I saw Fat Batman at comicon. And fat Wonder Woman, Asian female Captain America, skinny Hulk, short Superman, bald Thor, and hundred other non-traditional cosplayers.
Oh sure, I also saw some beautiful Harley Quinns and Black Widows, including a few who were probably Victoria’s Secret models with the key to the costume closet. That’s not the point. I’m talking about the overweight guy dressed as Batman and why you need to look at him again.
Fat Batman is a cosplayer. For those of you not familiar, the term “cosplay” is just “costume” and “play” mashed up into a new word. It may sound silly, but it’s serious to a heck of a lot of people. Cosplayers spend time, energy, and money to create costumes that pay homage to certain fictional characters.
Fat Batman isn’t thin and he doesn’t look like Batman…at least the way you think Batman should look. He knows this, you know this, and he knows that you know this too.
And yet, Fat Batman has transcended caring what you think. He doesn’t care if you judge him. He doesn’t care if you comment on the tightness of his costume around his midsection. He won’t flinch if you shoot a picture. Yes, he will flex while your friends pretend he’s sexy. He knows what you’re doing and doesn’t recoil. He pretends not to hear when you walk away giggling.
Fat for Life
From the formative years in grade school — before he was actually Fat Batman — he was just fat. He was nervous and fat and didn’t know any good comeback lines. It only got worse in high school, where his obesity became an ongoing punchline.
While you struggled through your first dates, he just went home. He didn’t stress over his clothes.
Through all of this, Fat Batman had his hobbies. He liked sci-fi TV, horror movies, and of course, comic books. He collected long story runs, studied price guides, and read the fan magazines. The comic shop was where he felt accepted and embraced.
Still, he was fat. Dating wasn’t getting easier, so after college, he threw himself into work. He’s got a pretty good job, he’s respected by his co-workers, and seems to be doing well. He knows that on average overweight people get paid up to 16% less than their thinner peers.
But now….Fat Batman is standing in front of you at a comic convention. He’s sweating under the leather mask, leather gloves, and shin-high boots. His utility belt is digging into his prodigious belly and he’s trying not to drop his iPhone. It’s a bit of a cluster, but he’s Batman now, and he’s not going to break character.
That’s the key. At this moment, he’s not Fat Batman. He’s just Batman. And he’s trying to hustle through the crowd to make it for the giant Gotham Villains photo shoot on the opposite end of the convention center.
Even though some people are laughing at him, Batman stops to take photos for anyone who asks. He’ll forget that his knees are bruised from trying to cosplay next to a 5-year-old Joker with a $9.00 costume. For that moment, Kid Joker and Fat Batman looked into each other’s eyes, faced off, and were just the Joker and Batman. No modifiers, just Batman and the Joker.
Look, don’t feel bad. Fat Batman has heard every imaginable joke. He heard it plenty in the school cafeteria. He was vulnerable, alone, with no armor. Before cosplay.
He’s Been Here the Whole Time
Today, he’s got the batsuit, which he imagines has real gas capsules, working batarangs, and a communications system that makes your iPhone look like a Fisher Price toy. In hand-to-hand combat, he’s Chuck Norris with a cape. He’s a superhero, which means he lives by a moral code, which is why he doesn’t kick your butt at this moment.
Comicon is the ultimate safe place for Fat Batman, but only if he maintains the facade. If he breaks character to address the haters, he’s back in high school. If he stays in character, he’s scored a small, deliciously ironic victory.
After all, the people who made fun of him for liking comics are now here at comicon on his turf. Many of them are wearing superhero t-shirts, as they lug their geek-branded swag bags around the convention. This could be a temporary fad or he was simply ahead of the cultural curve. He prefers to think the later.
They didn’t believe him when he evangelized geek culture then, but they believe him now. It took a series of Hollywood blockbusters to change their thinking, but now they finally understand the characters.
They have paid full ticket price to kneel at the altar of geek culture, a place where he is a god. The pantheon embraces the intelligencia of sub culture, sub genre, and facts so trivial that Google would struggle to verify the veracity. Oh, ye of little faith, you are in his temple. He is not in yours.
