With yet another big budget reimagining of The Batman hitting theaters soon, it got me to thinkin’ about my history with the character. The file cabinet that is my mind popped out an idea I had at least 17 years ago. Reimagining characters is a favorite pastime of mine, and I recall furiously drawing a version of Batman in my downtime back in high school.
The idea being a Batman with no money. Hence my title Batman: Zero. If you take away the riches, does Bruce Wayne still become Batman? And how?
Here’s what all the text says in the pic:
The Waynes were mere paupers, like many of Gotham’s citizens, when they were murdered behind the Monarch theater. Their son, Bruce, was spared from the attack. In the time it took for the police to arrive, Bruce was left alone at the scene. The faint sounds of the “Dracula” film echoing through the theater’s brick walls. The guilt washing over the boy. His persistence of seeing “Dracula” on the big screen despite his father’s warnings. The realization that his father was right as fear began to overtake young Bruce when seeing Dracula transform into a vampire bat. Which led to Bruce begging to leave. Taking the back exit. And now being here. Alone.
The silent vow Bruce made in that alleyway as the police tried to comfort him. That this will not happen to anyone else. That the fear and helplessness he feels will no longer be for the innocent. That the guilty shall feel it too. And he shall inflict it.
Being raised by his Uncle Al in his auto garage, Bruce learns through strict discipline and determination that his war on Gotham’s crime will never end. And, now as a young man, he claims the night as the very symbol of fear that changed his life all those years ago. His intention being that cowardly criminals, like the one that stole his parents, will now share his fear as well.
The core of the character is the same but the path is sorta flip flopped upside down. What I love about Batman is he’s, essentially, crazy. This young adult was violently orphaned and traumatized in his youth. Stuck in this hopeless crime ridden city. Being raised by his “Uncle” Al in his auto garage. Learning the tools of the trade. And wandering through life aimless. Using Gotham to learn what he can. But not knowing what he’s building to. Crudely cobbling together a suit inspired by the “Dracula” film that haunts him. Popping in vampire fangs to make criminals believe he’s something “more”. Constructing a “Batmobile” out of spare parts. And turning out to be a dark symbol of hope.
Maybe this is why I didn’t get dates back then.
The irony of all this is, back then, it was a pipe dream I’d simply do for fun. These “reimagining”. And it’s been sooo long since I’ve revisited this idea, after doing some research, I found out that many Batman stories similar to his have been written in those 17 years. One even called Batman: Year Zero. So I mainly did this for posterity. To cement this idea I daydreamed about when I was a kid in study hall. But it’s nice to know that, even at that age, my mind was on the right track.
Welcome, my precious ghoulings, to a spooky edition of Ad Nauseam! As the Halloween season approaches, I ventured out from the usual comic confines and found frightening familiarity in Fangoria Horror Magazine! And thanks to my compulsive buying habits and decrepit interests, I couldn’t just keep to one issue either! Lucky you!
First, some quick history: Fangoria started off in 1979 as Fantastica, a spinoff of Starlog magazine, with a focus on fantasy films. Hemorrhaging money after just seven issues, the editing staff quickly reimagined the magazine to be dedicated to the modern horror genre. This led to the newly titled Fangoria to turn a profit and the rest was horror history.
After 36 years of publication Fangoria got the axe in October 2015 at issue 334. But like most horror icons, it was resurrected…as a quarterly publication in October of 2018. Due to a 2007 warehouse fire the only remaining back issues of Fangoria are housed in private collections or available on the secondary market. So understand this installment of Ad Nauseam is a rare, educational, and insightful look into horror culture.
I’m proud to say I am a Fangoria subscriber. And I had to be an adult to fulfill that due to their unbiasedly gruesome magazine covers that would not only make any parent deny you ownership…but question if they are indeed raising a spawn of Satan himself.
So pour a glass of apple cider, stroke your black cat gingerly, and light up a pumpkin cake candle. It’s time to dig up the grave of consumerism and raid it’s rotting corpse for nostalgia…
Horror Tees, Tanks, and Sweats! (#88, 1989)
With the gory glory of the internet, we’re able to proudly wear pretty much any niche we adore. I could purchase an ALF shirt in 2020 faster than I’d care to admit. But, 30 years ago, styles were limited…and much harder to find. If you wanted to let the world know you bled horror, you searched in horror magazines to do that. And here’s a great example!
