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As a young man in Gotham Shi, Bruce aspired to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a great opera singer. Two items would prevent this dream from ever happening, both essential to our narrative. Firstly, opera has gone out of fashion. As the culture industry democratized over the twentieth century, tastes turned away from opera towards other forms of entertainment and the market responded, driving opera to the fringe of public discourse. In Bruce’s lifetime, he saw the once-revered art devolve into a dusty symbol of national identity at best and a tacky distraction for sex tourists at worst. This turn of events broke Bruce’s heart, but not as much as the second item.

An opera enthusiast from the womb, Bruce begged his father to take him to all the local and traveling performances. As Bruce’s eighth birthday neared, news traveled to Gotham that a troupe from Sichuan province would be performing a special opera <<佐罗的面具>> at Gotham’s finest opera house. Bruce had never seen Sichuan opera performed before. Though admission to the performance would require Bruce’s father to treat the gossipy house manager to an expensive meal, he knew how much his son wanted to attend the show. Bruce’s father procured the tickets and surprised Bruce on his birthday.

Before the performance, Bruce and his parents ate a large lunch, including many Sichuan dishes in honor of the visiting performers. While Bruce found many of the dishes displeasingly oilier than those his mother prepared, he adored the hot peppers and considered them nearly as exciting as the opera he waited patiently to see. After lunch, the family moved quickly to the theater- Bruce made sure they got there on time!

The opera began softly and Bruce easily fell into its trance. Nearly dreaming along the nasal sweetness of the performers’ voices, Bruce felt his skeleton rattle from an unexpected clattering of cymbals and drums. The pace of the opera quickened and the performers began to do things Bruce had never seen before. The actors began removing their faces and replacing them rapidly with different faces. Each face presented a more disturbing visage than the last. Panic overtook the young boy and his father sensed it. To remedy the situation, Bruce’s father led the family out of the theater through a side exit that emptied into a filthy alley, pungent with baijiu, spat out bones, and the unmistakable stink of desperate poverty. Despite the smell, Bruce was happy to be free from those false faces! -those black masks! – those red hoods! -those two-faces! -those clay-faces!

Sadly Bruce’s relief would be short-lived. From the midday shadows, Jiu Bing emerged.

“Who is Jiu Bing?” A question Bruce would spend the rest of his life trying to answer. To stars like Betty Tingpei, Jiu Bing was the cost of show biz success, a necessary evil. To Public Safety Commissioner Zhen Guo Deng, Jiu Bing was a small fish in a big sewer full of cigar-munching sharks and killer crocodiles. To Bruce? Jiu Bing was the man who stole everything from him, leaving a gaping void that Bruce chose to fill with vigilantism.

The nefarious street criminal Jiu Bing approached the family, demanding money and jewels. He even availed himself a sampling of  the mother’s soft tofu, rubbing his dirty hands along the backside of her qipao. Bruce’s parents complied with all of Jiu’s requests, but he still killed them by employing some breathtakingly advanced kung fu moves. Surely, Bruce was impressed by Jiu’s sweet skills, but would kung fu be enough to allow him to forgive the brutal murder of his parents? No.

Armed with only his wits, his mission, and a small suitcase full of snacks, Bruce fled Gotham Shi like an arrogant pilgrim in search of compliments on his humility. For several years, he traveled his native China, learning science and martial arts while honing his detective and majiang skills. Eventually Bruce explored beyond the borders of the Middle Kingdom to the primitive lands of India, France, and the United States. He observed crime and movie-making wherever he went. People mistook him for Japanese all the time and that really pissed him off.

One day, Bruce returned to the city he once called home. He visited friends and family, bringing them gifts from abroad. He cleaned up at majiang, hustling a small fortune that largely went to fund an expensive bat-a-rang habit.. He sang late 80’s Prince songs at KTV and bought a red telephone. He also developed a crime-fighting alter-ego that the scum of Gotham Shi quickly learned to dread- the Bat-Dragon!

As the Bat-Dragon, Bruce faces his fear of false faces by fashioning a mask of his own. It’s truly terrifying. He often wears it to fight crime. He always wears it to bed.

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