When considering the greatest catchphrases in comic book history, there are some obvious contenders. “Hulk Smash” shouted before destruction, “My Spidey senses are tingling” before a Spider-villain strikes, and Batman‘s ever-shortening motto, now simply: “I am Batman.” But in the short time since DC’s Rebirth, one line from the comedic villain Kite Man has unpredictably turned into DC’s best catchphrase. Is it deserved? Hell yeah.
Just a few years ago, the average Batman fans wouldn’t even know who Kite Man actually is. The character wasn’t a deeply well-known villain when he was introduced in Batman #133 by Bill Finger and Dick Sprang. Kite Man, as the name would suggest, was a silly villain named Chuck Brown who used kite weapons to commit crimes. But Kite Man was reinvented in Tom King’s current Batman run, appearing in just the sixth issue… uttering his first rendition of “Kite Man. Hell Yeah.” And no fan knew at the time how iconic that would become.
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Kite Man and his catchphrase made a few smaller appearances in future issues, before King did what he does best: deconstruct the character. In Batman #27, King revealed the true heartbreaking origin behind what seemed like a silly, self-aggrandizing catchphrase. When Brown was still a low-level criminal remembering his earlier days studying the wind, he took his son Charlie kite flying. Asking Charlie if he enjoyed the activity, Charlie responded, “Hell, yeah.” A touching moment, setting up heartbreak when The War of Jokes and Riddles led the Riddler to kidnap Charlie and poison him via a kite string. Such was the punishment for Chuck “betraying him,” leaving him to helplessly watch his son die in hospital.
Seeking revenge against the Riddler, Brown creates a new persona. Using his knowledge of aerodynamics to build a giant kite, he makes a costume and takes up the mantle of Kite Man. And so, King turned a joke into one of the most heartbreaking origins in all of DC’s history. Kite Man’s evolution from a D-list villain into someone readers actually cared about was unexpectedly tragic. And almost overnight, “Kite Man, Hell Yeah” became a fan-favorite embrace of both the silly and the sadness. Shockingly enough, King didn’t originally include the catchphrase in his script. As he explained to Polygon, he added the line later in the writing process:
Ivan Reis drew an extra panel in a comic book I was writing, and I had… just added Kite Man ‘cause I just needed someone for Batman to punch, or for Gotham Girl to punch… He had added an extra panel; ‘Tom, just add some dialogue to this’… so I just put ‘Hell yeah.’ Just out of nothing? I liked him just saying his own name, ‘Kite Man.’ He steals stuff; ‘Kite Man, hell yeah.’”
The comedy is still behind Kite Man’s catchphrase, despite its tragic explanation. More recently, DC Universe’s Harley Quinn series the phrase is played as an ego boost for Kite Man (who has a pretty big role in the series considering the character’s lack of mass appeal). It’s hard to believe Kite Man has changed from a seemingly one-note villain into a character worth caring about, but here we are. And who could have ever seen such a rise to greatness coming? Kite Man. Hell Yeah.
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