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How to use the Batcave to build character and mood

For today’s how-to writer commentary, I’ll discuss using the Batcave or any setting to enhance the mood and develop character.

Kinda like the title says.

For those keeping score, this story is Chapter Seven in my Batman/ Iron Man/ Batgirl fanfiction “Armored Underworld.” In this chapter, Batgirl returns to the Batcave to research the Russians and the mystery woman she encountered.

Let’s rock!


Batgirl #5 cover; talking about using the Batcave/ setting to build mood

Batgirl steered her motorcycle down a tunnel hidden from the prying eyes of the Bristol area’s wealthy citizens. It led to the Batcave.

Dick had named the place; as a sixteen-year-old budding crime fighter, Dick had gone so far as to put the word “bat” in front of everything Batman used. Batcave, Batmobile, Batcycle, etc.

It was the kid in him, back when he’d first started working alongside Batman as Robin, the Boy Wonder.

Batman never said not to do it, so it all stuck.

I cringe at the syntax of that first paragraph. I’d have written it MUCH differently now.

The content is great, though: providing the origins of the bat-names! I’m not sure if this is canon in the DC Comics, but it makes sense. It also lets Robin/ Dick Grayson’s presence hover throughout the Batcave even when he’s not here.

It’s a much better remembrance than a dead Robin’s costume, which I haven’t done.

Yet.

Entering the Batcave, there was a space on a large plateau for Batgirl to park next to Batman’s two other motorcycles (one standard, one his Bat-Pod).

One of Batman’s many Batmobiles sat on a nearby turntable. Lately, he’d been using his modified sports car. A ramp wide enough for two cars led down to a lower level on which the other Batmobiles — from battle-ready tanks to modified sports cars, to rocket cars — waited for use.

The space between the two levels was a perilous drop to whatever lay at the bottom of the cave.

More world-building. As the Batcave and the Bat-gear are staples of Batman fiction, it’s always nice to map them out for later use.

Parking the bike, Batgirl dismounted. No need to hang up a helmet; her cowl sufficed for that. She headed for the stairs leading to the cave’s upper levels.

She heard a colony of bats swoosh overhead. She was used to the sound, having worked here in the Batcave for the past two years. She’d never gotten used to the enormity of the place.

The stairs passed over the expanse of the pit that surrounded the cave’s upper levels. Batgirl always made a point never to look down.

An odd touch considering Batgirl routinely swings between skyscrapers, but I’ll write it off to the fact she knows the street is down below between buildings. Who knows what’s at the bottom of the Batcave?

Passing one level, she noted various workout stations, mainly weights but also a sparing area and gymnastic apparatus.

Always up for a challenge, Batman had positioned the parallel bars and the rings across an expanse of the pit. You fall, it could be permanent — just like on the streets of Gotham.

One day I’ll do a flashback to training and show this area in use—one day.

Batgirl turned on the platform at that level and walked up to another long flight of stairs. The previous level helped sharpen Batman’s physical talents. The level waiting for her housed the tools that sharpened Batman’s mental and detective skills.

On the level to the right was a complete forensics lab, stocked with chemicals and equipment that would be the envy of the Gotham Police.

To the right of that was a medical trauma unit, enough to take care of the minor cuts and scrapes a night of crimefighting brings. It could also serve as an emergency service capable of dealing with the most threatening of injuries.

Not like a vigilante could simply pop into a hospital and not expect to need one doozy of an explanation for their near-critical wounds.

In my mind, I see the cave, but I could have done a better job helping the reader visualize the terrain. Words like “lower-level” or “upper level’ would help immensely.

Now you may wonder why all the descriptions for the Batcave, besides the world-building element. I come from a movie background.

If this sequence were a movie, I see it as a big “Touch of Evil” (see below) crane shot, allowing us to establish the cave as Batgirl walks to the Batcomputer.

This description is that crane shot. It sets the mood for the character stuff to come.

The opening crane shot from Orson Welles’ “Touch of Evil.” Cinematographer was Russell Metty.

Directly across from the top of the stairs was the famed Batcomputer.

