March 01, 2010

Chief Man-of-the-Bats

In Chief Man-of-the-Bats: Year One, blogger J. Caleb Mozzocco writes about Chief Man-of-the-Bats, the Native American Batman.

A bit of background on this character:

Chief Man-of-BatsAlong with his sidekick, Raven Red, he is a Native American member of the Batmen of All Nations.Chief Man-of-BatsReal Name: Chief Great Eagle
Aliases: Man-of-the-Bats
Occupation: Crimefighter
Marital Status: Unknown
Known Relatives: Red Raven (Little Eagle; son)
Group Affiliation: formerly Club of Heroes
Hair: Black
First Appearance: Batman #86 (September 1954)

Comment:  I've seen the comical cover before, but I don't know if I ever read a reprint of BATMAN #86. But Mozzocco describes what happens.

It seems Batman and Robin are flying over middle America in their Batplane when they spot someone on horseback. They follow him to a cave where they discover...Chief Man-of-Bats and Little Raven!

"Villainous Black Elk and his raiders have been terrorizing the countryside," says Man-of-Bats. He's referring not to the Lakota holy man but to a typical Indian savage. Black Elk wounded Man-of-Bats so Man-of-Bats can't appear in public without revealing his secret identity. Batman takes his place and thwarts the evildoers while preserving Man-of-Bats identity.

Let's skip over the predictable stereotypes: chiefs, teepees, half-naked warriors, buckskins, feathers, bows and arrows, horses, etc. The story is set in freakin' 1954. How ignorant do you have to be think 1) the stereotypes are valid and 2) they apply to Eisenhower-era Indians?

Really, not a single Indian has learned about shirts and jeans, pistols and rifles, or cars and trucks since the end of the Indian Wars 65 years earlier?! And I suppose blacks still wear grass skirts and bones in their noses when they're not happy-go-lucky slaves? Can you say "racist"?

Chief Man-of-the-Bats returns

In 2007, Grant Morrison updated the Batmen of All Nations in BATMAN #667-669. I haven't read that either, but Mozzocco provides some details. Chief Man-of-the-Bats has a modified chief's outfit that's somewhat better but still stereotypical. His skin is a bold shade of read, which is flatly wrong. He denies he's a hero and acts more like a vicious vigilante. And he gets drunk often enough that his sidekick thinks it's a problem.

Thanks for the update, Morrison. Instead of being a one-dimensional stereotype, Chief Man-of-the-Bats is now a two-dimensional stereotype. In another 50 years, maybe he'll become a real person with more than a silly name and costume.

For more on the subject, see Comic Books Featuring Indians.

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