01 January 2009

Day Knight/Dark Knight

This is for my Time out of Place story.

One of the prime and most pertinent questions ever asked in the cinema versions of Batman was done by the Nicholson/Joker in the Keaton movie.  That Joker, for all of being over-the-top flamboyant, actually came up with the question that allows you to understand who Batman is beyond the avenging Dark Knight of the Frank Miller graphic novel incarnation now done with the Bale version in the new films.  It is a question only a deranged psychopath, not a deep nihilist, could ask:

"Where does he get those toys?"

The playing up of Bruce Wayne as a critical part of Batman, indeed the driving part of Batman, started in the comics when Batman suffered a broken back and Azrael was tapped to take over the costume for a time.  Beyond the pluses/minuses of that part of the storyline, there is the part that my lady said was the most compelling piece of the Batman Mythos, the underlying part that must support all versions of Batman.  The name she used brought back memories and so, using that as a basis and understanding, and enjoying the modern incarnation with Christian Bale who does touch upon this, I turn my attention to the man who is the Dark Knight, the man who is Batman.


Citizen Wayne

From the 1930's to 1970's it was realistic to have a Batman character backed by a wealthy, playboy industrialist who was a mechanical genius in his own right and developed much of his own equipment.  By the 1980's with conglomerate corporations failing because they could not, by and large, keep a diverse set of outlooks going, companies started to let their sub-units go in many directions so each could perform well.  The corporation as holding structure has its merits, but it lacks centralized focus and the ability to deeply cross-innovate.  If Bruce Wayne had the technical, innovative genius along with determination to learn the skills necessary to become Batman, he would recognize that the multi-faceted corporation was what he needed to back his night-time endeavors to save Gotham City from a long, dark night.  It could not be with the modern version of the conglomerate, however, and he needed something wholly different.  His own technical genius would pale in comparison to the gathered and directed genius of talented people in a corporation given their leeway to work on innovative projects that spanned many realms, so it is at that point that I diverge from the older and more modern views of Bruce Wayne and put him in the mold of Citizen Wayne: the man who would mold his industrial might to a common vision and goal.

From that Wayne Corporation is not a conglomerate and yet has many parts of the successful conglomerate structure.  Within their areas of expertise each sub-unit is given the head to innovate and yet do so in a way that supports their own endeavors and those of the entire corporate structure.  I do make mention in my rendition of there being a known and observed dichotomy in the parts of Wayne Corporation, and it is one between technical innovation and 'bread and butter' income.  Each part of the structure finds the best way to balance between the two so that Wayne Materials Marketing has the moniker within the corporation of 'We Make Money', mostly through the use of fabrics in high profile settings and made into innovative clothes for high-end fashion groups, Hollywood producers, stage theatricals and just plain rich folks wanting a 'different look'.  It then takes those to its actual 'industrial' component for limited runs and the successful stuff going to a more consumer oriented group, and anything gaining huge and wide appeal then licensed off completely, with Q&A oversight the only major part of what Wayne Corporation requires of its licensees... that and the per unit fee, of course.

Another part is the new Wayne Aerospace that realizes, at start, it does not have the industrial capacity nor design capacity of a Honeywell, Rolls Royce, or Boeing.  Yet it does have design capability and excellence backed by the more old-line industrial parts of Wayne Industries, and it learns the 'bread and butter' portion its work via one of its first jobs for making custom, high stress components for existing jet engines.  From there it does work with the specialty metals and materials group, and begins its prototype projects of the Long Sword and Journeyman.  Each of these was meant as an 'X' prototype for the USAF, and the Long Sword continues in the tradition of the X-15 (yes some people will have been picked up from other companies, including the old Wayne Avionics group) but for a higher occupancy longer duration flight that is sub-orbital.  When President Reagan announces that he wants to see a space plane, Wayne Aerospace is stepping up with a major prototype in the Journeyman: a true air to vacuum orbital vehicle.  The expertise learned in the construction of these craft puts Wayne Aerospace in a position to compete on a limited basis for the smaller parts end of the industry for things like thrusters and satellite booster engines, and for the specialty, high stress sub-components that seek to lower cost, increase reliability and be far lower maintenance than standard parts.  Here the throughput is low enough that licensing out isn't an issue, and the capacity of other parts of Wayne Corporation stand in to help out.

