Friday, January 18, 2013

KIller Moth Week, 5: Batman's Double

Do you remember that story where a criminal had plastic surgery and took over Batman's life, becoming both Batman and Bruce Wayne?

Oh, wait, you probably think I'm talking about that terrible goulash character, "Hush".  Ha! Ha, ha!  I fooled you!  I am, of course, talking about Killer Moth, a.k.a.... Batman's Double!

You'll notice that, even though this is only Killer Moth's second appearance, the writers are already showing some regret about the "Killer" moniker, because they frequently just call him "The Moth".  Because that helps so much.

As you'll remember, his first outing didn't turn out so well. Then he fell off a bridge.  So things just have to get better from here. HA, HA!

Warning: this scene does NOT appear in this comic!

The story starts with a recap of the events of Killer Moth's first story.  Here's the famous scene where Batman unmasked Killer Moth!

Perhaps the only thing that looks more ridiculous than wearing the Killer Moth costume is wearing the Killer Moth costume with a lab coat.

Wait.  Wait, what?  That.... that didn't happen.  As you may remember from yesterday's post, the writer took great pains to protect Killer Moth's identity at the end of his first outing, Despite having been to the Mothcave, Batman and Robin do NOT know who Killer Moth is, they didn't unmask him, they didn't capture him.  And, no, before you ask: I have not overlooked an intervening story.  The writer has completely misrepresented the ending of KM's origin.  But why...? Let's read and find out!

Killer Moth (or I guess he's Prisoner 234026 again now) escapes from prison using his mothy wiles, and tries to figure how to recapture the indescribable glory that was his one-day-long life as Killer Moth.

Oh, we've all been there. Sitting there broke and on the lam, wishing that we were Killer Moth.  Sigh.

Then he hits upon the really bright idea of just talking the place of some rich twit, of simply stealing himself a new identity.. That way, he'll be rich and won't have to do anything bone stupid like the Killer Moth schtick.

The candle in the bottle is a nice touch.

Unless he really really wants to.  Yes, instead of becoming Killer Moth so he can become a wealthy playboy, Prison 234026 needs to become a wealth playboy so that he can become Killer Moth.  Being "Killer Moth". we finally realize, is not a means to an end; it is an end in itself.

Usually, there is where I'd share some sharp literary analysis that makes sense of all this.  Like, how Killer Moth symbolizes the idolators of the famous with his infatuation with becoming a Batman counterpart.  How he is intentionally left nameless to symbolize his searing lack of identity and how eager he is to give up his own face to become another person entirely.  How his choice of the moth, which symbolizes complete transformation, as his crime symbol subconsciously represents his self-loathing and desperate need to create a new a fabulous transformed version of himself as Killer Moth, with delusions of grandeur as the 'anti-Batman'.  Which all sounds good, but in reality, I just think he's bone stupid.

I mean, he didn't pick Sonny Blandish; anyone who'd pass up the chance to become Sonny Blandish is obviously bone stupid. Jeebus, man, Sonny Blandish is like a delicious smoothie made of equal parts Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and Charles Lindbergh.  I'm writing him in next time I vote for DC shadow senator.

Anyway, with characteristic Golden Age efficiency, he takes just one single panel to go to a 'disreputable plastic surgeon' (they're actually listed that way in the Gotham City phonebook, you know) and get his face changed into Bruce Wayne's.

Then he kidnaps Bruce Wayne after a boxing match (really; just don't ask) and locks him in an abandoned bank vault in the foundations of an abandoned bank.  Because Gotham City is... a very odd place.

A limitless supply of food, no doubt.  Because Killer Moth is great at thinking ahead.
My favorite part of this?  "I don't want a murder rap hanging over me if anything goes wrong.  So I guess I'll change my name to...KIDNAPPER MOTH! HA,HA!"

Then he sends Dick off to an orphanage, fires Alfred, and moves to Ibiza with Vicki Vale.  Cuz you know it would only take one phone call to convince her.

"Pack? Get dressed?!  Why? I'm already wearing a towel.  I'll meet you at the docks in 10, maybe 15 if I stop to put heels on."

Just kidding.  Naturally, he gets called into action as Batman immediately.  OH, the comic book irony!

 Batcave historians like to gloss over its lime-green period. But sometimes the truth is ugly.

So, Killer Moth has seen the Batcave and knows who Batman is.  Uh-oh.  That only leaves two options for him later: getting shot or amnesia.  Place yer bets, folks!

Then there's long, boring sections about some gang that's stealing...

--quickly, what's the most boring thing you can think of to steal?  

Okay, now, continue--

...shipments of machine parts.  Machine parts? How riveting.

