Welcome to the four hundred and sixth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous four hundred and five. This week, it is a special theme week! Another edition devoted to the 1960s Batman TV series! Learn whether Frank Miller’s Carrie Kelley was inspired by a minor character from the first episode of the Batman series! Discover whether Batgirl nearly had her own series before joining the cast of Batman in Season 3! Finally, marvel at the bizarre episode of Batman that worked in references to all of the sponsors of the series!
COMIC LEGEND: Frank Miller was inspired by the character of Molly from the first Batman episode in creating Carrie Kelley.
STATUS: I’m Going with False
Reader David G. wrote in with a question that I know many other fans have wondered over the years, namely, did the character of Molly from the very first episode of the Batman TV series…
influence the creation of Frank Miller’s Carrie Kelley, from the Dark Knight Returns?
Jill St. John’s Molly was an assistant to the Riddler in the first episode. She got a rare “Special Guest” credit in that episode (typically just the villain got a guest credit)…
Honestly, I was going to discount this possibility based on the simple fact that Frank Miller has been extremely vocal over the years about his distaste for the 1960s Batman TV series, so I highly doubt that he’d ever homage the series like that. However, as it turns out, we actually know where Miller got the idea to do a female Robin!
In a 1982 issue of the Comics Journal, Jaime Hernandez drew his character Maggie (from Love and Rockets) as Robin…
A few years later, Miller was beginning work on what would become the Dark Knight Returns when fellow superstar artist John Byrne told Miller that he HAD to have a female Robin in the series.
Miller later recalled that conversation:
At 30,000 feet. I talk to cartoonist John Byrne about Batman. John talks to me about Robin. “Robin must be a girl,” he says. He mentions a drawing by Love & Rockets artist Jaime Hernandwz of a female Robin. To prove his point, John provides me with a pencil sketch of his own.
Miller went for it. Here are his first designs for Carrie Kelley….
Pretty cool stuff. But no, no connection to the Batman TV series.
Thanks for the question, David! Thanks to SuperHeroHype poster theMan-Bat for the scans!
Check out some Entertainment Urban Legends Revealed!
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COMIC LEGEND: Before becoming a cast member of Batman for Season 3, Yvonne Craig nearly had her own series as Batgirl.
STATUS: I’m Going with False
Yvonne Craig joined the cast of Batman in its third and final season as Batgirl…
There is a never-aired seven minute clip that introduced the character in a story that somewhat mimics Batgirl’s comic book debut…
Well, it has Killer Moth as the villain, at least…
Here’s Barbara Gordon in the clip…
and here she is as Batgirl…
and here she is on her bike…
Over the years, the story has become that this seven-minute clip (which you can see here…
was intended as a pilot for a Batgirl TV series that would be paired with Batman as a one-hour block.
This does not appear to be the case. First off, Batman’s ratings took a notable hit in its second season. ABC was not exactly compelled to give the show a third season, let alone give it a SPIN-OFF. No, what the above short was was an exercise by the Batman producers to give ABC a reason to renew Batman for a third season, with the addition of Craig as Batgirl as a reason to keep the show going.
It worked enough to get the show a third season, and actually, for awhile there, ABC was considering giving the show a FOURTH season, with Batgirl replacing Robin full-time. Instead, they just canceled the series.
Check out some classic Comic Book Legends Revealed related to the Batman TV series!
Did the phrase “grim and gritty” first appear in connection with Batman…on the 1960s Batman TV series!?!
In the second season, writer Robert Mintz came up with a bizarre series of easter eggs for the Batman episodes “The Black Widow Strikes Again”/”Caught in the Spider’s Den” starring Tallulah Bankhead as the nominal Black Widow, who brainwashes people to rob them.
You see, the entire two-parter contained references to all of Batman’s then-current sponsors.
First up, Black Widow goes to rob her first bank. Before she reveals her evil intent, she seems to just be making a deposit. The bank manager notes that that doing so is “An excellent way to start your day,” which was the then-slogan (and actually is STILL the slogan) for Kelloggs, a sponsor of the series.
Later, Batman wants to test the brain of one of the bank managers who was brainwashed and robbed. He is naturally worried…
but Commissioner Gordon notes to a worried bank owner “You can be sure if it’s Batman,” which is a reference to Westinghouse’s slogan at the time.
She then robs a Beneficial Savings and Loan bank, also a sponsor.
The brianwashed bank manager gives their slogan, “At Beneficial, we’re here to benefit you”…
Later, while Batman and Robin are staking out the Black Widow’s next bank to rob, Aunt Harriet comes by and tries to open a savings account for Dick. She is offended by the manager and leaves, noting, “There’s always Beneficial.”
Batman notes, “Good for you, Aunt Harriet.”
Black Widow eventually captures Batman and Robin. Batman access the Bat-Computer remotely and Alfred uses the computer to back-trace the signal and discovers that the signal came from 411 Lava Drive…
Lava Soap was another sponsor.
At the end, a captured Black Widow remarks “And only Batman knows for sure”…
a reference to Clairol’s then-slogan (“Only her hairdresser knows for sure”)…
I have no idea what Mintz’s POINT was, exactly, but it is still pretty darn neat!
Thanks to reader Jake S. for suggesting this one!
Check out the latest edition of my weekly Movie/TV Legends Revealed Column at Spinoff Online: Did Steven Spielberg Really Win a Percentage of the Profits of the First Star Wars Film in a Bet with George Lucas?
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!
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The cover is by artist Mickey Duzyj. He did a great job on it…(click to enlarge)…
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See you all next week!