You Can Leave Gotham

At long last, it is finished. I have a Batcave.

I am so sore right now that breezes make my eyelashes hurt. I have touched every object I own over the course of the last week but still somehow don’t know where anything is. Thanks to some ambitious movers with poor communication skills, all of my shoes are hidden somewhere on the premises, likely in an unmarked box underneath the Christmas lights, Rosebud, and the Ark of the Covenant. I have no idea what is going on in the outside world and, aside from the ones I’ve read to stay podcast-current, I am a full month behind on my comic reading. None of this matters. The ordeal is over. I have moved, and I have an office, an office with a closet so big that guests keep mistaking it for a bathroom, a closet that now looks like an optical illusion. No, it’s not done with mirrors; there really are that many boxes of comics in there.

One of the nicest things about moving was rescuing my comics from storage and setting them up someplace where I could actually get at them, my own personal lair. Like the Batcave, it is full of trophies from my adventures, books and baubles and giant pennies, right behind that 6′ Incredible Hulk standee that keeps terrifying you and making you think you’re about to be murdered by an intruder every time you see it out of the corner of your eye no matter how many times it happens. When we decided to start looking for a new house, one of my only conditions was getting this one room in the house that was entirely mine.

“You don’t see me demanding my own room,” my wife had said.

“Well, let’s be honest,” I’d replied. “Every room in the house is your room.”

That was a long night.

Unfortunately, we didn’t move because of my need for some sort of John Gray “man cave.” We needed a yard for the kiddo to play in, and living across from a hospital on a busy urban street had stretched the patience/circadian rhythm of my small-town-raised wife as far as they could go without someone ending up on the food end of a kitchen knife. More than any of these things, though, we needed to put a good stretch of highway between ourselves and the Underworld.

Ours was a “developing” neighborhood. For the first few years, it was “developing” the way a caterpillar develops wings. For the last year, it was “developing” the way your dad develops a drinking problem. The block was a microcosm of the national news: our house was a vacant lot before the housing boom, then as the economy tanked bars started going up on windows and cars started leaving without their owners. My neighbors began talking about Taking Back Our Streets and asking city officials, “What are you going to do about this lawlessness?” I read the e-mails going back and forth and thought, “When did I become one of the angry people from the Dark Knight crowd scenes?”

One night, after weeks of watching it happen around us, it happened to us. The burglar alarm went off at 3:30 a.m. I sleepily ambled down the stairs towards it like a genius, saying to my wife, “That unholy fiend you call a cat has set off the motion sensor. Probably knocked something over. Probably something of mine.” It never occurred to me for a moment that the burglar alarm would ever alert us of a burglar, but when we got downstairs the breeze from outside immediately told us we’d had a visitor.

I had mocked her all those times she’d told me to make sure I locked the back door. “Honey, the back porch is above  our garage; the back door is a story off the ground. In order for someone to sneak in through that door, he would either have to be Stilt-Man– no, I don’t expect you to know who that is, but his name sort of paints the picture, doesn’t it?– or he and his gang of criminal masterminds would have to pull his car up under the deck, climb the car, hop the railing, and then somehow get whatever they stole down via that same method without anyone noticing. Frankly, if any would-be prowler thought that up, much less tried it, I think they would almost deserve whatever they take. Just out of respect for the effort.”

Needless to say, the night we got visited, we got visited by ****ing Stilt-Man. Just another banana peel on the ground in the Universe’s continuing plot to make sure no one feels entirely confident listening to anything I say. At least the door had actually been locked, or this would still be coming up in conversations in 2037.

The more I look back on that night, the more sense it makes to me that superheroes still appeal to us. I was the nameless guy in the book, the pinhead in a suit who gets mugged in the alley and cries out for Spider-Man. I was the old guy of miscellaneous ethnicity getting roughed up in Hell’s Kitchen. When the cops finally showed up, they were just as helpless as I was. They didn’t even write anything down during the six minutes they were there.

“You know,” I said, “the guy’s fingerprints must be all over the door. Do you maybe want to see about checking for those?”

“Mmmmmnah,” said the policeman as if I’d just asked him if he wanted to buy the Extended Service Plan. “There’s really no point.” Awesome.

“These are really nice houses,” said the same cop on the way out. “I’d love to live in one of these places, if the neighborhood were better.”

Yes, I thought. If only one of us were in a position to do something about that.

Of course, the cops can’t help it that they’re bound by procedure, rules, and the laws of physics. They’re on the clock, not on a crusade. That only added to the feeling of powerlessness, though. They say kids like superheroes because kids can’t do anything, so they like to imagine they can do everything. You’d think we would grow out of it after we got some walking-around money and a set of car keys, but I think if anything the older you get the more aware you become of just how out of your control everything really is. You might not dress up like a bat, but on a primal level you can understand the impulse. You may not be able to dispense justice, but you can settle for reading about it from the safety of your suburban cave.

