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...?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Killer Moth Week, 4: T sin Theta = mv2/r

When we last left Killer Moth, he placed Robin in perhaps the least reliable death trap ever: a moth-themed Conical Pendulum of Doom.

"And those fools in gym class said I would never use trigonometry! HA, HA!"

Then he makes Batman accompanying him on a drive.  Well, it's more like a date, really, because Killer Moth, who has been hiding 'Batman lore' under his mattress for years to get him through those lonely prison nights, is still rather a smitten fanboy: he wants to see the Batcave.  Essentially, he makes Batman take him for a drive and then back to his place (the BatCave), no doubt to view his etchings in the Trophy Room.

Here they are, listening to the radio in the front seat of Batman's love mobile.  You have to admit, they are a cute couple.

Of course, what neither realizes is that this is actually their second date; they just had dinner together in their secret identities.  Wait, this is familiar somehow.  Killer Moth extorting a member of the Batfamily to go on a date...? Oh, yeah!

Having lost his advantage as Robin's captor, Killer Moth jumps out of the Batmobile and, instead of totally getting away from the befuddled Batman, decides to play a game of tag with him.  What a different world we might be living in if KM had had the wisdom to run away to fight another day.

By the way, I skipped what felt like 23 pages of tedious scenes of Batman driving around the city with KM and Robin trying to escape the Langrangian Death Spiral, and grabbing a bottle of sulphur between his legs, and somehow sulfuring his way out of the trap, in such a way that he was blinded as he's left the Mothcave and crawled back to police headquarters.  He's not called the Boy Wonder for nothing.  The whole point of the convoluted escape was so that Robin could get OUT of the Mothcave without knowing where it was.

Killer Moth truly is Batman's counterpart, because both think in the same high unnatural way. Rather than escape when Batman has no idea where he is, Killer Moth taunts him and runs up a bridge cable.  Batman, rather than just calling the cops now that Killer Moth has foolishly stranded himself at the top of a suspension bridge and starving him out, climbs up after him.

Some of you are thinking, "Well, he's seen Killer Moth zooming through the air, so maybe he thinks Killer Moth can glide away to escape or something."  Well...

he can't.

How sad.  When the Joker makes falls like that, he NEVER calls for help.  He goes out laughing. 

So Killer Moth plunges to what any comic book reader knows is NOT his water doom, with the Lagrangian Dynamic Duo not having learned his identity, all the better to return to taunt them another day.

Tomorrow, in fact!  But before then let's recap...

After years of preparation, Killer Moth gets one and only one gig.  He then gets his ass kicked and is disarmed in mid-air by Batman. He does manage to capture B&R through some Mothmobile trickery, but blows it by leaving Robin in an overly elaborate, easily ruined death trap.  Then, instead of escaping, he has Batman chase him up a bridge cable which he promptly falls off of thanks to his own grease gun.  In fact (except for the death trap and shooting at some cops), Killer Moth hasn't even pulled off one successful crime.

Hm; so far Killer Moth is a great concept but poorly executed, since this is not the most auspicious beginning to the anti-Batman's career.  Perhaps it will get better tomorrow, since how much worse can it get?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Killer Moth Week, 3: Opening Fight

So, armed with the Mothcave, the Mothmobile, gun condoms, and all manner of mothophenalia, Killer Moth is now fully equipped for his debut.

But it's not like Batman's situation.  He can't just lurk around town waiting for crimes to happen.  Not in that outfit.  Besides, his is a sales model; he needs cheap crooks who are (a) incapable of dealing with the GCPD and (b) not so cheap that they won't fork over some money for Killer Moth to rescue them.  So he sets up a keynote speech for his new product (I,KillerMoth) at a local hive of scum and villain.  Fortunately, while it's not that large, it's large enough to hold the small number of cheap crooks in Gotham City who are incapable of dealing with the GCPD.

Sales tip: always call your potential customers "cheap crooks". 

Yeah, he just called a roomful of Gotham gangsters "cheap crooks", while dressed in that outfit.  I tell ya, the man's got some major mothballs.  Still, the audience is surprisingly receptive.  You can tell by their body language: arms folded, hats on, talking to one another.  Oh, and there's Benny the Bookie, taking bets on whether Killer Moth survives to finish his entire presentation.

Another sales tip: always call your potential customers "fools".

Actually, KM does have a great moment in his presentation: when these hardened Gotham criminals ask about their biggest fear and Batman's biggest advantage: ROBIN THE BOY WONDER.

His answer couldn't possibly be improved upon:

"A... a g-g-gun? In Gotham?! G-g-g-gulp!" 

Say hello to my little friend!  Oh, that's how Killer Moth is so confident he's going to survive smack-talking a roomful of Gotham hoodlums: they're all afraid of GUNS, because, well, Batman will beat the crap of them if they carry guns.  So, basically, Killer Moth is going to carry a GUN. Plus, he promises he's going to shoot Robin.  Repeatedly. Heck, if this were the current issues of Batman & Robin, I'd pay him to show up and do that.

