When I was a kid, there was a cable network called The Family Channel. One program they showed was reruns of the 1960s version of “Batman,” a character that debuted in Detective Comics in 1939. There was an episode called “The Bloody Tower” where Batman’s sidekick Robin (real name: Dick Grayson) stumbles over a clearly marked Death Bee Beehive Trip Wire set up by the villainous Lord Marmaduke Ffogg. Ffogg’s daughter, Lady Prudence, stands over Robin and mocks him coolly, advising him to stay calm or risk being stung. So, this bee, I don’t know if it was made of felt or paiper-mâché or what, but it was about the fakest thing I have ever seen. I have a distinct memory of watching this show with my sisters, my parents having given us vanilla ice cream with hot fudge on top.
Now, my kids watch “Teen Titans Go,” which includes a much more obnoxious version of Robin, and sometimes another hero named Bumblebee. There was an entire episode about Beast Boy creating a new system of currency using bees. None of these characters have any adult supervision, as even Robin has escaped the shadow of his former caretaker Batman.
This series is a parody of a more serious anime style show that ran for five seasons called “Teen Titans,” and both incarnations included a supervillain group called The H.I.V.E., but none of them were costumed like bees. The adults on this show were the most evil of all the characters, and a recurring theme was the young villains rebelling against their supercriminal mentors.
Apparently, there have been six different supervillains in DC Comics titles that were all called Queen Bee. Some versions were the head of H.I.V.E. as characterized in the printed comic book titles, but this affiliation was not portrayed in any live action or animated show that I could find.
There is also an old Quality Comics superhero named Red Bee who was acquired by DC in 1956, but then became public domain. One version fought mobsters and Nazis with an arsenal that included trained bees stored in his belt buckle. Another version was the original Red Bee’s grandniece, whose costume, weapons, and bees were all robotic. She is briefly mutated into a beelike creature, and when she is restored to human form, she gives up the superhero life to be a research scientist. Perhaps she will also become a mother? There aren’t a lot of superheroes who are parents, but especially mothers. Raising a family and being a superhero are often shown to be incompatible. There are far more criminals in pop culture who are shown juggling being a parent with being an outlaw.
“Kill Bill” is not a DC property, but it has many bee references (in dialogue, costuming, and music cues), themes about parenting, and a monologue about DC heroes worth mentioning. The titular Bill says Superman has contempt for humanity that is made evident by his secret identity Clark Kent being “weak... unsure of himself... a coward.” But I feel that Clark Kent is his true persona, as he was raised by the Kents on farm in Smallville - Superman is the bravado he puts on to be a hero for the planet. I think we don’t see Clark Kent holding his Superman qualities back during his everyday life as much as we see Superman masking his vulnerabilities while on duty.
Batman, on the other hand, never had a conventional human experience. He was raised as the privileged Bruce Wayne, then traumatized witnessing his parents be shot to death in a Gotham backalley, and ultimately became the personification of vengeance as the Dark Knight. Bruce Wayne is the facade he displays to cover up what he’s really doing at night when he is his true self.
Clark had the Kents. Batman has mostly only ever had Alfred the Butler. Robin, as Dick Grayson, did have his circus performer parents, killed during an acrobatic stunt turned tragic, but has otherwise had only Batman and Alfred, or served as a de facto parent himself for the other Teen Titans.
Bees, the hive structure, and loyalty to the Queen (the mother) seem to indicate the ultimate devotion to “family.” Yet bees are rarely the good guys in the comics, and the good guys in the comics rarely have family or parents in their lives.
You know who did have a parent in their life? Lady Prudence. And where’d that get her? Wielding fake ass looking bees as a weapon, of course.
I’ve had a lot of ups and downs with my parents, none relating to bees, but all our disagreements have definitely informed how I want to be a parent (or, maybe it’s more accurate to say, the ways that I DON’T want to parent). I want my kids to always be close to me, and I don’t know how to resolve that with the inevitability that they must someday buzz away from our hive. As long as they still want to come back to visit, and they still think of me as a hero in the future like they treat me and tell me that I am now, that’s all I can really hope for and dream of.
h. does not involve himself with honey, or wear much yellow with black, but he is a busy bee over at hubunofficial.com.
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