Survival Tip #1: Stay out of places with names like "Crime Alley" (7)

Would you like to be a superhero? How do you achieve this goal, if you're not from another planet, and you've never been befriended by a wizard or received a power ring from an alien? What if you haven't inherited a gene that gives you amazing powers, and you know that exposure to radiation (spider-as-conduit optional) will most likely give you cancer? One method remains: train yourself. Develop your mind and body to their peak, put on a themed costume, and take to the streets.

Perhaps The Batman Handbook will help you.

Perhaps not.

This book, by Scott Beatty, tries to cash in on both the success of Batman and the sales of The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook and its many sequels and imitators. It shares the "worst-case" books' approximate size and construction, but with the Batman’s symbol on the cover. Its internal organization follows the pattern. Instead of chapter headings promising the best advice on how to fight off a bear or deliver a baby in a taxicab, this one organizes its information according to the Dark Knight’s basic aspects, fighting skills, detective skills, and escape skills.

Just looking at this book holds a certain pleasure. You know that years of training would be required to do just a few of the more plausible things Batman manages every day, but how can the part of you that is still ten years old1 not want to peruse a book with chapter headings like:

-How to Make a Batsuit
-How to Bulletproof Your Batmobile
-How to Jump a Bridge in Your Batmobile
-How to See in the Dark
-How to Take a Kick in the Head
-How to Take Out a Roomful of Goons
-How to Withstand Poison Kisses
-How to Blend into the Shadows and Slip Away2

Of course, before you get to any of these chapters, you might also want to read the four-paragraph warning which discounts any liability for damages incurred by anyone actually attempting the stunts described in this book. You might also want to note that, far from considering it an actual Worst-Case Scenario book with a Batman theme, the author calls it "a well-produced work of fiction"(2).

The Batman Handbook presents itself as a manual, but it also tries to preclude criticism of any content that might be dangerous or entirely wrong. The historic origins of judo are not so obscure that this book should contain glaring errors about that subject; it does. And I pity the person who attempts to follow the book’s advice for swinging around a flagpole as a way of breaking a fall from a building. The Worst-Case Scenario books consulted experts and attempted to find information that might actually be useful in admittedly unusual situations. This book makes, at best, a token effort.

At the same time, though it occasionally succeeds at being amusing, most of its humor quickly wears thin.

The author either should have tried to find accurate advice on a more limited range of subjects or created a more entertaining work of fiction. In its present form, The Batman Handbook is not accurate enough to be informative and not amusing enough to be consistently entertaining.

It also occasionally remembers that little kids who’ve watched Batman will likely read this book. While I applaud the fact that it encourages kids to become educated and physically fit, portions recall a little too much the cheeseball sixties show.

I suppose it would work best for those writing Batman stories or movie scripts, because it considers a number of points that a writer might use. It addresses, for example, the things one would need to consider if one wanted to build a functional underground lair.

Although a cool3 oddball item to have on one’s shelf, this book ultimately resembles less Batman than it does the bat from Aesop’s fable, who claimed to be neither bird nor beast and thus was rejected by both groups.4

Title: The Batman Handbook: The Ultimate Training Manual
Author: Scott Beatty
Original Publication Date: 2005.
ISBN: 1-59474-023-2

1. If you find yourself holding The Batman Handbook, part of you is still ten years old.

2. An especially amusing chapter.

3. By "cool" I mean, of course, "really geeky.'

4. Another version of this fable, involving weasels, has the bat using its ambiguity to its advantage, but I digress.

A variation of this review first appeared at Bureau42

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