Thursday, 29 January 2015

WHEN BATMAN WORE WELLINGTON BOOTS...


BATMAN & ROBIN copyright DC COMICS

What a difference four or five years can make.  I'd just turned 8 when JOHN FIDLER, who lived a couple of doors along from me, got one of the top toys of 1966 for Christmas - a 1st edition, diecast, CORGI TOYS TV BATMOBILE, the lucky little blighter.

I coveted it greatly, but for some curious reason (probably related to cash-flow), never got around to actually buying one until my 12th or 13th birthday in 1970 or '71.  (Though now that I remember, I had the chance of getting one whilie on holiday in Largs in 1968, but passed in favour of a bendy CAPTAIN SCARLET figure.)




Nowadays, 12 or 13 would doubtless be considered far too old to be buying diecast toy cars, but back then, boys of that age were a totally different bag of spiders to what they are now.  More innocent, not quite so eager to grow up, etc.  Well, at least, that's the way it seems to me through the mist-enshrouded maze of memory whenever I revisit my past.  And yes, Summers were longer and it snowed every Christmas.  (You can dispute it as much as you like - I prefer my version.)


John Fidler was around a couple of years younger than me and, consequently, smaller.  When we played at BATMAN & ROBIN, I naturally took the lead while John was relegated to the role of 'teenage' sidekick (even though he was only about 5 or 6).

In my homemade Batman costume (a pair of purple swimming trunks over corduroy trousers, brown gloves, black raincoat with sleeves pulled out-side in, a Batman badge on my jumper, a Batman mask bought from a shop - oh, and a pair of wellies) I cut an impressive figure.  (In my mind anyway.)  For my utility belt, I tied some dangly, strappy portion of my father's war-time morse-code apparatus around my waist  I was nothing if not resourceful.  (Trust me - it looked the part.)


John sported a black domino mask with his mother's lemony silk headscarf tied around his shoulders.  He cut a less impressive dash in my opinion, but he was only the sidekick, remember.  Sidekicks aren't permitted to upstage the main hero, and that was me - by dint of being older and bigger and more oblivious to making a t*t of myself running around in a homemade Batsuit.


My "official" mask was like a black plastic bag with half of one side cut away to reveal the lower face, and eyeholes to allow anyone daft enough to wear it to see all those who were laughing at them.  The idea was that, when you pulled it over your head, the corners would stick up like the bat-ears on ADAM WEST's cowl, enabling you to strike fear and dread into the hearts of criminals, who, as we all know, are "a superstitious, cowardly lot".

Unfortunately, the corners stuck out rather than up, somewhat negating the desired effect and managing merely to strike mirth and merriment into the hearts of amused observers as they fell about in hysterics.  Undeterred, however, me and John both soldiered on, and we must've milked being the caped-crusaders of our neighbourhood for almost as long as the show was on telly to inspire us in our dashing deeds of derring-do.


Then, alas, as is the way of things, we eventually grew up.  I moved to another area in 1972 and saw John only in passing and from afar over the next few years.  Imagine my surprise (and annoyance) when I ran into John in adulthood, only to find that he'd grown at least half-a-head taller than me.  I realized, sadly, that if we ever decided to reprise our Batman & Robin roles (unlikely as it was), he'd be the "main man" and I'd have to wear his mother's poofy silk lemon headscarf.  Life can  be so cruel.

Anyway, John and I reminisced and laughed about our childhood exploits for a while and then went our separate ways.  It must be close to 30 years since I last saw him, although, in truth, it seems like only yesterday, cliched as that may sound.  Where does the time go?  In fact, where did John go, for me not to have seen him since?  I hope he's well, wherever he is.


Sometime back in 1991, in a fit of nostalgia, I re-acquired (at immense expense) a boxed, pristine condition, 1966 Corgi Toys Batmobile from a shop in Edinburgh.  Whenever I look at it, I'm once again running around my old neighbourhood with my boyhood chum by my side, with no thought for the morrow and unmindful of what the passing years may bring. 

"To the Batpoles, Robin!"

10 comments:

  1. If you'd had another game in your original roles, you would have looked like Del-boy and Rodney!
    Loads of similar memories here! I had/still have somewhere the paperback.( I remember the Joker swimming through the chemicals.)
    I had the full set of bubblegum cards, - now my brother has them. He had the corgi Batmobile and the bat-suit and I used to play Batman in the back garden with him, but, as I was older than him, he was demoted to Robin! We had (bat) ropes hanging from the trees to swing from and our "batarang" was a broken piece of our garden gate!
    Cherished shared memories for both of us!

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    1. Great days indeed, JP. I had another friend called Philip Marshall and we did the same sort of thing - only I was Power Man and he was Wonder Man. I must've ripped-off the names from The Avengers stories reprinted in Terrific. Haven't seen him in ages either. I've got the book, the Corgi Batmobile, the badge, the cards, and various other bits of 1960s Bat-merchandise, I'm a happy chappie.

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  2. I had loads of those Corgi and Matchbox cars (not the bat-Mobile though) - my mother used to buy me a new one every week. Are Corgi and Matchbox still in business, I haven't seen any of those little cars for long time. Kid, I'm intrigued by how much the "immense expense" was that you paid for that Bat-Mobile but I'm guessing you won't tell. I'm even more intrigued by your dad's "wartime morse-code apparatus" !

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    1. I think the guy was wanting either £125 or £130, I talked him down to £115 (if I remember rightly). Hornby now owns Corgi, and Mattel owns Matchbox. You still see the Matchbox cars in places like Sainsbury's. The morse-code thing is difficult to describe - I'll have to see if I can get a picture on the internet.

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  3. The thing is I would probably been deemed "a little bit too old" by some, at this time for playing such "childish games" with my kid brother, as I was so much older than him, but I say, " What the heck?! " - Part of the joy of having a younger brother is that you don't have to grow up until he does! You can carry on playing the games with him! And you BOTH get fun out of it at the same time!

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    1. What amazes me is that people laughed at me for playing at Batman (I suppose, in Scotland, being 7 or 8 was considered too old to be doing so), but 20-odd years later, some of those same people were walking about with Batman tee-shirts on when the first Michael Keaton BM movie came out.

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    2. I WAS too old for my brother's bat-mask though! I must have looked a sight with his tiny outfit on my adolescent frame!
      And do you know how our Mother used to call us in at mealtimes?
      "COME ON IN AND GET YOUR
      dinner, dinner, dinner, dinner,
      dinner, dinner, dinner, dinner,
      BAT MAN!!"

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    3. That reminds me of the woman with three sons who were all policemen. She sticks her head 'round their bedroom door one morning and asks "Who all wants porridge?" Comes the answer "Me, maw, me, maw, me, maw!"

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  4. There was an advert for Crosse & Blackwell soup that went (to the tune of the batman theme) - "Crosse&Blackwell, Crosse&Blackwell, Crosse&Blackwell, Crosse&Blackwell - SUPERCAN !!"

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    1. Don't recall seeing that, CJ - I must see if it's on YouTube when I get a mo.

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