What began as a social media jest by an Egyptian user in the city of Helwan, claiming he was Egypt’s Batman, later escalated into a scheduled joke-battle between a series of Batmen to decide who might be the ‘real caped crusader of Egypt.
“There is only one way to solve this: anyone who thinks he’s Batman can meet us in Helwan at 11 PM, and the last man standing is the real Dark Knight,” wrote Anass Zahran on Facebook, regarded by most as the comment that sparked the meme.
Helwan, once Egypt’s capital city in the 17th century during Khedive Tawfiq’s rule, is a part of the Greater Cairo area, located on the bank of the Nile. Today, it stands as a densely populated city of 96 square kilometers and over 500 thousand inhabitants.
The ‘Helwan Real Batman Battle’ event, scheduled for 13 August 2022, in front of the Helwan Metro Station, took the country’s social media by storm, inducing a plethora of memes, jokes, and even celebrity involvement.
Veteran comedian and actor Ahmad Fahmy, hopped on the trend after tweeting a nostalgic image of himself as Enaab Man, a parody superhero television show released in 2013, in relation to the superhero memes.
“Helwan, your real hero has arrived,” joked Fahmy.
Egyptian actress Rania Youssef also dressed the part through TikTok, albeit in a Catwoman suit – claiming she was ‘the real Batman’ in the video.
The trend began to peak upon reaching mainstream attention. Diverse television talk shows such as Al Seha w Al Gamal (Health and Beauty) sought to conclude Egypt’s search for the country’s true Batman, inviting a guest by the name of Bassem, donning the signature cowl, to unmask himself before national television.
However, not all television programs took the matter lightly. Renowned television presenter Lamis Elhadidy shared her concerns over the growing number of caped crusaders through her talk show, Akher Kelma (The Last Word).
“What started as a joke has been turned by Muslim Brotherhood media into a political situation […] it appears to have started as a joke but is now a propaganda tool for chaos and instability,” Elhadidy explained on 4 July.
Elhadidy later referred to the event’s date, 13 August, as an intentional choice by pro-Brotherhood members, as it coincides with the ninth anniversary of the dispersal of sit-in protestors in Raba’a Square, later touted as the Raba’a Massacre.
The event’s virality eventually caught the eyes of Egypt’s Ministry of Interior, according to state media Al Ahram, leading to the arrests of four organizers related to the event on the grounds of incentivizing an informal event, putting an end to Helwan’s Battle of Batmen.
Batman has long-been Egypt’s most celebrated comic book hero, in large part due to the popular 90s animated series, which was dubbed to Egyptian Arabic by Spacetoon, a nostalgic Egyptian cartoon channel.
The Batman (2022), a film starring Robert Pattinson as the Dark Knight, was a testament to Egypt’s love for the hero, raking in EGP 18.1 million (USD 959 thousand) in box office revenues, staying in theaters for 23 weeks.