How long would Batman’s identity remain secret?

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

If Batman were to operate in real life, how long would it take for his identity to be revealed?

In the Legends of the Dark Knight story Prey, which takes place about 18 months into Bruce’s career as Batman, Hugo Strange figured out Bruce’s identity through some basic investigative work, similar to how Ra’s al Ghul claimed to have discerned Bruce’s identity in the Bronze Age.

  1. Examining the remains of equipment that Batman left behind at various scenes allowed Strange to deduce that Batman was well funded and had lots and lots of access to capital as well as fabrication resources.
  2. Batman’s targeting of criminals from all walks of life indicated to him that Batman has a sincere grudge against the underworld, likely because he felt wronged by Gotham’s criminal element, and likely suffered a great loss at their hands.
  3. First hand accounts of Batman’s athletic prowess and visage provided him a fairly reasonable physical profile to go on: White male, age 20-40, excellent physical conditioning.

From there Strange skimmed though police reports of notable murder cases in the GCPD’s archives for 0-40 years searching for persons of interests who could fit those criteria today, before finally arriving at the conclusion that it was Bruce Wayne.

Another significant clue that Strange didn’t consider but probably should have was that Bruce Wayne’s much publicized return to Gotham roughly coincided with the first reported appearance of the Batman.

And that was basically just one guy working on his own. If it were real life I think Bruce would also have the full attention and might of every alphabet soup agency in the country on his ass 24/7 trying to track him down.

Another take:

Exactly one month after being coming to the attention of the Federal authorities.

A crazed vigilante is riding around an American city using military grade weaponry and committing crimes against civilians on a record scale? It would not take long at all to deploy the necessary resources to the scene.

Several Blackhawks and Little Birds from the BATF and FBI be orbiting on shifts doing surveillance, waiting for a signal that the unsub has begun activity.

He would leave to patrol in the Batmobile, and as soon as his distinctive black vehicle’s turbine-driven heat signature was located, a Predator drone would be re-tasked to orbit and follow. That tango in question is very versatile, active, and potentially lethal when engaged so nothing would be done that night, however every illegal activity he performed would be caught on IR-enhanced video, including the multitude of assaults, breakings and enterings, trespasses, abuse of public property, use of prohibited weapons, substances and hazardous materials, perhaps even failure to register a motor vehicle and violating speed restrictions, and several counts of obstruction of justice.

His citizen’s arrests would be logged and the suspects duly charged in any and all assaults against him, as well, however a few suspects will likely be audited for their willingness to testify both against their compatriots and the vigilante.

At some point his most recent crime spree will end and he will head for home. The Predator will follow, a barely visible line in the inky black Gotham sky, camera eye recording the Batmobile’s every move.

Of course the Batmobile will disappear into some rocky outcropping or waterfall or some other land feature and it’s destination will be unknown.

The very next day special operations elements of the DoJ will be at the location, planting temblor sensors and concealed cameras. This is Batman so it will be a few days before he uses the same entrance again, but he will, and when he does, the triggering of the sensors will activate the cameras, and FBI analysts will see the long stretch of tunnel inside the entrance and start doing calculations.

The length of the entrance tunnel until loss of focus or a turn will be calculated, and the direction and distance of that stretch of the tunnel will be known. Immediate records will be pulled for every building in the area, and every microsecond of the next day will be spent sifting through the possible combinations of owners, buildings, knowledge wealth and access to technology.

This will continue with each of the Batman’s movements, and piece by piece a picture of his activities will become known. Information, bits and pieces will be gleaned from his victims, the various residues from his smoke bombs, gases and shark repellents will be analyzed, the Batarangs and grappling hooks researched down to the atomic scale.

Once there is a database of products and substances, the FBI will start rifling through purchase orders and BATF registrations for shipments of the necessary fuel for his Batmobile, and the explosive charges for his bat-grapples, and the avionics for his missile’s warheads, amongst the other detritus he leaves after his battles.

Eventually the source of gear will be deciphered: Wayne Industries, and at that point, the cat is out of the bag. Wayne’s home is within the perimeters of the Batmobile disappearances, and a thermal flyby will reveal he’s using the same electricity as an small industrial plant does when only two or three people ever live in that mansion. Analysis of company records will reveal the massive levels of graft and embezzlement required to hijack all these prohibited and classified materials to the mansion, and the deliveries of the materials will tagged and traced.