Fat Batman would look ridiculous at a pro football game, where fans wear the team colors. You have multiple jerseys, and you’re adorned in you your favorite player’s number for good luck. You even know how much he’s being paid. That inside-baseball knowledge of football is your version of memorizing the comic book price guide.
Fortunately Fat Batman not on your turf. Fat Batman is on his, and he has the home team advantage. Asian Captain America, bald Hulk, short Superman, black Thor, and other heroes are a few feet away. They are a tribe.
Don’t worry, they are acutely aware of the fat bulges and cellulite. They know they look different than the characters in the comics and movies.
Don’t be concerned that they are:
Or any other perceived imperfection that would disqualify them from the actual role in a feature film. Don’t worry, they already know this.
For those of you who’ve wondered aloud if they “have access to a mirror” at home, the answer is, yes, they do.
The Second Life of Fat Heroes
On his turf, Fat Batman’s batsuit is emotional armor. He sees no irony if beautiful women in costumes pretend to be his ally or his enemy. He feels strong…and has already forgotten your comments. Batman is not concerned with that right now. He’s getting into position for the Gotham Heroes group shot.
He’s ‘66 Batman, so he’s stage left of 90s Batman. They are forming a visual timeline for the group photo. They will laugh, shake hands, and embrace. They will compliment each other for the lovingly rendered details of their costumes.
Nobody comments on his weight. Nobody pats his belly. Here, everyone is encouraging. They are as inclusive and accepting as real superheroes should be.
Here’s where that geeky fat kid finds his second family. These are complete strangers who embrace him, tell him he looks great, and pose unironically next to him. He will pose with the Penguin, three Batmans, and a Robin in a wheelchair. And every time he strikes his pose, he’s Batman. Just Batman.
He’s spent $300 assembling his costume and will spend more for a better batarang. He’s getting advice for keeping the mask on straight. He’s getting sewing tips from Poison Ivy who just posed for a photo modelled after her first appearance in Batman #181.
The convention will be over entirely too quickly for Fat Batman. He wanted to shop, get a few autographs, and catch some panels, but he was too busy being Batman.
On Monday, he’ll go back to work, where life is decidedly less fun.
I Want You To Tell All Your Friends About Me
So while some people saw Fat Batman in his too-tight suit, I saw something else. I saw someone who has found something that he cares about so much, that he’s willing to endure the snickers and comments.
He’s willing to play-act for you, for the 7-year-old Robin, and for the Victoria’s Secret models. His costume, his tribe, and his imagination are his life-armor. He is impervious to sneers and snide, but only at comicon and only for a moment.
After all these years, Fat Batman has found something that makes him happy. He’s way past caring what you think, including that your implication he’s too fat to fight crime. He doesn’t need your approval anymore. He’s past that too.
More people should be this fortunate. The world would be a better place if more people found their own passion, embraced it, and celebrated it without reservation. We should all have this much fun in our lives.
Next comicon, you will see Fat Batman again. Maybe not this specific guy, but there will always be a Fat Batman, especially if you’re looking for a Fat Batman. Fat guys are typically easy to spot, especially when they have a cape.
But when you see Fat Batman, look again. If you look really, really carefully, you’ll see something that you didn’t notice before, something amazing….
You will see Batman.
Great post, Buddy. And while I would see Fat Batman at a convention and look and laugh, I’d also respect the guy for going out wearing that and just having fun doing what he wants to do. In my many years attending shows and working in the industry, that’s the greatest thing I’ve taken away from it. Fans are fans. They live in it and love and accept anyone and everyone that’s part of that culture.
Yes. Comicons are a safe haven for geeks. We should embrace anyone with a geek passion. Thanks for responding!
PS: People should check out your geektastic blog: http://www.mommysbusy.com/
Honestly, there are many days I’d be happy to be Fat Batman reveling at Comicon.
Great story, Buddy.
Maybe next year, we can get you to come down for NYComicon. You can even cosplay.
Joe Kalinowsky came this year and loved it.