Underrated: Batman ’66
This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Batman ’66.
I’m sure you’re aware by now that Adam West passed away last week after a brief battle with leukemia at the age of 88. His death got me thinking about the impact of the show, and the steps it made back in the 60’s that we may over look today in light of the darker direction Batman has taken since. To that extent here are, in my opinion at least, five things about the show that we may overlook – if you think I’ve missed something, you’re right, but I’ll be revisiting this in the future.
- Adam West’s deadpan delivery.
I could list so many brilliant one liners that came from Adam West, or I could send you to this page, but two of my favourites are:
“I wish we could help you, citizen, but we’re just a couple of ordinary crime-fighters going about our mundane business.”
“Robin: “Where’d you get a live fish, Batman?”
Batman: “The true crime-fighter always carries everything he needs in his utility belt, Robin.”
Out of context, I find them even funnier.
- Pow! Bop! Biff!
The on-screen sound effects were fantastic when we first saw them, and they’ve rightly earned their place in pop culture today. So what are they doing here? It’s the secondary function they served that impressed me the most; by appearing on the screen just before a hit connected, it allowed the actors to be a little safer when fighting each other as they didn’t run the risk of getting a fist to the face. Plus it was one of the best opening credits in any TV show (I still think that it holds up)
- The show’s influence on the comics.
I don’t mean the obvious way the tone of the comics changed as a result of the series influence (granted some may not think that was a good thing), but rather the way that the show cemented certain characters as Batman’s core rogues gallery at a time when they weren’t as prevalent in the comics. The Riddler appeared on the television show for the first time in a decade’s absence from the comics, as did Catwoman and Mr. Freeze. Geekscape has an interesting article if you’d like to read more on this.
- The Batmobile
Seriously, look at this thing. This is still a fantastic car to this day (you’d drive it. You know you would), but it kick started fandom’s love of having an awesome Batmobile. Do you remember what the Batmobile looked like before the TV show? No. Because it wasn’t that cool.
- Bill Finger’s last Batman story
Batman co-creator Bill Finger co-wrote the two part episode “The Clock King’s Crazy Crimes / The Clock King Gets Crowned” for the second season of the show, which aired October 12–13, 1966. It was the last time he wrote a story featuring his creation.
- The cast
Would the show have worked without Adam West? Maybe. But when you look at the way he carried himself on the show, his delivery and his physique (he had said numerous times that he didn’t need rubber molding, that was “all Adam West”) then you couldn’t have asked for a better man to have a lasting cultural impact as the Batman. In the past 60 years, no other actor has been viewed in such a synonymous way with the role of the caped crusader (the cynical ones will be saying “well that’s because he didn’t do much else!” And to those I show a swift middle finger. West is a legend). But Adam West wasn’t the only star of the show; I don’t remember a character played by a bad actor on the show. Yes, some of them may have hammed it up a little, but that’s what the show demanded of them and holy cow did they deliver.
I could go on about this show for days, but this article is due out in half an hour, and I should probably make sure it’s not late.