Thursday, September 12, 2013

Chicanonautica: Jesús Murciélago Velázaquez, the Original Batman?

I’ve got another story out -- Novaheads, a postcyberpunk romp with a futuristic masked Mexican wrestler and a drug made from weaponized chili. It’s in Super Stories of Heroes and Villains edited by Claude Lalumière. I’ve written about its origin and long, twisted path to publication on my blog, Mondo Ernesto.

Here, I’d like to explore the lucha libre tradition -- specifically, Jesús Murciélago Velázquez. No, Murciélago (Bat) isn’t his real name. His parents named him Jesús Velázquez Quintero. He became know as El Murciélago Enmascarado when he wrestled in a black hood, trunks, and boots. He also wore a black cape into the ring, and, according to Dan Madigan in Mondo Lucha A Go-Go: The Bizarre and Honorable World of Wild Mexican Wrestling: he would carry a sack full of live bats and release them into the crowd before the match started.

Fantástico! What a showman! Death metal bands would love to do that. Imagine the legal/insurance complications it would cause . . .

And for those of you who don’t believe that it could be done, here’s a video with him entering the ring, without a mask, but with his cape, releasing bats:

The debut match of El Murciélago Enmascarado was April 3, 1938. Batman first appeared in Detective Comics #27, in May, 1939. That’s almost a year later. Velázquez may qualify as the original Batman.

We can’t tell if Bob Kane and Bill Finger had any way of knowing about Mexican wrestling at the time, but if they did, there may be an argument for a case of cultural appropriation here.

Even though his influence on American comic books is debatable, Velázquez was one of wrestlers who helped create the weird world of lucha libre, one of the first to wear a mask. He was known for knocking the eye out of Merced Gómez in the ring, though some say Gómez actually lost his eye in his earlier career as a boxer. Like the bat-release, it helped create the drama and legend of El Murciélago Enmascarado.

When a younger wrestler tried to use the name El Murciélago Enmascarado II, he sued. The young wrestler later obtained a silver mask and took the name Santo.

He was also the first luchador to be unmasked in the ring, which didn’t end his career -- he wrestled until 1955.

This was not the end of Jesús Murciélago Velázquez, who used the “bat” as part of his name in his career as an actor and screenwriter.

According to Internet Movie Database, he wrote 25 movies -- some starring Santo -- and not just the lucha libre genre, but horror, adventure, drama, comedy, crime, western, musical, and even a Pancho Villa biopic.

As an actor he usually played himself and wrestled. American monster movie fans may have seen him in Doctor of Doom and Wrestling Women vs the Aztec Mummy.

He was a true renaissance luchador!

Ernest Hogan’s story Novaheads is in Clalude Lalumiére’s Super Stories of Heroes and Villains that was called “the best superhero anthology around, and a must-read for comic book fans” by Publisher’s Weekly.

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