I mean, it's not exactly on the level of spelling your name in an acrostic of crime across the city, but, hey ... it's a plan.

Obviously, with salesmanship like that, the Moth's business is going to be off to a killer start.

I'd bring a book if I were you.

Turns out it actually happens; some cheap crooks mix it up with the boys in blue and both Batman and Killer Moth are called into action at the same time.  Naturally, Bruce Wayne and Cameron Van Cleer are having dinner together at that very moment.  In a restaurant with very big windows so that they can see their respective signals.

Golden Age Batman stories are pretty much just "Frasier" episodes.  With lots of murder.

Then there's what feels like 47 pages (which I'm skipping) of Batman and Killer Moth going through parallel preparations to go into battle.  Because (1) the writer will get you to understand that Killer Moth is the anti-Batman and (2) comic book irony.


Remember, criminals; before you make that service call, beware of hidden charges!  So, even with a cut of two thirds, how many of these calls do you think it takes to pay for something like the Mothmobile? Or for the gas, even?  Because that car is about, oh, forty feet long.

Anyway, having parked the Mothmobile god only knows where, KM finally makes his big debut, zooming in on the scene from above on a steel strand (rather than Batman's "silken cord"), his guns a-blazing.

One thing you gotta give Killer Moth: he loves his job.


Killer Moth assumes the cops are surprised to see him swinging in from above. But really, they're probably just thinking, "WTF is that guy WEARING?!"  Because the real terror of Killer Moth isn't that he'll kill you; it's that the last thing you see before you die will be Killer Moth.

Let's see; if Killer Moth shoots those four cops he'll have a bullet left each for Batman and Robin.  Or, if we're lucky, two for Robin.

Aw... no Robin!

NOW is the moment.  The one Killer Moth has spent YEARS preparing for.  All that study in prison.  All that money spent.  All the time in the gym and the lab.  Batman's about to get MOTHED, baby.

Huh.  I guess the sound of the "UGH!" and THUD are drowning out the sound of Batman cracking Killer Moth's spine by kicking it into a 90 degree angle.  

So much for Killer Moth's 'gun advantage'.  Joe Biden, I hope you're taking notes, because that's how we handle gun control in Gotham City: by snapping people's spines in mid-air, leaving them to dangle, crippled, over the middle of the street from a steel cable, wearing a really really gay owl costume.

HA! HA! I fooled you!  I was just kidding.  Killer Moth's back isn't broken.  I can't believe you actually thought they'd break someone's back in a Batman story!

Killer Moth proves quite resilient and resourceful as he escapes in the tricky Mothmobile, which he uses to then blind and anesthetize the Dynamic Duo.

Highway monsters, indeed.  That's not a Batmobile, it's a Bat-mobilehome.


Well, here it comes.  Being a stone cold killer, the Moth just caps Batman and Robin's asses right there and... Oh, wait, that's right; no guns. Hm.  I guess... I guess the only sensible thing to do is to drag them back to the Mothcave.


Oh ho, this is the part where Killer Moth picks up his killer guns and shoots Robin dead with his six assistant bullets, rendering him Batman's most famous enemy for all time!!!!



Or that...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Killer Moth Week, 2: Who He Is and How He Came To Be

Prisoner 234026 had a hobby: Batman.

Yes, he kept pictures of Batman and Batman stuff under his mattress.  Prison's a lonely place, folks.
Wait; damn you, 234026, you tricked me into saying "Batman Stuff".

"Lore"? Okay, then; all that stuff under my mattress? It's Adrien Brody 'lore', baby.

But it was no idle interest! It was a part of plan to become: THE ANTI-BATMAN.  

"fantastic" = "bone stupid"

Fortunately he had some loot left over.  Enough that he could:

  • buy a fully furnished mansion

First-time homeowners; always hold out for a realtor with a Homburg and white gloves.

  • hang out with Bruce Wayne and get on the museum board

"Gradually, a wall of metaphor is built which keeps the shadow of bone stupidity from darkening the absurd plan of Convict 234026..."

  • and hire people to excavate a giant cave under his recently purchased fully furnished mansion.

So, how do you find people to build you a cave?  I mean, before Yelp?

Lawns of velvet are not cheap. That's... a lot of loot.  Like, enough to retire on.  Or to have hired lawyers to get you out of prisoner earlier.  Shouldn't you save some of that money...?

That does save money, doesn't it?  I always forget that paying for things in lead is an option in Gotham City. 

Convict 234026,  I mean, "Cameron Van Cleer" isn't just a crook.... he's a KILLER.  So to become a guardian of crime, and 'anti-Batman', he picks what is obviously the appropriate symbol/totem: an OWL!  He becomes OWLMAN, because OWLS are KILLERS.  KILLERS of BATS.  Because he's going to KILL Batman's ass and that of anyone else who gets in his way or expects standard, fungible, non-lead payment for excavation work.  Behold, the original anti-Batman, the sentinel of crime, the terrifying OWLMAN:

Yes, wearing that outfit definitely counts as "a horrible reality".