Return of the Living Dead Part IIwas just a year old at this point, so it’s “fresh hotness” drives this ad into the grave. Texas Chainsaw Massacre IIand Evil Dead IIare also present to get printed really solidifying the tongue-in-cheek horror sequel theme the ad seems to have going. T he offbeat retro crowd also has Reefer Madness, The Devil Bat, and a (miscolored) Dracula poster as options as well. These all would look better printed on black clothing yet white seems to be the only choice given. I’m always weary of white colored clothing (sweatshirts especially) not just because of the fact that I dressed like a lowkey goth growing up…but also because I had a bad experience with a white sweatshirt of mine and a bowl of spaghetti when I was a kid. That sauce just does not come out and I’m not sure if I ever want to be in that situation again.
Freddy Forever! (#109, 1992)
By 1992 Freddy-mania was on it’s way out. A year prior to this issue Freddy’s Dead was released to bury the Springwood Slasher once and for all. Yet his “rest” only lasted three years since Freddy Krueger was a pop culture icon that seemingly eclipsed the horror genre. Despite being a disfigured child murderer with a sexual edge, Freddy moved merch as fast as Batman or The Ninja Turtles. Which is apparent with this dreamy ad of “final” official Freddy merch to honor his Nightmare legacy!
Horribly authentic! Collector’s item! Perfect for any Fango fan! As someone who was a slave to the cult of Krueger, I had to include this ad. Latex mask and deluxe hat? Awesome! Authentic adjustable razor glove? Oh baby. Freddy Wall Mount? Sure…that’s something I guess. But what turns my dreams of collecting all things Freddy into a possible nightmare is the fact that none of the mentioned “collectibles” are pictured. Instead an actual picture of Robert Englund as Freddy is labeled. I know I’m not going to look that authentic, bro. You don’t need to tease me like this.
I see the wall mount. I see how Freddy looks like some chewed up grape and strawberry Laffy Taffy. I’m not sure if I trust you in making me look like the toasty child killer of my dreams this Halloween. Yet despite all that, I love the gamble this ad suggests I take. Is the mask and glove not pictured because it looks so bad? Or does it not need to be pictured because it looks so good? I suppose you just have to drop the $60 and wait 6 weeks to find out. And I believe that’s the genius of this ad. If I saw the mask I might just write it off as a dud…but I don’t see it…so maybe it’s the best mask ever made! How can I pass this up? Now who do I make the check out to?
Batman Returns Costumes! (#114, 1992)
If you were a boy growing up in the 1990s and not Batman for Halloween…you at least thought about being Batman, right? I mean, I think about being Batman in general. Just as a life choice.
Here we have my favorite ad out of the lot, Batman Returns costumes hot off the press circa 1992! Batman Returns is, in my opinion, the most underrated Batman film with the most underrated villain performances ever. I, like most, was in the trance of Batmania as it began its second (and, honestly, most aggressive) wave. From Happy Meals to action figures and ill fitting t-shirts, like a drunk baby boomer in a soiled Tommy Bahama shirt sitting at a Vegas roulette table…I was all in, baby.
The Penguin is probably represented as the most solid costume choice. And, due to my small stature, I’d definitely be slappin’ my money down for one of those. $160 with inflation comes out to a little under $300…so, in all honesty, I’d probably have to kidnap all of Gotham’s first born children in order to come up with that scratch at the time. The Deluxe Batman costume looks too good to be true. And retailing for $310 ($672 with inflation) I’d bet that only Bruce Wayne himself ordered these as backup costumes for those harsh summer nights. I’d probably have to settle for the DC Comics Batman costume…which, judging by the model in the ad, makes Adam West look like Frank Miller’s Batman. Not sure if I’d be keen stopping any crime in that…maybe just help some elderly people cross the street.
I remember my first outting as Batman the following Halloween. My grandma picked up a Batman “costume” from the 1989 film on clearance at a local pop up Halloween store. It came with a thin plastic “utility belt”, disfigured and wrinkled “cowl and cape”, thin flappy foam “boot covers and gauntlets”, and literally a sticker of the emblem. I wore my black sweats underneath it. Belt sagged because it was too big. Couldn’t see out of the mask. Emblem fell off within 15 minutes.
Yet the polls show I was still a better Batman than George Clooney. What a dated dig.
Screamin’ Monster Model Kits! (#154, 1996)
When I think of model kits I immediately think of horror. Yes, I understand that’s the “wrong” theme that comes to mind considering most..but I can’t help it. Most of the old Aurora horror kits from the 1960’s and 1970’s have become an overpriced rarity. And as alluring as it would be spending my afternoon painting Wolfman’s crotch with the right amount of detail, Screamin’ breathed new life in the horror model kit realm. Vinyl models of Freddy, Cenobytes, Leatherface, and the Crypt Keeper send happy chills throughout my arthritic spine.
