Batman RadionSo I guess I have to add "Learn to Fire a Gun" to my list of Batman-skills.

Batman Gun
PS Is it just me or is it twisted that this week's Smallville dealt with this theme?


Figure Eight

Wonder Woman boobs
Remember, according to Dr. Marston, she is only bound until she wants to break free.

Figure Eight
This knot sucks. I haven't figured out anything to do with it. I must have to work on my detective skills soon. I hear that the figure eight is the basis of many other knots but I don't really see any use for it by itself. I guess it could stop a rope from going through a hole or something.

Figure Eight animation
In an case, this is how you tie a figure eight
1) Make a loop.
2) Bring the working end around the standing end.
3) Feed the working end through the loop.
4) Pull to tighten.


Reef Knot

Wonder Woman bound and gaggedI think "DEATH" must be the safety word they are using.

On to knots.
You and your sidekick are chasing a sexy villain across the roof tops. The cat-burglar is able to dash to the edge and gracefully jumps 20 stories to the distant ground. You boys are stuck and the vileness is taunting you with her stolen goods and gorgeous, criminal body. Sucks to be you, Batman. UNLESS you remember today's knot! The reef knot is used to tie two ends of line together. This is how it goes.
Reef Knot Animation
1) Pass the working end once around the other line.
2) Bring the ends up with the working end underthe other line.
3) Pass the working end over the other line.
4) Tighten by pulling both ropes on both sides simultaneously.

Catwoman BatgirlYou now have a reef knot. If you tied this one with me, you can maybe see why it's often called a square knot. You can now use it to go down the side of a Gotham skyscraper. One note of warning: This knot is secure when the knot is pressed against something (like the side of a building). If, say, Catwoman had gotten to a distant building and Batman needed a longer rope to swing across on, he would not use this knot. He would use a different bend. We'll learn many more in the days to come.


I Digress, Cut Me Some Slack

You may have noticed that there was a Wonder Woman cover above yesterday's post. In the picture WW is bound to a buoy with a huge torpedo, rocketing toward her.

In order to encourage us while we learn some knots I thought it would be fun to have pictures of tied-up damsels-in-distress, you know to remind us why we are learning knots in such painful detail. Since finding the right kind of pictures for this blog wasn't working so well, I started searching for tied up superheroes, like drawn version of Batman and Robin captured and placed in some ingenious but evil trap.

As I looked, I started to notice a trend - Wonder Woman! She was the damsel-in-distress. She was tied up at everywhere I looked. And I thought to myself, "This is ridiculous! The hero who was designed to as an tool for empowering women, is constantly shown helplessly bound and absurdly sexualized." This from the creator of WW, a guy who said: "Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power... The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman." And I thought, "What a dick! He talked about empowering women but really just had bondage fantasies that he couldn't express."

Boy was I wrong!

Dr. Marston
I did some digging into WW's past in order to understand this paradox. Everything that you need to know about Wonder Woman can be found in a study of her creator, Dr. William Moulton Marston. He's often called alot of things: a feminist theorist, inventor of the lie-detector, a comic book author who created the character Wonder Woman. But you have to understand a few things: he was a psychologist but to call him a feminist is a little misleading since he pre-dates modern feminist thought. He was instrumental in creating Wonder Woman but much credit should go to his two wives, Olive Byrne but especially Elizabeth Marston. He didn't invent the lie-detector(which is a misnomer, by the way). He invented the systolic blood-pressure test which is one component of a polygraph. According to a review of a book written by Marston in his FBI record, he seems to have gone out of his way to convince people that he created the lie-detector and that his method was infallible.

Wonder Woman
A Woman's World

That being said, he actually seemed to trust his test to a fault. After he and Olive took the lie-detector on the road, he became convinced that it proved women were more honest, more reliable and could work better than men. He was quoted as saying, "Women have more emotional power than men, they have greater endurance and more resistance to disease they live longer, and they can endure pain far better." So what was his conclusion? The problem with the world is that it is ruled by men! If women were in charge the world world would become perfect. In this new world, "loving submission" would replace war and passion would replace violence.

