Monday, May 06, 2013


Bat-Mite has arrived.

Hey, Wizkids.  Thanks for Bat-Mite. But if you went to the trouble of making him, how is it possible you screwed up the fact that one of his bat-ears, in every single incarnation of him, is alway always always drooped over?  I honestly do not understand how such things happen.

I suppose it was only a matter of time before Wizkids would create a Bat-Mite Heroclix figure.

The occasion has made me realize that in my entire time on this blog I've never once written about Bat-Mite.  And, love him or hate him, there's no denying he's powerfully symbolic of a certain era (1959-1964) in Batman's history and emblematic of a certain approach to the character.  It was the Era of Bat-Mite, during which he appeared in 12 stories.

Usually, I’m pretty firm about what I consider the divisions between the Great Ages of Comic Books (Golden 1939-1955, Silver 1956-70, Bronze 1970-86, Iron Age 1987-2004, Platinum Age 2005-2012) and come down against subdividing superhero history into smaller segments.  

To be fair, there is a degree of conceptual overlap making it hard sometimes to see where one ends and another begins.

It amazes me that many current readers get a distorted view when they look at comics in their rear-view mirror.  I’ve seen websites that baldy and incorrectly state that Killer Moth is a Silver Age character, probably simply because he’s “goofy” (KM is, in fact, a Golden Age character);  I’ve seen descriptions of the “New Look” era as Bronze Age (it wasn’t; it was Silver Age).  Perhaps objects in mirror are farther away than they appear? 
But if there is an age of Batman’s history that can be subdivided cleanly, it is his Silver Age.  Unlike some characters (such as Flash and Green Lantern), the border between Batman’s Golden and Silver Ages is kind of “soft”.  Along with a handful of other headlines (Superman and Wonder Woman), their retinue, and their back-up stars (Aquaman and Green Arrow), Batman didn’t break continuity between the Golden and Silver Age.  However, I place the beginning of Batman’s Silver Age at Batman #92 (June 1955) with the introduction of Ace, the Bat-Hound.   I don’t feel that requires a great deal of explanation or defense; if there’s a sign that you’re in different world than the one where the Joker poisons Henry Claridge at midnight, a crimefighting dog in a mask is a pretty good one.

A disfigured corpse in full view.  This is the Golden Age in a nutshell.

A dog in a mask.  This is the Silver Age in a nutshell.

Ace the Bat-Hound was the vanguard for the expansion of the Batfamily to include Batwoman and Bat-Girl (as opposed to Batgirl) and eventually… Bat-Mite.  As odd as a dog in a mask fighting crime is, it's still about as realistic as a man in mask fighting crime is. But when you have an extradimensional imp popping into your stories and using god-like powers with the stated purpose of spicing up the action, you are clearly somewhere very different than Bob Kane’s Gotham City.  

The third panel (ZOOSH)?  That should really be in a museum somewhere.

Although Mr. Mxyzptlk preceded Bat-Mite by many years, it was Bat-Mite who was the first character to really lean toward the metatextual.  He was a fanboy who used his omnipotence to 'rewrite' the Batman universe to indulge his whims for 'what if' scenarios and angling for Batman to hook up with Batwoman.  Bat-Mite inherent metatextuality was perfect captured by the Batman:Brave and the Bold animated series.

Bat-Mite’s impish antics continued on and off until 1964, when he (and the rest of the extraneous bat-campfollowers) were displaced by the “New Look Era” (so called because Batman now had a yellow oval, for no apparent reason, around his chest insignia). 

Thanks to Bat-Mite, there are three fairly clear periods with Batman's Silver Age:

  1. The Bat-Hound Era (1955-1959),
  2. The Bat-Mite Era (1959-1964), and
  3. The New Look Era (1964-1969).

The Bat-Mite Era is the nadir of urban realism with the Batman mythology and how you feel about him is bellwether of what fan-camp you inhabit.  

How do YOU feel about Bat-Mite?


Chad Walters said...

My opinion of Bat-Mite is that he's good in small doses and if written correctly. Batman: The Brave and the Bold nailed it, while The Adventures of Batman & Robin definitely did not.

Scipio said...

I take it you're not a fan of Prof. Bubbles, then.

Bryan L said...

So you're saying that, as any good metatextual reality-shaper should, Bat-Mite defines Batman. His very presence locks Batman into a certain framework and worldview. Seems reasonable to me.

Bat-Mite is a paradigm shift given form and voice on the page. His existence effectively alters all of Batman's reality regardless of the specific antics in which he indulges.

And Bill Finger probably thought he was creating some cute little clown.

Scipio said...

Yes; I'm not saying it as well as that, but yes.

What the writers thought they were creating was a device for themselves. "Now, we can cause anything at all we want to happend, and have an in-story explanation for it. A little wizard did it."

I had both balls and the powers, whenever the DCU needed to be rebooted, I'd just have Bat-Mite pop in and say, "This is no longer fun enough! Let's try something new!"

Steve Mitchell said...

What? No love for Mogo, the Bat-Ape?

SallyP said...


Frankly my dear...I find him hilarious.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the Silver Age truly started until the last page of that Bat-Hound story, when Batman took out a photo he just happened to have of himself borrowing Ace from Bruce Wayne. Except that one of them was Alfred in disguise.

dicecipher said...

I have a great love for a lot of the Silver Age craziness. Especially Bat-Family stuff.

TotalToyz said...

"I'm the gosh-darn Bat-Mite!"