-in-your-pants laughter at what we all had just said!

Anonymous said...

Hi! My daughter is going through a "let's beat mummy up " fase (she's 3and a half) and today, without thinking I automatically put my arm up infront of me to block her "Kungfu Panda kicks" and said "you cannot harm wings are like a shield of steel!!" in that deep, stong, masculine, all American voice!!! I couldn't for the life of me recall where it came from!..and that's how I got to be on this site! now I'm determined to order the dvd set for my daughter to watch (at least then she won't think I'm crazy when I put the Batfink voice on!!!)

kelly blak moffat said...

My favourite was my fav in grade seven 2007