Master storyteller Stephen King is known for creating riveting tales with in-depth characters; King’s short story Batman and Robin Have an Altercation is a perfect example of this. The tale is a part of a collection of short stories called The Bazaar of Bad Dreams: Stories by Stephen King, and was released in 2015. The book received rave reviews by critics and fans alike.
Stephen King’s stories are so much more than horror stories, and often aren’t horror at all, and they delve deep into the human condition and conflicts that we must face in our lifetime. In King’s novella The Body, which the movie Stand by Me was based on, he tells the story of a group of childhood friends who go on a summer adventure that changes the lives of the characters forever — thrusting them away from childhood innocence — and together they reach the intersection between childhood and adulthood.
On the surface, Stephen Kings’ Dolores Claiborne is about a woman who is accused of killing her wealthy and elderly employer. But as the story unravels, it is clearer that this psychological thriller is about trauma via abuse and how it affects the human psyche.
The Mist is a terrifying novella by Stephen King, and on the surface it is about otherworldly creatures invading a small town. But King just uses that premise as a platform to tell the story of humanity and how people behave while facing their own mortality. The real terror lies within the people of the story — not the monsters.
Like Stephen King’s stories, the Batman character is so much more complex than just another crime-fighting hero. Batman tells the story of a child who suffered from trauma as a young boy when his parents were murdered in front of him. Through his life he struggles with what is right and wrong and shows signs of PTSD because of his childhood experience. Unlike his DC Comics counterparts, Batman isn’t a superhero, but a man that has become a vigilante and is an anti-hero.
In the earlier versions of the comic, and even in later editions, Batman ruthlessly killed people because in his viewpoint it had to be done. He struggles with anger and walks a thin line between right and wrong. These are not the behaviors of a typical hero but that of a man struggling with life. Batman is not a black and white story but one that is filled with shades of grey. Batman’s complexity seems to be a natural fit for Stephen King. Often King’s characters have attributes of being the antagonist but turn out to be the protagonist of the tale. King has been a longtime fan of the Batman character, and as the Atlantic reported, in his essay Why I Chose Batman, King explains that there is something sinister about Batman.
“Maybe the real reason that Batman appealed to me more than the other guy.
“There was something sinister about him.
“That’s right. You heard me.
“… Batman was a creature of the night….
“In those Batman-busts-in panels, you almost always saw a horrid species of fear on the faces of the hoods he was about to flush down the toilet… Yeah, I thought… that’s right, they should look scared, I’d sure be scared if something like that busted in on me. I’d be scared even if I wasn’t doing something wrong.”
Batman and Robin Have an Altercation is about the relationship of a man and his father who suffers from Alzheimer’s. As they try to recount stories together, the father only remembers the Halloween that they dressed up as Batman and Robin. Stephen King’s official website gives the synopsis of the story.
“A middle-aged man named Sanderson brings his Alzheimer’s-afflicted father to Applebee’s for their weekly lunch, where for three years they have ordered the same food and had the same conversation. Just as Sanders despairs of finding any shred of the man who raised him, he’s saved from a brutal assault to find his father wielding a weapon procured in a moment of lucidity.”
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Thanks to the new NPR show Too Hot for Radio, Stephen King’s Batman and Robin Have an Altercation is now available on audio (containing explicit language), narrated by Stephen Lang (Avatar, Don’t Breath), and you can listen to it below.
[Images via Shane Leonard & Warner Bros. Pictures]