Was the 1966 Batman tv show a hindrance or an evolution of the caped crusader?
With the passing of Yvonne Craig a.k.a Batgirl (among many other things), I wanted to take this time and reflect on the mythos of Batman and whether William Doser’s 1966 Batman tv show helped the caped crusader or possibly crippled him worse than Bane?
If you are reading this, then you know who Batman is and I shouldn’t waste time explaining his origin story.
(Gets phone call from editor)
Um, like I said, let’s spend just a brief few minutes getting you up to speed on the Dark Knight. Young Bruce Wayne witnesses the murder of his parents which spirals the boy down a dark and twisted path that ultimately turns him into an avenging hero for justice. Bruce has money, power and a keen mind for deduction. He is one part Sherlock Holmes and two parts Phantom/The Shadow.
Created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, Batman burst on the scene in May of 1939 (Detective Comics #27), nearly a year after Superman. Soon, with the creation of Robin the boy wonder (April 1940, Detective Comics #38), Batman had become a cult legend spawning a Sunday comic strip, movie serial and co-starred on a radio program with the Man of Steel himself.
But, by the 1950’s, Fredrick Wertham and the commission for standards and practices deemed comics to be the leading cause to juvenile delinquency. All comics were then essentially put under a microscope. With much scrutiny, Batman and Robin were construed as homosexuals and, by all counts, Batman was also now seen as pedophilic. This is not a good place for a rich, wealthy playboy with a young ward and no wife to be in the 1950’s (or nowadays, for that matter).
Batman could no longer be dark or broody and the “master and apprentice” dynamic between Bruce and Dick changed to a more parental role. This caused the talent behind the book to make the strip silly.
The rest of the decade and most of the 60’s saw Batman depicted as more of a lighthearted crime fighter and less the dark, brooding hero that he once was.
Enter William Doser. As legend goes he was looking for something to read on a long plane flight. He picked up Batman and was hooked. He saw the cape crusader as something that would translate well on TV. Doser felt Batman’s rogue gallery of villains in their vibrant colors and the over the top action would thrill television audiences.
With that, Batman was reborn. The next three years, Batman became a household name as well known as Superman if not more. Unfortunately, in the comics and in pop culture media, for the next few decades when people thought the name “Batman,” it ultimately became synonymous with “Adam West.” Batman lost all his credibility as a Dark Knight of justice. The show is still syndicated today and was remastered on Blu Ray/DVD.
Denny O’Neil and Neil Adams tried to bring Batman back into the dark. They created so many great and iconic stories but still couldn’t wash off the long lasting affects of Adam West’s portrayal of Batman.Fans who aren’t as avid comic book readers could only remember Batman as the campy crime fighter, plus younger generations would see him and Robin act just like West and Ward (voiced by Casey Kasem) in Scooby Doo, Where Are You? as well as The Challenge of the Super Friends.
By the mid 80’s, a young, talented man took a blind superhero lawyer and made him the talk of the comics world and soon walked into DC with a mission. This mission was to reclaim some integrity to Bruce Wayne.
Frank Miller realized he was approaching 30 and here he is reading about Batman who hasn’t aged and hasn’t evolved as a character. With that came the spark to create the Dark Knight Returns and Batman Year One, which heavily influenced Tim Burton’s Batman film.
If you ask fans back in 1966, Batman was the greatest show on the air. If you ask fans in the 80’s, that show was campy and a joke.
Ask people now and it’s a mixed bag, but even to a causal fan, the show holds its place apart the lore of the hero. And, even if it may not be “good,” it still gave you a weekly show with heroes and villains in full gear doing what they do best, which is to entertain us.
Ultimately, this article is a bit of a red herring, though it wasn’t intentionally made to misdirect you. I had intended to give all the reasons why the ’66 Batman could have destroyed the legacy of our caped crime crusader. Yet, in the end, I found that there are far worse events in Batman’s history that would in effect redeem the ’66 Batman series.
It was never meant to destroy Batman, it was there to make you see how silly comic books can be sometimes, and with that it gave us cultural icons like Adam West. It helped continue the careers of actors like Cesar Romero and Burgess Meredith among others…