Throwing up in a shopping centre toilet while dressed in the Batsuit was not the first of my encounters with the Caped Crusader. Over the years, Gotham’s protector and I have crossed paths many times – probably the most depressing being that my only real memory of my maternal grandfather is him, in his wheelchair (he suffered from MS), trying to talk to me while I completely ignored him so I could watch an episode of the 1960s Batman TV series.
Adam West’s Batman was known in our house as “Blue Batman”, and my parents for some reason made it very clear to me that there were in fact two types of Batman in the world. Blue Batman – the regular Batman who lived in the television – was beholden to the laws of gravity like a Batchump, while Black Batman (a mysterious, shadowy figure who existed in the dark shadows of M-Rated Movieland) somehow had the power of flight. Having since seen Tim Burton’s Batman, I can understand the mistake, although I will never forgive them for making me a laughing stock in primary school when I tried to explain the distinction without actually having seen the film.
My own Batman costume – originally known as “Grey Batman” until its gritty reboot as “Grey And Dirt Colour Batman” – lasted for about two months before it fell apart from being worn and slept in every single day. But in those two months, I had one of the best and weirdest days of my life when, on a Sunday afternoon trip to the playground, I met my Robin. He was a boy called Michael, about my age but slightly shorter, who had inexplicably showed up at the park with his mother – and he was dressed as the Boy Wonder.
We spent an afternoon of derring-do and action together, a pint-sized Dynamic Duo swinging on monkey bars and jumping off swings with our capes fluttering behind us, until the shadows grew long and it was time to go home. Grey And Dirt Colour Batman and Regular Colour Robin made their farewells, and disappeared into the night.
I never saw Michael after that day, which means I never got to ask him the question that has been burning a Bat-shaped hole in my brain ever since: what kind of kid has so little self-confidence that they show up to a park on their own, dressed as Robin?
A year or so later, when I was five or six, my Irish Granny and Grandad (Dad’s parents) went on a holiday to Warner Bros Movie World on the Gold Coast. We went to visit them after they’d come back, and while we were there Grandad pulled out a photo. It was of him and Granny, standing in one of the theme park’s streets, and standing next to them was none other than…
No. It couldn’t be.
My Granny and Grandad had somehow managed to have their photo taken with Black Batman. Black. Batman. The most powerful of all the Batmans, with the power of flight and the ability to be seen only by grown-ups.
I was at a loss. I stared at the photo, gaping. “Is that… do you know… you… Batman?”
Grandad nodded. “And you know what the funny thing is?” he asked, in his Belfast brogue.
I shook my head.
“Just before we took this photo, he said to me ‘you’re Patrick Magee’s Grandad, aren’t you?'”
If I hadn’t already been to the toilet that morning, I would have peed my pants there and then. And then I would have burst in an explosion of over-excited child, splattering the walls of granny and grandad’s Penrith home with blood and goo and whatever else was inside me (probably biscuits and/or chicken Twisties). NOT ONLY had my Grandad met Black Batman, but Black Batman KNEW WHO I WAS.
With the advantage of twenty-two years of hindsight, it’s now clear to me that this was, at best, an unlikely scenario. Unless Black Batman went around asking every Irishman over the age of sixty if they were my grandad, there’s simply no way he’d have been able to identify Patrick Joseph Magee as the grandfather of the five or six year old Patrick Alexander Eden Magee, known crybaby and sooky lah lah. Then again, he is the World’s Greatest Detective, so I guess the jury’s still out, or at least it would be if Batman had any respect for the judicial system.
But right there and then, I could not have been happier. I asked grandad if I could borrow the photo, and the very next day, in front of Mrs Moore’s year one class, I retold the story of how Black Batman definitely knew who I was.
And this time, I had the photo to prove it.