Wednesday, April 16, 2014

R.I.P. Lorenzo Semple, Jr.

We’ve posted quite a bit of late about the 1966 BATMAN television series HERE and HERE, making this post a sad coincidence. 

Television and film writer Lorenzo Semple, Jr. died on March 28, 2014, at the age of 91. 

A look at his IMDB credits reveals he was responsible for a great many well-known products of entertainment.  But, to me, he was – and always will be – the man who defined the look, feel, and very existence of television’s first Batman. 

THIS ARTICLE reveals that, having been hired by producer William Dozier to develop the series, it was Mr. Semple who came up with the brightly colored POW! BAM! BIFF! graphic sound effects, and Robin’s trademark exclamations “Holy (fill-in-the-blank)!” 

From this, we can further assume Lorenzo Semple, Jr. was also responsible for the weekly death trap cliffhangers, "The Batphone" and "The Batpoles".

"I'll summon him, Sir!"

"To the Batpoles!"
Of course, these unforgettable elements were commonplace within the comic books of the day (okay, maybe not the Batpoles), but it was the genius of Semple and Dozier to port them over to a filmed television production -- where they, and the talented actors who so perfectly performed material the likes of which was never seen by a mass-audience before, came together to create legend! 

Of the comic books used as source material by Semple and Dozier was the one above – BATMAN # 171 (Cover Date: May, 1965).  Many elements of this particular story were used in Semple’s pilot script for the BATMAN TV series “Hi Diddle Riddle” / “Smack in the Middle”, guest starring Frank Gorshin as The Riddler. 

 So much so that, in what may be my favorite fannish-moment of all time, at a convention, in the ‘90s, I showed Adam West a copy of this comic – and asked him to see if he recognized anything familiar about the story. 

 As he paged through it, he visibly perked-up and said (something to the effect of) “This is from our first episode!”  He called Frank Gorshin, who was at a neighboring table, to come and look at this comic.  I explained that this was the specific comic book that, more than anything else, defined their show.  
Remember this stuff?  Click on comic images to enlarge.

Look familiar?
They were both pleased, and each autographed the cover for me! 
 Click on either image to enlarge.

 But, I digress.  None of this, including the highly anticipated LATE 2014 RELEASE of the 1966 BATMAN TV series on DVD, could have happened without the talents and vision of Lorenzo Semple, Jr. 

Who, for having written the pilot episode, would also have invented “The Batusi” – an element clearly not part of the original BATMAN # 171 comic book – but of the wonderfully creative mind of Lorenzo Semple, Jr.
Rest in Peace!      


Anonymous said...

Robin: "The way we get in these scrapes and get out of them, it's almost as though someone was dreaming up these situations, guiding our destiny."


Joe Torcivia said...

No doubt, someone on “Earth Prime”!

Marc Whinston said...

It's always great to have good interactions with entertainers whose work you love.

Marc Whinston said...

Gorshin was good as The Riddler. Much better than John Astin. Still, I prefer him as Commissioner Bele.

Joe Torcivia said...


The good interactions have held true for not only Adam West and Frank Gorshin, but for Batgirl Yvonne Craig, June Lockhart, Mark Goddard, and Bill Mumy of LOST IN SPACE, David Hedison of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, and Don Marshall, Don Matheson, Deanna Lund, and Heather Young of LAND OF THE GIANTS. All very nice people.

Unquestionably, Frank Gorshin was great as Bele – but his Riddler set a (to that point in time) unseen standard for TV villains. John Astin did the best he could with a part that was clearly written for someone else. I can’t hold the impossible against him. Unlike Mr. Freeze, who could successfully be cast three times (…though George Sanders was the first and best for me), the character of The Riddler had the indelible stamp of Frank Gorshin upon him – and still does today!