Of course, 1996 was 24 years ago (oof!) so these kits currently fetch a high price for simply partaking in painting your very own Butterball. Yet what I appreciate about model kits such as these is the fact that you get out what you put in. I’ve seen that same Freddy Krueger model look like a museum piece…yet I’ve also seen the exact same model look like a Dollar Tree reject. Sometimes “rushed” or dare I say “unskilled” model kits may be something more to admire than the ones pictured in this very ad. But, either way, I love the idea of “building” your own horror icon and calling it “quits” when you personally see fit.
If you can have one of these right now which one would it be? That Crypt Keeper is calling my name.
Power DeRangers Tee (#147, 1995)
It’s Murderin’ Time! How bizarre is this? 1995 was the height of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers popularity. And where there’s popularity there’s parody, right? Here we have the Mighty Murderin’ Power Derangers t-shirt! Each Power Ranger reppin’ a classic slasher as they decapitate Barney the Dinosaur…for some reason? I mean, the Ninja Turtles would make sense since the Rangers pretty much took their spot. But what do I know?
This ad has such a DIY quality to it that I completely fell in love with it. From the designs crudely drawn with markers to the hand written instructions and sales. It shows that if you have an idea and a little bit of know-how, you can probably make some money through Fangoria. Media Goofs Inc operates out of Flourtown, PA. And like most of these hole-in-the-wall companies featured in old magazines…there’s no trace of them on the internet.
The other shirt designs they offer to the right are hastily drawn “serial killer” inspired designs. No grace or subtly is expected from Media Goofs Inc I suppose. The drawings look more like middle school doodles rather than final design work but, again, I expect nothing less from Media Goofs Inc. It all has an alternative Beavis-and-Butthead vibe, which is to be expected from 1995. I’m not sure if I’d ever wear anything like this at any point in my life…but, then again, I’d be wearing similar South Park shirts a couple years later. And none of those featured Trini the Yellow Ranger wielding a chainsaw. So never say never I suppose.
Bonus: In this very same issue I found an ad for Spooky World“America’s Horror Theme Park” that really peaked my interest. A Tom Savini Haunted House? A Horror Museum? Tiny “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” Tim to perform? I’ll board a plane tomorrow! Unfortunately I couldn’t find much information on the Minneapolis location other than this 16 year old Halloween forum post:
These were three of the most enticing mask ads I found combing through the various issues of Fangoria I presented today. The idea that it didn’t have to be the Halloween season to peruse monster masks made me believe I found “my people”. These ads have a great balance of “gore” and “creatures” from companies I’ve never outright heard of such as Nightmares, Creature, and Artifakes. I always leaned towards the “creature” masks when browsing possible costume ideas…and the ones featured in magazines like Fangoria were meant to be the main event of your costume or collection.
Looking at masks such as these in your local pop-up Halloween store or (if you were lucky enough) a year round costume shop was always a highlight of the Halloween season for me. Strolling into the section to be hit with that strong smell of latex…gazing into the eyes of these abominable creatures presented lifelessly on old styrofoam heads…the faint sound of a royalty free Halloween soundtrack echoing in the background. Dang, I got vampire bats in my stomach just thinking about it!
The idea of actually getting one of these masks was unheard of at my age. There was no way my mom was going to shell out $30-50 for just a mask when a quarter of that price could get me a Superman garbage bag to wear for the next 3 Halloweens. Yet the best thing was always coming across ads like this and wondering just who would get them. I’d always imagine perhaps the local haunted house crew “stocking up” on new monsters to scare this year…or maybe fellow amateur mask maskers and horror fiends adding another creature to their collection? Many of us had to settle for a plastic “hockey slasher” mask from the local drugstore (which, I’ll admit, have a charm of their own) but a part of me still daydreams about getting one of these back in the day and wandering the neighborhood for reactions and scares.
Which one would you get? I’m between “Grim” on Creatures or “Amphibious” on the Artifakes ad.
For some of us, the sanctity of Halloween expands beyond a simple holiday. It means more than just carving pumpkins while jamming to Monster Mash. It’s an idea and feeling that gives you a sense of belonging. It’s familiarity and warmth that fills your guts with a certain indescribable zest. Flipping through magazines like Fangoria brings me back to a time and place…even if I’ve never been. It inches me closer to untangling the fibers of my personal wiring. Why black and white monster movies, the sound of pouring candy corn , and the smell of latex masks is as comforting as grandma’s home cookin‘.
Thumbing through these damp newsprint pages littered with images of grotesque gore and monster merch may be just that to many. But to us, I think it means a little more…wouldn’t you agree? I mean…that’s why you read all this. Because you can feel it too.And that’sHalloween, baby.
I hope my waxing nostalgic about 30 year old ads in defunct horror magazines made your Halloween season a little bit more special. Because it certainly made mine. Have a safe and spooky season. And don’t forget to sacrifice a fun size candy bar of your choice to the spirit of the Great Pumpkin!