Do you have an obsession with the labels put on everything in the old Batman TV show? Maybe you’re wondering what Donald Trump quotes would look like on classic comic covers? Or want to know what the Hulk would sound like if he was drunk?
If so, good news. The great gift that is the internet now provides all this free of charge to you. Thank the superfans - Aaron Reynolds, R. Sikoryak, and Christian Dumais.
And even though it’s free to you, those superfans are turning a buck. But make no mistake - he crazy fandom grew from genuine emotion.
Take Aaron Reynolds. Aaron’s a 41-year-old from Ottawa, Ontario who works in technology. In 2015, he hit some serious health problems. Bat Labels became his coping strategy.
“I couldn’t go to work, I couldn’t really talk, and I couldn’t move around all too much,” Reynolds says. “I was at this place where I was fighting just to not get depressed, you know? Batman had just shown up on home video after a very long absence, so I started watching it. And I started noticing all these goofball labels on everything, and they were really making me laugh.”
Reynolds’ laughter was validated and accelerated by the original Bat-Labeler.
“I was watching the commentary track for the Batman ’66 movie and Lorenzo Semple Jr., the screenwriter and basically the guy who wrote the series bible, just laughed so uproariously at the first label gag in the movie, where this ladder unfurls from the Bat-copter and this little sign says ‘Bat-Ladder,’” Reynolds says. “He’s going, ‘Labels! Labels on everything!’ And I was like, ‘Okay, these are supposed to be funny. It’s not just me.’”
BAT LADDER pic.twitter.com/y5Pn2wKWWp— Batman 66 Labels (@BatLabels) October 2, 2016
Reynolds started posting Bat Labels pics to his personal Twitter account, and his friends noticed. They asked him to cut it out. Reynolds declined.
“I was like, ‘No. This is my coping strategy. This is how I’m going to get through being this sick.’”
Reynolds started a @BatLabels Twitter account, and it really took off. BatLabels has more than 47,000 followers.
SUPER MOLECULAR DUST SEPARATOR pic.twitter.com/aoMweeedVi— Batman 66 Labels (@BatLabels) October 7, 2017
Robert Sikoryak - just R. Sikoryak in print - came from a place of pain as well. Sikoryak, a self-published mini-comics vet, was disillusioned by the results of the 2016 presidential election. No Trump voter, he.
“I was so upset at the state of our politics; it was a statement of outrage, and I guess my complete inability to make a difference,” he says.
Sikoryak started doing "The Unquotable Trump," actual Trump quotes on parodies of famous comic covers. He wanted to just do enough for a 16-page mini-comic, and be done with the whole project by December, 2016 (“So I’d never have to think about it again,” he says). But Unquotable Trump caught fire.
“I started posting them on Tumblr,” Sikoryak says. “More people saw it on Tumblr than ever saw the mini-comic. I thought that would be that, but it kept going.”
'Going' includes a 48-page full-size, full-color paperback available from Drawn & Quarterly in October, 2017.
“The guy [Trump] just gives me so much new material,” Sikoryak says. “It wasn’t too hard to convince me to keep going.”
Christian Dumais started heavy and got light. The writer and comedian was at a Starbucks in Wroclaw, Poland in 2009 when he finished writing a short story that was particularly heavy.
“And, for whatever reason, I thought of the Hulk being drunk,” Dumais says. “I had Twitter open on the laptop and saw that @DRUNKHULK was available. I made the account and typed: ‘HULK DRUNK!’ All of this happened within a space of five minutes. It never even occurred to me that I’d still be tweeting in all caps by the end of the week, let alone years later.”
Today, Drunk Hulk is a Twitter juggernaut with more than 171,000 followers. Dumais is grateful for every one.
ASK DRUNK HULK ABOUT HIS FEMINIST AGENDA!— DRUNK HULK (@DRUNKHULK) October 27, 2016
“When I do public speaking or stand-up, whether there are ten people in the room or a hundred, I give 100%,” he says. “These days when there are a million distractions out there, the fact that I have any audience at all is a real blessing.”
The blessings continue across the board. Bounding off the BatLabels fame, Reynolds started selling “HENCHMAN” T-shirts. He’s sold over 14,000 shirts. It’s an all-time top-10 seller for CottonBureau, an online marketplace for T-shirt designers.
Sikoryak has his book, and guess what? Dumais does, too. Smashed: The Life and Tweets of Drunk Hulk was published in 2014. Be it books or T-shirts, money is starting to roll in off internet-fueled passions, crossing thousands of dollars and into tens of thousands. Money is nice. And there are other gratifications as well.
Batman actor Adam West was following BatLabels before he passed away, and gave Reynolds a bit of a thrill when he met him at FanExpo Canada a couple years ago. “I went to introduce myself and he said, ‘Oh, I know you. You’re that guy from the internet,’” Reynolds says.
Dumais is able to use Drunk Hulk as a test lab for his stand-up.
“Now that I’m regularly writing jokes on and off Twitter, I’m fascinated with the whole process,” he says. “What works in Drunk Hulk’s voice versus what works in my voice; what works on paper versus what works on stage. Some jokes just ‘work’ in Drunk Hulk voice.”
Sikoryak just likes the pulse his creations generate, and finding a sympathetic audience.
“Whenever you write, make a comic, whatever, you want a response from people,” he says. “This response made me feel good, like people got the humor and we could commiserate together. It’s certainly gratifying.”
And the future? It could hold anything.
Reynolds has expanded into Swear Trek, which features, as you might figure…Star Trek characters swearing.
Drunk Hulk had his last call in 2015, but Dumais opened the bar again in 2016. The wave of David Bowie-Prince-Muhammad Ali deaths coupled with global tragedies and political fatigue left Dumais feeling like society was “trapped in this cycle where we were having our hearts broken at least once a day. I just felt like Drunk Hulk needed to add some sunshine.”
And Sikoryak is not sure where he’s going with Trump. It might be determined by Trump himself.
“I sort of assumed I was done with him, but I feel like there’s unfinished business,” he says. “I like stories that have a finish. I’m looking forward to the end of this, and I guess if there is some sort of finish, I might be recording it.”
“As far as finales, I have been terrible at predicting the future. I would like to hear him say goodbye, but I do not have the scenario for that. I am not Nostradamus.”