A third part is one of the oldest in Wayne Corporation and dates back to the original suite of companies Thomas Wayne brought together as his pre-war investments turn out good on many fronts:  Wayne Medical.  Wayne Medical group is one of the most recognized and key areas of Wayne Corporation as it has the goal of providing high class, low maintenance medical equipment at a low cost, but with high mark-up at the low end.  Yes you can buy cheaper, but if you need goods that are easy to clean, maintain and are highly durable, the cost of Wayne Medical equipment is lower than cheaper goods.  At the low end machining excellence is kept in-house and, as it is a thorough end-to-end quality production system, it is *not* farmed out to anyone.  From that the group can then keep with the vision of Thomas Wayne and supply basic, durable, easy to maintain equipment to doctors in third world countries.  The developed world medical establishment does recognize this and supports that dedication on a per-individual basis, often going up to hospital and doctor based organizations.  Purchasing higher initial cost but lower total cost equipment also allows for basic equipment to be spread further across the community of all doctors via low-cost sales to those poor countries or via donations to individuals who learn in the US and go back home to practice medicine.

Bruce Wayne was no fool, growing up in the '60s and '70s, and saw the handwriting on the wall for old style industrial organizations.  What he saw as the unexploited area was the high quality, speciality machining and innovation areas that worked towards common purpose of maintaining the research and development necessary to create such wonderful things and yet still provide 'bread and butter' capability that puts Wayne Corporation into a distinctive niche.  In practice this becomes the follow-on exploitation research based on fundamental research done by others, but then applied in new and innovative ways by people given their head to try out new things and fail.  And, by damn, they don't like failure and so the corporate mentality, across the board, becomes one of success.  Success based on a willingness to work on strange and different projects that reach across the old corporate structure and forms a new and integrated structure while still allowing the 'bread and butter' of market segments to be addressed.  Wayne Corporation *creates* new markets, *creates* new segments and *competes* wherever its strengths can coalesce and give all too fat and happy incumbent industrial groups a run for their money.  As my Bruce Wayne acknowledges, this is done via prototyping - if they see it they want it, if they drive/wear/use it they will buy it.


CEO Wayne

Bruce Wayne, then, cannot 'do it all' but becomes the man who can use the tools of industry, literally running industrial, manufacturing and marketing organizations, to his ends.  I give some hints on how equipment can go from prototype to industrial work to defense work and then disappear into the arsenal of Batman.  As an employer, however, he takes up a heavy day burden and his employees know it.  He is putting down his mark and staying in Gotham and, by damn, he will fight the encroaching night, the corruption and evil by being a damned good employer who rewards success and failure so that everyone in the corporation can achieve more.  Upper management finds their pay not as good as what they could find elsewhere, but they are presented with something very compelling:  a good and interesting job that is appreciated deeply by many.  Lucius Fox was attracted to Wayne Enterprises for a job and now finds his hard work pays off in Wayne Corporation as the man who is entrusted with the most precious of secrets and given great power to do his job well.

Very few will know that secret and Lucius finds not only the trust but the actual, real job compelling.  Without a doubt he could make far more money elsewhere, in a GM or Boeing or any large manufacturing establishment.  But those would *just* be jobs, this is a job *worth doing*.  A job *worth having*.  Once Bruce Wayne started gaining control of the sub-parts of Wayne Enterprises and started getting rid of corruption from top to bottom, the new company started to emerge.  He carefully bought up the power from other stock holders who were no longer going to get the graft they sought, and with his Estate shares along with those of Alfred, the company would over-turn its upper management completely.  Men like Lucius Fox were there to help as they wanted a good job, not money.

