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.
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At the heart of Kalkan's phantom lawsuit is really a desire to find a new image for this beleaguered city, or at least to foster a sense of normalcy. In many ways, the mayor has tried to be Batman's mustachioed avenger, presiding over the construction of new roads and a mall with a Burger King and a five-screen Cineplex, the city's first movie theater.Skip to next paragraph
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"Batman's a tough place. We very much want Batman's image to change," says Gulistan Akel, a sociologist working with Selis, a women's center run by the municipality.
Ekrem Konac, a cleaning-supplies manufacturer, supports Kalkan's efforts to safeguard the city's famous name.
"The idea is comic, but good things are happening because of it," he says. "It's nice to see that people around the world now know our city. Don't people go to see Morocco because of the movie Casablanca?"
The mayor of Batman has a history of thinking big to put his little city on the map. In 2003, to help kick off what has become a popular annual cultural festival, he invited as a headliner Ciwan Haco, a kind of Kurdish Bruce Springsteen. More than 200,000 fans showed up.
"It's very expensive to bring Michael Jackson, so we dropped that," the mustachioed mayor said. "But we did get letters of thanks from Fidel and Mandela."
Kalkan's next stunt is trying to bring President-elect Barack Obama to his town for an official visit.
Still, Kalkan faces some skepticism. One local paper, called "Batman," ran several days' worth of cartoons poking fun at the mayor – one, a picture of Kalkan's smiling face atop Batman's bat suit.
Ercan Atay, the paper's editor, cites a few obstacles to Kalkan's lawsuit: Batman the comic strip dates to 1939, while Batman the city was only incorporated in 1955. And before the city's growth after the discovery of oil nearby in the 1950s, it was actually a small village called Iluh.
"He needs to stop this. If he actually takes this to the courts, he will look ridiculous," says Mr. Atay, who says the city's social and economic issues are more pressing. Rather than a lawsuit, the editor suggests inviting Warner Bros. to make the next Batman film here. The area surrounding the city is pocked with caves that are perfect for the movie, he notes.
"It could be 'Batman in Batman,'" he says. "Now that would be interesting."