Wonder Woman was the embodiment of this belief. She was designed as propaganda to convince the world. How to convince girls? Give them "... a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman." How to convince the boys? "Give them an alluring woman stronger than themselves to submit to, and they'll be proud to become her willing slaves!"

Wonder Woman
So what does this have to do with bondage on comic book covers? In Marston's view, women already seemed to hold the secret of "loving submission" and needed to seduce men into accepting it. Once women did that, men would realize that they preferred such a world over the current, violent one. Marston minimized violence in Wonder Woman books. Instead of focusing on violent enforcement thrashing criminals into line, Wonder Woman books showed binding by loving submission. There was definitely sexual context. He envisioned women ruling by feminine charm. It's no coincidence that the Amazon's famous rule "that they must never surrender to a man for any reason" is Aphrodite's Rule. Marston said, "The only hope for peace is to teach people who are full of pep and unbound force to enjoy being bound ... Only when the control of self by others is more pleasant than the unbound assertion of self in human relationships can we hope for a stable, peaceful human society. ... Giving to others, being controlled by them, submitting to other people cannot possibly be enjoyable without a strong erotic element."

And that's the story of why Wonder Woman spends so much time tied-up by her rogue gallery. And to help herald in the new era, let's learn some knots.

If you want to read more check out

What Are Knots Good For?

Why don't we start with a knot that everybody knows? And I know what you're thinking: "I don't know any knots! I'm not a sailor, batboy." But trust me, you know this one. It's called a thumb knot. It's the basis of a lot of other knots. For example, it's the first part of tying you shoes.

1) Begin by making a crossing term (Begin with a loop).
2) By going under the loop, pull the working end through the loop (the working end is the end you are working with while the standing end is the end attached to something or just not being used).
3) Cinch it (tighten it).
4) Voila! A thumb knot.

You can make this more interesting by making the knot slipped. Slip knots are knots that can be untied in a hurry. The slipped thumb knot is tied exactly like the thumb knot except it uses a bight.

1) Make a crossed loop.
2) Pull a bight through the loop. A bight is a "loop" formed by folding the rope back on itself.
3) Cinch it.

Obviously, the loop that's formed in the slip knot is not very solid. If you want to make are really simple loop out of the thumb knot, try:

1) Make a bight out of the loop.
2) Make a regular thumb knot using the bend as the working end and the two parallel pieces of rope as the rope.

One last thing you can do with a thumb knot: you can make a very simple noose. A noose is any sliding loop.

1) Make a very loose thumb knot with a short working end.
2) Feed the line (the standing part, not the working end) through the hole left by the thumb knot.
3) Cinch the thumb knot around the line. You can tighten it so much because the thumb knot really sucks and so it won't catch unless you are using string, thread or fishing line or something.

Ya I know. Those are really weak knots but look at all the terms we've learned:

Crossing term - make a loop
Working end - the end of the rope being used to tie the knot
Standing end - the part of the rope fixed or not being used
Cinch - to tighten
Slip - easily undone
Bight - formed by folding the standing end back on itself
Noose - a sliding loop


Becoming Batman

I had planned to introduce our first knot today but thought instead maybe I would reintroduce the Building Batman blog.

The question is this: To what extent can an everyday person develop the skills obtained by the dark detective, Batman? That is the underlying motif of the Batman, isn't it? Given enough determination any person, not inheriantly an hero or a superpowered knight, can conquer the greatest monsters in the dark scary world we live in.

With the release of the second Nolan film, I noticed a lot of talk on forums about the kind of workout that might be required by Batman (not to mention the kind of workout routine used by Christian Bale in preparing for the film) and more general discussions (online and in print) about the possibility of an actual person achieving the kind of skills held by Bruce Wayne.

Last October, I began this blog and started learning skills. Though it's self-evident that I will never be as good as Bruce Wayne at anything, I will introduce myself to a wide variety of activities. Each of these activities will undoubtably profit me in the future and many will be just plain fun to learn. My goal is to become a better, more competent person (rather than say become a valiant vigilante with a valid vendette to vanquish villainy [take that V]).

So far I have begun training my left hand to do everyday activities. Although, I may never become truly ambidextrous, I am far more comfortable writing, drinking, using keys and really just getting by without my strong hand. I still practice this quite often.

