I promised myself that if I sold my next book, I’d celebrate by scouring the e-bays and e-coves and e-estuaries for this little sucker, so as to reunite us after almost 35 years apart. I mean, feast your eyes on that hunk of gorgeously extruded plastic.
That right chere is the JANEX Batman Talking Alarm Clock, produced in 1974. Throughout my boyhood, this clock (well, not THIS clock, but its cousin) sat on my bedside table, a grim sentinel keeping its lonely vigil over my sleeping form, zealously guarding me from things like sports and friends.
I loved it. And it pissed me the hell off.
I loved it because BATMAN!
It pissed me the hell off because: Well. You got a minute?
It was a talking alarm clock, which meant that instead of anything so crude and un-Batmanlike as a bell, it roused young Glen from slumber with a pre-recorded playlet on endless loop, which imprinted itself on my frontal lobe, thus:
ROBIN: Jumpin’ Jehosaphat, Batman! We’re NEEDED again!
BATMAN: Right, Robin. We have to wake our friend.
ROBIN: Golly, gee, Batman! I’ll make the call!
BATMAN: Okay, Robin. Sound ‘em all!
ROBIN: Time to get up and out of bed!
BATMAN: Good boy, Robin. Very well said.
… I mean, where to start?
How about we start with JUMPIN’ JEHOSAPHAT, BATMAN.
Which is, let’s just soberly note here, NOT A THING ROBIN SAYS.
Because ROBIN IS NOT GABBY HAYES IN TREASURE OF THE SIERRA GODDAMN MADRE. No, he is the Boy Wonder. And he’s got a gimmick. A verbal gimmick. A thing by which he is known.
He says, “Holy ___, Batman!” where “____” is whatever’s at hand: “Holy Priceless Collection of Etruscan Snoods!,” say.
THAT. That is what Robin says. Not, “Jumpin’ Jehosaphat.” Christ. I mean, I suppose we should count ourselves lucky they didn’t have him say “Oh My Stars and Garters, Batman!” or whatever the fuck. But still.
Oh, hey, he’s got another line. I’m sure it’s more in keeping with the ONE piece of characterizing detail that he’s ever been wait holdup what’d he just say?
"GOLLY GEE, BATMAN?"
And Batman, don’t look all smug over there. I’ve got issues with you as well, mister. Because “Sound ‘em all?” What does THAT even mean? Who says “Sound ‘em all?” WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT, MAN.
Oh, and way to patronize the hell out of your trusty sidekick, there. “Very well said.” Prick.
And while we’re at it, kindly explain to me why you are:
1. Running alongside the Batmobile.
2. Allowing a ten-year-old boy to drive said Batmobile.
3. In England now, apparently and also WHY IS THE BATMOBILE MAGENTA?
So. Yeah. That’s why it pissed off tiny, tow-headed, Keane-eyed me.
Because seriously “Jumpin’ Jehosaphat.” Every morning a dagger.
But anyway: Yesterday I sold my next book, “THE CAPED CRUSADE: THE RISE OF BATMAN AND THE TRIUMPH OF COMIC BOOK CULTURE,” to Simon and Schuster. It won’t be a quasi-encyclopedic deep dive into the character, like the Superman book was. It’ll be much more of a think piece, with a wider focus, in which I’ll examine how and why comics — superhero comics in particular — came to be embraced by the mainstream (for good and ill), and argue that Batman was the catalyst who made it possible.
This morning, I checked various auction sites for one of these Batman Talking Alarm Clocks. What better way, I thought, to remind me of the book’s deadline?
None of the ones I found can still play the alarm message that started every single day of my young boyhood off with a bout of nerdy vexation.
I should probably just buy one and be thankful I don’t have to listen to those (sniff, sniff) lazily off-model characterizations.
But … I am a nerd. And pointless outrage over things that do not remotely matter is … kind of our thing.
I’ll keep looking.
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