We celebrate Batman Day every September, and although the Caped Crusader is a most worthy subject for this post, I am going to think outside the belfry before the summer comes to a close and talk about some other fictional bats.
Bats are one of the classic go-tos for Halloween decorating, but they aren’t really fall critters. Many hibernate or migrate, and they love warmer weather. However, thanks to the lore of the 1800s, particularly Bram Stoker’s 1897 classic Dracula, vampires can turn into these nocturnal creatures and hence… Halloween fun!
Before October and the spooky season approaches, here are 10 random and geeky facts about fictional bats… who aren’t Batman.
1. In the animated series The Tick, inspired by the comic of the same name, many of the heroes and villains are spoofs of more famous characters, including Wonder Woman (American Maid) and Punisher (Big Shot). The most obvious is Die Fledermaus, who spends much of his time lurking on rooftops while avoiding fighting crime. His equipment includes the Mausmobile and handy items like Die Fleder-Two-in-One-Bug-Repellent-and-Sunblock-32. For those who speak German or love opera, you’ll know Die Fledermaus is German for “The Bat.”
2. Speaking of opera, according to the site Opera Inside, Johann Strauss’s 1874 revenge-themed operetta Die Fledermaus was composed in just two months’ time and is loosely based on an 1872 French vaudeville play Le Reveillon. The play itself was based on an 1851 German farce, De Gefangnis (The Prison). Yes, reboots were a thing even then.
3. One book that made many young readers learn to appreciate bats is Janell Cannon’s award-winning Stellaluna. The book turns 30 this year and is a sort of “ugly duckling” story where a young bat is temporarily separated from her mother and takes on more bird-like behavior. Cannon wanted to write a story about bats in a positive light and did the realistic illustrations before the story, inspired by Gambian epauletted fruit bats. A 2002 animated film was made based on the book, but you can’t beat the original illustrations:
4. Animated bats were comic relief—and popular characters—in animated films in the 1990s, like Bartok, the albino bat henchman of Rasputin in 1997’s Anastasia (voiced by Hank Azaria), and the fruit bat Batty Koda (voiced by Robin Williams) in 1992’s Ferngully: The Last Rainforest. Bartok was so well-loved that he got his own direct-to-video sequel Bartok the Magnificent.
5. Yes, there is a bat-inspired Pokémon: Zubat! Zubat has been around since the original Pokémon Red and Blue games. Zubat’s final evolution, Crobat, was more popular when it was introduced in the second generation of games. The cool purple Pokémon is known for its speed and agility.
6. Before The Tick spoofed Batman, the late 1980s saw a revival of Mighty Mouse in Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures, created by Ralph Bakshi. The series included several parodies including Bat-Bat, a take on the 1960s version of the Batman series. Bat-Bat’s sidekick was Tick the Bug Wonder (no relation to The Tick, of course), and he was also a member of the League of Super-Rodents.
7. From 1997 to 2007, author Kenneth Oppal created the young readers’ novel series Silverwing, following the adventures of bats who remained neutral during the Great War between beasts and birds (bats considered themselves sort of both worlds). The series made bats the protagonists like Wings of Fire did for dragons and the Warriors series did for cats. It was made into an animated series in Canada in 2003 but lasted just 13 episodes.
8. Pokémon may have Zubat, but Yokai-Watch has the Hidabat (or Hikikomori in Japanese). This little yokai will cause those it “inspirits” to seek out dark, gloomy, and secluded spaces. They can also evolve into Adobobats and trap others in their own homes.
9. It would be hard to mention video game bats and not mention Rouge, the jewel-stealing bat who debuted in Sonic the Hedgehog’s Sonic Adventures 2. She’s skilled in combat, flying, and swimming, but has been kind of elusive since 2006. Guess she’s in hibernation.
10. More “grown up” movies feature fearsome bats as a figment of a drug- or alcohol-induced imagination. In the 1944 film The Lost Weekend, Ray Milland’s drunken character hallucinates a massive bat hovering to kill a mouse coming from his wall after a multi-day bender. Then, of course, there’s Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) entering “bat country” in a drug-fueled adventure in the Nevada desert in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: “There was a terrible roar all around us, and the sky was full with what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car.”
Just say no, sir.
Soon the vampire bats will be swooping, along with the other Halloween creatures of the night. Until then, we should appreciate that they’re already here helping us with everything from pest control to plant pollination.
They’ll be back next summer as well because, as Batman knows, “they’re great survivors.”