Friday, June 13, 2014

That Perfect Saturday Afternoon with Batman ’66 Continues!

I'll resist the temptation to say: "Same Bat-Saturday"... even though it was!  

Okay, it was "Perfect", but let's not get carried away!

In our LAST POST, we discussed that "Perfect Saturday Afternoon" (...Stop laughing, up there, Bat-buddies!), spent out on the back patio with a copy of BATMAN '66 MEETS THE GREEN HORNET # 1. 

But, along with that Bat-tastic comic, I also purchased this one -- and had the same great time with it, back-to-back.

Here are a few random thoughts:

Funny thing... I can honestly say that I get far more enjoyment out of "two-or-three-wisely-chosen-new-comics", than in the days when I'd come home with 15 or more of them! 

And, look at the GOOD TIME they're all having on that cover... even if the laughs on the part of our Caped Crimefighters are involuntarily induced! 

I guess those are SOUND WAVES, and not SPIKES, otherwise no one would be smiling (...except, maybe The Joker), and Catwoman would be in serious danger too! 

And, check out the PAINTED COVER!  You don't see nearly enough of those on comics today! 

Not like when Gold Key used to do them regularly -- and, I might add, impressively!   

They even did it with Yogi Bear! 

And, so unique was this particular painted style, that Bongo Comics tributed it for RADIOACTIVE MAN!

Enough "Gold Key Nostalgia", now let's move on to (pardon) "the issue at hand"...

There's a therapeutic talent show taking place at Arkham Asylum (...which did not exist in 1966, but we can forgive that, because it's become such a Bat-fixture in the intervening years), with Bruce (Batman) Wayne, Dick (Robin the Boy Wonder) Grayson, Commissioner Gordon, Chief O'Hara, and Barbara (Batgirl) Gordon among the attendees. 

The various acts are a wonderful "Who's-Who" of Bat-TV villains: Chandel, The Siren, King Tut, Bookworm, and False Face (...who appears as both Bruce Wayne and Egghead, giving representation to the Vincent Price-portrayed villain).

As always, you may click on the comic images to enlarge.

Just because we like him so much, here at TIAH Blog, here's King Tut attempting some excruciatingly bad and boring poetry!  

The talent show results in the escape of The Joker and Catwoman... marking the first time 1966 TV's Joker has teamed with the Julie Newmar version of the Feline Felon!   All attendees receive, not a Goodie Bag, but involuntary Joker-induced fits of paralyzing laughter, for showing up!

As part of The Joker's stand-up comedy act, he takes the following shot at King Tut and, by extension, Tut-actor Victor Buono's trademark physical girth:

"Tut [is] SO FAT, he broke TEN LAWS just by SITTING DOWN!" 

"Fun's fun, loyal subjects, but this may be too much!"  Awww... Who am I kidding, I'm FAT, and I know it!  Ha-ha-haaaa!"

I've said it in the Comments Section of THIS POST, and I'll say it again here.  Series writer Jeff Parker does an almost perfect job in capturing what BATMAN '66 should be.  I say this as someone who watched the premiere episode live, and has been a fan ever since.  

However, in both issue # 3 and now # 11, Parker appears bent on imbuing The Joker with the "deep, dark, all-consuming madness" that is the trademark of the MODERN version of the character, but was NOT the way Caesar Romero played him. 

"Well, at least it LOOKS like me!"
That madness becomes a key story point later on. 

Parker also incorporates a very popular '90s element into the world of BATMAN '66!  I won't spoil what that is, for anyone yet to read the issue, but it is done well enough -- and could open up enough interesting future story possibilities -- that I'll get on-board with this! 

Besides, this comic manages to do a great overall job of "looking and feeling sixties", that you'll get few complaints from this sixties aficionado. 

Just check out this amazing sixties-looking Joker-vehicle! 

I continue to enjoy this series immensely.  If you haven't tried it yet (and have any interest at all in the BATMAN 1966 TV SERIES), do so at your earliest Bat-convenience! 