Wait, what?  That... that doesn't look like an owl costume.  Not even, like, a really gay owl costume.  And I know, because I've seen those.

I fooled you!  You thought I was going to become something cool and terrifying!

I...I... A moth?  Like, the thing bats eat?  Okay, yeah, a 'killer moth', but still?  Because moths are such fearsome killers of....wait, what do moths prey on?  *Googles* .  Nectar?  Sap?  Decaying fruit?  

Yes, I guess decaying fruit is what guys in really gay owl costumes would prey on.  And anyone who falls for this "Killer Moth" routine is definitely a sap.

Some moths don't even EAT. They just become moths, then die. Way to tempt fate, there, "Cameron".

Okay, so you are "Killer Moth".  With, um, a Moth Cave.  Couldn't just call it "The Cocoon", could you?  Are you sure you aren't a Green Arrow villain...?

Dude, you just invented a car with Spider-sense; retire NOW.  And take off those shoes.

Yes, those must have been "amazing weeks", indeed.  Did KM wear that outfit the whole time he was building the Mothmobile?  Or did he just hire some guys to build it and then pay them in lead?

Killer Moth's empty Trophy Room is probably the most pathetic panel in any comic book, ever, even including the time Enemy Ace's puppy fell out of the plane.

 Ladies and gentlemen, the Inventor of the Gun Condom.

At least he's got some real Batman-chops there, with his 'crime lab'.  But, really, once you're invented the gun condom, don't you think you'd be content to get rich on that? I mean. richER; you already live in a mansion with velvet lawns.  

Well, Cameron's nice to sacrifice his time (and fortune) to give the criminal community a service by dressing like a pretty pretty moth to protect them the police.  I'm sure they will be very appreciative of his help tomorrow...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Killer Moth Week, 1: Papilio Fatalis

Moths can be scary.

Have you ever seen the film "Mothman Prophecies"?  Spooky; not coherent, but all the more spooky for it, really.  It taught me the scariest word in the English language:

Chapstick.  Brrrr.

Hey, the idea of some big moth-like man-thing can be pretty scary.  

Of course, that's a mysterious mothlike monster.  The idea of a guy dressed like a moth can be... more difficult to carry off.  Still a guy who thinks of dressing like a giant moth, well, that's kind of crazy and crazy can be pretty scary.

Laugh all you want; "Mothman" happens to be one of the sexiest men alive.

Ladies and gentleman, another fine Martian Manhunter villain: Mr. Moth.  Yes, really.
And try not to think about what size his head must be to fit in that mask.

But, scary or not, the most enduring modern moth man in literature is, of course, Drury Walker, a.k.a. Cameron Van Cleer, a.k.a. Prisoner 2340026, a.k.a. ...


Yes, you.  I'm trying to help your image; work with me, KM.

I was trying to explain this, the real Killer Moth, to my friend Van Google, who knew him only from his portrayal by Thomas Hayden Church (Tom; miss you, handsome; call me!) on Cartoon Network's Teen Titans.  

He was having a little trouble wrapping his mind around the concept of the Killer Moth as a serious villain.  

Not quite so funny when the crazy person has a gun pointed at you, is it...?

Understandable; even the greatest of minds have difficult comprehending the rarefied conceptual glory of Killer Moth.

Van Google got stuck on the name. "Wait, why would you call yourself 'Killer Moth'?  Is he some sort of crooked entomologist?  Does he use moths to commit crimes?"  

Just exactly how do you count live moths?

"A crooked entomologist? Don't be silly," I replied.  "What kind of lunatic would use moths for crime?"

Okay.  That kind of lunatic, then.

I gave the answer that I had always assumed was true: "Well, you know; he's named after the killer moth species. Papilio Fatalis, I guess. It's a type of moth, you know, like, like a Killer Whale."  I mean, obviously.

Aside: Dang! Wouldn't a Killer Whale make a great villain?!

Okay. Maybe not.

My friend wasn't buying the "killer moth species" explanation. He's not called "Van Google" for nothing; besides, he has a degree in Nature, or something.  "There's no such thing as a killer moth," he says. So we looked it up.  Sure enough.  There is no such thing in nature as a 'killer moth'.

Which is...


I was too overwhelmed by the awesomeness of it all to be ashamed of my life-long ignorance about moths.  Because it means that rather than just call himself "the Moth" (because who would be afraid of that?), this guy...

...Prisoner 234026, just added "Killer" in front of "Moth" to make himself sound scarier, at severe risk of oxymoronic ridiculousness.

Damn.  That takes some real mothballs, people.

That's the kind of commitment to concept we admire here at the Absorbascon!  And so, we celebrate with Killer Moth Week, which tomorrow focuses more on Prisoner 234026.