The is enough evidence to present Bruce Wayne with a warrant for his arrest based on the very least on corporate malfeasance, embezzlement, falsification of tax records, Illegal trafficking of prohibited agents, weapons and substances falsified BATF filings, and aiding and abetting multiple criminal acts.

Since he is an important personage in the city, they’ll do him the favor of sending one very polite agent armed with a single piece of paper, to wait in his office. What happens after that is up to him.

Conversely a team of agents and a ground-scanning radar van will arrive on the grounds of Wayne Manor and present Alfred with a warrant for his arrest and a search of the premises.

This will occur at the exact same time as Tim Drake, Jason Todd, and Dick Grayson are brought into custody, and James Gordon upon getting notification of a pending warrant against his daughter, will take the day off to go try and convince Barbara to turn State’s witness.

All identified suspects that were encountered during the surveillance will be swept up as well on that day.

Wayne’s excellent lawyer will have him booked and released on bail, at which point mysteriously enough a limo from the Themiscyran embassy will pick him up and he will not be seen again until he submits his US passport and a letter revoking his citizenship, and announces himself a citizen of the city-state of Atlantis.

When asked, they will plainly refuse extradition.

A dissenting opinion:

No No No. You’re describing how they’d catch some regular guy who was using military grade gear every night like a punk, not batman.

You’re disregarding his super power. Superman flies, batman plans. Superman can see through walls, Batman sees through YOU.

Those drones you suppose will find the batmobile for you so handily? I guarantee those drones are Wayne Electronics Products, Running Wayne Industries OS. They will report whatever batman tells them to report.

In fact Wayne Enterprises is the biggest corporation in the DC universe, bigger then lex corp, bigger then google+facebook+sony+3m.

Wayne Industries runs their own mines and R&D labs and everything else batman needs to build the batmobile from scratch and have it come out of untraceable thin air. Who’s to say that 12 tons of steel were smelted and not 10 as the books say? Who’s to say exactly how much fuel was refined when it all came out of the ground just yesterday? Compared to global scale commerce, a few tanks of jet fuel aren’t even worth writing off as loss. I bet more evaporates during transport. I bet more sticks to the side of the shipping containers.

Wayne shipping handles billions of tonnes of freight each month, Wayne Yards builds Aircraft carriers for the Navy. This man can make whatever he needs, and I guarantee it would be child’s play for him to simply not report to the ATF. BATF registrations are what punks who buy too much fertilizer have to worry about, not Batman.

And lets not forget, the bat computer already has access to everything the intelligence networks get, and more. He has his own satellites, his own drones, he runs analytic s the NSA hasn’t invented yet. The minute the government starts paying any serious attention to gotham city not to mention himself the bat-computer will alert his heads up display with 20 countermeasures.

Planting cameras everywhere will never catch batman. He can access your networks. Using technology just makes it easier for him to watch you. He can feed you false video, he knows what you know.

As for using his victims as informants? Ridiculous. These guys won’t snitch on the Joker, they would definitely be too afraid to snitch on Batman. They’re a superstitious and cowardly lot. Besides what can they say except they got beat up by a man dressed in a bat suit?

All that is just Batman’s built in advantages. Then he’ll run countermeasures.

  1. Political, Through his copious connections in through the Wayne Foundation your boss’ boss’ boss will start getting serious heat from some senators about wasting funds chasing Batman when there are criminals to find.
  2. Hacking, All your gear will betray you. Your drones will find Batmobile everywhere, your cellphone will start dropping calls, your requisition forms will fail to make its way through the bureaucracy… Wild goose chases ensue.
  3. Psych ops … don’t get me started. Batman loves to mess with your mind. He’ll make you sit on stake out until your mind goes numb. When you’re going completely crazy from boredom he’ll convince you your fellow agents are on his side, he’ll convince you your fellow agents are Batman! Paranoia! After that he’ll make you believe the Joker is after you personally. Panic! Then He’ll convince you you need to become Batman to save yourself. Then when you try, he’ll end up saving your life.
  4. Decoys. Everyone has been a batman decoy. Robin, Nightwing, Commissioner Gordon, even Superman did it, not to mention the robots… Did you know there are two batcaves ? (there’s another one under the Wayne foundation building). The FBI/ATF are not ready for this.
  5. PR. People mostly love batman. The only serious complaints come from uptight law enforcement types. Pray Pray Pray the Penguin doesn’t try to take over the city during your investigation. The press will eat you alive.

