Rat-Man is an Italian comic book created in 1989 by Leonardo "Leo" Ortolani. It depicts the adventures of an unlikely hero, the titular Rat-Man, a not very bright (and very inept) guy without any superpowers in a goofy yellow rat costume.What began as a Shallow Parody (albeit very funny) of Tim Burton's first Batman film has since grown into a very complex storyline, full of homages to the Silver and Golden Age of comics (Leo is an avid admirer of Jack Kirby's characters), but also to the gritty realism of the Dark Age. The main purpose of the comic was to make a parody of anything and everything, not only superhero-related tropes, but of other genres, films and popular culture in general; however, it has since introduced a number of long and fairly serious story arcs that give a deeper insight into Rat-Man's previous life. Of course, there are still plenty of parodies and wacky moments.In 2006 Rat-Man was given an Animated Adaptation which was not very well received.
Abhorrent Admirer: Cinzia the transgender hooker, a former male postman who fell in love with Rat-Man (or better, his civilian identity before he became a hero). He never realized who she was despite some blatant evidence, and the fact s/he involuntarily helped him to become Rat-Man in the first place (in short, he subscribed to Mickey Mouse comic books and the postman sent him those comics every week, then he decided to wear a rat costume...).
All There in the Manual: If the story gets a bit too confusing and convoluted, there have been summaries of the plot so far added after the stories (in Rat-Man 35 and Rat-Man 70-75), which also explain details and things you may have missed because you were laughing too much.
Art Shift: In some issues, such as the "Yellow" trilogy which spoofs/homages anime and manga.
Ascended Extra: Cynthia Otherside. In the first story s/he was just a male mailman who is mentioned becoming a transgender hooker as part of a throwaway gag, but acquired a larger role in following stories, and it was discovered s/he was already in love with him before the throwaway gag of the first story.
Author Appeal: Geology. Ortolani has a degree in that field, and it shows when the usually dumb Rat-Man becomes knowledgeable about rocks. There are also many gags involving geology during the comic, including an entire story, which is also a James Bond parody on top of that!
"Author Not-Appeal": Rat-Man has an extreme hatred of cats, and it is implied that Leo hates them too.
Back from the Dead: In one issue Rat-Man dies and goes to Hell, but a very powerful demon (which is an obvious Shout-Out to Spawn) helps him on his way back to life. At the end of the issue, it is revealed that the demon is really major antagonist Janus Valker's soul, and he helped Rat-Man because every time he performed a good deed his punishment would be a little less harsh.
Beat Panel: Leo is very fond of these. Many jokes and Overly Long Gags rely on them for maximum comedic value, and to stretch the scene to make sure that the action continues from the first panel of the next page. It's even (hilariously) Discussed as a comedy tool in the story "Comic School".
Bestiality Is Depraved: When Rat-Man was young, the papers ruined the career of a superhero revealing that he had sex with a sheep. Then they ruined the sheep's career by revealing she had sex with Rat-Man.
Better Manhandle the Murder Weapon: Rat-Man does it in a Marvel crossover... twice. First by "securing" the weapon used to kill an old Punisher's relative, just in time for the latter to see him. After several pages of dodging bullets, he manages to escape only to "secure" a metal pipe used to beat a certain "Mrs May". Seconds before Spider-Man enters the scene.
The I Vendicatopi story arc decided to establish Mr. Mouse's villainy with a whole issue filled with September 11, 2001 jokes, starting with him recreating the attack on the Twin Towers to try and murder Rat-Man. Yes, this series is Italian, not American, why do you ask?
Black Dude Dies First: Set up in the parody of The Expendables, where there is a character known only as (even by that character himself) "Muscly Black Dude Who Dies A Gruesome Death", and whose purpose is only to say "You're totally mad, bro!" and "You said it, dude!". He frequently Lampshades this behaviour, and even explains how a family photo is the way they chose to give depth to his character. Eventually averted, because the first one to die is Dolph Lundgren's character.
