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So I watched the new direct-to-home-video Batman: The Return of the Caped Crusaders animated movie, starring those stalwarts of superhero snazziness Adam (Batman) West and Burt (Robin) Ward, with special guest villainess Julie (Catwoman) Newmar. And…yeah, that was pretty fun. My very mild apprehension re: West’s voice work from the trailer was thankfully not the problem I feared…no, not about the aging of his voice, but rather the way he seemed to play up the humor as opposed to essentially being the straight (Bat)man of the TV show. It wasn’t quite so bad when the entire project was taken as a whole, and it was nice to hear him Batting it up once again. I’ll have to say that Burt Ward’s voice didn’t sound like it aged a day, which was pretty amazing.
Nearly all the stuff you remember from the show is here, and more besides: you kinda/sorta see what happens as Bruce and Dick slide down what appear to be miles-long Bat-poles as their costumes are donned, and the Batmobile’s exit from the Batcave is now long and winding with an array of sliding doors. The ever-present dinosaur from the Batcave of the comics is here as well! The replacement voices for the other featured fiendish foes (Joker, Riddler and Penguin) do well enough, though I imagined briefly what it would have been like to get John Astin, who filled in as the Riddler for Gorshin on the TV show (and is still with us!) to reprise that role. Many of the other ’66 series villains put in brief appearances as well…even Shame is in there, somewhere.
The animation is serviceable, capturing the 1960s look-and-feel, the plot is silly but when were they not, and overall it was a good ol’ time returning to this classic iteration of the Batman. Interestingly, they didn’t go with the TV show’s narration, though someone is doing their best William Dozier impression for the sequences featuring the announcer on a TV show Bruce and Dick are watching. One voice acting moment that was particularly affecting was West’s portrayal of a Batman under the influence of a drug designed to make him…well, evil. Yes, it’s been noted here and there the humor of ’60s Batman quoting Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns in one scene, but overall it was a little uncomfortable hearing Best Batman just being so mean. Kudos to West and the producers for making that bit of business work as well as it did.
I said in that last post that I figured this would be the one-and-only return of West ‘n’ Ward in animated form, but I was wrong. Boy, was I ever wrong. William Shatner as Two-Face is the classic TV crossover I never expected, but now can’t wait to experience. Alas, that we waited too long to get Ricardo Montalbán as animated Batman ’66 Bane.
Okay, so I’m a little behind on this, but I’m thrilled this is happening…Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar returning as Batman, Robin and Catwoman for a new animated feature based on the ’60s Batman TV show.
There’s a trailer at the link…the animation looks nice, West and Ward’s voice work sounds good…it feels like West may be pushing the “jokiness” of his voice a bit more than we got in the show (similar to his voice work in Lego Batman 3) which sort of gives Batman more seeming self-awareness of the inherent ridiculousness of his circumstances. In the show, the joke was Batman was deadly earnest about everything, and making him in on the joke would undercut the show’s tone. HELLO, I’M THE GUY NIT-PICKING A NEW ADAM WEST BATMAN THING — I’m sure it’ll be fine, and will be perfectly happy getting new Adam West Bat-anything. I mean, I’m sure my voice won’t sound exactly the same 40 years from now. I’m just glad that The Bat-Powers That Be were able to get this accomplished while West and Ward and Newmar were…still available to perform, shall we say.
I’d love for there to be a series of these films, but I’m going to hazard a guess and say that one’s all we’re getting. Besides, they’ve already done an animated Dark Knight Returns adaptation, which is basically the only other story I’d insist on West voicing.
At the very least, it’ll be nice to have a new Batman direct-to-home-video cartoon that kids can watch, as opposed to the Killing Joke flick that was released a few weeks ago. I haven’t yet seen it, and I’ve been hesitant to do so after hearing about a wholly unnecessary and distasteful expansion to the story, with Batman and Batgirl having a sexual relationship. (Apparently to give Batman more reason to be angered at what the Joker ultimately does to her, since “the Joker seriously injured my crime-fighting partner” isn’t enough.) From what I hear, the adaptation of the actual comic itself isn’t bad…I mean beyond the problems with the actual story itself, which has undergone quite a bit of reconsideration in recent years…though apparently the ending is made less ambiguous. What I’ve been most curious about is Mark Hamill’s voice work on the pre-Joker Joker…I want to know what he does with that. Ah, well, maybe if the price on the Blu-ray drops a bit more, I’ll pick it up, or I can just Netflix it eventually.
Maybe instead of tacking on that unnecessary prologue, they could have used that portion of the disc’s runtime to adapt a different Joker story? Like “Dreadful Birthday, Dear Joker.” They didn’t do an adaptation of that already, did they? Or while I’m thinking of it, how ’bout a series of two or three discs adapting this series? Sure this scene needs to exposed to the cartoon-viewing public.
