Okay, so Robin The Boy Wonder didn’t really utter that campy exclamation among his many “Holy” catchphrases in the Batman television series of 1966-1968. And this post is not about German luxury pen maker Pelikan A. G. and its distinguished “Toledo” model.
But the question can still be arguably asked. Given the wide-ranging array of weapons and powers – both human and superhuman – at the disposal of superheroes, does the humble fountain pen still have a place in such an arsenal?
Does Batman, the World’s Greatest Detective, need a pen to write down clues (with invisible ink) from the scene of a dastardly crime, or perhaps solve an intriguing puzzle from the Riddler? Does Superman, the Man of Steel, necessarily favor a steel nib engraved with the familiar “S” emblem that in fact indicates a stub point? Would the Flash’s handwriting, no calligrapher he, still be legible if he jots at supersonic speed? Is it conceivable that Aquaman, the King of the Seven Seas, uses a water-proof pen to scrawl instructions to fish and other sea creatures whilst immersed in the inky depths of Atlantis? And does our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man deftly conceal a Parker in his web suit?
Or is it the heroes’ alter egos who are more likely to utilize a writing implement every now and then? After all, Bruce Wayne did use a fountain pen in 2005’s Batman Begins to write out a check and acquire a hotel on the spot to accommodate his pool-wading girlfriends (he had a lot of stylus, as they say). It’s not hard to imagine Clark Kent, in his persona as a mild-mannered reported for The Daily Planet, take down field notes for a news scoop. Forensic scientist Barry Allen, the Flash’s civilian guise, probably used a technical pen whilst designing the cosmic treadmill that allowed him to time-travel. And nerdy teenager Peter Parker most likely fiddled with a pen and science journal before a radioactive spider bit him and gave him both great power and great responsibility.
Despite the fine italic line between iconic superheroes and their pen-wielding secret human identities, fountain companies have nonetheless seen it fit to issue special editions commemorating the exploits and extraordinary powers of these crimefighters. Montegrappa released in 2013 a Special Edition Batman Pen with a dark grey hue and engraved with images of bats in flight (see the featured image above). In 2017, Caran d’Ache joined forces with Warner Bros. to produce a fountain pen series for the Justice League Trinity of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. Cross’s 2016 Tech 2 Marvel Stylus Pen Collection featured Captain America, Spider-Man and Iron Man in a dual-function writing instrument that transformed from pen to stylus. This was followed up by the Cross X Collection that paid homage to Thor, Spider-Man and the Hulk – incredible! And back in 2008, S. T. Dupont collaborated with Marvel to make a red lacquer Iron Man ballpoint pen with a yellow-and-gold finish, and a rouge aluminum Iron Man rollerball pen.
When all is said and done, superheroes don’t really use fountain pens; we humans do. “I believe there’s a hero in all of us that keeps us honest, gives us strength, and makes us noble,” said Aunt May to reluctant hero-in-disguise Peter Parker in 2004’s Spider-Man 2. We may not wear capes, nor swing between buildings. We’ll never be mistaken for a bird, or a plane, up in the sky. And we’ll most certainly never strike fear, like a bat, in the hearts of evil men.
But whenever we do even the most prosaic or quotidian of things – like putting pen to paper to write out a cheque to for a charity, to sign up for a church ministry, or to send a personal note to wish someone God’s blessing – we are already performing a superhuman act. “True heroism,” remarked tennis great Arthur Ashe, “is very sober and undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass others, but the urge to serve others.” Indeed, our very humanity is what makes us heroes in a fallen world.
“Now we who are strong ought to bear with the weaknesses of those without strength, and not just please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.”
Romans 15: 1-2 (New American Standard Bible)