Fully averted: as a bid to save their lives, Chat Morris (a not-too-subtle tweaking of Chuck Norris), cornered and taunted by Bel Pupone (a thinly disguised parody of Jean-Claude Van Damme) in calling someone's help, he calls for the defeated, broken Black Dude, who earlier claimed that, owing to his useless, Red Shirt status, was literally unable to outlive his lack of usefulness. As soon as Black Dude is made aware that Chat Morris, calling him "Toby", gave him a name, a backstory and a purpose, he takes a level in badass, dispatches Bel Pupone and forces him into a fistfight with Chat.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: Often. Sometimes, it's more subtle, where the characters are aware that they are starring in a comic book (and they treat it as a job) and interact with panels and speech bubbles. Others, they make jabs at the artist, or comment on the nature of the comic (a favourite one is remarking on the bimonthly publication schedule.)
Calling Your Attacks: In the story "Il Grande Ratzinga!", Rat-Man became the pilot of a giant Super Robot, and naturally used this trope. The story was mostly a parody of the Super Robot and anime tropes.
Catch Phrase: "Fletto i muscoli e sono nel vuoto!" ("I flex my muscles and I'm in the air!")
Chekhov's Gag/Brick Joke: In spades. Expect minor jokes, throwaway lines, references and characters to return several times. It may be in the next page, at the end of the episode or even at the end of the story arc, several numbers later.
Example: at the beginning of a 2001: A Space Odyssey parody, a prehistoric monkey throws a bone in the air, and in the very last panel the bone falls down and hits Rat-Man in the head... followed by another brick joke from that issue, a sabertooth tiger that carries an unconscious Rat-Man away.
More Extreme Example: in "Rat-Man's Escape", Rat-Man is evading Cinzia, who claims to have a gift for him. He rudely remarks that it's probably thirty centimetres long, but s/he chastises him, saying it's only a rose. He apologizes and admits that sometimes he's biased against her/him, only for him/her to reveal that s/he had it tattooed on her/his penis. When, at the end of the arc, three episodes later (which correspond to six months of real life between publications), Rat-Man and another character are about to have a horse race, Cinzia promises a rose to the winner, prompting him to shoot his horse to avoid competing...
Fake Crossover/Covers Always Lie: One cover of the comic depicts Rat-Man being terrified by Aldo, the hideous main character of Venerdì 12, a series that shared space with Rat-Man in the comic books. The two characters have never met in the actual comics.
The very first story sets the tone for both Rat-Man's idiocy and badassery. When The Buffoon kidnapped an orphaned child and demanded ransom from his parents, Rat-Man tracked him and stormed his hideout: after an embarrassing false start, Rat-Man curbstomped the Buffoon's gang in the purest Batman style save for pulling a gun on the last one (he had produced a knife), but when he confronted the Buffoon (who was terrified and possibly crapping in his pants) he just paid the ransom. After Rat-Man left with the child, the Buffoon was still there holding the case of the ransom, too dumbstruck by what had just happened to even move.
Dogs Are Dumb: Svarz, Brakko's "guard" dog. Though it's hard to tell if he's dumber than his master...
Eldritch Abomination: La Gatta, which looks like a beautiful woman, but whose true form is a demonic being from another dimension that feeds on humanity's lust and desires.
One early issue featured Galactus and Silver Surfer expies, with Rat-Man being turned into another Surfer expy and trying (and, of course, failing) to save the Earth from being devoured. As soon as the Galactus expy is breaking the Earth's crust to get to the core, hundreds of tentacles attached to something living in the abyss wrap around him and consume him in seconds. This is never explainedor brought upon again in the comic.
Expy: During his adventures Rat-Man meets many transparent expies of superheroes, such as "L'uomo con il costume da ragno" ("The Man in the Spider Outfit"). Justified by the fact that the times of real superheroes are over, and those are people without powers inspired by the heroes of times past. It is maybe something of an homage to the Golden and Silver eras of superheroes, it's not really that clear.
Aldo of Jason, in Venerdì 12. But only in his appearance.
Good Angel, Bad Angel: Parodied. Rat-Man once met the well-endowed starlet Gessica Lovebol, and had the chance to undress her. Both the devil and the angel on his shoulders asked him to remove her bathing suit!
