Enter Moscow's answer to Batman


June 18, 2010 Updated Jun 25, 2009 at 10:11 PM EDT

It's Moscow's version of Gotham City, only the hero of the latest Internet superhero comic strip isn't one of its billionaire oligarchs -- its the speaker of the Russian State Duma.

A man hitherto not renowned for spectacular deeds, by day Boris Gryzlov is the dour and besuited speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament... but at night he becomes "Gryzlov Man," ready to save Moscow from all evil forces.

The anonymously-produced comic strip -- designed in the style of US comics and so far available only on www.gryzlovman.com -- was reproduced in the Russian press on Thursday, triggering frenzied speculation about its creators.

It shows the grey-haired Gryzlov, after closing a session of the Duma, heading home in his chauffeured car, only to hear of a gas pipeline explosion in Moscow, upon which he immediately heads to the scene.

"Late for dinner again," he says laconically.

Transformed into a caped superhero flying over the Moscow sky, "Gryzlov Man" takes on his evil foe "Mole-man" with a well-aimed thump and succeeds in quelling the blaze.

"It's Gryzlov Man! He comes and in silence solves everything!" gasp astonished Muscovites.

But the battle is not over and the episode ends with the revelation that "Mole-Man" is the mere envoy of a more mysterious figure called the "Black Oligarch." To be continued...

Given that the Duma is dominated by Gryzlov's United Russia party and is often seen as no more than a rubber stamp for government legislation, the comic strip appears to contain a large dose of irony.

The real Gryzlov expressed astonishment to find himself at the centre of a superhero comic strip.

"It's unexpected firstly as a format and it's totally unexpected that I have become the hero of a new genre," RIA Novosti news agency quoted him as saying.

"I saw that there was some link to Batman, but I found the film much more interesting," added Gryzlov, an establishment politician who once famously told lawmakers that "parliament is no place for discussion."

The Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper quoted experts as saying the comic strip could have been a stunt by his supporters to glamourise his image but others noted this is undermined by its irony.

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