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The Ask Chris Valentine Special: Batman vs. the Pickup Artist

Here at ComicsAlliance, we value our readership and are always open to what the masses of Internet readers have to say. That’s why every week, Senior Writer Chris Sims puts his comics culture knowledge to the test as he responds to your reader questions!

Q: How would Batman have foiled The Art Gallery Scheme?@NielJacoby

A: Ah, Valentine’s Day, a time when one’s thoughts turn inevitably to the complex art of love and dating. Well, that’s how it is for most people, anyway; I tend to just think about Batman, no matter what day it is. With this question, though, I can do both at the same time, because the infamous Art Gallery Scheme is not some daring heist in Gotham City.

It’s actually an elaborate scam set up to woo a lady, as envisioned by that douchebag Mystery.For those of you who may not be familiar with Mystery, he refers to himself as a “Pickup Artist,” which basically means that he dresses like Dragon*Con threw up on him and tries to lure women into bed through a combination of stage magic and psychological manipulation. Throw all those factors in together — the flamboyant costuming, the ruthless methods, the card tricks, the fact that his name is “Mystery” — and he’s basically the closest thing the real world has to one of the Arch-Criminals from Batman ’66.

As I understand it, his methodology basically involves drawing as much attention to yourself as possible — hence the heavy accessorizing and a hat collection that truly boggles the mind– and then playing a conversation like a poker game. You watch for tells that let you know if you’re on the right track and you bluff to make it seem like you’re bringing more value to the table than you actually are. Usually, that bluffing just takes the form of subtle insults that chip away at a lady’s self-esteem until she’s vulnerable enough to be led like a scolded puppy into night of regrettable passion.

And then there’s what I have dubbed The Art Gallery Scheme, a con so sinister, time-intensive and Machiavellian that it’s like a deathtrap the Riddler would build if he was trying to bang a sorority girl.

I saw Mystery lay this plot out one night in a video when I fell down a YouTube hole while trying to get the terms right for a joke about kids’ Halloween costumes, and it is complex. It requires months of planning, at least two accomplices, and a serious financial investment, all geared towards creating a total work of fiction, and it starts by going to a bar.

But not just any bar. This bar is central to the scheme, so it has to meet a few criteria. Obviously, it needs to be frequented by a a large number of women so that it’s a target-rich environment, and it needs to be close to your home — within a short walk is preferable. Mystery advises moving if there isn’t a suitable place nearby.

Incidentally, the reason it needs to be near your place is so that you can get women to go there witih a minimum of trouble, but also make them feel like they have the option of returning to a more public place if for some reason they feel the need to escape on foot. Mystery spends a lot of time talking about “comfort-building” and giving tips like “leave the door open so she doesn’t feel trapped,” and honestly? If you find yourself constantly having to go out of your way to assure someone that you’re not luring them into a creepy sex trap, you should probably rethink the decisions that have led you to this point.

The most important thing this bar needs to have, however, is a bare wall, because this is where the plot begins. See, while you’re introducing yourself to the staff at the bar in order to build up your reputation, you tell the manager or owner that you’ve noticed they don’t have any art hanging up. You also tell them that it just so happens that you’re an artist (this is a lie) and that if they let you hang up a few of your paintings in the bar, you’ll cut them in for 20% of the profits if any of them sell.

Mystery presents this as such an irresistible deal that every barkeep in America will jump at the chance without even seeing your alleged art. As a result, he doesn’t really cover what you should do if they refuse, or if they start asking questions like “Why do you want to display your paintings in a dark barroom,” so I assume you just abandon the plan, move to a new city, change your name, buy an even dumber hat and start over.

The next step is to paint a few pieces of art, which as we all know is easy as pie.

Once that’s done, you just take them to the bar to hand them up as per your arrangement, but there are two additional tricks you need to pull before this phase is over. First, you price the paintings ridiculously high, say, $7,500. Second, and this is key, you mark one of them as sold. The reason for that is so that you can start things rolling the next time you’re stalking prey chatting up ladies in the bar. You just have Accomplice #1 point out that one of your paintings sold, so that you can direct the woman’s attention to the painting and its inordinately huge price tag. Congratulations! You have now constructed an elaborate web of lies and planted the idea that you are an artist whose work commands a princely sum in the mind of a young lady.

Now, that’s more than sleazy enough to warrant a mention, but that’s just Phase One. This is where things start to get really crazy.

In Phase Two, you rent out a storefront. According to Mystery, you can do this for as little as $600 a month — a mere pittance — and once it’s rented, you just paint all the walls white. Then, you just paint a dozen more pieces, frame them, hang them up, paint up some signage. You now the proprietor of your own Art Gallery.

Now, the next time you and the Target are hanging out at your creepy sex lair, you get Accomplice #2 to pose as your “Promoter” and arrange for an “event” at your “gallery” that you can bring the girl to. You have now upgraded yourself to successful artist.

And the thing is, at this point in the con, you’ve essentially become an actual painter. You’ve certainly put in the work. I mean, producing enough paintings to fill a storefront gallery takes some time, and when you add in the money you’re paying for canvas, frames, rent, the wine and cheese you’re serving at the events and the flyers you’re printing up to validate your story, there’s a ton of overhead involved in this thing. I mean, I’ve been thinking about this for months and I can’t figure out any possible way that it doesn’t end with you bringing in at least a safecracker and a getaway man to turn it into a heist and recoup your losses.

I mean, hell, you’re already acting like a super-villain. You might as well stick that gallery next to a bank and start building the frames out of C4 to blow the vault.

I want to stress that this is actually something one person told other people to do in order to get laid (NSFW language, skip to 7:50 for the scheme unless you want to hear about how we all need to be googlable and have a MySpace with pictures). I only wish I could’ve come up with something this amazing, but this level of dastardly plotting is far beyond my areas of expertise.

Which brings us to the question of how Batman would deal with it. Well, as we all know, there are enough thematic criminals operating in Gotham City that it pays to keep up with any art galleries and museums just so that you’re ready when they exhibit the Priceless Egyptian Twin Cat Statues or a gallery of famous umbrellas or the original cover of Pagliacci or something. Seriously, 70 years of this stuff and these places will just not stop asking for trouble.

Since victory and preparation go hand-in-hand, even a storefront gallery would attract attention, and the World’s Greatest Detective can see through an elaborate ruse put on by a guy who wears goggles on his top hat any day of the week. It might be a little out of his usual purview, but I imagine that level of smarmy deception would last long before Batman paid a visit to show just what he thought of your paintings.

The only complication that could arise would come from the fact that I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that Mystery has some kind of elaborate stage magic and/or peacock-based deathtrap just waiting for the right occasion. But in the end, I’m sure Batman would escape, because really: I don’t care how many negs you’ve thrown out in your dismal career…

…Batman is a better student of the game than you will ever be. Cape and cowl beats top hat and goggles any day of the week.

So if you’re out in search of romance this Valentine’s Day and someone dressed like Steampunk Nikki Sixx offers to show you an art gallery, just save Batman the trouble and brain them with a metal boomerang yourself. We’ll all be a little happier.

That’s all we have for this week, but if you’ve got a question you’d like to see Chris tackle in a future column, just send it to @theisb on Twitter with the hashtag #AskChris, or send an email to chris@comicsalliance.com with [Ask Chris] in the subject line!

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