Bruce Wayne is more than happy to let those seeking fortune go elsewhere.  Those who see it as *just* a job will not be missed.  Those that are *greedy* are not concentrating on their job.  Those that are actually good and talented will soon find that they will get more pay... but less interesting work, less challenging work and less satisfying work.  Those latter that return to Wayne Corporation do so knowing that the job is worth less pay to have as something that utilizes their skills and talents and gains appreciation up and down the line.  To Bruce Wayne these are the like-minded souls, the ones who see the doing and appreciation as important as the pay... or even worth more than the pay. Not that he doesn't pay well for the Gotham City area, mind you, just that is not going to get you fabulously wealthy unless you really invest time and effort into it... like Bruce Wayne does.

What he does is to not isolate himself from the workforce, as a whole.  Some of this is what we would call 'Management by just walking around': he makes sure that he uses the same facilities as everyone else.  He has been to the Executive Restaurant, a necessary perk, but is more often seen in the cafeteria for lunch, just waking up when he decides he just wants a quick meal not made by his chef.  By sitting down and talking and listening to what is going on, dropping in on project meetings and staff meetings, Bruce Wayne has two purposes: to be seen and to learn.  Lucius Fox is, in my conception, the Chief Operations Officer (no matter what his title or actual position) knowing much of the daily operations of Wayne Corp., while Bruce is the CEO who corrals all the low level stuff into directions to head to.  That said, as a tinkerer and just plain interested in how other people are putting things together, he enjoys seeing people who are professionals and talented working together to create new things and work through them.  And he gives suggestions, not directions, but ideas that he gets as he attends meetings, watches presentations, and just plain sits down to talk and listen.  As I have him point out: he works here TOO.

He also appreciates that the job title and income he gets has its own set of necessary job functions.  So he does go to galas, hobnob with the rich and famous, jet all over the place, and generally be seen as part of a social set that gains him the term 'playboy'.  If he didn't do that, he would not be doing *his* job as the head of Wayne Corporation as that is *expected* by those who work there.  That may not be his personal preference, and we get the idea that when he is off stage he is damned well *off stage*.  Worse if he didn't do that, the people under him would not feel they were doing their jobs successfully.  Rant and rage about privilege as you will, but a man who *works* at the top of such an establishment is *expected* to do these things if the *company* is running well - that means doing your job well. 

Unlike modern corporations with 'golden parachutes' and, apparently, golden jump aircraft, golden runway and golden hangar, outside of the ostentatious parts of conspicuous consumption, there is the general feeling that Bruce Wayne is, somehow, plowing his money right back into the company.  Often through buying into and then buying out, smaller, but talented firms... which he does.  A few bright folks do the basic math, see that the company owns all the baubles Mr. Wayne uses and then starts to figure out just where his pay is going.  Not only has he moved from largest stock holder and able to get a voting majority via Alfred and a few others, he is now majority owner through intermediaries.  Much of the dividends, and the company is slowly coming to be a leader in that, gets put right back into new acquisitions allowing the company to concentrate on upgrades and internal improvements.  Toss in his salary, perks and other benefits, and one or two people do know that Bruce Wayne isn't rich via bank accounts and socked away cash (though he does have that, too), but via output of a talented workforce that he maintains and expands over time.  Personally he doesn't own much, beyond Wayne Manor (now under renovations), a family summer home, a number of fast cars, and a private plane he stores at Wayne Aerospace.  For that era (and even before it) that was *not* out of the realm of what a top level manager could hold down... a few hold down *more* than that at Wayne Corporation, actually.

That is a deep and honest commitment to Wayne Corporation.  To get the 'toys' Bruce Wayne must have that workforce, have that innovation and have all these people who can do all this interesting work because he can't know it all or do it all.  He can and does customize, and if he wants a bit of custom work done on company jobs, well, that is what its there for, isn't it?  Don't all these special projects, prototypes and so on do *just that* on a daily basis?  Of course the CEO does some of that... he *works there* and is *an employee too*.  What he needs to be Batman is no longer all that expensive, *if* you could get it made.  He no longer needs to do, as his fictional predecessors did in hi-jacking extra goods on projects more or less outright via corporate subterfuge.  Yes he did pay for it, eventually.  Now old prototypes stored in the Vault or elsewhere are 'finished jobs' and 'stored for future reference', and if Mr. Wayne wants to do some hand-customizing for other purposes, well, why not? 

