Holy Digital! DC Does the Batusi With This Week's BATMAN '66
Sometimes, an idea is so good that it's hard to believe it has never been done before.
Batman '66, a new digital series from DC, finally takes the heroes and villains featured in the campy 1960's Batman TV show and puts them in the comic books.
Now readers can finally read new adventures featuring pop culture treasures like Robin's exclamations of "Holy Batman!," the Dynamic Duo hopping into the Batmobile with fins, characters dancing the "Batusi," and the live action versions of sexy Catwoman, creepy Joker and laughing Penguin.
So why did it take so long to make something like this happen?
"It couldn't have happened sooner," said Jeff Parker the writer on the series. "The rights to do this specific Batman for products or anything were spread among multiple companies and rights for actors' likenesses had to be rounded up. But Warner Brothers finally made it come together and DC immediately started talking about a comics version."
While the TV show is often the subject of ridicule by fans because of its humorous approach to the Caped Crusader, it had a huge impact on today's generation of comic book readers — and creators.
"As a kid, I watched it like it was required by law. I would draw that Batman and Robin, try to make Batarangs and utility belts, and rolled my toy Batmobile everywhere," Parker said. "And I think that's a lot of people's experience, it's beloved by the comics world. Every cartoonist I know was big into it."
Newsarama once asked famed Batman writer Chuck Dixon about the show and he agreed: "I was one of those fans [who ridiculed the show] until I had to write Batman and realized how much the ’66 show informed me about how Batman works as a character."
The digital comic also offers Parker the opportunity to expand the world of the TV show, while also utilizing the concepts and characters that fans hold dear.
"First, [the comic will focus on] the big ones — Joker, Catwoman, Riddler, Penguin — as you would see on TV, so yes, Joker seems to be in need of a shave," Parker laughed.
"After this world is thoroughly fleshed out in comics with characters you know from the show, I hope to start '66ing some of the villains who never made it from the books to the screen," he said. "It's an interesting exercise, figuring out how they might have interpreted say Two-Face.
"We're working with the idea that, what if they had a crazy-high budget to fund the best effects possible, along with wire-fu stunt work?" he said.
And is Robin saying Holy____?
"Hardly at all... only every third page," Parker said.
Although the most established television settings — even the slightly cheesy ones — will be true to the television show, Parker is getting the chance to show news ones.
"We're going very big with the settings," he said. "Some things look the same, like the Batcave, Wayne Manor and so on, but now instead of stock city footage you get a better sense of Gotham City. We open in Gotham Park, which is this world's version of Central Park, we establish that Gotham has a river running through it that empties into a large bay.
"Batman and Robin will also be traveling the world, because they're revered in most countries and called upon for adventures abroad.
"We're also adding to the options they have, like new vehicles," he said. "That's not a mandate to create new toys, I just thought it would be cool. They still spend most of their time getting around in the most famous Batmobile ever."
The comic will be drawn in a style that mimics the live-action looks of the actors, but still capitalizes on the comic book medium.
"We have multiple artists, among the best in the medium, but it was key to begin with someone who would get the tone right and set the bar nice and high. Jonathan Case (Dear Creature, Green River Killer) did that and more. What he's done with the look and colors really gives it the feeling of the best of the shows without just duplicating elements. It feels really alive and fresh, which may surprise some.
"Jonathan has the body language down especially," Parker added. "When you see Riddler and Catwoman move on the page, you can hear Frank Gorshin and Julie Newmar deliver their lines. It's all filled with charm and exciting. "
While the comic is launching as an ongoing for now, the length of the stories depends on reader response, but Parker is hoping he gets the chance to continue adding to the Batman '66 mythology.
"Those things are always played as it goes, but it looks good," the writer said. "Interest was clearly very strong right off the bat for book orders. I hope digital downloads will also be big. How cool would it be if we could sometimes go twice a week like the show used to? It's already neat that you get to read it every week in increments, like watching the show."
Plus, Parker said, there's another huge advantage to playing with Batman within the universe of the television series: "The main deathtrap we've escaped is Continuity!"
And that gives the writer a lot of room to be creative and have fun, even beyond the initial nostalgic issues — and he's hoping kids who don't even know the old TV show might still check it out.
"I think you'll find it's much more than a nostalgia endeavor; we're building a bright corner of escapism where heroes are extremely heroic and the bad guys are so fun you can root for them too," he said. "I hope longtime bat fans will encourage their kids to read it' it's completely welcoming for them."