Who's Bat-Mite?

Who's This? Gotham's most mischievous imp.
The facts: Though my own first encounter with Batman's personal imp-pest was in Filmation's The New Adventures of Batman series (in off-brand colors), Bat-Mite actually first appeared in Detective Comics #267 (May 1959) by Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff.  He would go on to appear fairly regularly until 1964, when Julius Schwartz decided to bring Batman back to a more grounded reality. Mort Weisinger still let him into HIS books a couple times after that, but beyond the '60s, the imp only appeared in a fourth wall-breaking story in 1979 before the Crisis removed him from Batman canon entirely.
How you could have heard of him: DC published a Bat-Mite mini-series under its DCYou imprint in 2015. He was of course included on the Batman: The Brave and the Bold animated series.
Example story: Batman #161 (February 1964) "The Bat-Mite Hero" by Dave Wood, Sheldon Moldoff and Charles Paris
So the thing we need to remember about Bat-Mite is that, unlike his Superman Family counterpart Mr. Mxyzptlk, he's a FAN of Batman's. A magical pest, yes, but not a villain. He's us on a nerdy, don't know where the boundaries are, kind of day. Case in point, this story. It's a boring day in Gotham City, and an invisible Bat-Mite finds himself at a boring baseball game. Boring, that is, until crooks rob the box office and Batman and Robin chase them unto the field! It's time for Bat-Mite to take a magical hand!
This is classic Bat-Mite. The Dynamic Duo don't need help, but he's going to give it. And because he has a sense of humor about it, Batman admonishes him about crime fighting not being a game. He's Jon Lovitz being asked if he ever kissed a girl by William Shatner. But all the Mite wanted was to see his favorite hero in spectacular action. We, the readers, agree! Batman's response will change everything.
What a jerk. So fine, yes, why NOT find another hero who'll be happier to play his games? Figuring he can turn anyone into a hero with his magical powers, he picks up a random guy off the street and turns him into Bat-Mite Hero... oof, that doesn't exactly signal "Give this guy his own title", does it?
But despite having the use of a flying carpet, Bat-Mite Hero doesn't do very well. All he manages to do is almost get himself killed and allow the Batman's prey to get away.
Bat-Mite learns the wrong lesson and simply finds a more suited schmoe to be his hero. How about a professional wrestler? This time, it works and crooks ARE apprehended, but Batman was planning to have them lead him to their hideout so he could arrest their boss. Classic inter-agency kerfuffle. The Mite shows his hero the door and is about to quit when a dodgy character comes to him with a prospect. Olympic athlete, college graduate, private eye, Bill Strong's got it all. And his big test will be a heist at the soap factory!
Now big clue here... A decathlon medal in basketball?! Word salad that passes muster with a 5th-dimensional imp MAYBE. But instead of bringing the crooks to justice, Strong means to let them escape. Bat-Mite's allowed himself to be tricked into auditioning a criminal for the job! This is why you run background checks. So at the last minute, Bat-Mite switches sides, turns the crooks' guns into water pistols, and does what he does best, which is enjoying some fine Batman and Robin action.
Combination Silver Age infodump/sermon from adult hero, and we're done. What strikes me about these classic Bat-Mite tales is that he was essentially played as a little kid who might read these comics and want to have adventures with Batman. The reader's wrist is slapped by proxy for even daring to think of such a thing. Or maybe the young reader will think, now see, I wouldn't have done it that way, and be on Batman's side. I don't know. When Bat-Mite becomes a teenager, he'll be Superboy-Prime, and that's just worse.

Who's Next? The hero with the weaponized lipstick.

1 comments:

Jonathan Linneman said...

I do love Bat-Mite! I'm also not convinced he wasn't actually inserted into Batman lore by a time-traveling Grant Morrison who wanted the most ridiculous Silver Age trope possible to play with during his run with the Dark Knight.

 

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