A high-backed chair topped with a bat-eared head sat in front of the machine. The machine itself was a six-foot-wide console with a keyboard, touchpad, and various other interactive components.

A large central monitor stood at eye level above the console. It displayed the logo of the Bat within a yellow oval. Other monitors of various sizes grouped around that monitor.

Batgirl knew the guts of the Batcomputer, the servers, and the like were several levels down.

As she walked to the Batcomputer, Batgirl pressed two small release buttons on the back of her cowl. It detached from the neck section of her costume, and she removed it with both hands.

Holding the cowl in one hand, she ran her gloved hand through her shoulder-length red hair.

Batgirl placed the cowl on one of the side panels of the Batcomputer console. She withdrew a cable from the console and attached it to a socket on the cowl.

In movies and even more so in comic books and TV shows, you don’t always have the time you’d like to indulge in certain elements of the story. Often a sequence like this would simply be a few lines of dialogue in another scene. “I analyzed the data and found out XYZ, which led us to this warehouse” or something.

I have lots of time in a novel. I’m using that time to give us a look behind the curtain at the inner workings of Batman and his team. It’s great for character and world-building. It also gives the story time to breathe between action sequences.

“But Mark! We just had a breather with Stark and Wayne!”

True, but that was for them. Batgirl needs to wind down. I even alluded to this in the last chapter with Wayne’s quip about helping a student, so you knew this was coming. Foreshadowing!

Removing her gauntlet gloves, Batgirl set them on the console next to her cowl. She moved to the keyboard. Her bare fingers danced over the keys, pulling up a login page on the main monitor.

With her username and password typed in Batgirl looked to a camera-like device to the left of the main monitor. A low-powered laser scanned her face.

The words, “Identity confirmed as Batgirl, a.k.a. Barbara Gordon” appeared on the main monitor, followed by the words “Access granted.” The login screen disappeared, replaced by the Batcomputer’s desktop.

A few more keystrokes pulled up the computer’s video downloading and analyzation program. Batgirl commanded the program to download the data stored from her cowl’s camera.

As the process began, she grabbed her gloves and headed toward another set of stairs carved into the very stone of the cave. They led to the cave’s top-level where she’d find showers, lockers for spare civilian clothes, and the cabinets of spare costumes.

She removed her costume on the way up. By the time she reached one of the three cabinets for her costume, she was in just the boots, yoga pants and sports bra she wore underneath the armor. She placed the costume inside one of her three designated cabinets.

C’mon! You always wondered what the heroes wore under their costumes. Going with the movie theme, I’d hope the director and cinematographer would do this gracefully and not gratuitously.

Glancing at the space, she saw cabinets for Batman’s myriad of costumes, as well as Dick’s old Robin costumes. That pang of missing him crept over her face. She shut her cabinet and those thoughts and headed for the showers.

After a shower and change into civilian clothes (more yoga pants and a Valentina Lorena t-shirt), Batgirl — now Barbara Gordon — headed down the stairs and back to the Batcomputer. She found a very British gentleman standing by the console, setting the contents of a serving tray onto one of the available spaces.

Fans of my “Shadowdance” urban fantasy novels will recognize Valentina Lorena as the vampire pop star from that series. Who doesn’t love an Easter egg!

Does this mean my “Shadowdance” characters exist in the same world as my comic book fanfictions?

Guess you’ll have to stay tuned!

“I’ve taken the liberty of cooking you some chicken tenders,” the man said. “Grilled, with a side of horseradish sauce.”

Barbara approached the man, giving him a warm hug. His eyes widened at the move. He was a half a foot taller than her.

“I take it the meal is to your liking then?” he asked.

Ah, Alfred. Doing a Batman story without Alfred is like doing a Sherlock Holmes story without Watson. Or going to the bathroom without a toilet. For one, you have to have the other.


That’s it for this chapter. I have another one coming later tonight, so swing back by for that.

As always, here are the links to “Armored Underworld” and my other fanfiction.

For more on “Shadowdance” and the first appearance of Valentina, check out my novel, “By Virtue Fall.”

Catch you later!

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