Saturday, October 1, 2016
A Look at the Batman '66 Comic Book Series
With the upcoming animated film Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders scheduled for release later this month, I thought that I would prepare myself by reading Batman '66, the most recent incarnation of the Adam West and Burt Ward TV series that ran from 1966 to 1968. For those of you who don't know, Batman '66 told all new stories that were set in the Batman universe as it was depicted in the '60s live action Batman TV show, and its publication as a regular comic book series ran from 2013 to 2015. I borrowed a few trade paperbacks from a buddy of mine to see how well this comic book captures the campy humor and outlandish plots from the original TV show, and I'm happy to say that the talent behind the comic book do justice to the source material. Read on ...
In short, Batman '66 is a pleasure to read. Like the TV show it emulates, the comic book seamlessly blends together superhero fantasy with campy, tongue-in-cheek humor, resulting in stories that are smart, funny and interesting. Some stories are stand-alone issues, while others are two- and three-part cliffhangers. As per the original show, Batman '66 even has its own narrator who guides the readers through the adventures and encourages picking up the next issue to find out how the Dynamic Duo foils the latest evil scheme by one of Gotham City's dozens of dastardly and diabolical deviants.
Reading Batman '66 is almost like reading a "lost” season of the original TV show, although the comic book format allows the narrative to go places where a live-action network TV series from the '60s never could. If you thought that the action set pieces from the Batman TV show were over-the-top, the ones in Batman '66 up the ante to even more outrageous and absurd heights. Fantastical items like giant flying top hats, a time-traveling sarcophagus and a submarine-propelled iceberg in Gotham harbor make regular appearances in the comic, which give our Caped Crusaders that much more pun-laden derring-do to perform. The comic book format also allows for a variety of supervillain team-ups that the original TV show could never schedule (or afford).
Even though Batman '66 remains firmly rooted in the '60 TV show, it appears that DC gave this creative team free reign to refer to and incorporate almost any aspect of Batman's history. Bat-fans who are paying attention will notice hints to other areas of the Dynamic Duo's history, such as nods to the Batman manga series by Managaka Jiro Kuwata that ran in Japan during the '60s. In addition to the rouge's gallery from the '60 show (including villains that were created just for TV such as Egghead, Shame and the Bookworm), the series also brings in other Batman villains that never appeared on the show (e.g., Poison Ivy, Bane, Scarecrow, Killer Croc, etc.). Of course, these added villains were given origin stories that fit the narrative mood and logic Batman '66; in fact, I think the origin story for Harley Quinn in Batman '66 made much more sense (albeit for a superhero comic book) than all of the others I have seen so far.
If Batman '66 has any drawbacks, they are found in its artwork. Even though the quality of writing was fairly consistent, the comic had a rotation of artists to draw the stories and some did a better job than others in capturing the campy and colorful look and feel of the original '60s show. Also, while Batgirl appears in some of the stories, it would've been nice if she appeared more often.
If you're a fan of the original Batman TV series--or are just looking for a fun and imaginative superhero romp that stands apart from DC's latest obsession with grim and gritty superhero movies--then Batman '66 is the comic book for you. Between this comic book series, Lego Batman 3, the recent release of the Batman TV series on home video and the upcoming Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders movie, now is a great time to be a fan of the campy, corny Caped Crusaders. To the Batmobile!