Monday, October 27, 2014

Same Smith Time! ...Different Smith Channel!

Two of our favorite topics at TIAH Blog are BATMAN ‘66 (the original TV show AND the wonderful current comic book ) and LOST IN SPACE (the original show and, if this Blog had existed in the ‘90s, the then-current and sometimes controversial comic book). 

Those of you who knew both series from original prime-time network airings, as opposed to decades of syndicated reruns, know that BATMAN ‘66 and LOST IN SPACE are inextricably linked in a way far greater than merely as frequent topics of posting at this Blog.

BATMAN ‘66 and LOST IN SPACE were COMPETING NETWORK SERIES, back when there were only THREE television networks (I’m not counting PBS, or was it “NET” back then, for the sake of this discussion), and said competition was far more concentrated than it is today, with thousands of viewing options. 

BATMAN ‘66 was in full color on ABC, and LOST IN SPACE began in Black and White on CBS.  Both were broadcast Wednesday night at 7:30.  Yes, in “Ye Olden Days”, prime time began weeknights at 7:30, and was probably the REASON series such as BATMAN ‘66 and LOST IN SPACE came into existence – as all-around family shows to safely occupy the earliest of the prime time slots. 

LOST IN SPACE premiered in September, 1965, while BATMAN ‘66 followed as a mid-season replacement series in January, 1966. 

BATMAN’s “camp approach” had an immediate and profound effect on LOST IN SPACE, which began taking greater advantage of the unique talents of Jonathan Harris as “reluctant stowaway” Doctor Zachary Smith, by featuring his still unique brand of “comedic villainy” to a greater and greater degree.  

By the Second Season of LOST IN SPACE, now in full color and looking like a true mid-1960s show, the “BATMAN ‘66 influence” had exerted itself upon LOST IN SPACE to the point of (almost) no return. 

Thus, BATMAN ‘66 and LOST IN SPACE were, and ARE, forever linked! 

This lengthy history lesson serves only to better explain the wonderful surprise that awaits readers of the comic book BATMAN ‘66 # 14, in which the link between the two series is as “alive and well” as it was in 1966. 

BTW, “It’s NOT Gigantic”, no matter what the cover says!  In the story, “The Bat-Robot” stands about eight feet tall, and is not the behemoth pictured here.  

A hallmark of LOST IN SPACE was the constant verbal sparring between Doctor Smith and the nameless “General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Robot”.  This made for some wonderful character bits (…and, I maintain, formed the basis for C3PO and R2D2 in STAR WARS, but, that’s only MY opinion) that remain fondly remembered today. 

A hallmark of BATMAN ‘66 was the “Bat-climb” up the side of a tall building, during which a window would inevitably open, and out would pop the talking head of a celebrity, or other well-known personality, to briefly engage Batman and Robin in conversation, before the Caped Crusaders would continue their climb and resume their mission.  Window-poppers ranged from Sammy Davis, Jr., to Ted Cassidy as THE ADDAMS FAMILY’s “Lurch”.  This, too, is fondly remembered today. 

Look!  It's the Green Hornet and Kato!  That would make a great COMIC BOOK someday!  

Back in the day, given the competition between BATMAN ‘66 and LOST IN SPACE, I thought it would be a superb gag to have Jonathan Harris pop out of the window, in character as Doctor Smith.  Of course, I’m certain there were all sorts of legal reasons to keep that from happening but, nevertheless, it WOULD have been a superb gag. 

Doctor Smith never "popped" out of a window, but he remained "pop" nonetheless!  

But, all things come to those who Bat-wait, and 2014’s BATMAN ‘66 # 14 presented the story of “The Batman Robot”, a crime-fighting automaton built to patrol Gotham City because Bruce Wayne felt that his youthful ward Dick Grayson “…should have a [more] well-rounded life, not in endless pursuit of the scourges of society.”


So, in place of Batman and Robin (gone fishing in their secret identities), it is “The Batman Robot” that now makes the “Bat-climb” up the side of a tall building… 

...and WHO do you think pops out of the window? 


And how perfect is it that Doctor Smith verbally spars through that window, not with BATMAN, but with a ROBOT! 

Writer Jeff Parker sure knows what he’s doing, with his handling of this wonderful series! 

 …And, despite my uncharacteristic complaints over one aspect of the series that didn’t “ring true” for me HERE, he even gets the 1966 TV Joker down right in this issue! 

"Yes!  I finally APPROVE!"  

Craig Rousseau, former artist of IMPULSE (another favorite DC Comics series of the ‘90s and early ‘00s) does the artistic honors on Doctor Smith.   

You'd better behave, Doctor Smith, The Bat-Robot is watching you!  

 ...He knows when you are sleeping!  He knows when you're awake...  You "BAT-ter be good for goodness sake!"


Chris Barat said...





Joe Torcivia said...


Glad you enjoyed it. If you get one issue of BATMAN '66, it should be # 14. Though, I think they're all great!

While preparing this post, it occurred to me that there might be a few folks (by this time in 2014, perhaps MORE than a few) that might be unaware that BATMAN and LOST IN SPACE were competing on two different channels in the same prime-time slot, and thus the “history lesson”.

Another funny thing, at least in New York, in what you once termed “The Golden Age of Seventies Syndication”, BATMAN and LOST IN SPACE were also competing on two LOCAL channels during weekday afternoons. BATMAN on WPIX 11 (now the CW-11), and LOST IN SPACE on WNEW (now FOX-5). They didn’t usually run opposite each other – in fact, more often than not, you could see BOTH on the same day!

Now, perhaps for the first time at last, BATMAN and LOST IN SPACE are on the same channel, on the same night!

49 years after the fact they are both part of the ME-TV Cable network Fall, 2014 Saturday night line-up. …And WHAT a line-up it is!

6 PM: The Adventures of Superman.
7 PM Batman.
8 PM Wonder Woman.
9 PM Star Trek.
10 PM – Midnight: Svengoolie (Jokey horror movie host, who runs the classic Universal horror films).
Midnight: Lost in Space.
1 AM Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.
2 AM Rod Serling’s Night Gallery.
3 AM The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.
4 AM Boris Karloff Presents Thriller.

Amazing! I couldn’t assemble a better line-up if I tried! Sure wish I could stay up all night on Saturday! Don’t know how long it’ll last this way, but WOW!

But, it took THIS LONG to get BATMAN and LOST IN SPACE on the same page… er, network. All things DO come to those who Bat-wait!

Comicbookrehab said...

I think Bill Dozier missed an opportunity: Robbie the Robot could've guest-starred as the Bat-Robot. This could've been awesome.

Joe Torcivia said...

Why not, “Rehab! Robbie guest-starred on near-everything else of the time and genre. Twilight Zone, Lost in Space, Addams Family, Wonder Woman, etc. He certainly was available.

I just noticed he even appeared in Columbo! I’ll have to check that out.

Funny thing… I instinctively-read the Bat-Robot’s “voice” as the voice of Dick Tufeld even BEFORE coming upon the panels with Doctor Smith, making their confrontation all the more a great fannish-moment!

…And, slightly off-Robot-topic, but way worth noting: Ya gotta love that the fishing boat was named “Old Chum”!

joecab said...

Robot's name was actually GUNTER? Who knew?

Joe Torcivia said...


I had read somewhere that “GUNTER” was actually going to be his name, but that was decided against.

BTW, in “The Time Merchant” (1968) look closely at the packing crate, in which the Robot is delivered to Alpha Control. It reads “General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Robot”.