The guy needs his fun, too, no?


Gotham City

This incarnation of Bruce Wayne stands between Keaton and Bale, and tries to pay homage to them both.  We get more of the setting of the Keaton/Burton Gotham (that of Anton Furst) than we do of the modern Bale/Nolan one, although much of the ideas of modern interstates having to be pushed through into Gotham is one that I do take up.  Going back further in the lineage of Gotham City, however, I find myself in strong disagreement with the view that Gotham City is in any other place than close to New York City.  The earliest depictions of rolling hills around Gotham City, the ancient feeling to the landscape, and its haunted environs evoked by Washington Irving in the 19th century (Anglo-Saxon for 'goat town') featured in the Salmagundi works.  Apparently the residents of Gotham (way back in Britain) would act insane in order not to pay their taxes... Gotham City, no matter who founded it, is then a city settled mostly by Dutch and British traders, and would be seen by the Dutch as a nearby port to their other city of New Amsterdam... New York.  From that there is only one place that you can get those rolling hills, feeling of ancient evil and still have that trade route, and that is along the northern coast of Long Island sound.

A simple expedient of turning every, single Gotham City map on its side and turning North into NorthEast then lets you play the game of finding the right set of islands that could be built up by trash and sedimentation from those land-side rivers to be Gotham City.  I place it right on the New York side of the border with Connecticut.  The second notable city attached to Gotham City is Arkham, home of Arkham Asylum.  Here the multiple creators of Batman steal from a second source to cement their placement of Gotham City:  H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos stories.  That placement has wandered from Connecticut to Rhode Island to Massachusetts, and from port to inland town.  Normally I think of it as inland with close access to a port and to another place, not mentioned in the Batman works, which is Kingsport.  Kingsport is the supernatural coastal town where those that dwell in the Deep mate with humans for creating human seeming, but inhuman offspring.  That has got to be up the coast, eastward of Gotham City, and southeast of Arkham. Blüdhaven, in the comics, comes off as an even worse, smaller port town to the west of Gotham City, before getting to New York City.

All of these have the similarity in place familiarity and background: they are a suite of places when considered together.  Also they all silt up very quickly and go from useful port to non-useful hellhole in a few generations if there is not constant dredging to keep shipping channels open.  As maintenance is the first thing to slide in city administrations and they don't have the lovely current of the Hudson to keep things going like New York City does, you get once thriving cities stagnating, become havens for crime and slowly slipping into decrepitude.  Gotham is large enough to have seen a city revival in the 1920's, but by the 1960's that had slipped far into the past, with corruption and crime running rampant as Gotham not only lost its deep water trade, but its industrial base.  The relatively wealthy doctor who invested in those industries found he had some flourishing ones, that had moved out of the area, and a number of others in the area that didn't do so well.  He restructured some, and with his unfortunate slaying the corporate board that followed was more rapacious, but did, actually, turn Wayne Industries into Wayne Enterprises, a conglomerate corporation.  Bruce Wayne's return and turning it into Wayne Corporation also puts him at the forefront of a new revival in this old and ancient setting.


The Dark Knight

That setting plays upon fears with that dread night fog and smell of fetid swampland and just what is it that is roaming in the old subway tunnels beneath Gotham City?  We don't get that feeling, that feeling of horror, from most films, with the Keaton/Burton one coming closest with its ancient cathedral and ancient industrial complexes.  The actual horror of Gotham, though, is the suspicion that just like Arkham and Kingsport, there is living evil beneath the city reaching up to snatch mortal souls... and it lives in the dark and wishes to begin feasting in the daylight, unopposed.  Even the criminals who had a lovely way to transport contraband into Gotham via the old subway tunnels, have scurried out of them with the Ghost Trains of Gotham and the feeling that something, alive, is now lurking in those tunnels.  Ever since the abandonment of the subway in the late 1950's, people have heard Ghost Trains... actually, even before that going back to the first trains coming into Gotham City in the 19th century.

