An old Batmobile sits gathering dust on my office desk. Batman is a lonely figure, hunched over the wheel, wondering where his life went.
There's no sign of Robin. That's because they both went down the plughole in 1968, in the bath at 30 Paine Street. The batboat, towed behind the Batcar, was performing well in the tub. Bath time was more than merely an opportunity to get clean. It was a time for superheroes to strut their stuff. Batman and Robin were top of the list because they had a boat. Well, until the unfortunate drain incident.
My parents rushed me into a dressing gown, then launched a rescue mission using tweezers and cotton, eventually saving Batman, but Robin was consigned to a soapy demise.
I think of Batman now and then, every time I stare down the bathroom plughole. I wonder what happened to the Batboat, and why it is not still hitched to the fiery back end of the dusty Batmobile.
Fifty years later and a Coastguard skipper, I know now the crisis could have been handled better. Robin might still be with us. If only he'd been wearing his Batlifejacket.
And the Batboat could have been towed to the safety of the soap dish, or at least lashed to the shampoo bottle for later salvage.
And did they put in a trip report?
The alarm could have been raised earlier. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
The bath tragedy came to light at the Jazz Festival recently, when a group called ‘Superhero' took the stage. They were all there, and Batman was in the front row line-up.
I'd always wondered what had become of him and his friends. Nek minute, they're playing wholesome jazz on Stage Five on the Tauranga waterfront.
That prompted me to ponder the fate of the old masked marauder… what has life thrown at him since the plughole incident and reflections on a career of crusading for the good of mankind. The story might go something like this…
Batman versus PC
Things have changed a lot for Batman since the Politically Correct world caught up with him.
From a bustling superhero to a jaded old gin swigger in Gotham Retirement Village, the legendary caped crusader huddles over his bat-frame, draped in a piggy square blanket crocheted by the old lady in the next villa, Wonder Woman. Spiderman inches across the ranchslider, cleaning the windows. The BatCat dribbles on Battie's lap, some crumpled old superhero comics wrestle for space with the giant crossword and pill organiser on the coffee table.
He is a shadow of his former superself. He has struggled to keep up with society's changing demands. One minute you're a revered hero leaping tall buildings, defying bad guys and flying through fire, the next you're opening jars for arthritis victims and complaining about the price of milk.
“You can't even say ‘holy crap' anymore,” thumping a gnarly old fist on the table, his medic alert bracelet jangling on a bony arm.
The last straw came for Batman when the PC world demanded equality in the Batmobile. It meant he either had to ditch Robin for a woman, or one of them had to become transgender.
“To be fair, Robin wasn't far off it already,” Batman huffs.
“The little turd was always a bit on the limp wrist side.”
Batman's greatest concern about having a woman in the Batmobile was that the dynamic duo would have been forced to use a map.
“Sure we might have got to the scene faster, but it wouldn't have made such good television.”
He does concede however that had a woman's caution been applied and the SOPs adhered to, the BatBoat might still be afloat today.
“We were pretty gung-ho in those days.
“No wonder there's a whole generation of blokes out there coming to grief. We weren't exactly the best role models. Still, better than Evil Knievel and the Munsters, I suppose.”
So you weren't sorry when the little guy went down the plughole then?
“Yeah, nah, he was constantly getting in grief and needed bailing out. Your folks should have left him to rot in the S bend.”
Does he seek adventure in his life, now the heady days of Batmanning are a distant memory?
“I play a bit of gin rummy with one of the old jokers down the corridor.
“Actually, he is the Joker.
“Scheming old bugger is always trying to trap me into a corner.”
And what of his other old nemesis, the Penguin?
“Canny old sod re-invented himself and made a fortune selling potato chips. Teamed up with the Riddler, wrote some catchy jingles and now they're living the good life cruising the Med with the girls from Petticoat Junction.”
Virgil, Mr Ed
Does he have any regrets, anything he'd do differently if he could re-live his superhero career?
“I wish I'd seen more of the Invisible Man back then.
“But I suppose that's what everyone says.
“Probably should have put more sunscreen on the lower half of my face. You know, where the mask didn't cover. That would have saved me a fortune on Natural Glow over the years.
“And I wish I'd nobbled that bloody Mr Ed in the early days. Shoulda sent him packing to the glue factory. The mouthy horse out-rated us for three seasons.
“Him and those stuck up puppets on Thunderbirds. Rockets and submarines, I ask you. How believable is that?
“Bumped into that smarmy Virgil the other day at Housie. Always sticking his hand up first and yelling ‘Bingo.'
“Someone should snip his string.”
Does he ever dream of a comeback?
“Yeah of course. I'm working on a movie script for that new-fangled Netflix. It's a perfect fit for my stage of life. A superhero whose alias is a maintenance guy at a retirement village for former superheroes. PensionerFlatman.
“My specialty will be retrieving lost souls and valuables from the S bend. And offering lubricant to the Bionic Woman.”