So I haven’t really sat down and just written about comics and related topics in a while, so I’m going to see what I can get out of my system in, oh, the next fifteen minutes or so and then crawl off to bed.
Glad to see that Groo Vs. Conan #1 has finally hit the stands…it’s certainly not your typical issue of Groo, not only mixing the world of Groo with the world of Conan, but the “real” world of Mark and Sergio as well. The conceit of the series is that Sergio takes a knock to the noggin, leading him to imagine a story in which the two characters (Groo and Conan, not Sergio and Mark) meet. Thus is an extra layer of fictional reality added to the proceeding, basically making this a Groo “What If” or “Elseworlds” or what-have-you, and not part of regular Groo-tinuity. The Official Handbook of the Groo Universe surely will make note of the story’s non-canonical status.
Ah, I’m just being silly, of course…it’s all a lot of fun, and it’s good to see Groo back on the stands. The Conan material by Tom Yeates and the regular Groo art by that other fellow mix together about as well as you’d expect; it’s jarring, but intentionally and humorously so, and I suspect once we actually get some Groo versus Conan action, it’ll be quite the hoot. Sadly, Stan Sakai didn’t contribute his usually fine lettering job to this issue, likely given current circumstances
I believe, but Richard Starkings’s lettering is a reasonable substitute.
Completely changing the subject, the San Diego Con just came and went, which I can tell by the number of people who dropped by the store looking for back issue “keys” over the last few days, and I haven’t really gone out of my way just yet to see what, if any, comic news has emerged from that fire pit. Casual exposure via Internet news sites and YouTube and TV and so on reveals a whole lot of TV show and movie news, naturally, and of course everyone knows about the new Wonder Woman in that forthcoming Superman/Batman movie nobody likes already (I think she looks great, though I couldn’t avoid making the obvious joke because I enjoy being a problem).
Two bits of comic news I particularly enjoyed hearing…well this first one isn’t comics as such, but it’s about the ’60s Batman TV show’s home video release which is vitally important news as far as I’m concerned. The $200 or thereabouts price for the Blu-ray edition of the complete series is a bit dear, and while they’ve announced a stand-alone Season One on DVD, there doesn’t appear to be a Blu-ray equivalent. Can anyone point me in the direction of further information about individual Blu-ray releases for the seasons, or am I just going to have to bite the bullet and grab that complete set? BECAUSE I WILL.
The other big news is Fantagraphics republishing the work of Vaughn Bodé, starting with a big ol’ collection of Cheech Wizard. I do love me some Bodé, as I’ve noted in the past, but oddly enough I don’t have much Cheech Wizard represented in my collection. I definitely look forward to this release.
Oh, and the other news I heard this week was about a reference to a certain swampy friend of ours when you call John Constantine’s phone number. Haven’t done it yet, myself, but I guess I’d better or I’ll have to turn in my fanboy card.
There’s stuff about new Star Wars comics, too, but I’ll get to that later.
And that’s about fifteen minutes of typing (and virtually no proofreading), save for the minute or two scanning the pic. And don’t forget to go read my latest End of Civilization post…and remind me to post the one Diamond Previews listing I accidentally forgot to include this time around!
I haven’t mentioned pal Batfatty here in a while, but he’s in regular email contact, sending me odd pictures and crazy links, and this scan of an old copy of Screen Stories
he had autographed at the recent Emerald City Comic Con by Best Batman, Adam West.
It’s a beautiful thing. I need to ask comrade Batfatty to send a scan of the article, because that blurb on the cover has me intrigued. Assuming it’s more than just “look out for that Catwoman, she’s nuthin’ but trouble!”
So of course it’s during my brief blogging sabbatical that the biggest, most amazing comic news of all time is unleashed upon us. No, not that Marvel apparently had to outsource for a new cosmic character since, you know, they didn’t have enough of them. And no, not that DC’s “Event Formerly Known As WTF Certified Month” seems to be about 75% “Special Surprise Guest Star Month” so far.
No, it’s all about a new Batman comic based on the 1960s TV show starring Best Batman, Adam West. And, naturally, mustachioed Joker:
It’s a digital-first comic, with a print edition to follow, and features the work of writer Jeff Parker, artist Jonathan Case, and cover artist Mike Allred.
Not that I’ve been keeping close tabs on reactions thus far, but from what little I’ve seen people seem to very positive about this development…quite the change from a couple of decades back, when folks were getting the vapors over the fact that a guy who made comedies was going to direct a Batman movie starring a comedic actor and oh my God it was going to be the campy ’60s Batman TV show all over again, will comic fans never get respect? (Of course, the resulting film was sufficiently “dark” and “gritty” to keep those fans happy, though really it’s just as amusingly peculiar and goofy and, um, well, campy as the rest of the Burton oeuvre.)
