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DC debuts Batman comic based on 1966 series

by Greg Belfrage

Holy nostalgia, Batman!  In a bold move, DC is launching a Batman comic with new stories inspired by the classic 60's television series!  "Batman '66"  is written by Jeff Parker with art by Jonathan Case.

Photo credit: DC Facebook

"Batman" starring Adam West and Burt Ward aired from 1966 to 1969 on ABC.  The first episode was titled "Hi Diddle Riddle" and featured Frank Gorshin as the Riddler.  It was an instant ratings smash. The one hour show aired over two consecutive nights in 30 minute segments. 

The first evening's episode always ended in a cliffhanger with Batman and Robin usually facing dire peril.  Viewers were encouraged to "Tune into tomorrow! Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!"  The booming voice of the narrator was provided by the show's producer, William Dozier. 

"Batman" was insanely popular for a number of reasons. The humor was designed to attract adults. There was plenty of tongue-in-cheek sexual innuendo that went right over the heads of kids. The campiness and social commentary also appealed to 60's hipsters.  And who could forget Neal Hefti's "na-na-na-na, Batman" theme?

 

The appeal to kids was obvious.  There was tons of action and adventure.  Batman and Robin wore authentic costumes with a fully functioning Batcave, Batmobile, Batcycle, Bat-poles and the rest of their Bat-arsenal. 

The villains were over the top and hilarious. atman's Rogues Gallery was portrayed by brilliant veteran character actors such as Cesar Romero (Joker), Burgess Meredith (Penguin) and Julie Newmar (Catwoman). Writers created a few new villains to torment the Caped Crusaders.  King Tut (Victor Buono), Egghead (Vincent Price) and Shame (Cliff Robertson) were original characters and unique to the TV show.

Actors were falling over themselves to win roles as villains. There were so many performers clamoring to be on the show that writers created window cameos. The cameos featured actors, as well as characters from other ABC-TV shows, that popped out of windows as Batman and Robin were Bat-climbing the side of a building.

 

Sadly, the show's ratings were already slipping by 1969.  The formula of the show grew old quickly. Producers added Batgirl (Yvonne Craig) in the third season to help boost ratings.  It didn't work.  The show was cancelled after only three seasons.

The television series has been treated as poison by DC and Warner Brothers for decades.  "Batman" was produced by 20th Century Fox, so they hold intellectual property rights on the costumes and characters as they appeared on the show.

Copyright battles still rage over the show, which is why you won't find the series on DVD or Blu-Ray.

I have a few precious memories of watching "Batman" during its original network run on ABC. The show and the resulting 'Batmania' had a tremendous impact on me.  I absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on the new comic book and live it all over again.

The first print issue of "Batman '66" hits comic book stores today and retails for $3.99.  The first three issues are now available via digital download for $.99 each. 

Greg Belfrage is an avid Star Trek fan, serious Batman toy collector and hopeless geek. He hosts the morning show on KELO Newstalk 1320 AM / 107.9 FM.