In the end the investigation will become an expensive fail, and the plug will be pulled from higher up. Not before some federal agents learn some valuable lesson about themselves and the need for the Dark Knight.

How Batman Manages To Keep His Secret Identity Secret

Friday, July 25th, 2014

A comic fan recently attended a local convention and enjoyed all the costumes people were wearing:

One of the more impressive costumes I saw there was a really well-made Batman costume which I noticed once across a crowd, and later from a little closer up (though not face-to-face). This was the only person I saw in a Batman costume.

A few days later, I was meeting with a friend, and told him I had gone to the convention. “Did you see [a close mutual friend, whom I've known for close to two decades]?” he asked me. “He was dressed as Batman.” He then directed me to our friend’s facebook page, where he had posted pics of himself in a well-made Batsuit costume.

The very same Batsuit costume.

So, would Bruce Wayne’s close friends recognize him as Batman?

I sure didn’t.

Why Comic Books Are Almost Dead

Friday, July 25th, 2014

Sean J. Jordan explains why comic books are almost dead:

Comics used to be produced in a model very similar to magazines; comics were sold on newsstands and via subscriptions, and the cost of each comic was low because the comic books were being mass-produced and carried advertisements. Part of the appeal of comic books was their relative inexpense, but there was also a huge incentive for readers to trade comics because there were simply too many available for most people (namely, kids) to keep up on.

That all changed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when comics went from being newsstand items to collectibles, much like the baseball card market had already done. Comics had traditionally been published on low-quality newsprint with a 4-color process that didn’t allow for a lot of variety. (One of the reasons traditional superheroes are so brightly colored has to do with this lacking palette.)  In the 1990s, everyone suddenly began focusing on quality to enhance the value of comics as collectibles. The price of comics shot up, and suddenly, everyone was a speculator. This is often said to have culminated in the release of Todd McFarlane’s Spawn #1, a book that sold over a million copies due to speculation about its future value, but which is still worth about a penny an issue today. (It was a terrible comic, too, for what it’s worth.)

So, the price of comics went up, the value of comics went down, and the entire market for comics crashed. This resulted in many changes for the comic book industry, including the eventual consolidation of distribution under one company, Diamond Comic Distributors. Every comic book store in America was eventually forced to deal with Diamond or deal with no one. One of the reasons this was bad for comic book shops was because Diamond had a “non-returnable product” policy. Retailers had to order carefully, or be stuck with assets that they would have a hard time unloading.

By the time I got on the scene, comics were pretty much dead. Whereas it’d been normal for comics to circulate in the hundreds of thousands in previous decades, now a hit comic was any book that sold about 10,000 copies. Comic book stores were closing left and right, and those that hung on were adjusting their product mix to become focused on collectible toys, tabletop gaming, and Japanese comics and anime.

[...]

But even so, I often heard during my time in the comic book industry that the only thing keeping Marvel afloat was its licensing department. The comic books were not really a profitable enterprise; it was the licensing from the comics that kept the entire machine alive. Apparently, something very similar was going on over at rival DC (which was and still is owned by Time Warner). Comic books had become an anachronism, something that only a handful of enthusiasts wanted to keep up with. What’s more, the serial nature of the storytelling has made it difficult to keep up with comics since they tend to ebb and flow in quality and frequently ship late.

Another problem (and it’s a big one!) is the barrier that hardcore fans present. Oddly, fans are never really happy with Marvel and/or DC, and they are probably the hardest group of people to appease. Yes, they spend money, and yes, they are the ones who are keeping comics alive, but they are not a desirable market because they are not growing. Plus, when you factor in the reality that many fans want to be comics creators themselves, you tend to find a lot of fans who keep up with comics to be able to participate in the conversation, but who make demands on publishers for stories that few people really want to read.

Demands on publishers for stories that few people really want to read? I can’t imagine…

Can Classic Moral Stories Promote Honesty in Children?

