I think I should conclude Batman Parody Month with a Batman parody I actually like. I mean, the last three I covered I can’t say I hate, but I have a few more nice things to say about what I’m going to cover here. Today’s parody is not a cartoon or a telly show, but rather a comic: Lew Stringer’s Brickman Begins, collecting a series of black-and-white Batman spoofs.
Now, despite the nasty things I said about those other three spoofs, I do think a Batman parody can be done well. Hell, the 60’s TV series was pretty much a parody. Batman comics, and most DC comics, have silly elements like men made out of clay and talking gorillas which are all meant to be taken seriously and more often than not have cloying and unnatural dialogue and narration just meant for mocking. Even the Nolan movies were a bit pretentious at times. Brickman Begins isn’t some deep deconstruction of the Dark Knight, just good old-fashioned British humour with Batman as a template. And it works just fine.
How did “Loose Brayne” become Brickman? Well, in the original Batman story, Bruce Wayne is pondering on how to strike fear into the criminal mind when a bat crashes through his window, which Wayne sees as an omen. For Brayne, he ponders on how to strike fear into the criminal mind when a brick is thrown through his window and clonks him on the head. Now that is a good parody; taking a moment from the source material that came off as a bit melodramatic and exposing how silly it really is.
A lot of the parody elements of Brickman is taking Batman villains and making bad puns out of their names, but the bad puns are the good type of bad, the type that still makes you laugh. For example, instead of The Joker, we have The Poker, whose criminal MO is to annoy people by poking them (to tell the truth, that’s actually something I could imagine the “real” Joker doing as well). His lair is shaped like a giant hand with its index finger raised, one of his plans involves poking the moon out of orbit and when he is arrested, its his index fingers that are put into tiny little handcuffs.
Then there are the villains who more or less have the same MO as their Batman counterparts, only taken in…different directions. Two-Face, at least at one point, had an obsession with the number two (“Batman, Two-Face robbed the Second National Bank and stole all the £2 coins twice”) but let’s face (no pun intended) it, that MO works better for someone who has a giant number 2 for a head rather than someone who had half his face scarred (wouldn’t he be obsessed with 0.5 then?). Just so you know, by number 2 I mean the number, not, you know. Brickman’s poor 2-Face was born with a weird head, and when Brickman defeats him twice, he actually commits suicide. Once again, I can actually imagine some Batman writer doing that with the actual Two-Face, maybe with some ‘Harvey NOOOO!’s from Batman.
There’s also Mr. Cheese, who’s actually a bit more like Poison Ivy in that he wants to liberate the cheese of the world from humans, Man-Brick, who throws himself into windows and the Diddler, who…actually, it’s “diddle” as in “to trick”, not the other definition. Brickman battles these foes alongside his sidekick Tina Trowel. Trowel is also Brayne’s tarty girlfriend who really only likes him for his money; when Brayne loses his fortune, she dumps him like a sack of hot rocks. She also works as a stripper, so I suppose there are some people who might not like that, but still, I’ll take Brickman over Shortpacked’s attempts at feminism any day of the bloody week.
The Brickman comics collected in the book were originally back-up strips for various magazines over the years. Since this book was released in 2005 to coincide with the similarly-titled Batman Begins, there’s a short story specifically made for this collection featuring “The Scaredy-Crow” as well as pages from an abandoned reboot (I do think the villain “Gnatwoman” looks better in the unfinished reboot then she does in the actual comics; the proper comics have her as a pimply woman with a weird hairstyle while the reboot actually made her a gnat-human hybrid). The stories are pretty short and the artwork does differ slightly from comic to comic. The length of the stories isn’t really a problem, though – brevity is the soul of wit, after all – and the artwork is generally very good, especially for the later stories. It has a lot of character and energy, and adds little jokes in the form of background details and Mad Magazine type captions. When Brickman and Trowel knock over some people, there’s a little caption pointing at those people saying “Probably trouble-makers anyway” which I found amusing.
The jokes in this book are actually pretty giggle-worthy. All Batman parodies need to have a joke about how Batman’s belt is a deus ex machina, and Brickman has some of the better variations on that joke I’ve seen – he even has the entire fire brigade in his belt at one point!
The book ends with a grand finale of sorts, but this wasn’t the only Brickman-related work Stringer has done. He actually did some colour strips as back-ups for Elephantmen comics but I haven’t read those yet.
Nonetheless, I would recommend Brickman Begins for people who want a good Batman-related laugh. Though I guess you’d get a good laugh from the real Batman comics given how stupid they can get.