Oh, plus there's Bruce adapting to life in an abandoned bank vault.  You know how Golden Age Batman is: "An abandoned sewing kit!  I can catch some rainwater in this thimble and use it to clean this spool of thread to use as dental floss!  Mustn't let my dental hygiene lapse just because I'm trapped in an abandoned bank vault!"

Bruce extends his food supply by dining on delicious comic book irony.

And by long I mean six or eight panels; in the modern age it would be six to eight months, but modern readers would probably be okay with that because it would mean they could stare at lovingly detailed double-page centerfold spreads of stolen machine parts.

"They look so.... real!"

As part of this subplot, Killer Moth sees the opportunity to revenge himself on Whitey Casey.  You can tell Whitey Casey is part of Gotham's gay porn industry/mafia because his name, like most gay  porn star names, works as well backwards as it does forward.

"Thugzilla Does Whitey"; 
"Tighty Whitey"; 
'Tighty Whitey 2: The Boxer Rebellion".  
Classics, all.


Speaking of porn, Killer Moth spends the evenings wallowing in fan-porn in the Batcave's Trophy Room reminiscing about events we know damned well never actually happened.

Hey, fan boy!  Get a trophy room!

It's kind of sad.  As big a loser as Killer Moth seemed at the end of his first story, that wasn't enough for the writers; they had to retcon him into being an even BIGGER loser.

Anyway, with Robin's (substantial) help, Killer Moth-as-Batman ruins Whitey Casey's plush racket of stealing machine parts, which I suppose one sells to Gotham City's insuperable fences, who then re-sell them to criminals who make Mothmobiles, fiddle-cars, and giant mechanical bears. I tell you, Gotham City is an economic rainforest, people.

Then, as Killer Moth, he confronts Whitey as part of an elaborate Frasier-type scheme to convince the underworld that Batman is afraid of Killer Moth, thus ensuring the success of his Killer Mothing business.

WHOA.  The porn industry takes its toll, doesn't it, Whitey?  
Let that be a lesson, club kids; stay in school!

Poor KM!  "I gave you my number and waited at home for you to call in this very outfit that I bought special.  I waited and waited and you never called, hurting my feelings and making me feel bad about myself and I didn't even go to the Supervillain Homecoming Dance but sat home alone and stared at my empty trophy cases. I hate you."

Well, Killer Moth is about to fool you, Evil Andy Warhol! HA! HA!

Wait; is "evil Andy Warhol" redundant?

Yep.  Even though he's now succeeding as FREAKING BATMAN, that's not enough for him.  He needs to make KILLER MOTH a success. AND use an old rival to do so.  It's another ingenious Killer Moth scheme.

What could possibly go wrong...?


Ronald said...

When you're finished with Killer Moth commentary (for the immediate future), please don't forget to post a link to all of this on Wikipedia. The World Must Know.

ronald said...


Wonder if that comic book plastic surgeon might be Dr. Eckhart, the guy who kept trying and trying to fix Two-Face's face? We'll never know, of course.

In Gotham City, some crooks might pay good money for a plastic surgeon to make them look WORSE. After all, how many conventionally handsome underworld leaders tend to make it very far in Gotham, anyway? See, that's another tack Joe Coyne could've taken, to get his face turned copper-colored and then grow a beard...

Bryan L said...

I had no idea prisons had tailor shops. No doubt so that the criminals will always look their best. And, obviously, staffed by "disreputable tailors."

And that leads to another question: Are there disreputable counterparts for every profession in Gotham City? Disreputable grocers, disreputable plumbers? Is Gotham City some sort of Manichean society locked in a struggle between these factions?

Of course it is.

Scipio said...

"I had no idea prisons had tailor shops."

Back in the day, they gave convicts a suit and $10 upon their release to get them started on their new lives. It's actually one of the few realistic things in thie story that Batman would be able to recognize such a suit.

And, yes, there are entire "disreputable" neighborhoods in Gotham City. Near them are the "respectable but crooked" neighborhood, where crooked entomologists live.

Bryan L said...

So there are respectable, disreputable, and crooked denizens? That shoots my binary social structure theory down. I'm sorry, it must look like I'm not paying attention.

Chad Walters said...

I'm surprised Sonny Blandish hasn't turned up in Grant Morrison's Batman opus (yet). That seems like just the type of obscure detail that he loves.

Scipio said...

You know what, Chad? One of the very first things I thought when I saw that picture was, "Jeez, Morrison, stop wasting time on stupid 'Dr. Hurt'; bring back Sonny Blandish!"

ShadZ said...

Sot to be "that guy", but I think you did miss a story. According to the GCD, there was a Killer Moth story in Batman #64 (yes, the next issue after his first story in Batman #63)

Scipio said...

Actually, I would LOVE for you to be that guy, and discover a KM story I have missed.

I will check tonight!