The Caped Crusader takes on the Fab Four!
I’m gonna go ahead and assume I don’t need to do too much setup here. You know who the Beatles are. John, Paul, George and Ringo, the best selling band in the United States, with over 177 million certified units. One of the biggest cultural influences of all time. They did Octopus’s Garden. You know who the Beatles are.
The cultural landscape of the 1960s was defined by the three Bs: The Beatles, Batman and Bond. We’ll get to Bond another time (watch out, George Lazenby!) but for today, let’s focus on the eternal conflict between the Fab Four and the Caped Crusader. Because let’s face it, while both may have helped shape the 60s, Batman went on to be a cultural mainstay in the 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s and 10s.
This is either from a recent issue of Zero Year, or from Batman’s funky 70s disco phase.
In 1966, John Lennon controversially stated in an interview that the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus”. This comment is often miscontrued – what John meant was purely in terms of mass. There were four of them, so OBVIOUSLY they’d outweigh Jesus. I’m not sure if he was challenging Jesus to some kind of fistfight here, but one thing is true: he could not make the same statement comparing The Beatles to Batman – Batman has them beat on the mass front by HIMSELF.
I bet the Beatles don’t even lift, bro.
When we talk about Batman’s cultural significance in the 1960s, we are talking about the classic live action TV series, which ran for 120 episodes from 1966 – 1968. This series will be made available on blu-ray for the first time this year, and I could not be more excited. It’s a perfect relic of its campy era in the best possible way, and should be mandatory viewing in all schools. What else are kids learning about, numbers? Who needs numbers?
Anyway, the series ended in March 1968, and just 4 months later, the Beatles recorded one of their most famous songs, Hey Jude. I submit it to you, the court of the internet, many of the lyrics in the latter half of Hey Jude are CLEARLY a ripoff of the lyrics from the Batman TV theme. The Beatles may have changed inconsequential details like “melody” and “instrumentation”, but it seems clear that the ‘nana’s make them BASICALLY the same song and that Wayne Enterprises should sue.
Put perhaps the most damning proof of Batman’s superiority comes from Batman #222, a 1970 issue in which Batman unravels the most famous Beatles controversy. WARNING: SPOILERS FOR A 40 YEAR OLD COMIC YOU’LL NEVER READ FOLLOW.
As with most covers from this era, the cover is only slightly related to the story.
Okay, so they’re not TECHINCALLY the Beatles, they’re the “Oliver Twists”, a thinly veiled Beatles stand-in, presumably so that writer Frank Robbins and artists Irv Novick and Dick Giordano didn’t get sued to all heck, but come on, LOOK AT THEM:
Glennan, Benji, Saul and Hal, presumably fresh from recording “General Salt’s Lonesome Lungs Band Club”
The story of this issue deals with a variation of the “Paul Is Dead” conspiracy. The rumour goes that Paul McCartney died in a car crash in 1967, and was replaced with a lookalike soon after. This is supported with various interpretations of song lyrics, album covers, and backwards playings of songs. For example, if you play Let It Be at half speed backwards, you can clearly hear Ringo say “I can’t believe they’re falling for it, that doesn’t even look like his nose.” The Beatles broke up soon after, but the rumour persists, and it makes sense – who WOULDN’T believe that the cold, soulless Paul McCartney we see today wasn’t replaced by a robot or something?
Just look into his eyes, the clues are all there.
In Batman #22, the Oliver Twists (or “Fake Beatles”, as I will now refer to them), come to Gotham amid rumours that “Saul” has died and been replaced. This piques Dick Grayson’s interest, and he and Bruce Wayne invite them to stay at Wayne Manor to keep them out of the public eye, while Batman and Robin intend to get to the bottom of the faked death mystery. I guess Mr Zsasz wasn’t out murdering people that week.
This leads to a Looney Toons-esque cat and mouse game, in which Bruce and Dick attempt to get a sample of the possibly-fake-Saul singing to match to a sample of original Saul. Also, the only time Bruce is ever nice to Alfred:
Also also, Robin calling Batman a “cutie.” NO COMMENT.
Perhaps worth noting: no one has to pay for the rights to sing Happy Birthday in a comic book panel. This is the only reason I can think why this story hasn’t been used in a Batman motion picture. Just imagine if Chris Nolan has directed THIS:
Saul’s ever changing moustache colour is a mystery for another time.
A bunch of other weird stuff happens, Batman figures out a key has been used by the way it’s facing under the doormat, they get attacked by someone trying keep the whole thing under wraps, and eventually the dynamic duo confront the Fake Beatles back at the manor. In a Shyamalanian twist, Saul drops a bombshell:
Robin is especially upset by this.
Yes, the rest of the Fake Beatles are the imposters. Fake Lennon has been covering it up for the money, going so far as to employ killers to take out Batman and Robin, because obviously if anyone’s gonna be the asshole in the Fake Beatles, it’s Fake John Lennon. I guess they also started the rumour about Saul’s death to divert attention away from the real story? I don’t understand how that’s much better, but Batman appeared to figure it out, and that’s enough for me.
Anyway, Saul and the other two Fake Beatles come clean and start a new band, seemingly unaffected by the whole scandal. It was a simpler time, when you could cover up celebrity deaths with no repercussions. Many would say a better time.
The bottom line is, Batman outsmarted the Beatles, as you would expect. Even in terms of basic songwriting, Batman comes out on top. Can you HONESTLY say any song by the Beatles is better than Batman’s effort from the Lego Movie?
I think not. Batman wins. Again.