Artist Scott Kowalchuk is most known for offbeat stories like Down Set Fight or the spy-fi series The Strangers, but this up and comer now gets to take on one of his childhood favorites in DC’s Digital First Batman ‘66 Chapters 47 and #48 (soon coming to print as issue #17). Kowalchuk has stated several times how he lobbied to get on the series and now it’s come into fruition, but the best part for him was getting the chance to draw his all-time favorite villain: King Tut.
Newsarama recently spoke to Kowalchuk about the nostalgia of the show, what it’s like to finally achieve this life-long dream, and what he has in store in the coming year. On his own site, Kowalchuk did a post explaining how he used the Batman TV show as part of his portfolio in school with some very interesting concepts.
Newsarama: Scott, first let's go to the obvious here, but do you have a fond Batman '66 memory? Was it a staple of your childhood?
Scott Kowalchuk: From about age 7-10 the Batman ‘66 show was my childhood. I had been a Bat-Fan since discovering the Super Powers toy collection at an early age and when Batmania broke in the late 80s, including the TV show being rerun on local networks, I was primed and ready to lose my childhood self within Batman and Robin's adventures. Granted, this lasted well into my late 20s, but that's a whole other story.
Actually, my fondest memory of the TV Show was a Detroit CBS affiliate advertising the broadcasting of the Batman '66 movie. My-oh-my, I recall a voiceover saying "This Thursday Batman, as you've never seen him before...". Up until that point I had zero knowledge of the movie's existence. I buckled in for the ride of my young life that Thursday night. I still have the VHS I recorded of the film on from that airing. It has been re-watched many a-time.
Nrama: There are so many great villains to choose from, who did you manage to wrangle for your story?
Kowalchuk: Aw, I'm so fortunate to have been able to draw King Tut for my story (with a fun cameo by the Bookworm). In the issue King Tut unleashed the “Osiris Virus” on the denizens of Gotham City, turning them into mindless zombies to do his bidding. Batman and zombies, it's a trip!
King Tut was always my favorite super criminal from the TV Show. Victor Buono was (and is) such a treat to watch. I adored watching him take Tut from timid professor, to emotional-crying king, to explosive and outraged Pharaoh. The character, for me, real encompassed the entire aesthetic of the TV Show. Bright, loud, funny and sometimes a little scary.
Nrama: Do you have a favorite that you'd love to tackle down the line, should you get the chance to come back?
Kowalchuk: This was literally it. I mean, would I like to draw the entire ‘66 Rogues Gallery? Oh my yes. But King Tut was always the one character I held the most affection for. So, then, it should come as little surprise that my favourite comic book Bat-Villain was Maxie Zeus. I'm a sucker for split personalities.
Actually, I genuinely adored most of the made-for-TV villains. Egghead, Olga, Bookworm, Shame, False Face (yes, yes, yes, I know he appeared in the comic, but this one was such a rich and unique interpretation!). Bookworm also makes a cameo in the issue. I couldn't believe my luck. Bookworm had a real edge, which was funny given the meekness of the character physically.
So, yes, in the end, I'd happily draw any of the Rogues!
Nrama: The Batman '66 comic series has been going on for a little over a year now, what are you excited to be bringing to the title?
Kowalchuk: While I was studying illustration in college the Batman TV Show became a deep source of inspiration for me. You have to remember, when the show first aired it was one of the first to use color. The set designers brought every color under the sun to each episode. For me, the design of Batman '66 (and a couple other of it's contemporaries) became a very definitive moment in time for pop culture. That bright palette of color reflected in the performances and the scripting of the show. It was bigger and brighter than life. Which I see month-in-and-month-out Jeff Parker bringing to this series. That was what I tried to compliment in my visuals. Big and bright!
Nrama: What is it about your style, do you think, is perfect for something like Batman '66?
Kowalchuk: I guess, I've always pictured the '66 Batverse as being fun. My aesthetic has always been kind of light-hearted. If there is ever a chance to draw in a gag, I'll take it. Now, I don't know that I'm perfect for the book, but I do hope it's easy for readers to see my affection for the character and series within each panel. Honestly, working on these characters was a legitimate dream come true for me, and I owe a big thank you to Jeff Parker and Jim Chadwick for that.
Nrama: Last we talked, Scott, you were on Down Set Fight from Oni, What have you been up to since then, you know, aside from working in Gotham City?
Kowalchuk: Whew, well, I have a book I'm very excited about with writers Christopher Sebela and Dennis Culver. It's an Xmas-themed book and should be out just in time for the holiday season next year. Without divulging too much it's a military satire. The book has been an absolute delight being a part of. Dennis and Chris drafted in up many moons ago and I was extremely fortunate to get the nod to draw and color it. I really wish I could show-off some of the visuals for it, Dennis and I have assembled one extremely colorful cast. My hope is it's going to turn into the comic book equivalent of my holiday tradition of watching “Die Hard”. It's a series I'm twisting everyone’s arm into planning additional volumes.
Nrama: What do you think it is about Batman '66 that has such longevity to have strived through the decades?
Kowalchuk: It's like any version of Batman, I think, it was a very unique and specific interpretation of the character. Every generation has a Batman to call their own, and the '66 Batman really was unlike any of its descendants which I think helps to emphasize just how special it was. It's one of the core strengths of comic book's appeal to the greater audience at large. Every generation is exposed to a different version of a character and quickly identifies that as their “Batman” or “Superman” or what have you. I think that's great. Everyone laughs at me, but my Superman is theLois and Clark: New Adventures of Superman. Honestly, if that show ever received the comic treatment I would lobby hard to be the artist on it. Mostly as an excuse to draw Teri Hatcher day-after-day.