...And, for maximum effect, "take as directed" on a leisurely Saturday afternoon! 

In fact, take 'em BOTH, as I did, for even "faster relief"! 


Anonymous said...

Well, Arkham Asylum was never mentioned in the TV series or in the Silver Age comics (I think it first appeared in a Two-Face story in the 1970's), but it's become part of canon by now, and its inclusion here is justified, IMHO. If I have a quibble about it, it would be that those villains would not all be in the same institution. Arkham was for criminally insane patients (Joker, King Tut, maybe Riddler). I don't recall any indication that Catwoman, Siren, or the others were mentally ill or legally insane, so they would be in prison (either "Blackgate," or, if you want to be faithful to the TV show, "Gotham State Penitentiary"). But then, it's probably unreasonable to expect logic and consistency from the 1966 version of Batman. If you want technical accuracy, watch a Jack Webb show.

Someone at Bongo Comics obviously remembered Doctor Solar and Silver Age Gold Key comics in general. I wonder how many Simpsons fans understood the references and/or allusions.


Anonymous said...

Romero played the Joker the way the character was being depicted in the 1960's comics. In the Bronze Age, the Joker returned to his "homicidal maniac" image, just as Batman returned to his grim Dark Knight image. I don't know if Parker chose to use the post-1970 version, or if he was under some sort of editorial mandate to keep the portrayal consistent in all titles. Either way, it seems to defeat the purpose of publishing a separate comic based on the campy 1966 version of the characters.

Julie Newmar once said in an interview in Amazing Heroes that each version of Batman was a product of its time, and when they asked if she thought there was room for both the campy comedy and the Dark Knight, she said, "Oh, yes."


Joe Torcivia said...


I feel the same way as you about Arkham. I'm okay with it being retconned and, surprisingly, I’m also okay with the giant retconning that occurred at the end of the issue – because I feel both Arkham and that other “Person/Place/or Thing” that was done would have somehow managed to successfully exist (in one form or another) in 1966 or the Silver Age in general.

…But, I *DO* feel (as do you) that not every Bat-Villain belongs in Arkham? After all, what would Warden Creighton have to do, save watch over The Penguin, Mister Freeze, and Zelda the Great? And, when we finally get to them, Louie the Lilac and Nora Clavicle? I mean… FALSE FACE surely isn’t criminally insane. Quite the opposite, he’s just a really clever guy with a great talent for disguise. Never mind Catwoman, Siren, or even Bookworm.

So, as this book operates, a number of villains are “more insane” than they should be… including, unfortunately, for true fans of the TV show and the era overall, The Joker!

I hope Parker is not under some editorial mandate to do the darkly insane Joker, because that’s not what this series should be about. And there are enough other places to see him that way!

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the Siren (a character that provided a perfect showcase for Joan Collins' talents as a femme fatale), there was an episode where she hypnotized Bruce Wayne and got him to retrieve money or valuables of some kind from his wall safe. The wall safe was hidden behind a picture of...a wall safe. I always thought that scene was a perfect example of what the TV series was all about.


Joe Torcivia said...


Of course, I loved that bit but, even weirder both “then” as a kid viewer, and all the more so “now” as a would-be writer, is why the Siren’s episode had this tenuous connection to “Ring Around the Riddler” (AKA “The Return of Frank Gorshin”). They could just as easily have been two stand-alone episodes, as the Third Season primarily became with the “reduction” to one show per week.

Maybe, as these were episodes # 2 and 3 of that season, they were still in “Two-Parter mode”, and tried to dress it up as such – even though it really wasn’t.

Also interesting to note that they would not have attempted that “wall safe picture gag” in Season One, where it was basically a ratcheted-up version of the conventions of ‘50s and ‘60s comics, delightfully exaggerated in its translation to television.

