Batman vs. Batman
The small-town mayor of Batman, Turkey, is threatening to sue filmmaker Warner Bros. for using his locale's name without permission.
The comic-book superhero Batman may have finally found his match – and he happens to be a plain-spoken mayor from southeast Turkey.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The caped crusader's latest nemesis is Huseyin Kalkan, the two-term leader of a city called, appropriately enough, Batman (pronounced Baht-mahn). The politician recently raised eyebrows around the globe when he announced plans to sue Warner Bros., makers of the successful Batman films.
"Of course, I'm thankful to them for making the Batman name famous, but we can't let them use the Batman name without permission," Mr. Kalkan said during a recent interview in his office.
Kalkan's still-in-the-works lawsuit might seem like pure folly, but it could also be viewed as masterly guerrilla marketing. Small city mayors around the world take note: From his lair in Batman's city hall, Kalkan has managed to get his remote little town – one that has only recently started to emerge from decades of political and economic troubles – into headlines worldwide.
As a local municipal worker says, "We wouldn't have had better advertising for Batman, even if we had spent $1 million."
The mayor admitted a lawsuit is not coming any time soon, but if it's filed, it would not necessarily be a first. This past July, a court in Athens, Greece, ruled against a group from the Greek island of Lesbos, who tried to prevent a gay rights organization from using the word "Lesbian" in its name.
On the other hand, towns like Garfield, N.J. have yet to go after the makers of the popular cat cartoon and movie franchise.
Warner Bros. has little to say about Kalkan's lawsuit. "We are only aware of this claim via press reports and have not seen any actual legal action," read a company statement.
Still, Kalkan insisted that he's no joker – this lawsuit is serious. The idea came to him two years ago, when a visiting British journalist asked why nothing was being done to use the Batman movies' success to address the problems of the predominantly Kurdish city.
The city of Batman, a collection of mostly drab cement buildings located on a high, treeless plateau, would certainly never be confused with Gotham City.
But it does have a profoundly dark side. During the 1980s and '90s, the city was the scene of bitter fighting between the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and Turkish forces, as well as between the PKK and Islamists. Even the mayor is facing several pending court cases for his public praise of the outlawed PKK.
In Turkey, the city is perhaps best known for having an unusually high rate of female suicides – mostly young women accused of staining their family's honor.