Hero Killer: Janus Valker is a professional one: while his job is to keep the superheroes under the Government's control, he's not only authorized to use any mean he wants (resulting in him being paid for killing superheroes), but when the Government wants a superhero dead he's the one doing the job.
Humanoid Abomination: Possibly Janus Valker and Joba, since they are possessed by L'ombra (The Shadow).
The Igor: Janus Valker's assistant, Jorgesson, is a faithful and competent scientist who serves his boss with loyalty and abnegation. It is stated several times that he is one of the few people Valker cares for, and the only one he tolerates after embracing the shadow.
Incredibly Lame Pun: There are some: for example the plot-wise very important labs are called "Altrove", which means "Somewhere else":
Insomma, tutta la scienza del mondo era Altrove. ("In short, all the science in the world was Somewhere Else.")
Infant Immortality: Averted, and how. Sometimes it is Rat-Man himself who causes the death of children, through incompetence or sheer malice.
Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Recent reprints of the stories where Rat-Man meets Marvel heroes (see above) were altered for copyright issues. Spiderman is replaced with "The Human Spider", for example.
The Man Behind the Man: During the events of the six-part story about Rat-Man's origins (known among fans as "The Hexalogy"), a mysterious cloaked man appears in various places without ever saying or doing anything, but it is mentioned that he knows about Rat-Man's fate and will control it. Characters acknowledge his presence, but rarely interact with him (an exception is, for example, the Jack Kirby expy) and Rat-Man is afraid of him. The very last page reveals that the cloaked man was Leo Ortolani himself, and thus the story doubled as Leo's real-life issues in creating the Rat-Man character and his influences (Jack Kirby above all).
Meaningful Name/Reality Subtext: Rat-Man's real name is revealed as being "Deboroh La Roccia". "La Roccia" in Italian means "The rock", a nod to Ortolani's degree in Geology. "Deboroh" is just a silly name, as it's a male version of Deborah, commonly used in Italy for vapid hot girls.
Cinzia Otherside is transsexual. What a shock, uh?
Thea Denam (see the Artificial Human example) is named after the Tea rose, the plant she was created from.
Mind Screw: The story called "The R-Files", a parody of The X-Files, but a very twisted story on its own, full of Breaking the Fourth Wall moments and Doubly subverted tropes. For examples, the Mulder and Scully parodies find the real Rat-Man, but then he is revealed as being Leo Ortolani, the creator of the (real and in-story) series. Moments later, Ortolani accidentally spills ink all over his panels and he disappears into blackness, revealing they were characters in a comic all along... It Makes Sense in Context. Or maybe not.
Also in number 88, "Il Grande Magazzi e il Principe Mezzo-rospo" (something like "The Great Wizardus and the Half-toad Prince"), Rat Man is randomly called Olaf, and has been attending a Wizardry School for a long, long time (without success). The headmaster begins his start of year speech with the words "My dear future wizards...*beat*...and Olaf."
No Celebrities Were Harmed: Many characters have features based on popular actors and other celebrities. Brakko is based upon Danny Glover, Kalissa (Janus Valker's Love Interest) looks like Cher. Lupo, Rat-Man's former instructor, is based on Sylvester Stallone, and Il Pipistrello, Rat-Man's mentor, is obviously Patrick Stewart. Even the Animated Adaptation is not immune: recurring character Dr. Schafausen is based upon Christopher Lee.
No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: It happens often to Rat-Man as Marvelmouse, while he was fighting many opponents in the Arena and getting destroyed in seconds by all of them. Once a member of the audience asked the Kenshiro parody to stop senselessly beating Marvelmouse, and another time Il Drago (see Take That below) bashed him with a stone for so long that... the stone asked for mercy! It's all part of the humorous tone of the comics, but these fights also show how much of a determinator Rat-Man is.
Non-Human Sidekick: Piccettino (something like Li'l One), Rat-Man's old, small, worn-out teddy bear. He's just a regular teddy bear (maybe), but Rat-Man thinks it can speak and do things. Then again, it's stated many times that Rat-Man is mentally retarded.
Parody Names: Averted. The parodies usually give to the characters names with no relation to the original ones. Try to get which character's parody is supposed to be Professor Richlady without reading the story where he appears. note It's Severus Snape, if you're wondering.
