- Books, Literature, and Writing
Calendar Man: A Cult Tribute
I've recently started getting into a lot of Batman stuff again, following what I felt were two excellent trailers for the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad films. I don't know what it was, but something about watching scenes from both trailers just made me really want to dive into the psyche of Bruce Wayne again, which has led to a lot of reading (Batman: Knightfall FTW), a lot of screening of Batman movies and playing the Batman: Arkham series again. Now, it's going to come out here in my writing. Today, I want to write a Cult Tribute to one of my favorite villains in the Batman universe. And in typical fashion of...myself, this isn't a dude who you'd find on the Batman Mount Rushmore. He's a laughingstock, a villain that is beneath some henchmen; hell, dare I say most people would refer to him as a loser. But because of that, and a whole lot of untapped potential, I've always had a soft spot for the dude. Thus, he gets a write up. So sit back, crack open a Pepsi, make sure the oven is turned off and tell Mazza it's past his bedtime already. This is a Cult Tribute for the Calendar Man!
What You Already Know
Julian Gregory Day, aka the Calendar Man, is yet another member of Batman's seemingly endless rogue gallery. His niche; committing crimes on holidays, because why the hell would you name yourself the Calendar Man if you weren't going to try and ruin the most special days of the year. Unfortunately for Julian, he's often looked down upon by both heroes and villains of the DC Universe, as his crimes are usually unsuccessful and petty at best. He's basically the Silver Age Joker (without being cool), Xander Harris, Zack Ryder and the guy riding with Nux in Mad Max: Fury Road all rolled up into one. Killer Moth looks down on him, and not just because he was Calendar Man's boss in that Misfits group!
What You Didn't Know
Despite not appearing until about twenty years after Batman's print debut, the Calendar Man was actually thought up by one of the Batman founding fathers, one Bill Finger. It's actually fitting this be the case, as like Calendar Man, Finger is sort of a forgotten man in the comic book ethos. Despite being heavily involved with the creation of Batman along with Bob Kane, Finger didn't exactly get full credit for his work, and was only acknowledged as a co-creator by Kane after Finger's death in the mid 1970's. Unless I'm mistaken, you still don't always see Finger's name mentioned as being a creator in certain media. Such a shame, but again, a fitting occurrence given Calendar Man's status as a villain in the background (albeit for a whole other reason). At least no one can take Finger's creation of Calendar Man away from him; the villain was one of the two characters that Finger created that had no involvement with Kane.
What has likely affected Calendar Man's reputation is the time period he first appeared. The character debuted in 1959, which isn't exactly the greatest period in Batman history. You know how dark, grim and downright depressing the Batman movies, comics and video games can be these days? Not back then; the Silver Age was the time of the Adam West Batman series, the borderline censoring Comic Book Code (a distant cousin to the just as bad Production Code) and a whole lot of things that caused Batman and Robin to unfortunately exist. In short, dark times for the Batman series, and the Calendar Man. The character was pretty much built for that time period; he was a goof, his crimes were holiday themed pranks (pretty much the same thing Joker had been reduced to at the time, only Joker had the pedigree) and a closet full of ridiculous costumes that Calendar Man would wear depending on the day. The character did eventually get his own costume, which is actually even worse. An entire wardrobe of weird holiday garbs is one thing, but whatever they put him in afterwards made less sense than putting Hector Guerrero in a turkey suit.
It should thus come to no surprise, considering how much Calendar Man is looked down upon, that he pretty much disappears from the DC Universe after awhile. Indeed, following the glorious Crisis on Infinite Earths story (which pretty much reset everything back to the beginning), Calendar Man has been seen less than D.B. Cooper (for all my readers who were kids in the 70's!). His comic book appearances, save for a major supporting role in the iconic Long Halloween/Dark Victory comics, have ranged from nothing to small cameos. There's also been little to no appearances by the character in TV or film, not even during the Adam West period where the character was more prominent. Thankfully, that appears to be changing. The Calendar Man has been featured more heavily in the popular Batman: Arkham video game series, where he's been re-imagined as a holiday theme torturer/serial killer with a bum leg. And recently, the producers for the Fox TV series Gotham (think Smallville except darker and the least interesting dude from The O.C. is Commissioner Gordon) have revealed that Calendar Man will be in season two. Which not only has me excited, but means I may actually have to start watching that show now. The sacrifices we make (just kidding. Or am I?!).
I'd be remiss if I didn't bring up the Arkham games here (especially Arkham City), which I think have done quite a bit to help the Calendar Man's reputation among comic fans in recent years. That said, there's no consideration for him being in those games without Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's epic Batman: The Long Halloween and Batman: Dark Victory. It was these two comics that showed readers what the Calendar Man could be at his full potential. Instead of making him the silly holiday prankster, Loeb and Sale turned the Calendar Man into a sinister Hannibal Lector type (minus the eating of people), who would help/taunt Batman while he searched for the Holiday killer (whose identity has been deduced by the Calendar Man). Most importantly though, Loeb and Sale didn't shy away from Calendar Man's inferiority complex, and instead made it the driving force by making him a bitter man over being forgotten and overshadowed by Holiday. The result was the most complex, three dimensional portrayal anyone had ever seen of the character, and is in my opinion the reason he's seen a slight revival in recent years. Props to both Loeb and Sale for making sure Calendar Man wouldn't be forgotten.
It's easy to sing the praises of fully realized characters and creations than it is to look through the pages to find ones that could be great with a little work. That aspect of the Calendar Man has always fascinated me. I've often been teased by friends and family for the soft spot I have for Julian Day, but what's not to like in regards to his potential? The Calendar Man is a character capable of going to numerous dark places, and with an even more sinister edge due to the way heroes, villains and readers all simultaneously look down upon him. Combine that with his penchant for holiday drama and his abilities (I didn't mention that the Calendar Man is quite intelligent and is a skilled inventor), and there's no telling what someone could do with this character if they tried. The Long Halloween, Dark Victory and the Arkham games have proven that the Calendar Man is a compelling villain, and that's without going the full distance. I look forward to the day someone does so I can brag about being on the bandwagon from the beginning. And that's why I find Calendar Man to be so darn interesting. He's a diamond in the rough, and I'm not talking about in the same way Aladdin was to Jafar. Or maybe I am. Who knows?
That'll do it girls and guys! I'm off to watch some Arrow. Till next time, a message to Kevin Dunn from wrestling fans everywhere.