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The Great Bats

Occasional contributor Daniel DeFabio offers up yet another strange "Elseworlds" that should make Dan DiDio stand up and take notice. This ought to put some hair into the exclusives wars.

This month: F. Scott Fitzgerald re-imagines a bored playboy in grey tights. Actually, you've got to figure that given a slightly longer lifespan, Fitzgerald might really have gotten around to this.

Yes, we know that we're marking Daniel and ourselves to be intellectuals and first up against the wall when the revolution comes, but hey...that's the risk we'll take to be viewed as "smart comedy."

Though we agree that perhaps, just perhaps, Daniel has entirely too much time on his hands.

We're grateful. Otherwise, it's just dumb slapstick for us.

Just wait until you see wjhat we put Mish'al through this summer at San Diego...

And now, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Bats...

Wayne told me that in his younger and more vulnerable days, before the murder of his parents tempered him, his father gave him some advice. “Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” Because of this Wayne takes studious efforts to delay judgments. The abnormal mind is quick to detect and attach and attach itself to this quality. The result being Wayne, and later I too, was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men.

Like Wayne I lost my family while still young. The Graysons were something of a prominent clan in the circus trade. They kept alive a tradition of aerialist learned from their Eastern European grandfathers. I never saw my great uncle but I am supposed to look like him – with special reference to the rather hard-boiled show card paintings that announced our act.

After my parents' death I was alone in Gotham. The show had to move on and I felt I could not continue with them. I met Barbara Gordon at a shelter. Perhaps as the police commissioner’s daughter she felt a soft spot for orphans and strays. She invited me out to East Egghead Village to the home of her girlhood friend Selina Kyle.


By the time of our next meeting I had rented a small house, an overlooked eye-sore, in the less fashionable West Egghead Village. And so I was able, upon keeping my date with Barbara, to answer my hostess’ query “Where do you live, Dick?”

“Across the water. West Egghead Village. Near the tip.”

Selina laughed. Perhaps “near the tip” made my residence sound more ridiculous. She had an absurd charming little laugh and she purred over slow syllables. Her voice was full of money.

“How p-perfect. You must know Wayne.”

I confessed I knew only the name but that Wayne Manor was my immediate neighbor.

“He throws quite the party. You’ll have to go Dick.” Added Barbara.

“Gordon here is quite the party girl. Out all night most nights.”

Selina smirked at her friend as if she knew more than she would tell about her night times.

This began my curiosity with the man, Bruce Wayne, so much of Gotham buzzed about. That night back at my meager house I looked out across the water toward Selina’s dock. The silhouette of a moving cat wavered across the moonlight and turning my head to watch it I found another figure doing the same. He was darkly shadowed but his posture suggested this was Wayne himself come out to determine what share of our local heavens was his. Then I saw he gazed at a light glowing in the night above the dock. The pale yellow spotlight had caught a bat in its ray and the shadow cut the center of the circle neatly. When I looked down the silhouette of my neighbor was gone and I heard the roar of a powerful car from the drive next door. I was alone again in the unquiet darkness.


The next morning a butler from Wayne Manor, named Alfred, rang at my door. Mr. Wayne would like me to attend his party that evening.

The world and its mistress were at the party. I knew no one and no one seemed to know where our host could be found. I settled into the library, as it was one of the cooler, quieter rooms. An owl-faced man was sitting somewhat drunk at a table pouring over some of Wayne’s books. He looked up through his eyebrows as I entered.

“They’re all real.” He said and threw a volume at me to prove its existence. “Even cut the pages on most of them. Every subject you can imagine. Lots of science, police forensics and law books.”

With that the owl stood and tottered to the door as if he’d prefer to use his wings but had forgotten where he put them. “I’ll need another drink. I’ve been drunk for days.”

Alone in the library I inspected its collection. I soon discovered my inebriated guide had misascertained the authenticity of the gathered tomes. I pulled at a volume on vigilante justice and found, while it had the appearance of a book, it had the function of a doorknob. An entire section of shelving gave way on a hinge and revealed a fireman’s pole descending through a hole in the floor.

I slid down the length of it and arrived in a damp grey cave lit by the diodes of dozens of computers. A ten-foot high penny echoed the light with a dull copper glow. Near the closest computer I found a schedule:

6.00 AM - Rise from bed
6.15 - 8.15 – Dumbbell exercise and wall scaling
8.30 – 4.30 – Detective work
5.00 – 6.00 – Study needed inventions

My reading was interrupted by a voice behind me.

“I see you’ve discovered the secret laboratory, old chum. Unusual isn’t it?”

I’m sure I jumped and intermittent beads of sweat raced cool down my back. I was looking at an elegant young rough-neck.

“This is an unusual party for me. I live next door and this man Wayne sent his butler to invite me, but I haven’t yet met the host.”

“I’m Wayne. I thought you knew old sport. I’m afraid I’m not a very good host. You’re Grayson. Weren't you with the Flying Graysons?”

I admitted I was.

“I do a bit of work on the rings and trapeze myself. There’s a decent gym in the manor. You’ll have to come and give it a proper work out. Any time suits you.”

The butler Alfred appeared and seemed slightly surprised to find Wayne not alone. He informed Wayne that Coast City was calling him on the wire. Wayne excused himself, adding, “You won’t mention this place to anyone will you old chum?” And his smile confirmed my unspoken answer. It was one of those rare smiles that concentrated an irresistible prejudice on you.


A few days later Wayne appeared at my drive in his rumbling powerful car.

“It’s pretty isn’t it? Let’s go for a drive old chum”

It was more than pretty. Its monstrous length was swollen here and there with triumphant tool-boxes, and terraced with a labyrinth of windshields.

As we sped through the streets of Gotham he confided that his parents were murdered by a street thug. “I came into a good deal of money.” His voice was solemn as if the memory of that sudden extinction of a clan still haunted him. He asked about a rumor that my own parents were killed. I confirmed it was so. Something in his manner shifted. It seemed to convey that a similar confluence of cowardice and greed had orphaned each of us.

I heard the familiar “jug-jug-spat!” of a motor cycle. A stunning purple bike shot past us and the lady pilot waved hello.

“There’s your friend Barbara Gordon.” said Wayne and his automobile roared to life as he pursued her.

“She drives recklessly.” I ventured.

“She’s safe enough old sport. Unless she chances on another driver as dangerous as herself.”

A police sedan was gaining on us. Its lights and sirens imploring us to the curb. Bruce pulled the monstrous car to the side of the road. Before the officer could begin to question us Wayne handed him a small white card.

“Right you are. Know you next time Mr. Wayne. Excuse me.”

Wayne explained, “I was able to do Commissioner Gordon a few favors.”

After his car reclaimed its top speed he added, “Speaking of the Gordons and favors, I understand Barbara is friends with Selina Kyle. I’d like you to arrange a lunch for the four of us. There are things between Selina and me that no one can ever know, things that neither of us can ever forget.”

I was now his confidant. I had discovered he led some sort of life apart from Wayne in another world. It was my induction into a golden age. An age of thrilling nightlife and crime fighting. We discovered Selina was incurably dishonest. Barbara was as athletic, heroic and clandestine as Bruce. They were careless people, Bruce and Barbara and Selina – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back to their caves or mansions hiding from the world. A world Bruce saw as dark, dangerous and full of death. But Bruce was at the wheel, so we drove on towards death through the twilight.

Cover painting by Ian Whetstone. Thanks, Daniel.

You can see more of Daniel's stuff at The Sodajerks.

Daniel DeFabio


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