Post Modernism: The more this comic is running, the more its humour becomes post-modern: characters are aware of being in a comic book, or are just actors playing a part; one story arc eventually revolved around the fact that Rat-Man (the series) had won a prize (in real life) and Rat-Man was supposed to take it... and then discovered it was all a plan devised by an evil publisher who used Rat as a means to capture and publish God!
Really Gets Around: Clara, Brakko's wife, has slept with almost every man in town, but Brakko is completely oblivious to this.
Running Gag: There are some, such as Cinzia Otherside's desire to marry Rat-Man.
Samus Is a Girl: The Spectre. And, less dramatically, the Carp turns out to be this as well.
Self-Deprecating Humor: Leo Ortolani himself appears as a minor or semi-minor character, usually as a pathetic little man (whom even Rat-Man makes fun of sometimes!) who sometimes gets killed.
He frequently makes fun of of his "useless" degree in Geology. But sometimes, like when Rat-Man succeeds in finding out a secret hideout by moving a rock that shouldn't be in that environment, it's surprisingly useful.
Sequel Hook: As the series was slated to end with issue #100, issue #99 has one when Rat-Man finally opens the letter that reveals his real identity: he is Janus Valker's son not just by adoption but also by blood, taken from the mother as a fetus, and as Valker's son he's fated to become the avatar of The Shadow in 2014.
Many covers are homages to famous comic book covers, such as the first appearances of Superman, Batman and Spider-Man, and many other iconic arts. Rat-Man usually substitutes the hero in the cover.
Show Some Leg: Hilariously parodied with Cinzia Otherside. S/he was in need of a lift and did this to stop a truck, but we only see the aftermath... Cinzia in a bar, and behind her the wrecked truck, upside-down and burning!
Cinzia, to the bartender: "Call a taxi for me."
Stand-In Portrait: Rat-Man tries to pass unnoticed by hiding among figures on a wallpaper. He fails... even if it is revealed that the pattern on the wallpaper looked exactly like him!
Stylistic Suck: The "Comic School" story is an interesting example of this. Basically, in the "Comic School" story, Rat-Man and other characters attend a school for future comic artists, but he and the others represent the real people behind those characters, and so each one of them is drawn in the style of those people wanting to be artists, but not having the abilities to do that. The majority of them are little more than doodles.
Sunglasses at Night: Valker and Joba never remove their sunglasses. They do this to hide their real demonic/possessed nature: the sunglasses also act as some sort of Power Limiter, and when they remove them, they can unleash terrible powers in the form of living shadows.
Take That: Many to be found, especially against anime and manga, which Leo isn't too fond of. Most notably the battle between Rat-Man and Il Drago, a transparent parody of Dragon Ball's Son Goku.
Unperson: Played for Laughs. Rat-Man as Marvel Mouse once fought a character called Il Drago (a parody of Son Goku and the Saiyan from Dragon Ball), who had a special move which, according to Rat-Man, sent the opponents in a dimension so far away that nobody would have remembered their existence. Il Drago was stopped by a superhero called "L'uomo con il costume da Ragno'' (a Spider Man expy) who reversed the effect of the move and sent them both in the other dimension. Later, Rat-Man saw a poster of his fight with Il Drago and wondered who the latter one was.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Fittingly, this happens to Tòpin The Wonder Mouse, Rat-Man's former sidekick and a parody of Robin the Boy Wonder. However, it is implied that Valker may have killed him.
The question was answered in issue #94: Tòpin asked him to teach him how to be evil, and Valker accepted.
Breakout Character: Corn Man, a giant humanoid ear of corn, was an enemy of Rat-Man who appeared in the comics for a grand total of one panel. In the cartoon he becomes the villain of an entire episode.
Continuity Nod: In his Rat-Cave, Rat-Man has a picture of the Second Secret Squad, the Guardian and the Cat's calendar.
Pragmatic Adaptation: Some plotlines, characters and jokes are recycled from the comic, usually simplified to compress it in a ten minute cartoon and not let the complex mythology lock out those who do not know the source material. For example, the movie is based on the the cloning arc (Rat-Man 12-14) with several details changed to make it a stand-alone story.