Billy Bat – Chapter 70
It’s an interesting sight seeing someone like Albert Einstein in a fictional series. I’ve seen lots of different works use real people as part of the setting, most recently The Prestige where Edison hires thugs to burn down Nikola Tesla’s house. The way these people are portrayed can vary quite a bit, and many of these portrayals can be seen with the various personalities in Billy Bat.
First of course was Lee Harvey Oswald. It never sat quite right with me that this series would take the murderer of an important political figure and paint him with any sort of sympathetic light. Even if he didn’t actually shoot JFK in this version, it’s hard to look past the sort of person he was in real life. This probably would have bothered me a lot more had I actually been around during the JFK assassination. Sometimes I can forget about who this person was just enough so that I can understand how I’m supposed to feel during his scenes. However, there was always that lingering part of my brain that wouldn’t let go of that initial awkward feeling, and even when he died I couldn’t bring myself to be sad. That can be one of the bigger issues with using real people in your work: you can’t really shake off your previous thoughts about that person.
Of course sometimes writers like to get around this by using different names and backgrounds for what are essentially the same people. Like Chuck Culkin. For those of you who haven’t read this series, Culkin is the face behind the creation of the hit series Billy Bat (the in-universe series, that is). This man was obviously not the creator of the character, and in fact took it from the protagonist’s assistant, then expanded the character to worldwide appeal to the point where at least one amusement park dedicated to him has been created.
Oh, and he looks like this.
Yeah, it’s not even trying to hide who this is. Culkin was never one of the more likable characters in the series, and in fact he seems to be the closest thing this series has to Johan or Friend. He’s everything people like to joke about Walt Disney being and more, which may be the only way the series can get away with this interpretation. They don’t use the same name or creations, but there aren’t too many who are fooled by that.
With Einstein himself, I’m not sure how he’ll be portrayed, but I suspect it will be with more care than the other two. He was never really considered a bad person in life – at least as far as I know – and they didn’t try to pretend he was someone else. And I’m sure he will be important, because not only does he seem to be the go-to guy for advice on time travel, he received a full page spread on his first appearance, which, as any Urasawa fan knows, translates to “I am important, please look at me!” His advice to the mangaka (whose name I forget) seems to have a strong impact on his actions in the present day, which only furthers the likelihood that he’ll be important, if only in the short term. And dammit, if you’re going to pick a wise older mentor character, can you really pick a better one than Albert Einstein himself? Maybe crime boss Thomas Edison, but only maybe.