Bruce Wayne utilizes this and has from the very first appearance as a creature of the night taken human form.  A Batman is no Vampire, but a being all its own: separate and distinct, frightening in aspect as it comes from nowhere to cause distress and disappears into the night.  What my version of Batman plays up is the horror aspect, utilizing setting to place himself as one of the dark forces that comes up from below.  It does not shun daylight, but works best in darkness, a harbinger of what could come if you do not repent your wicked and evil ways.  Because those that prey upon others in the night are now finding themselves preyed upon by some greater night creature that lives in the night.  There are Ghost Trains, Phantom Ships and those things that leave tracks and trails upon the shore that are not human in any way.

The Frank Miller incarnation in the graphic novels had some of these overtones, but while they are present, they are not more than accents on the character.  To me, Bruce Wayne understands that to be Batman he must be seen as that Dark Knight that comes out of the heart of darkness of Gotham City to prey upon the predators.  In his own way he brings the message of Justice and that Salvation can be had by repenting of their wicked ways to be preyed upon no longer.  That is not the warm and welcoming Salvation of most religions, but the threat that by continuing to be on the wrong side you will be ingested by it.  Batman must strike a powerful presence to do that, and have an aura of age yet vigorous, new darkness.  He is not paving a way to a city of light, but threatening those that cause local darkness that the brimstone path will be laid right over their dead bodies... killed by that dark path they stay on.  He doesn't mind bringing hellfire into play, nor the idea that the supernatural surrounds him and his work.

His costume needed an imprint from me, one that was not the hard suit of Keaton nor the plate and polyweave suit of Bale, but something different.  While many will point to the modern Dragonskin armor as inspiration (and the idea is in the air) what I put together I base upon Greek bronze scale mail, updated horrifically for the modern age of ballistics.  The undersuit is like padded armor, but adapted to modern techniques and times for that era of the early 1980's.  To make something that seemed 'one step beyond' where it was then and *still* new is a challenge.  I could not put down the things that Bale has, now, like that lovely drift cape, but the forerunner of it I could make for other reasons via the fictional locale and then current technology.  They are, still, 'one step beyond' where we are today, in many ways, yet a semi-reasonable extrapolation.  The head gear is made up, like the rest of the armor, modeled on the Greek Bronze Age, outfitted with nominal acoustics and improved vision from the early 1980's.  Nothing in the suit is, truly, computerized, and even the sonar is simple analog output and input and very primitive compared with what is now being tested for the blind today.

What you get, with the exterior sheath on the armor, is a dark figure whose musculature is accented by the scale mail and who has a matte black helmet that is good at deflecting shrapnel and other minor assaults, and gives better scope of hearing and vision than the original bronze age equivalents.  Put on the cape that can suddenly extend into a semi-rigid structure and you have a being that does, indeed, have a slightly demonic cast to it... or that of an ancient warrior brought back to terrorize the living.  By departing from the half-face cowl, and into the wrap-around, my Batman no longer is human in costume, but human form inside darkness.  You no longer get a clear look at eyes or mouth, and the idea that this is still human, fades.

In our experience in Iraq, we get the idea that *more* body armor actually slows you down and can get you *killed*.  It does not protect you, but puts you in increased danger by tiring you out and limiting your mobility.  If your mission is on the move, you need to be on the move, and ditching ten or twenty pounds of armor may just save your life.  This Batman, who had been worried about rifles and big bore weapons for so long, is now making this discovery: by ditching the plate system, dropping the weight, he is much more maneuverable, much faster and even *more* of a threat.  The heart of being Batman is mobility, stealth and speed.  Batman in this arrangement must think, just a bit, before and during any encounters, and be prepared to use his equipment and skills to get him out of a situation where he would be surrounded by gunmen.  As is pointed out in the story, hunters can have the tables turned upon them and become the hunted.  Stalkers arrange it so their prey cannot escape, cannot effectively fight back and will be taken down.  Batman is not a hunter, but a stalker...