I also learned to throw a boomerang. Where developing ambidextrity is a frustrating exercise in perserverance, throwing a boomerang came surprisingly easily. They are a fun hobby and I expect I will enjoy it forever. I'd recommend them as a great (and easy) way to have fun.

Next I removed substances in my diet which are addictive and potentially harmful to my body. After a month of abstaining from caffeine, alcohol and nicitine, I have now loosened my fast. The important thing for me was to demonstrate to myself that I was not so thuroughly addicted that withdrawl symptoms would hamper me. Furthermore, I found that coffee(in moderation) can have many positive results as can red wine.

I have started a small exercise routine to develope my upper body strength. When I began doing push-ups, I did 100 every day. A month later, I have quadroupled that to 400 push-ups daily.

I have memorized a small set of knots which continues to grow. I'll post my drafts and loose instructions starting tomorrow.

I've also begun learning to pick-locks. This one is slow going and it will most likely be a while until I can tell you much about that. All the while I have been dropping Batman news and other odds-and-ends as I find them interesting.

So that's the idea. Along the right hand column you can see a proposed list of skills which I will get to. If anyone has ideas I have not included or suggestions or can offer help of any sort, I'd love to hear from you. You can email me or leave a comment.

I hope that you will enjoy reading this blog as I enjoy making it.


Batman: Black and White

I read about a fan-film called Batman: Black and White today on a really great Batman blog, BAT-BLOG. Then I took the time to watch it.

This is a good fan-film, especially for how long it is. These things aren't usually over an hour long and that's impressive. It takes itself pretty seriously but doesn't come off as ridiculous for doing so - it's pretty easy to look stupid for treating your project too serious in any fan-film, let alone one based on a comic book. Shooting in black and white was an inspired choice since it probably hid much of the unavoidable visual problems that go along with having no budget.

The only problem I had with the film was the extremely weak characters. Every single time, each and every character took the easy solution to his conflict. No strong characters. And by the way, I don't mean the acting. For a fan-film, the acting was bang-up fantastic.

Batman was passive (even worse in Bruce form), Catwoman a victim, Tim was straightup helpless. Let's just talk about Batman. I recently read Batman Unauthorized and in the essay by Lou Anders there is what could be called a check list for properly representing Batman:
  1. Batman's force of will must be staggering. "The Batman of the comics, as he is portrayed today, is a "normal" human being who can enter a room full of super-powered beings and command their attention and send a chill down every spine there -- despite having no powers of his own -- by his mere presence and force of personality."
  2. Batman always has something to prove.
  3. Batman's refusal to kill is paramount.
  4. Batman's secret identity is not his core persona.
Batman: Black and White misses all of these.
  1. Nobody in the film feels Batman's presence. Not the criminal's who run from him, not Robin, not the Tallyman, not even Selina (and if that's not what's attractive about Batman for Catwoman, you've missed something).
  2. Batman is portrayed as confident. He walks like Tim Burton's Batman which isn't so much of a problem for me. But it's the wrong kind of confidence. It's an old man's confidence. It says, "I've been doing this forever and I'll beat you" rather than "I'm the goddamn Batman and I WILL beat you." It felt like Batman was just going through the motions.
  3. Batman always walks the line when it comes to killing. It's the one thing that separates him from those he hunts, therefore it works well as his great temptation. However, other characters were dealing with this, not Batman (which is fine) but if you're not going to have Batman tempted by it he must be thoroughly against it. In this fan film he's pretty apathetic to the deaths happening three feat away.
  4. This one implies he has a personality. Superman doesn't have to have a personality! Batman does. (That was a joke - I love Superman. I just mean he's more of a Christ-figure, a morally untouchable god)
I probably felt this all the more because I was reading Batman: Ego and Catwoman: Selina's Big Score both by Darwyn Cooke who's characters are all so strong. He captures the staggering heroic proportions of their mettle and then contrasts that so well by refusing to give herculean form to the art of his heroes. Great stuff but I might have just digressed.

While re-reading this post for errors I realized it may seem like I really rag on this film. But that's misleading. I really liked it. If it had been bad, I wouldn't have mentioned it at all. The fact that I took the time to think about it and critique it means it had an effect on me. Well done 27th Letter Productions.