I discovered this by checking out a couple of my son's new Batman toys. "Fractal Armor Batman" is up against not just Catwoman and the Joker (or Michael Powell and Clear Channel), but a dapper villain named Jervis Tetch, whose "unrequired love for a woman named Alice drove him to become a criminal mastermind. Now he is obsessed by a psychotic desire to prove his superiority over all criminal rivals."
Here's the story, as told by Hasbro on the back of the "Technocast Jervis Tetch" package (in which Tetch wears spats, a purple overcoat and carries a satellite dish that shoots a little blue piece of plastic that... is doomed to get lost under the bed. There are some natural laws even super-villains cannot overcome.)
"In an insane bid to beat The Joker at his game of media domination, Jervis Tetch, AKA The Mad Hatter, has hacked into Gotham City's computer-controlled mega satellite. Now, with the help of corrupt spectrum wavelengths, he's using his 24-hour broadcasts to control the minds of innocent citizens! Only Batman, with an array of sonic attack gear, can save a city gone mad!"
And here's the story told on the back of "Fractal Armor Batman," which includes a launcher that hurls a red, plastic disk that... you know where it's going to end up.
"Catwoman is upping the ante in a criminal game of media domination. Having captured Jervis Tetch's/The Mad Hatter's evil mind-controlling mega satellite, the feline femme fatale now seeks to settle an old grudge with Batman through brainwave-altering subliminal messages. These deviant transmissions are designed to transform Batman into a mindless slave to Catwoman's whims!
"Batman abandons the guise of Bruce Wayne by night to become Gotham City's defending hero. Armed with transmission-scrambling sonic discs, he launches a seige (sic) against the rogue satellite, destroying its emitter ray and leaving Catwoman to fend for herself."
Want more? Look for "Signal Hacker Batman," "Sub-Pulse Detonator Robin," "Technocast Catwoman," "Sub-Frequency Armor Batman," "Sonic Stun Batgirl," and "Ultra-Frequency Armor Batman."
But neither side realizes it's too late. Elsewhere on the package, it becomes clear that an even greater power has defeated them in their quest for media domination. Three affiliated logos say it all: DC Comics, Warner Bros. and Cartoon Network. Curse you, Time Warner!
For all our cynicism about mainstream commercial culture, some of it comes out looking pretty good in this week's look at the best of 2003.
Godfrey Cheshire says he was surprised by the number of Hollywood films that made his Top 10 list, including Cold Mountain and Something's Gotta Give. In dance, Byron Woods' local picks mirror some made by The New York Times for best dance performances of the year: Maguy Marin's One Can't Eat Applause and Shen Wei's The Rite of Spring, both at the American Dance Festival in Durham.
And local authors scored significant awards as well as recognition by us: Duke University's Karla Holloway won the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Legacy Award for her book Passed On: African American Mourning Stories, and Chapel Hill poet Michael Chitwood received the Roanoke-Chowan Award for Poetry for Gospel Road Going.
It's a chance to catch up on what you missed.