IT has been three decades since George Howie first answered the Bat-Signal.
And his devotion to the Dark Knight has never wavered.
In October we told how George Howie had set up the UK’s first dedicated Batman college course… and now we’ve been allowed a sneak peek inside his vast collection of memorabilia dedicated to the comic book hero.
The 34-year-old cannot remember a time when Batman was not part of his life and childhood photos show him with collectibles dedicated to the superhero.
“I’ve been a fan for as long as I can remember,” George said.
“There isn’t one particular time I can think of where I saw Batman on television and was captivated – it’s more that he has always been part of my life.
“Even from a really young age my parents had seen I had a fascination and really enjoyed watching the cartoons.
“Because I’d shown an interest my parents started buying me toys and colouring books.
“Even looking back at old pictures of myself something in the picture would have a Batman logo on it.
“I would be given Batman gifts for Christmas and for my birthdays so over the years I have ended up with hundreds of Batman-themed items.”
George’s home is overflowing with Batman logos and Batman-themed objects.
But, for the superfan, it is the moral at the heart of the hero’s story that lured him in and keeps him fascinated with the character.
He added: “The whole concept of Batman, compared to other superheroes, is that he is the most human and the most flawed – and that’s a big appeal.
“Not just for me, but for a lot of people who are keen Batman fans, he’s an inspiration to make the world a better place to live in because that’s what he is trying to do.
“Batman has been through trauma but in he uses that as a motivation to try and make the world a better place.
“Batman has trained himself to be the pinnacle of physical fitness and mentally strong so he’s a demonstration that you can achieve the goals you set out to achieve.
“He’s an inspiration.”
Based at Glasgow Clyde College, where George works in IT, the Batman studies course he set up earlier this year has now finished.
When he pitched the idea to college bosses and it was accepted, he says he was worried that no one would show up.
He needed at least four students to get the course off the ground – and very quickly the maximum number of 35 signed up.
George said: “Once I had people signed up for the course my worry was I would ask questions and have 35 muted mics.
“But that didn’t happen – everyone was really engaged and I actually ended up learning a lot from the people on the course as well as them learning from me.”
With an age range of 13 to 71, each student’s experience of the Batman character – who has been played by a wide range of actors, from Adam West to Michael Keaton and George Clooney to Val Kilmer – was very different.
George says he is “one of the most compelling and interesting characters to come out of the golden age of comics” and the course was designed to reflect this.
He said: “I had thought the course might be more male but I had a real mix of men, women and non-binary people taking part as well as every age.
“Some of the students have read comics I haven’t read and everyone had something interesting to say.
“The course has a really broad age range so they have all had different experiences growing up with the many different incarnations of Batman and different stories about how he has inspired them.”
For one of the sessions, all held online, students were joined by David Wharton, known as the Scottish Batman, who dressed up as Michael Keaton’s version of the hero.
David dresses as Batman to raise money for charity and had a wealth of stories to tell the students – including how it takes a full 45 minutes to don the suit.
And once in it, he can’t break character… which means no toilet breaks.
George said: “David is an example of using the Batman name to do good.”
Over the festive season George will have watched Batman Returns, his “Christmas movie”, which he’s seen dozens of times.
He added: “It’s one of those ones you can watch a billion times and you can never quite get sick of it.
“It’s the nostalgia as well. You see different things each time, different interesting details you missed before.”
The eight week course was such a success that George is going to run it again in February.
And, in true comic book fashion, he’s also creating his own sequel based on the Batman villains after students told him they were Robin and the Riddler enthusiasts.
George said: “We even had a student called Robyn on the course.
“Villains of The Batman will explore the Batman rogues gallery, focussing on specific enemies of Batman in Gotham City and what makes these villains tick.”
“Several students gave me feedback saying this course has been amazing for their mental health having something fun to look forward to each week.
“I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to do this