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Don't Mock the Turtle
Posted: September 27, 2008

Uniquely, Jervis Tetch brought a touch of melancholy whimsy to BTAS. The other Rogues wore their pathologies like a noose about the neck; Tetch sported his like a Regency cravat. Perhaps he was offended by overstatement; or maybe he just preferred to be dotty in a very English way. None could join him in his Mock Turtle dance, but he was the more affecting for taking the dance floor, eccentrically, by himself.

He was immediately winning in "Mad as a Hatter," where his highly refined—and crippling—sense of self-deprecation was a self-laid trap. There is a kind of humility that is actually ravenous pride turned upside down: so since he could not imagine Alice freely accepting him on his own terms, he would impose his terms upon her. Those terms were invariably generous and charming, and he kindly imposed them on Batman in "Perchance to Dream," offering the Dark Knight a paradise when he could have erected a nightmare. But his gentle manners were eventually eroded by his victims' ingratitude, and in "The Worry Men" he preferred taking to giving.

Thereafter he was mostly confined to Arkham, where he supplied a cameo for "Joker's Wild"; rehashed his woes in "Trial"; and lay comatose in "Make 'Em Laugh."

He had a scrawnier and more rat-like look in The New Batman/Superman Adventures, where he contributed a comedy sketch to the otherwise very black "Over the Edge" and some airy Charles Dodgson doggerel to "Knight Time." His one return to center stage came in "Animal Act," which lewdly reduced this one-time romantic to the status of pervert.

Essays: Index