As much as Jim Mroczkowski‘s wife was driven crazy by the ambulances and motorcycles, he will be driven crazier still by these sleepless, incessant crickets. At least motorcycles drive away! Chart the progress of his madness via Twitter.


  1. When I was approximately 10 years old my family lived in a rather unpleasant neighborhood near the local high school.  One day we came home following a trip out of town to find our house had been ransacked.  I freaked out because I was concerned that the thieves had stolen my G.I. Joes, Transformers, or (God forbid) Garbage Pail Kids cards.  I started bawling.  It turns out the only thing they actually took was a broken VCR.  The police were of no help.  That summer Batman debuted in theatres.  The combination of these two events happening nearly simultaneously created the fan of superhero comics that I have become. 

    Thank you for reminding me of why I read them. 

  2. I feel ya.  I just moved into a new house a few monhs ago.  I have "my room" which is a combination batcave and weight room.  Since there is a state trooper vehicle in my neighbors driveway I sleep very safe at night.

  3. You’re right in that in reality, we’re the nameless dudes in books who always gets attacked. Whenever we read these books, we always look at these guys with pity. When in reality, we are the shrieking hosewives yelling out to Superman after our purses have got stolen.

  4. I’ll be the guy in a Punisher book that either:

    A) Get’s killed in the crossfire, because I deserve it.

    B) Will be tortured for amusement before Castle comes in and saves the day.

    It doesn’t matter what our fantasies are for comic books. We’ll always be the people in the crowd looking like we just wet ourselves. Hell just this once I would like to see the public in a comic book take stance on what the villains or even heroes are doing. But no they are protrayed as nameless idiots who will blindly follow anyone that has a government postion. Or just scream at Spider-Man for the billionth time.

    Sorry to hear about the break in Jim. That happened to me once with my family and let me say it was a scary experience. Actually we slept threw it, cause we didn’t have an alarm at the time, but it was scary to see two windows just suddenly not be there when we wake up.

  5. So you’re saying we shouldn’t read Batman?  Dropped.

    You got away good, could have been much worse.  Hell, I was almost killed by some thugs once, ended in the hospital for a while!

  6. Was mugged once in bright, broad daylight.  Batman’s decision to work at night probably occasionally pisses off Gotham victims of day-based crimes.

  7. Did he actually get in and steal anything?

  8. This is actually why I always liked Daredevil and The Punisher. I wouldn’t really ever imagine the Avengers swooping down on everyday criminals but I always like that Daredevil and The Punisher fought for the everyday working Joe.


    Great article.

  9. Did the cops tell you that you should invest in a gun?  That’s the first thing the STL police told me when I was robbed.  Not, "Don’t worry, we’ll go looking for him" but scorn for not being able to shoot the guy. Sorry to hear about the break-in, and I know how that helplessness feels.  It was a good choice to move a little farther out. 

  10. @Neb: At least the cops came over. I was in Philly when my house got robbed and guess when they came over to report it?


  11. I’m surprised my apartment building hasn’t been broken into. I live just outside of Junkieville. I have to walk a hobo gauntlet to get to work. Every alleyway still has the Wayne’s chalk outlines on the ground.

    The good news about my girlfriend moving out is now I’ll have room for my comic boxes. I’ve been keeping them in a friend’s basement.

  12. Some dude broke in my house, stole my car keys, $40, my cell phone, a bag of pot, and my car one night in 2003.  Then he crashed my car.  He got probation for three years but I never got the restitution money for anything.  It was a brand new Accent too.  I haven’t had a new car since.

  13. you never cease to amaze me sir, I laughed so hard at the stilt man part i couldnt see the screen for a moment. How do you do it?

  14. In the hobo gauntlet you walk through the TRIAL OF BINDLE STICKS!

  15. Criminal scum seem to gravitate toward my stuff. Wish I could go all Punisher on them. Sons of bitches!

  16. Wow! I hear you loud and clear Jimmy! I was born, and grew up in a part of Brooklyn that was so bad, it was called "The Bottom" by the other bad sections of Brooklyn. It made Crime Alley look like Sesame Street! My earliest memories of my grandmother were of her sitting in my bed with me while she threw canned goods at the dog sized rats that had been driven into our house by demolition of a hospital across the street. She did this to protect me. By the time I was 5 years old I had seen my first murder. At 7 my childhood friend that lived next door to me was gunned down by a burglar in her house. She was 7 years old at the time as well. I used to watch the men come bloodied and screaming out of the local social club that was run by the Mother And Fathers Italian Association. I watched a loan shark slice a man a minimum of 20 times as he tried to escape. Our family business that was located in a store that we lived over, was held up at gunpoint 4 times. And we were paying for protection at the time! Junkies. There were so many burned down buildings that it looked like London during the blitz!

