My Dark Knight

The Dark Knight at the Little Red Cube
If Gotham City, Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor mean anything to you, then you know what I’m talking about.  Bruce Wayne, an American billionaire, industrialist and philanthropist, is my hero – the man under the bat-themed costume – better known as Batman. 

As a child, he witnessed the murder of his parents and with a sense of justice, he swore revenge on criminals.  With the help of his trusted butler, Alfred, Bruce trained himself both physically and intellectually to equip himself as Batman, the crime fighter.  

Unlike most superheroes, Batman does not have any super powers but he makes use of his intellect, detective skills, science and technology, wealth, physical prowess, martial arts skills and applies indomitable will and intimidation in his continuous war on crime in Gotham City.

Wall mural at the lane behind Jalan Dato Teoh Siew Khor,
Kluang, Johor
I was a fan from way back when the role of Batman was played by Adam West in the black & white TV series.  This fictional superhero, which first appeared in American comic books published by DC Comics in 1939, is also known as the Caped Crusader, the Dark Knight and the World’s Greatest Detective.  

I remember watching the Batman animated TV series and being amused at how the cartoons mirrored the comic pages where each punch or blow was expressed by words like “Pow!” or “Wham!” illustrated within a cloud or star while the villain was overpowered under his powerful blows! 

Fruit bats hanging upside down from tree branches
at Kg Tekek, Tioman Island
In recent movies, the Batman character got a bit more dark and complicated but I remain a firm fan.  I’m not too thrilled by the prequel and the mess Bruce has become because I’m all for simpler stories of his straightforward crime-fighter skills.  But for such an ancient character, I must say Batman is doing very well fighting a host of super villains since Lex Luthor and the Joker, Penguin, Riddler, Catwoman, Two-Face and the list goes on!

Batman seems like a far off, fictional superhero but did you know that there is a town in Johor named after him?  Well, not exactly but recently I was reminded that the Malay word for our fruit bat is keluang and that’s how Kluang got its name.  Locals fondly call Kluang, “bat town” probably because it was originally an agricultural trading post and there once was an abundance of fruit bats in that area.  There may be other legends behind the naming of Kluang town but fans of Batman here have honoured him with a wall mural in the lane behind one of the main roads, Jalan Dato Teoh Siew Khor.

Trees like this in Kg Tekek, are
hung with lots of fruit bats!
Locals tell me that there was a book store nearby where youths used to hang out just to read comics and the artist aptly illustrated the nostalgia of how young people used to enjoy comics in “bat town” while being watched over by none other than superhero, Batman himself!

I’m no stranger to bats because my experience with these creatures goes way back to the time when our parents were based in Masai.  At dusk every evening, bats would be swooping down from the sky – returning from their feeding trips – to roost in the ceiling of the building that housed the government clinic, situated just next to our bungalow.  I still remember how they would cling to the wire mesh that wrapped around the building under the roof.  At first it was quite terrifying to see these black phantoms whizzing between the buildings but over time, we got used to them. 

Even though they are wild, I know they were harmless as dad educated us about the various types of fruit bats, otherwise known as flying foxes.  I remember the first time I saw a dead bat that was found on the grass in the garden.  Dad held out its wings just to show us its wide span and I remember the brown and orange fur on its breast.  And how can I ever forget those tiny fangs that reminded us of Count Dracula?

Batman as he looks in the dark!
While in Tioman Island last month, I had a close encounter with thousands of bats.  On that bright and sunny afternoon, as we were walking along to the village at Kampung Tekek, someone said, “Look up” and when I did, I saw hidden among the tree branches, hundreds upon thousands of fruit bats!  Ok, this may be an exaggeration but we stopped in our tracks to observe the surrounding trees that were hung with upside-down creatures – bats! 

This was truly an impressive sight!  I just stood there and watched, pleased to see such a natural phenomenon again.  I had a flashback to our years in Masai when we saw bats every evening.  On this island with a vast area covered by lush tropical rainforests, away from the cities and extensive development, large numbers of bats are still able to thrive.

I left the bats behind when I returned to the mainland but I didn’t know that I was about to meet with Batman again soon.  It was a cloudy night at the Little Red Cube when I spotted the magnificent Caped Crusader standing proudly on the rooftop.  The lighting was very poor but I can recognise him anywhere.  I could not see his face in the dark but I know it’s him. 

Look out for Batman at the Little Red Cube, Puteri Harbour in Nusajaya, Johor
The very next day, I was at Puteri Harbour again for another event and once it was over, I made a beeline for Batman.  And there he was, towering above everyone else in the Little Red Cube.  While he is among other superheroes in the Justice League, his place of prominence is quite impressive – but I’m just biased.  


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