Like many shows of that wonderful era, like Lost in Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Gilligan’s Island, etc., Batman just got weirder, funnier, and overall more absurd, until its eventual demise. …And, I use the word “absurd” in what can best be described as a “loving sense”, because these shows will always remain among my favorites of all time.

Oddly, The Wild Wild West clearly went that route whole-hog in its Second Season (1966-1967, of course, the epicenter-season of that delightful weirdness), and seemingly “turned-back” somewhat for its 3rd and 4th Seasons. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. maybe *tried* to do that too in its 4th Season, but it was too late, and was replaced by Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.

But, at least we now have the BATMAN ’66 comic book to help us recapture the feeling of those great days (when “Reality TV” meant “Candid Camera”)… at least, when the “modern, insane Joker” is not infiltrating that pure-sixties vibe. That WOULD be just like him, wouldn’t it?

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that most of the action-adventure shows (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, Wild Wild West, Man from U.N.C.L.E., and The [British] Avengers) really went over-the-top in their 1966-67 seasons, then tried to tone it down in '67-68, when the camp fad was passing. By then, though, the damage (for want of a better term) was beyond repair. Fans who wanted straight drama had already quit watching, and fans who liked the weirdness were bored by straight drama. And, unlike VTTBOTS or UNCLE, Batman couldn't even try to pull back and tone things down, because its premise was inherently silly and campy. (But I agree that the silliness was not necessarily a bad thing.)

It's also possible, though, that those shows had simply run their course anyway. By the very late 1960's, the trend seemed to be away from science fiction and larger-than-life adventure, and toward relatively realistic dramas, often dealing with vital social issues 'n' stuff. The Mod Squad, The Young Interns, The Storefront Lawyers, The Bold Ones, The Rookies.

Then the "relevance" fad passed, and I don't remember offhand what came next. Harlan Ellison told an anecdote about submitting a TV script and it was rejected because it was relevant. "We're not doing relevance this year. We did relevance last year."

What I particularly liked about the wall safe gag was that they didn't beat you over the head with it. No laugh track, no close-up of the picture to make sure you understood what it was. If you noticed it, it was funny, but if you blinked and missed it, it was no big deal, since it was not integral to the plot.

For that matter, "Ring Around the Riddler" could have been done without the Siren, but I have no objection to having her in both episodes. Just a chance to have more scenes with Joan Collins in what looked like the shortest mini-skirt ever designed. :)


Joe Torcivia said...


Much as I (still) love it, the “camp fad” would have hit its saturation point in the 1966-1967 season, and, for 1967-1968, there was an undeniable “pulling-back” on the part of all such shows to one extent or another.

Even Lost in Space came out of the gate with a number of really good, non-campy sci-fi oriented shows, like “Condemned of Space”, “Visit to a Hostile Planet”, and “Hunter’s Moon”, and some good later ones like “Flight into the Future” and “The Anti-Matter Man”. Then again, they pushed the boundaries the other way too, with things like “Collision of Planets”, “The Promised Planet”, and (of course) “The Great Vegetable Rebellion” – indicating that there was some confusion as to which way the wind was blowing.

The other shows seemed to follow suit, except Batman – which (you note) almost had to double-down on “human knots”, “explosive mechanical mice led away by Bat-flutes”, and “flattened cardboard cutout crimefighters” – most likely because, unlike the other shows, it “had nowhere to go back to”!

I still believe The Wild Wild West was the most successful at this, giving it another two seasons. Star Trek also did a retreat of sorts, because there were no episodes like “The Trouble with Tribbles” or “A Piece of the Action” in that overly dull Third Season – and that was a bad thing! Especially as “Tribbles” became one of its most beloved episodes.

But, as you say, it was a bit too late, because most of those shows were gone by 1968, and the rest by 1969 – leaving just Land of the Giants to hang on until 1970.

And, just because it seems appropriate to this topic, HERE’S my personal view of the moment such things began to change. Anyone who hasn’t already read this should find it interesting.