The caped collector

Published 11:12 pm Monday, September 24, 2012

Dick Harvey collects all things having to do with Batman.

Former detective makes a big connection with Batman

Dick Harvey descends to his “Batcave,” and the Bennett’s Creek man’s passion for The Caped Crusader is coaxed from the shadows by white fluorescent light.

Surrounded by action figures, stacks of movie posters and standees, life-sized character models, coffee mugs, board games, Hotwheels Batmobiles — you name it — the 65-year-old is more than a mere citizen.

Standing in what in reality is a basement, the devotee of one of the world’s most successful comic book creations is lost in Gotham City’s gritty streets with the crime-fighting title character and his fearsome enemies: the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler and all the rest.

Email newsletter signup

“I started collecting after the ’89 movie with Michael Keaton,” Harvey said. He and his wife made a Batman costume together for Halloween, and “(the) next thing you know, people were getting me stuff, then I started picking up stuff, then it snowballed from there.”

He estimates he has invested $8,000 to $10,000 in the collection, and $3,000 to $4,000 in action figures alone.

“Anyone who collects anything, you just collect one thing, like Batman,” Harvey said. “But I collect Batman and all the things that go with it, and that’s expensive.

“As far as a favorite thing, I think I have a picture autographed by Bob Kane, the creator of Batman.”

Harvey treasures various other autographed items, including by Val Kilmer, Jack Nicholson, Adam West and George Clooney.

In 1995, Harvey retired from Portsmouth Police Department after 25 years. Before he became a police officer, one of his brothers was murdered in Chesapeake. The case remains unsolved.

Harvey worked homicide for about 17 years, retiring a sergeant in charge of the unit, before working in the Virginia Department of Forensic Science’s Norfolk laboratory.

For anyone searching, therein seems to reside a partial answer to why Harvey is so crazy about all things Batman.

“One of the reason I like the Batman character, he’s kind of like an average guy,” Harvey said. “The guy basically uses his mind and physical strength to stop crime, and that’s what — basically — police do.”

But he realizes that “you have to separate fact from fiction; you can’t be walking around the police department and trying to be Batman. But, as far as the character goes, I have always admired someone who can use intelligence to outwit.”

Harvey gets a kick out of showing his collection. For “The Dark Knight Rises,” he said, he was given space on two floors by the Virginia Air and Space Center in Hampton, which showed the film in its IMAX theater.

“I figured it will be another four or five years or more before another Batman movie comes out, so it was my last chance,” he said.

For 2008’s “The Dark Night,” he was given a smaller space at The Commodore in Portsmouth, and he has loaned parts of his collection to a couple of other theaters in Chesapeake.

Harvey once also collected NASCAR stuff, back when Georgia’s Bill Elliott, who he rooted for, was behind the wheel.

He used to own a reproduction of the military Jeep he drove in Vietnam. As a boy, he built model cars, “and I still dabble in that a little bit.” He also built a model of the USS Los Angeles, which his brother sailed on.

But “Batman is the most involved I got into” collecting, said Harvey, whose collection spills from his basement into various other parts of the house.

Harvey’s wife, Marylynn, believes she could have been much unluckier in terms of her husband’s main interest. “He could be running around with other women and drinking, but instead he’s collecting Batman toys, so I really can’t complain too much.”

Harvey has no immediate plans to divest himself of his Batman collection. “I guess when I die, I will be the guy with the most toys,” he said.