Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent? by Brian Cronin (book review).

Brian Cronin’s book title, ‘Why Does Batman Carry Sharp Repellent?’ continues with ‘And Other Amazing Comic Book Trivia’ but that would make it also one with one with the longest titles and a handful in our title header. Essentially, as Cronin explains in the introduction, this book is about some of the absurdities in the comicbook realities although that doesn’t last for that long. It should be pointed out that Cronin isn’t the only compiler of lists here with various comicbook pros also providing their own lists. A few do come from surveys, but not seeing how they were conducted and how many people were involved, even in an aged book, I would question representation, even from an American audience. I should also point out that this book is divided into six parts, moving from characters to creators and various other trivia divisions.

A book that’s been out for eleven years and only recently grabbing a copy, it also becomes a little complicated on how do I review it. Do I point out some of the goodies, contest some of his choices or things he missed out. Looks like it’ll be a bit of both.

Let’s take the opener regarding Batman’s utility belt and what was missed. When you consider in his early carnation, said belt was essentially a series of hollow tubes and there was even a diagram showing what it contained in the comicbooks, also not noted, and much of it contained compressed pills, including a set of asbestos pills to put out fires. You do have to wonder what kind of chemist Batman was and never made money from such inventions. Also, considering Robin’s belt looked like a black strap, it also contained some things as well. One good thing that came out of the 1966 TV series was a bigger pocket utility belt that was eventually carried over to the comicbook. It’s a shame this absurdity isn’t covered here. The influence of the films, also had a redesign to his entire costume. It might be one step below Tony Stark’s armour but at least he’s better protected these days.

The choice of ten black or otherwise colours left out a lot. All right, you would have to be selective with black characters from the Big Two or none of the smaller companies wouldn’t get a look in but leaving the likes of John Stewart, T’Challa and Luke Cage out does seem a little careless.

The listing for the ‘Top Ten Comic Book Battles’ neglects to mention Daredevil # 163 where DD attempts to stop a rampaging Hulk in New York and ended up in hospital. Granted he was out-matched but for sheer bravery, has to be up there.

What is surprising, because of the title, that there is so little actual frivolous information in this book. In comparison, there is a lot more serious detail from comicbook history. There are some areas that could have been covered, like all the ghost artists who worked for Bob Kane for instance.

Considering the amount of space at the end of the page of ‘Seven Songs About Comic Book Characters’, he couldn’t make it up to ten. What about 1966 hit ‘Sunshine Superman’ by Donovan and even Paul McCartney’s ‘Magneto And Titanium Man’, although mentioned elsewhere, should be here.

‘Four Movie Superheroes Who Were Not From Comic Books’ makes a valid point about Green Hornet being on radio first and neglects that the Shadow, the Phantom and Doc Savage went from books to radio to comicbooks to films.

Granted, there is a lot of trivia here, not all of it as trivial as forecast on the cover but I suspect the book was sold on the concept before the nitty gritty of getting in all written. Something that is obvious while reading it is how much more has been done in the dozen years since this book’s release and would certainly need a massive update to cover what has happened since. Read with caution although I suspect you might up reading this book looking for what isn’t covered than what is as a test of your own knowledge.

GF Willmetts

January 2023

(pub: Plume/Penguin, 2012. 262 page small enlarged paperback. Price: Not as much as the cover price. ISBN: 978-0-452-29784-5)

check out websites: www.cbr.cc and www.penguin.com

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