The Toys!

The 'toys' are, actually, not much in the way of brand-spanking new things, and all the personal stuff is outlined in Chapter 7.  The armor, helmet and cape are pretty much it, but there are some interesting things that need to get thrown in for the storyline, and its interesting to think about how you would do these things with the technology available.  But some of the non-Batman toys I've mentioned, like the Long Sword aero/rocket craft, the Journeyman aerospace craft, etc. 

The Batmobile steps away from the Keaton/Burton 'long nose' luxury sedan concept but not fully to the Bale/Nolan 'Jumper' with the engines in the wheels.  This creation in concept was supposed to be a fast scout/marker vehicle for contaminated areas... the US Army actually did procure those from Germany, and I have a 'show contract' prototype that Wayne Corporation put together to 'keep them honest' in the accounting realm.  It is, still, the land/water vehicle, but more adapted for land than water, and compensates for its nose-down for driving by having the front wheels kept up when on water mode so that motive power and drag keeps the back down, slightly.  Not pretty, but it just had to work.  And it gives that 'aura of almost real' idea to, going into working with US and Japanese firms for a decent diesel system when Ford was going through its troublesome diesel era of the late '70s to early '80s.  It is fitted out with quick placement hard rubber guide wheels for the old Gotham Subway rails, and by golly, they don't disturb the rust.  Just another prototype...

The 'drag lines' also the 'lift lines' seen from Keaton onwards.  Those needed a bit of quick beefing up with a reduction gear and stronger motor, thus shorter use.  Plot line needs it, and its a decent thing to postulate that you can lift more, but slower and for shorter periods of time before the energy supply runs out.  Comes in variants to try out.  A useful set of equipment for specialized jobs, as we do find out.

The acids and syringe applicators.  Do not use at home or even think about it.  Wayne Industries chemical group can make this stuff up by the tens of gallons, but containing it is the problem.  Precise application even more so.  These are not play toys, they are destructive and meant to serve the purpose stated in the story line and will probably never, ever see the light of day again.  Because it is all standard industrial supply, applicators, containment, etc. they are incredibly cheap.  I've been in the lab, seen them used in drop quantities and really don't want to imagine more than that.

Next I consider to be the most highly embarrassing oversight in the entire canon of Batman works.  A device that could have been on the very FIRST Batman's utility belt.  Incredibly simple to make.  Incredibly easy to use.  Extremely effective.  Literally, with this on the utility belt, even in small applications, there are so many story lines that would have been truncated or erased that it is just not funny.  It is something he would know about that his FATHER would know about... hell his GRANDFATHER probably heard of it.  Lucius Fox has it with press-apply instant adhesive tabs on the back...

Press-apply instant adhesive tabs.  You know, you buy something that is meant to be applied to a surface and has a pull off tab and you can then apply it?  This is made with a super-glue.  'Bonds instantly on one side' and can then have the tab pulled off to apply something to the other side. 'Bonds instantly' or less than 5 seconds which is good enough for an action kinda guy like Batman.  Bruce Wayne is astounded to realize that he has missed TWO easy to make, great inventions that are COMMON.  Two-sided press-apply super glue tabs get introduced and Batman now has something where he can immobilize a criminal *without* having to knock him out.   Chapter 8 and the take down of Don Amelio features these two easy to use, conceptualize and one readily available and the other?  Hey! Super glue.  Take tab off to activate.  Take other tab off to activate other side (yes and between them is a thin film of the acrylic itself).  Soon, I am sure, bragging rights will belong to those that Batman actually *does* have to punch out... who said crime fighting had to be expensive?

Add in the pedestrian stuff that was 'gee whiz' then (IR, light intensification, cell phones) and 'yawn' today, and you get the era appropriate items necessary to make this Batman work.

Other than that I'm just working through some of the Lanz-Odermatt equations, trying to make sure I get the units right so I get meaningful results so I can get the last part of the story written.

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