The Internet’s Greatest Hero and the Son of Fandom Itself, Batman bin Suparman, Is In Prison
It is with sincere regret that we bring you news that the viral Internet hero known as Batman bin Suparman has been jailed in his native Singapore for crimes including theft, breaking and entering and drug use. The man became famous within the last several years after a photograph of his Singaporean identification card found its way online, delighting millions with the knowledge that a sweet-faced and perhaps even supremely confidant young boy existed somewhere out in the world with a name that when translated means "Batman, son of Superman."
As a former resident of Singapore, I can assure you the "Suparman" surname is actually not uncommon. Pronounced "Su-par-mahn," the name is common among Javanese Singaporeans and has roots in the Sanskrit word for "good" and "fortunate," which is appropriate enough for a name so close to that of the Man of Steel. The "Bin" is used in Arabic to mean "son of" (it's the same pronunciation as "Ibn," which is used only in the beginning of a sentence or proper name, such as Ibn Xu'ffasch, or the "Son of the Bat" character seen in Mark Waid and Alex Ross' Kingdom Come).
However, language expert Ben Zimmer believes the "Batman" component of the Singaporean man's name is unique. "Batman, on the other hand, has no false friends in local languages (as far as I'm aware). And the character of Batman is almost as well known in the region as Superman, so it's hard to imagine any source other than the DC Comics superhero," Zimmer wrote in 2008.
Zimmer's blog post links to other sites which verify the existence of Batman bin Suparman, and features comments from Singaporeans with additional testimony that the ID card is not a fake. Indeed, several commenters claim to have met Suparman or know people who have, including one gentlemen who served his compulsory national service with Suparman, whose first name he said is pronounced "Bhat-mahn."
Singapore is where I grew up and where I developed my love for American superhero comics. The boom of the early '90s was as big there as it was anywhere else, so I was extremely pleased to discover that not only was a boy born in the midst of that era given the name of my favorite childhood heroes, but that he'd become an Internet celebrity with his own Facebook fan page boasting more than 11,000 followers. It's difficult to articulate the uniquely Singaporean charm of the whole situation, but it was really very cool for me to see the Internet partake in it.
Sadly, it seems Suparman has been unable to live up to his auspicious namesake. The National and the BBC have both confirmed that Batman bin Suparman was arrested in August after he was captured on security cameras breaking into a local shop. Now 23-years-old, Suparman was also convicted of stealing money from his own brother as well as heroin-related charges, and sentenced to 33 months (he got off light -- Singapore has notoriously harsh penalties for breaking and entering and drug crimes, including capital punishment for serious traffickers).
The special nature of the Internet has facilitated Batman bin Suparman's celebrity, and with that comes a similarly special kind of advocacy that wouldn't be extended otherwise. The man's Facebook fan page has been inundated with posts of concern -- some of it ironic, obviously - and well wishes for the young man's swift recovery and release.