Anyway, I’m thrilled about this new Batman ’66 comic, and can’t wait for it. When it comes out, if it’s not the best-selling comic of the 21st century thus far, then we will have failed as a civilization. Not that you should feel any pressure or anything, Jeff ‘n’ Jon.
Of course, I realize not everyone has achieved sufficient enlightenment to realize the beauty of Adam West Batman, and thus come with me back to the mid-1960s, via this January 8-14, 1967 copy of the TV Weekly insert from the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, coincidentally enough discovered in a comic collection we were processing just last week:
That’s a swell Dragnet cover, yes, but let us look to the letters page therein, where someone wrote in to complain that his favorite TV show was getting the hook because it could not compete with a certain Caped Crusader:
Wow. Just imagine how this guy would react to the idea of “Bronies.”
Well, let’s see here, what was going on Thursday night at 7:30:
Just look at that. How is anything going to compete with the triple-blast of the Joker and the Penguin and Venus? Sorry, Jericho and, apparently, Daniel Boone.
And sorry, D., but this moronic adult thinks the 1960s Batman TV show is a thing of beauty, and I’m glad to see it still being appreciated, all these years later.
BONUS BAT-HATER CONTENT, courtesy that atomic bomb in a human body, pal Andrew, who passed along this Letter of Comment from the April 1st, 1966 issue of Life Magazine, reacting to a recent cover feature on the Adam West Half-Hour Costumed Adventure Theatre television program:
Holy Dramatic Overreaction, Batman!
Here’s another paperback acquired in the same collection as the Batman TV show tie-in book I recently featured here: a T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents reprint paperback from 1966:
I hadn’t known this even existed. It reprints the story in black and white, about two panels per page. I couldn’t scan this bit (and the book is already sold, so I can’t double-check it) but one of the text pages inside described this as “camp adventure,” or words to that effect. To be frank, I’m no T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents connoisseur, but I always got the impression it was played more or less straight. Was it knowing high-camp comedy/satire all this time? …Or maybe it was camp because it was unintentionally goofy while
still being played straight (case in point: the covers above). Or are superheroes just intrinsically
camp, because, you know, c’mon. Or am I reading too much into a blatant coattail-riding of the Batman
TV show’s success with its camp formula? At any rate, I know a few T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents fans who wouldn’t care for that characterization.
Let the hair-splitting begin!
• • •
Speaking of that Batman book
, reader Pietro sent me a photo he took at a flea market in his home country of Italy, featuring an Italian version of what he believes to be the same book:
Pietro notes that the title translates as “The Three Cruel,” which is grammatically odd if still pretty awesome. Thanks for the picture, Pietro!
• • •
So I was in a Twitter conversation about Superman: The Movie
and Superman II
, and as these things usually go with me, the topic of Swamp Thing found its way into the mix. As a result, Daniel generated this fine piece of Swamp art:
The world is just a little bit more beautiful today.
…particularly when current events and personalities, both in the comics industry and in online fandom, get me fed up with everything and it’s all I can do to not change the focus of my blog to cooking tips.
So pardon me for a moment while I take a deep breath, center myself, and exhale slowly, while contemplating a recently acquired item of pure beauty:
God bless you, Adam West, Burt Ward, and known associates.
If you came to the site today expecting my reaction to this week’s Search for Swamp Thing #1 – I’ll get to it tomorrow, probably. Short version: Inept, but liked it despite itself.
“Batman…when I get out of jail, will you take me on a date?”
“We’ll have plenty of time to think about that, Catwoman…
several years, I’m afraid.”
“If I were to kiss you, would you think I was a…bad girl?”
“But, uh…no…no, of course not, Catwoman.
Kissing is one of the most natural things in the world! Uh….”
“Some people kiss almost every day, and I’m told…”
“C’mon, Batman, the police are here!”
“Catwoman…may I take a raincheck on that kiss?”
“There’s one thing in life you should learn, is to listen to your father and mother.
And I don’t think they’d approve of your association with Shame.”
“You’re right Batman. I should have known better.
But after all, I’m only seven years old.”
“You’re never too young to learn the difference between Good and Evil.”
“Let’s go, Robin…we’ve set another youth on the road to a brighter tomorrow!”
“Gosh, Bruce, did you hear that?”
“Nothing has ever cut me so deeply to the quick — no blow ever struck by any arch-villain — has ever hurt me so acutely…”
“…As that little boy’s ‘boo.'”
BONUS: Costume idea for next Halloween:
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