    In my teens I had watched so many of my friends die, that at 16 I knew I had to get out of the neighborhood quick! And I did a couple of months later.  I quit school, got a job to be able to pay for rent & food, and I ghosted. It was my life.

    Even at that young age I knew! That’s why I cant understand why ANYONE would choose to stay in Gotham.

    Coast City – Even if I was Hal’s brother. "Sorry Bro. I got kids. Ya know?"

    Metropolis – No Way-polis

    Bludhaven – Really? A city with BLOOD right in the name.

    Central City – The main "protector" has so many enemies, they are called a gallery! That and it creeps me out that a really fast dude that can become invisible can also walk thru my walls.

    Of course there is no guarantee. Look at Kansas in Kingdom Come! 

    But I think I would like to live like in Florida on the Keys if I was in the DC Universe. Even if I got some crap because I lived on an island surrounded by ocean, I bet I could kick Black Manta’s ass.

    And it’s not only just that Super Heros tend to attract super villains, it’s the fact that why would you even tempt fate?

  17. While living and going to Wayne State in Detroit I was robbed at gunpoint while walking back to my apartment.  The responding officer told me "it was only 50 Bucks so relax,"  Gotham is DC’s Detroit in my mind,  A city that was once really very nice, and full of industry but has fallen from crime and corrupt political figures.

  18. Sorry for the suck. Like your article style. Fun and witty, even when talkin about nasty stuff. Hope you enjoy the new home.

  19. My garage door was kicked in last week while we are at a National Night Out event.  (Was it a setup?  hmmm)  The kid’s bikes and my fishing equipment were gone.  Strangely, the box of Taco Bell Star Wars junk was untouched.

     I would offer Minneapolis/St. Paul as an analog of Central City/Keystone City, but we are lacking in abandoned toy factories.  And Carlos Gomez is a poor substitution for Barry Allen.

  20. @Wolfdog: I’d go to those Taco Bell stuff the moment I see them 🙂

    Seriously though; my house (not where I live now) got broken into one day. It was obviously a group of druggies cause there was booze, cigarettes, and other smelly substances in the air. We called the police and they said someone would come over. Then an hour passed…..and then another….and then we called again and they stated we didn’t call the first time….and then two more hours passed. Finally we just walked up and went back to our new house. (This was like the first week we moved out btw). So yeah there’s the police at their finest in Philly right there.

  21. When I was 8, my apartment was broken into during the Christmas break while we were out spending Christmas at my cousin’s house. When we came home, the apartment was cold and all our major electronics were gone. From the VCRs to the desktop computer to those huge-ass CRT TVs. Sure, the neighbourhood wasn’t great, but I never imagined that we’d get broken into seeing as we lived on the second floor and you’d think SOMEONE would notice something suspicious going on if they were stealing giant CRTs. That night my family and I had to huddle up together in our winter jackets to sleep because the window was gone.  think they scored the window open Catwoman-style since I didn’t see any glass shards. The police came but we saw no results afterwards.

    And there I thought "this guy’s going to pay when the police catch him." Oh how naive I was. 

    Merry Christmas, indeed. For the theifs, that is.

  22. This article gave me a good chuckle.  Oh how I can’t wait for that arguement with the wife about how I want a room to myself!

  23. I hope that cop isn’t a member of the iFanbase.

  24. I was thinking about the "Comic Book Space" part of the article and thought I would show u guys this.

    I have established a HUGE beachead in my livingroom. I am still amazed the wife let me put it up!

  25. Well, you can become a cop. I’m entertaining the idea. I think I hold in higher regard comics characters who are plain detectives who are more in danger every day, and have to use their brains to solve crimes, rather than someone with gadgets or a superpower. The same with real life people – especially since real gadgets aren’t as cool as their comic counterparts.

    There’s an ex-cop I can’t find the name of who exposed wide police corruption in NY I think, and there are people like Joseph D. Pistone. Batman is an acceptance of the status quo rather than trying to change it – to change the police force or courthouses.

  26. @chlop

    The first cop you are thinking of is Frank Serpico.

  27. @Unoob. Yes, thanks.

  28. If my house were burgled hardly anything would be taken.  I’m sure my comics, trades, and anime DVDs would all be safe.  I might be without an Xbox or a Laptop though.

  29. Jim is just a whole different level of good writer.  Seriously.  Great stuff, sir.