Have cape, will travel
Nov 19 2010 By Roz Laws
Roz Laws goes to Gotham for a close encounter with DC Comics’ billion dollar marvel.
I’m in Gotham City, on the hunt for Batman.
With no Bat Signal visible in the sky and the location of the Batcave a secret, where should I start looking?
A tip-off from Commissioner Gordon leads me to an office block on Broadway. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but take the lift to the third floor and...KAPOW!
There he is, the Caped Crusader. I should have known to come here, to DC Comics, where the superhero began life in 1939.
I’m in New York for the launch of Batman Live, an arena show which kicks off a global five-year tour next summer in England, stopping off in Birmingham in August.
But DC Comics isn’t just about Batman. In the corridor by the lift is a huge mural, painted to commemorate their 50th anniversary, 25 years ago.
Proudly standing in the centre are their most famous creations, Batman and Superman. I recognise Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and The Flash, but also featured are Rawshack from Watchmen, Captain Marvel, Swamp Thing, Plastic Man, Phantom Stranger – and Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld, chatting up Robin with a mischievous glint in her eye.
Touring the offices, I try to act like Superman’s newspaper reporter alter-ego Clark Kent. There on the seventh floor – called Metropolis – is a life-size figure of him, sitting with the phone to one ear as he takes shorthand notes. If only I could type at 3,000 words a minute.
Next to the Daily Planet reception desk is another figure of Superman flying in, by the telephone boxes in which he has clearly just changed clothes.
Our guide, BJ Hemann, points out the sad fact that schoolchildren who visited the offices had to be told what phone booths were, as they no longer exist in America.
There’s a piece of kryptonite in a case nearby, but BJ tells us not to worry about the radiation because it’s behind lead-lined glass.
The walls are covered in fascinating artwork and covers, like the 1978 drawing of Superman taking on Muhammad Ali in the boxing ring with faces in the crowd from Donny Osmond and Frank Sinatra to Jimmy Carter and Pele. On display are Mr Freeze’s gun and Catwoman’s whip, as used by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michelle Pfeiffer in the films Batman & Robin and Batman Returns.
Working at DC Comics doesn’t seem like an average office job. A woman walks past with horns and a red tail, apparently because it’s Halloween weekend, but nobody bats an eyelid.
“If you see anything weird, it’s just part of daily life here,” says BJ.
Five or six people work on each edition of a comic, from the writer, penciller and inker to the editor. Technology means they can all be in different countries.
We walk past the office of editor Joey Cavalieri, who explains: “It takes about five weeks to put together one issue. The problem is they come out every four weeks. That’s why I have no hair.”