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Classic moral stories have been used for centuries to teach children the virtue of honesty, but there hasn’t been any scientific evidence that they work — until now:

This study compared the effectiveness of four classic moral stories in promoting honesty in 3- to 7-year-olds. Surprisingly, the stories of “Pinocchio” and “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” failed to reduce lying in children. In contrast, the apocryphal story of “George Washington and the Cherry Tree” significantly increased truth telling. Further results suggest that the reason for the difference in honesty-promoting effectiveness between the “George Washington” story and the other stories was that the former emphasizes the positive consequences of honesty, whereas the latter focus on the negative consequences of dishonesty. When the “George Washington” story was altered to focus on the negative consequences of dishonesty, it too failed to promote honesty in children.

(Hat tip to Tyler Cowen.)

Adam Savage’s Cave

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

Adam Savage’s Cave is pretty wild:

Hipster Batgirl

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Batgirl is moving to Gotham’s trendiest borough to focus on grad school — and she has put together a new, hipper costume:

Batgirl 2014 Redesign

Batgirl Selfie

This new take on Batgirl tips its hat to Veronica Mars, Girls, and Sherlock — but I’m reminded of Buffy: The Animated Series.

Big Hero 6

Friday, July 18th, 2014

The trailer for Disney’s take on Marvel’s Big Hero 6 does look fun:

I’m not familiar with the original comic version, but it was apparently Marvel’s official Japanese state-sponsored superhero team, which appeared in Alpha Flight, about Marvel’s official Canadian state-sponsored superhero team.

Of Meth and Men

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

John Derbyshire reviews Breaking Bad:

Walter: I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. I was… really… I was alive.

There speaks the Old Adam. Sure, the bourgeois life of home comforts and civilized achievement is pretty nice. I am personally a big fan. Just this afternoon, of a perfect midsummer day, I was out in my backyard, doing some small painting chores on my garage; I’d sit for minutes on end admiring the work I’d done and planning next steps, looking forward to my wife coming home, anticipating the familiar wifely way she’d season her appreciation of my efforts with small sarcastic quips about jobs not yet done, then looking further forward to the extra glass of wine I’d allow myself with dinner… Life is good, and you won’t hear me complaining.

Still, inside most men — and no doubt some number of women, too — there is the understanding that to be alive, at some higher level, is to be staying on your feet in a swirl of amoral mayhem until at last, mortally wounded, you fall, laughing, among the corpses of your enemies.

Which is exactly what Walter does. Any number of characters from Greek epic poetry and Norse sagas would understand.

The great British statesman and scholar Enoch Powell gave a radio interview in April 1986 when he was 73 years old. “How would you like to be remembered?” asked the interviewer. Replied Powell: “I should like to have been killed in the war.”

Powell’s biographer adds the following.

After broadcasting that remark, he “received dozens of letters from people saying I’m glad you said that because I felt the same and I’ve never known it before. There’s a secret guilt about those who served and were not killed that they too… were not killed.”

The Old Adam: We have successfully pushed him out to the fringes of our pleasant suburban societies, the fringes where dwell Special Forces and inner-city desperadoes. A good thing too, for women, children, and us geezers. In our imaginations, though, the Old Adam still runs wild, and we love him for it.

Secret guilt is by no means only for combat survivors and schoolteachers turned meth cooks.

The 55 Essential Movies Your Child Must See (Before Turning 13)

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

There are people out there who have never seen The Princess Bride. They walk among us, holding down jobs, contributing to society, and generally living happy, semi-fulfilled lives. But whisper a perfectly-timed “mawage” in their direction during a wedding, and the resulting blank stare or awkward chuckle will expose an inconceivable pop-cultural blind spot. Someone failed them when they were growing up.

In many ways it’s too late for them, but we can still save the next generation.

The 55 Essential Movies Your Child Must See (Before Turning 13) is a starting point.

The Centaurs, a Fragment (1921)

Friday, July 4th, 2014

Twenty years before Disney produced Fantasia, animation pioneer Winsor McCay produced The Centaurs. This fragment is all that remains:

The Lone Ranger

Friday, July 4th, 2014

When the new Lone Ranger movie came out, a part of me wanted it to be good, because I enjoyed reruns of the original show as a preschooler — but even the original is Hollywood nonsense:

The Lone Ranger: There, it fits perfectly. Good job, Tanto.

Tanto: Here hat. Me wash in stream. Dry in sun. Make whiter.

The Lone Ranger: Thanks, Tanto.

Tanto: Here guns, to kill bad men.

The Lone Ranger: I’m not going to do any killing.

Tanto: You not defend yourself?

