Holy Golden Anniversary, Batman! On January 12, 1966, ABC premiered a new television show that would be hailed as a phenomenal success, and would forever change the landscape of pop-culture. Today, good citizens, Batman – that iconic TV classic – turns 50. And, I rejoice!
I was born 5-months, later, so Batman has been with me my entire life. My strongest memories of the caped-crusaders came in the mid-70’s, when it was airing in syndication. But, it’s this incarnation of Batman and Robin that has shaped my perceptions of these superheroes, since then. Indeed, this Greenway Production, (developed by Lorenzo Semple, Jr.), starring Adam West and Burt Ward has had a major impact on the Batman genre across the board; be it comic books, cartoons, movies, novels, fan-fiction, art – my God, the art! – our society’s love for these campy, colorful, quirky crime-fighting denizens of Gotham City, stems from Batman, the TV show.
As a kid of 7 (and – on into my teens), Batman captivated me, fueling my fascination with the masked-manhunter, to this day. Along with Adam West (Batman/Bruce Wayne), Burt Ward (Robin/Dick Grayson), Alan Napier (Alfred) and Neil Hamilton (Commissioner Gordon), who can forget the performances of Cesar Romero (Joker), Julie Newmar (Catwoman), Burgess Meredith (Penguin) and Frank Gorshin (Riddler); or Vincent Price (Egghead) and Victor Buono (King Tut); and – of course, the late Yvonne Craig, as the definitive Batgirl/Barbara Gordon. How about the Batmobile and the Batcave, or the Batcomputer and those Batgadgets…stars of the show in their own rights; all of it left an indelible impression upon me.
Sure, there were some real clunkers – especially, in the third season, but when it first-aired, Batman was a national sensation. Sudden fans of the show would gather ’round their water coolers, at work, to discuss the latest villains, deathtraps and cliffhangers, and to marvel at the ingenuity that the Dynamic Duo used to escape, and – to foil the diabolical plots of those fiendish foes! Batman was all the rage, man! It was hip, it was cool, and it packed a solid punch that left Americans dazzled, as never before. It had everyone clamoring to get to their sets; whether it was the stars in Hollywood, who wanted to be on Batman, or – your average citizen in TV Land, wanting to watch them – Batman changed the game.
The show has been dissected, inspected and reflected-upon, by fans- and, critics-alike, but one thing remains clear: Batman is here to stay. You might say, it’s in a renaissance period; what – with the release of the DVD/Blu-Ray collection, the internet and streaming options, podcasts and books, merchandising; even returning to syndication for a whole-new generation of fans to enjoy.
Batman has been a touchstone in all of our lives, and it raised the bar for everything down the line. I mean, it was the first TV series to be shown in vivid Technicolor; it was the first to be aired twice a week; it was the first to have a female superhero – Batgirl; and Batman was the first to boast such an incredible lineup of guest star’s. Batman is even getting a new animated movie, with Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar reprising their iconic roles, with voiceovers for their Batman, Robin and Catwoman characters! Groovy!
In 2013, DC Comics rebooted the popular classic in comic book format: Batman ’66; bringing with it, all of the magic and pizzazz that made the TV show such a success; while poking fun at the show’s much-touted faults, as well. Not only did the reboot give us new stories, but Batman ’66 gave us new characters, such as Two Face, Lord Death Eater, Bane and Poison Ivy. Plus, we’re getting crossovers like Batman ’66 Meets The Green Hornet, and – The Man From U.N.C.L.E; with more on the way.
Whether you love it, or – loathe it, Batman has most-assuredly left its mark on all of us. The Batman we enjoy, today, was tempered by Batman, in the past; and make no mistake, Batman will influence the Batman we’ll see in the future. Good and bad, young or old, Batman remains a beloved treasure for billions of fans worldwide, and I foresee it being just as popular, to unborn fans, 50 years from now.
I can’t wait to see what’s next! Until, then…stay tuned! Same Bat Time… Same Bat Channel…
Lt. Eric Cone