I always identify as student first, and anything else second, though I know this identity will someday end. I read this poem as a fresh Intern here at the Apeiron Review in July of 2015. As I read through all these serious poems that tugged at my heartstrings and made me think about bigger issues outside myself – the way poems often do – I ran across “Batman, Retired” by Trevor Pyle (currently published in issue 9) and I laughed out loud. I wanted to share it with everyone, like any passionate reader does when they read something that shocks them in a delightful way!
At first, my reaction was, “Wait… what? This is Batman!” The dark gritty character that we all know and love (or fear) was portrayed in such a way that I had to read it again. My perception of Batman did not match up with the Batman in Pyle’s poem, which quite naturally, blew my mind. Although I experienced this dissonance, I’m not so uptight as to not appreciate this trick played on the reader. In fact, I would call it pure genius. It is so rare that readers come across happy or funny poems (or I may just be under-read) that the feeling I got from it was a breath of fresh air. I felt lighter than I had all day, and this poem struck me in such a memorable way that forgetting was not an option.
“Batman, Retired” is a great poem to read to remind ourselves not to take things quite so seriously in our “second acts.” Batman (retired) was most certainly a great character to play with for satire as Pyle mentioned, and made me look at myself more than the outside world. This does not disqualify “Batman, Retired” from the genre of poetry but rather, points to another side that few people see and fewer people recognize. By writing this poem, Trevor Pyle not only made me look at something old and legendary in a wonderful new way but also helped me look at myself under lights I had never noticed shining on me in the first place. Yes, I was a student, and that role eventually ends. At some point, we all will assume a new occupation, a “second act.” Much like the Joker laughs at Batman on a daily basis, we must remember to be able to laugh at ourselves and not take ourselves so seriously.
First, tell me a little about yourself.
I’m a journalist, poet, and short-story writer and live on the West Coast. Growing up, I mainly studied journalism, which is great preparation for being a writer — you learn how to look for the telling detail, how to keep yourself out of the story, how to be ruthless about what quotes to keep and what quotes to discard. But I’ve always read fiction, too; everyone from Stephen King and Robert Parker to the Victorians. I’m a huge nerdy movie buff, and you can pick up writing lessons there, too. I love the dialogue you can find in film noir or Billy Wilder’s movies; I love the way every line accomplishes something.
Why Batman? Any particular reason?
Several years ago, I started a joke Twitter account about the life of a fictional action hero. It was going to be about how he sees all the amazing stuff he does — throwing people off buildings, jumping cars onto trains — as mundane. I lost interest in the Twitter account almost immediately, but decided later to express the same idea in a poem. Batman seemed like the best target for satire, since he’s so unrelentingly dark. Superman basically has a mundane desk job, but it’s hard to imagine Batman doing the same.
Has Batman’s popularity increased any now that he sells cars instead of fighting villains?
I hadn’t thought about that! I imagine he’d be more popular. Controversial figures are usually more popular in their second acts, so to speak.
What about compared to the Joker? Like before selling cars and now after?
I definitely think he’d be a big hit, especially if his prices are good. People love deals, even when they’re offered by a mass murderer.
Did you struggle at all while writing this poem? If so, with which parts? Were there a lot of drafts?
It went through a few drafts. I struggled whether to divide it into stanzas, and some of the wording in the final lines was tricky. That’s still my least-favorite part of the poem but I smoothed it out some. Mostly I tried to get the tone right. I think the humor comes from Batman’s sense of quiet satisfaction, but also irritation, that most people have with their day-to-day jobs. That’s the crank that turns the poem.
What do you want to stick with readers from “Batman, Retired?” What do you want them to remember most or walk away with?
I mostly just hope they laugh a few times. Or even chuckle. I’d be satisfied with a chuckle.
By: Ashley Marvel