Is there a more disappointing form of entertainment than a kite? We're not here to hate on kite enthusiasts, but kites have a disappointing yield when it comes to fun factor. Much like the board game Mouse Trap and homemade fireworks, kites typically fail more often than they entertain, relying on windy weather to work properly, if only momentarily. In fact, we can't think of an aircraft that crashes more often than it flies.
Enter Kite Man, a classic Batman villain rocking one of the least-intimidating of motifs. Technically, "Hang Glider Guy" would be a more accurate moniker, as that's Kite Man's complete power set: being able to fly kites and/or hang gliders kinda well. We're not being hyperbolic when we say there will never be a blockbuster film based on Kite Man. However, there absolutely should be. Kites may suck, but Kite Man rules. Suspend your disbelief for a moment as we chronicle the rise and fall of Kite Man, the best worst villain, ever.
Created by Bill Finger and Dick Sprang, Kite-Man [sic] first dropped into our hearts in 1960's Batman #133. Despite the narrator describing kites as a "harmless sport," Kite-Man proves the contrary, employing them to drop tear-gas bombs at a penthouse party. Propelled by a jet-powered kite, the flying felon swoops in to snatch a priceless ruby, and laughs in Batman's face before popping him in the mouth.
After having been thoroughly flexed upon, Batman stakes out a kite-judging contest, believing it to be irresistible to Kite-Man. Instead, Kite-Man glides a colossal kite into a prison yard, and breaks out Big Bill Collins in broad daylight.
Batman boards the getaway kite, and engages in fisticuffs with Big Bill. Overlooking the skirmish, Kite-Man thinks, "Only one way to stop him now -- with a kite!" Kite-Man then throws a standard-issue kite at the Caped Crusader, who responds with a well-justified "What...?!"
It's a plan too stupid to work, yet it does! With Batman distracted by the kite, Big Bill knocks out the costumed vigilante All of the years spent training with assassins, fighting the Joker and planning for every possible outcome and not once has anyone, not even Batman himself, ever contemplated throwing a kite at Batman.
Kite-Man returns in 1975's Batman #315, going straight-up World War II on Gotham by releasing kites to drop nerve gas on a bank rooftop, pulling off the then-largest heist in Gotham's history.
Going kite-à-kite with Kite-Man, Batman unveils the Bat-Glider. Outmatched by his airborne nemesis, Batman kamikazes the Bat-Glider into Kite-Man, causing them both to plummet. Fortunately, Batman had packed a Bat-parachute, as this was before Batman had integrated a collapsable Bat-Glider into the Bat-cape. An instantly deployable hang glider weaved into a uniform? Gee, we wonder where Batman got that idea?
From that point on, the original Kite-Man is a joke. Seriously, Joker jokes that Deathstroke threw Kite-Man, sans kite, off of Wayne Tower in 2006's Infinite Crisis #3. Apparently Kite-Man survived this exposition-based demise, only to be cannibalized by Bruno Mannheim in 52 #25 -- an ending ill-fitting of the man who stopped Batman with a kite.
KITE MAN. HELL YEAH.
The modern-day Kite Man [sic] from Batman: Rebirth, by Tom King and Mikel Janin, is a running joke. Providing a much-needed laugh between major arcs, Kite Man will commit a high-altitude crime only to be promptly foiled within the same page, oftentimes while only saying "Kite Man," punctuated by, "Hell yeah."
He may be a joke, but Kite Man is the best joke, proving to be the most impressive among Batman's trash villains, coming up against the likes of Zebra Man, Film Freak and Cavalier. In retrospect, Kite Man is being set up for months in advance to serve as the ultimate punchline.
THE WAR OF JOKES AND RIDDLES
The Riddler and Joker have turned Gotham into a war zone, splitting up the supervillain community over who gets to kill Batman in "The War of Jokes and Riddles," by King and Janin. As Riddler explains, Joker can't laugh anymore: "Punchlines need to be unpredictable, that's why they're funny. But with [Batman] now, everything is predictable. You always lose. You need to laugh, or else who are you? To laugh again, you need to kill him."
Alternatively, Riddler claims Batman is the one puzzle that cannot be solved, ergo Riddler must murder-solve him. Joker sets up base at 69 Dick Sprang Ave., a hint to Kite Man cultists that he's the key to everything.
To set up a meeting with the Joker, Batman presses Charles Brown, an engineer who had worked on the aerodynamics of Joker's Jokermobile. We'll let Charlie Brown summarize how this meeting goes: "Batman had me set up the meeting, but then Riddler found out and I told him about the meeting, and then Batman found out about Riddler, so I told Batman about the meeting. Again. And then everyone was there."
Despite Batman having placed Charlie's family in protective custody, Riddler always knew Charlie Brown would betray him. So, Riddler poisons the rope on the kite belonging to Charlie Brown's son, Charlie Brown Junior.
KITE MAN BEGINS. AGAIN.
Designing a crime costume based on his fallen son's favorite pastime, Kite Man makes his debut on Joker's doorstep to enlist in his army, sporting Charlie Brown Jr.'s opinion of kites ("Hell yeah.") as a personal mantra.
Batman joins Riddler's squad, systematically taking down Joker's army until only Kite Man remains. Kite Man turns traitor, outfitting Riddler/Batman's squad with kite backpacks to crash Joker's nigh-impregnable penthouse for the final showdown.
Surrounded by supervillains, Batman says "Kite Man?," prompting Kite Man to active the "reverse parachutes" (invented by Kite Man himself) hidden within each villain's kite. Essentially reproducing the sky hook technique from The Dark Knight, these packs carry the rogues into an altitude high enough to lose consciousness, enabling Alfred to round them up in the Bat-Plane.
To recap: Kite Man – or "Kite Man?!" to quote the Riddler – got Batman into Joker's nigh-impenetrable lair, non-lethally defeated Riddler's army and made it into the final four of the war. Granted, Riddler punches him out immediately, but Kite Man saved the day.
WAIT FOR IT...
...Or did he? With Batman pummeling him, Riddler begs for mercy, only to check whether Joker is laughing. See, "The War of Jokes and Riddles" was never about killing Batman. It's really about the riddle that is also a joke: What joke makes the Joker laugh? The Riddler created the ultimate foil, setting up just the right set of circumstances that results in not only Kite Man's origin story, but also a war over the fate of Gotham that can only be stopped by Kite Man, the literal running joke of Batman: Rebirth, all to make Joker laugh.
Realizing a child had been murdered for a joke, Batman snaps. Of sound body and mind, Batman attempts to murder Riddler with a machete to the face. Fortunately, Joker stops the blade with his hand, "saving" Batman. While Kite Man technically didn't save the day, the tragedy of Kite Man was the straw needed to break Batman's "no-kill" rule. To quote the Joker: "Now that's funny."