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For Batman Day in Modesto, a talk with Dark Knight and Jim Gordon

From left, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Josh Humble, Capt. Jim Gordon and Modesto police Detective Sean Dodge get ready for a morning run with the kids from Beard Elementary School on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016.
From left, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Josh Humble, Capt. Jim Gordon and Modesto police Detective Sean Dodge get ready for a morning run with the kids from Beard Elementary School on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016. Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department

On Batman Day, where else would the Dark Knight be other than Gotham City?

Well, how about Modesto?

Yes, the Caped Crusader plans to be at a bookstore and comic-book store, and generally around town, as the third annual Batman Day is celebrated here and around the world.

On page and screen, Batman’s secret identity is, of course, billionaire industrialist Bruce Wayne. In these parts, it’s Turlock resident Benjamin Banda who dons the cape, cowl and Kevlar – though not to battle bad guys, but to thrill fans of all ages at conventions and other special events.

In late April, he joined other comic-book greats at Superhero Night with the Modesto Nuts at John Thurman Field. He was at the first Modesto Con in July. And Saturday, he plans to be at Batman Day celebrations at Bonanza Books & Comics and Barnes & Noble, both on McHenry Avenue.

How can you not be? ... It’s just the mystery about him. And he doesn’t have superpowers, so he’s a character kids can relate to. He’s always trying to do good, to help people.

Jim Gordon, Stanislaus County sheriff’s captain, on why he’s a Batman fan

“I’ve always been into Batman since I was a kid – the TV show, the toys. There were special cereals I would bug my parents to buy for me,” said the 30-year-old. When as an adult he got into cosplaying, putting together a Batsuit seemed only natural. He’s been portraying Batman for five or six years now, he said, and has worn a few different versions of the costume.

The latest is the most comfortable and accurate, he said. “You definitely feel empowered,” Banda said about putting on the suit, which does have Kevlar in the armor so it could really take a punch. He’s quick to add, though, that he’s never used the suit to fight crime. “It adds about 30 pounds,” he said. “... You feel like you’re a tank, but it’s also very constricting.”

Banda has been Batman for Halloween trick-or-treat events and birthday parties. He’s even crashed birthday parties at local parks and hasn’t had a negative reaction yet.

Always be yourself. Unless you can be Batman. Then always be Batman.

Read on a room-decor sign

“Batman is my favorite superhero of all time,” he said. “He is just an ordinary individual. Yes, he has money, but when you come down to it, he’s just a man, making his city better for kids and adults.”

The 77-year-old character’s lack of superpowers also makes him a favorite of Jim Gordon’s.

We’re not talking about Commissioner Gordon, one of Batman’s staunchest allies, but a local real-life crime fighter, Stanislaus Sheriff’s Department Capt. Jim Gordon.

On how long he’s been a fan, Gordon said: “I’d have to think back. Now, I’m dating myself – it was early elementary school, back in the ’70s.”

Watching Saturday morning cartoons is where he discovered Batman, and it didn’t take him long to learn of Commissioner Gordon, too.

Over the years, lots of people have joked with him about the novelty that he’s named James Gordon and works in law enforcement. The name and the career are coincidence – “I was always interested in law enforcement growing up” – but he notes that “it’s a good fit.”

Honestly, it’s one of the nicest feelings in the world when a kid comes up and thinks you’re the real Batman. They feel the suit, feel the armor. They ask questions like ‘Where’s Robin? Where’s the Joker?’ ... You can see the brightness in their eyes.

Benjamin Banda, Batman cosplayer

Gordon, Modesto police Detective Sean Dodge and Turlock police Sgt. Neil Cervenka are training together to run the Peace Officer Memorial Run in Modesto. All will be running the Sept. 25 half marathon in full uniform and carrying a U.S. flag in black and white with a blue stripe to honor fallen officers. They’re also raising money for the Stanislaus County Peace Officers Association’s memorial fund.

Not long after Dodge in early August showed reporters the Superman shirt beneath his uniform, his colleagues unveiled their own inspirations – a Captain America shirt for Cervenka and, of course, a Batman shirt for Gordon.

“I think all of us running wanted to make it fun, especially for the kids,” Gordon said Friday. “We just got done with a jog-athon” on Friday morning at Beard Elementary School. He and Dodge flashed their superhero shirts and “it was fun to see the kids’ reactions.”

Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327

Celebrating Batman Day

  • Barnes & Noble Booksellers at 3501 McHenry Ave. will celebrate beginning at 2 p.m. A manager, Christine Krippene, said there will be activities including coloring sheets and word searches for little ones, and trivia geared for teens and older. A special-edition Batman Day comic book will be given away as supplies last. “We also have a rabid lot of cosplayers who usually come in for anything Batman related,” she said.
  • Some or all of those cosplayers are likely to be at Bonanza Books & Comics, 2308 McHenry, earlier in the day. Bonanza is celebrating from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. From 10 to noon, owner Jeff Allen has 20 confirmed costumed characters coming, and 13 more likely. Among the heroes and villains will be Batman (more than one version), Wonder Woman, Azreal, Catwoman, Batgirl, Harley Quinn, Joker, Green Arrow and Nightwing. Bonanza also will be giving away the Batman Day comic, and several locally based comic book artists will be showing their work from 10 to 2. Learn more at www.bonanzabooks.net.
  • On his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/batman, Batman has a link to the DC Batman Day sweepstakes.
  • And DC Comics’ Batman Day page shares “5 ways to celebrate,” including a downloadable Batman Day activity book.
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