COLUMBIA — Barnes & Noble employee Lisa LoPorto sat on the small stage in the kids section of the bookstore, preparing to read to the growing audience of kids and parents.
"Who here likes Batman?" LoPorto asked, smiling as she was met with a chorus of "Me!" and a plethora of raised hands.
The famous dark knight superhero turned 75 this year, and DC Comics declared July 23 "Batman Day," a celebration of the beloved comic book icon. Participating comic book retailers and bookstores across the country gave away Batman items, including a special edition of Detective Comics #27, the first appearance of Batman in a comic book.
Barnes & Noble bookstores partook in the celebration, holding special "Get Pop-Cultured" Batman Day events. The Barnes & Noble at the Columbia Mall held a Batman story time, and later, an arts and crafts activity where kids could make their own Batman masks.
LoPorto read from two different Batman children's books, asking the audience questions about where Batman lived and who some of Batman's friends were throughout the story.
As LoPorto read from the first book, assistant manager Henry Moormann joined the story time audience dressed head-to-toe in a Batman outfit from Maude Vintage Clothing and Costumes. The kids were wide-eyed, whispering frantically to their parents, "it's Batman!"
"The faces," Moormann later said, "the looks on their faces when they see me dressed up, that is the highest point."
Moormann sat on a tiny bench in the audience, joking with two young boys next to him about how the bat-rope throws his back out. Parents hovered over the scene, snapping cellphone shots of their kids giggling at Moormann's Batman impersonation.
Moormann said that one of his favorite parts of dressing up was the conversations he would have with kids. One kid told Moormann that instead of his high-tech bat tracker, he could just use an app on his smartphone. Most kids, though, wanted to see Moormann fly. A true hero, Moormann never corrected the children that Batman couldn't fly.
Lindsay Oncken said she brought her girls to the event because her six-year-old daughter, Audrey, had seen all the Batman shows on Netflix. Oncken said they try and make it to any Barnes & Noble story time readings they can, which are usually held at 11 a.m. on Saturdays.
Audrey Oncken said she liked Batman because he had so many friends, like Wonder Woman.
Debuting in 1939, Batman was created by Bill Finger and Bob Cane after the success of Superman and other superheroes. After 75 years, Batman has become one of the most recognizable and popular superheroes in pop culture. Anthony Willroth of Rock Bottom Comics, another store celebrating Batman Day, said that Batman comics are their top-selling comic, both on an issue and a collection basis.
Later on in the day, LoPorto led the kids through making their own paper Batman masks. Despite a nicked finger or two, LoPorto thought the event went very well.
As the children cut their masks and tied-off string, LoPorto and Moormann chatted with the kids about, what else, Batman. At one point, LoPorto quizzed the kids on Batman trivia, asking what Batman's secret identity was.
"Bruce Wayne!" answered an ecstatic Audrey Oncken.
"Not too loud," said Moormann, raising a gloved finger to his cowled face.
Supervising editor is Mary Ryan.