Real People through the Lens of Batman: Jean-Louis Michel

Happy new book day, everyone! I hope your week is going well. This week, I want to return to my project of viewing real-world figures through the lens of Batman—martial artists, vigilantes, detectives, etc. In this particular entry, I’ll look at Jean-Louis Michel, widely considered to be one of the greatest swordsmen who ever lived.

Jean-Louis Michel (1785-1865) was born in the then French colony of Saint Domingue to a French father and Haitian mother. His father was a soldier and jean-louis-michel-croppedfencing instructor in Napoleon’s army and was renowned as an innovator in the art of French swordsmanship. Jean-Louis took up his father’s fighting style and perfected it, eliminating unnecessary, flashy movements and effectively creating a deadly, minimalist form of fencing.

Following Haiti’s secession from France in 1795, Jean-Louis chose to travel to his father’s homeland for an education, and he later followed his father’s example in joining the French army, ending up in the 32nd Regiment of the 3rd Division. It was during his time in the army that Jean-Louis participated in one of the most impressive displays of his fencing aptitude.

Though the details leading up to it are somewhat cloudy and mired in 18th century sensibilities, it is known that there was some immense falling out between the 1st and 32nd Regiments during some sort of celebration. The only acceptable solution during this time was for a duel to take place, and the involved parties decided that 30 swordsmen (15 from each aggrieved side) would represent the total of 10,000 French soldiers. The rules stated that a combatant could only leave the fight when he had fallen and had to keep facing opponents until he died.

Jean-Louis Michel stood as the first champion of his regiment, and proved the strength of his sword style by slaying 13 of his 15 possible opponents. At this point, a colonel involved in the duels eventually convinced everyone involved to let go of whatever slights had led them to this moment, citing Jean-Louis’s performance as evidence that the 32nd had nothing left to prove.

michelpaper

While he fought in many more duels before and after this grand display, his slaying of 13 opponents in a reported 40 minutes is perhaps the greatest example of Jean-Louis Michel’s abilities. Much like Imi Lichtenfeld, Jean-Louis eventually retired from army life and opened a school where he instructed pupils in his fencing style for the rest of his life. The school he opened in 1830 still stands today in Montpellier, France, with associated schools all over the world.

What do you think of this historical figure? I couldn’t find very much information on him, but I would like to know more. If you do have more information on Jean-Louis Michel, please do pass it along. That being said, who do you think I should examine next through the Batman lens? I have a few ideas, but I’d like to hear your thoughts. Let me know, and be sure to come back next week to see my decision.

Tweet me @quaintjeremy, and check out my own (slowly) growing blog, quaintjeremy’s thoughts.

My comic picks for this week:

Batman Eternal #10

Infinity Man and the Forever People #1

Justice League United #2

Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #2

New Avengers #19

Thor: God of Thunder Vol. 2: Godbomb TPB

More summer reading recommendations for superhero fans:

Supergods by Grant Morrison

One of the masters of graphic storytelling lays out his own thoughts on and experiences with the medium, and he also provides a useful and accessible history and body of criticism for it. Don’t pay attention to negative hype; give this one a chance.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

This is the ur-treatise on the hero. If you want to understand the heroic figure’s appeal and usefulness in any human culture, this book is worth a read.

 Newspaper image from the Baltimore Afro American, Nov. 23, 1946

Advertisements

One thought on “Real People through the Lens of Batman: Jean-Louis Michel

  1. I watch a fair bit of MMA and I see fencing, in many ways, is also a combat sport. Especaily the Michel was doing it. Every once in a while a fighter will come along who is so superior in technique, agilty, and speed, he or she seems to be operating at a completely different level than all other opponents. It sounds like Michel had an amazing combination physicality, technique, and historical context.

    Like

Chatter Away!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s