The Lone Ranger: Oh, I’ll shoot if I have to, but I’ll shoot to wound, not to kill. If a man must die, it’s up to the law to decide that, not the person behind a six-shooter.

Tanto: That’s right kemosabe.

That was quite progressive in 1949, I’m sure.

Eagles and Air Power

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

JRR Tolkien had an intuitive feel for air power, Dr Kenneth Payne suggests, in the RAF’s latest Air Power Review:

When it comes to air power roles, then, Tolkien and his eagles do a magnificent job of anticipating our modern RAF doctrine and of tracking real developments in aerial warfare then underway in Europe. There are time tested precepts of air power aplenty in Lord of the Rings — the importance of persistence, speed, reach and height should be readily apparent to readers. There is emphasis on precision, and shock; on improvisation and multirole capabilities; on centres of gravity and the constraints of terrain and climate. There is Defensive Counter Air (DCA), via ground based air defences (GBAD) on the ramparts of Gondor. There is passive DCA in the elvish cloaks adopted by Frodo and Sam to foil overflying Ring Wraiths.

There are, of course, many air power features that Tolkien overlooks, in part because he is as much a creature of his times as we all are, in part because of the nature of the wars of the Rings. There is, for example, not much inter-theatre mobility on offer, with air forces in Middle Earth and mid-twentieth century Europe alike having only a limited capacity to transport materiel. And with all the sustained land warfare going on in Middle Earth, air maritime integration doesn’t get much of a look in in LOTR — plus ça change, you might think. Stand off weapons too are in short supply too: Smaug excepted, the aerial creatures of Middle Earth cannot bring much weight of firepower to bear from the air. Accordingly, the attack role of Eagle and Nazgûl alike is limited to precision strike and the psychological effect of shock action.

But in his writings on autonomous ISTAR, long-range networked sensors (via the Palantir), and stealth, Tolkien was not just describing air power, he and the eagles were truly at the cutting edge. The fundamentals of air power, it seems, apply equally to this earth as to others.

If We Won

Friday, June 27th, 2014

Stephen Merchant presents “If We Won” with Newcastle Brown Ale:

Angelina Jolie’s Perfect Game

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Hello Magazine Cover of Angelina Jolie and FamilyLooking back, the Brangelina publicity strategy is deceptively simple, Anne Helen Petersen explains:

In fact, it’s a model of the strategy that has subconsciously guided star production for the last hundred years. More specifically, that the star should be at once ordinary and extraordinary, “just like us” and absolutely nothing like us. Gloria Swanson is the most glamorous star in the world — who loves to make dinner for her children. Paul Newman is the most handsome man in Hollywood — whose favorite pastime is making breakfast in his socks and loafers.

Jolie’s post-2005 image took the ordinary — she was a working mom trying to make her relationship work — and not only amplified it, but infused it with the rhetoric and imagery of globalism and liberalism. She’s not just a mom, but a mom of six. Instead of teaching her kids tolerance, she creates a family unit that engenders it; instead of reading books on kindness and generosity, she models it all over the globe. As for her partner, he isn’t just handsome — he’s the Sexiest Man Alive. And she doesn’t just have a job; instead, her job is being the most important — and influential — actress in the world.

Her image was built on the infrastructure of the status quo — a straight, white, doting mother engaged in a long-term monogamous relationship — but made just extraordinary enough to truly entice but never offend. The line between the tantalizing and the scandalizing is notoriously difficult to tread (just ask Kanye), but Jolie was able to negotiate it via two tactics: First, and most obviously, she accumulated (or, more generously, adopted and gave birth to) a dynamic group of children who were beautiful to observe; second, she figured out how to talk about her personal life in a way that seemed confessional while, in truth, revealing very little; and third, she exploited the desire for inside access into control of that access.

RIP, Daniel Keyes, author of “Flowers for Algernon”

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

Daniel Keyes, the MD who wrote the science-fiction classic Flowers for Algernon, has died at 86, of complications from pneumonia.

Cory Doctorow met him in 2000:

He told the story of how he’d conceived of Algernon while riding the subway to his medical residence, and how pleased he’d been with its reception (it’s also one of the small handful of science fiction novels whose film adaptation is in the same league as the book — the 1968 film Charly won its lead an Academy Award).

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. 1: 1929-1964 includes the original short-story version.