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Batman and Robin: superhomos

We cast an eye over Marco Mancassola's new novel, which imagines the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder as embittered lovers

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These are queer times for superheroes. In 2006, Batwoman came out as a crime-fighting lesbian. Last year, an edition of Marvel’s ‘Astonishing X-Men’ featured gay superhero Northstar getting hitched to longterm boyfriend Kyle. There have even been rumours about Batman. Before his recent outing as the brooding Dark Knight, the Caped Crusader camped it up with Robin in gay film director Joel Schumacher’s two contributions to the genre, ‘Batman Forever’ and ‘Batman and Robin’.

‘Batman and Robin Forever’ could have been the working title of Marco Mancassola’s new novel. In ‘Erotic Lives of the Superheroes’, Batman and Robin are a celebrity gay couple living together in New York. But the spark has gone. The Boy Wonder has ‘committed the unforgivable sin of growing older.’ So while Robin is out fighting crime, Batman has sex with young pickups and sits next to Elton John at charity dinners.

Then Robin is murdered in Central Park, and Batman is hellbent on revenge. In the course of the book, he meets Superman, now old and frail with his ‘trembling arms’ and wicker chair. Meanwhile, Mister Fantastic and Mystique have hung up their gloves, unaware that they too are in mortal danger. Framed as an erotic murder mystery, this is a big, bold book about the fear of aging and the true nature of heroism. It’s also a sly take on contemporary celebrity culture, in which people once considered super human are reduced to staging fake rescue attempts or performing tricks on tacky TV shows. Mystique’s party piece sees her morphing into the likes of Madonna and Arnold Schwarzenegger – fellow American icons with bodies of steel, growing old under the glare of the media.

Nothing lasts forever, Mancassola reminds us – not even Batman and Robin.

‘Erotic Lives of the Superheroes’ is published by Salammbo Press at £14.99.

Marco Mancassola reads at Polari on Tue Jul 30.

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