A hotly anticipated “Batman” 1960s’ TV series-inspired licensing program was launched by Warner Bros. last week, and while the six-inch Batusi Batman figure — which will serve as a 2013 Comic-Con International in San Diego exclusive — is pure awesome, comic book fans were laughing like Cesar Romero when it was revealed that DC Comics will also be publishing an all-new digital-first series titled, “Batman ’66.”
Featuring fan-favorite rogues like The Riddler, The Joker and Catwoman, “Batman ’66” is headlined by an all-star creative team, written by Jeff Parker (“Red She-Hulk”), featuring cover art by Mike Allred (“FF”) and the first three stories illustrated by Eisner Award winner Jonathan Case (“Green River Killer”).
In an exclusive conversation with CBR, Parker explains that he is a long-time fan of the original TV series, which starred Adam West as the titular Batman and Burt Ward as Robin. Parker goes on to reveal teasing that both the Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt versions of Catwoman will appear in the comic along with Killer Croc, a supervillain created by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan 15 years after “Batman” was cancelled.
CBR News: I don’t know how old you are, but I’m guessing you’re around my age, which means you didn’t watch the old Adam West Batman TV series during its original run. Did you catch reruns in your youth?
Jeff Parker: Yes, because the stations in my area clearly knew how popular the show was with kids. I don’t think I remembered anything else with the laser focus I kept the bat-time and bat-channel in my mind.
Was the TV series your introduction to Batman?
Oh, no — I read “Batman” and “Detective Comics” as soon as I could read. I had lots of comics around me constantly. I don’t think I distinguished it from the comics. While I was reading 1970s stuff by O’Neill and Adams, I was also reading lots of reprints from the 1940s through the 1960s. When you’re a kid, you don’t question it and look through a cynical lens. Batman doesn’t need constant motivation to want to stop crime in the show. He is a hero and that’s all there is to it. Kids have no issue with that, and at a certain point, adults really appreciate it too.
While the TV series is certainly much beloved, many purists argue that it’s too campy. Do you agree? And if so, is that OK?
I love it. And I love serious Batman too. He’s one of those characters you can hang a number of takes on and they can all work if done well. He can be sci-fi as in “Batman Beyond.” He can be boiled down street level as Gabriel Hardman and I showed him in our “Legends of the Dark Knight” story. And he can be pure distilled joy as in the ’66 show. I feel, if it bothers you, it’s more that you’re worried about being taken seriously.
Will your Batman, in this series, rely heavily on Adam West’s portrayal or will you be tweaking the character for a new audience?
When I write this, I hear Adam West and Burt Ward speaking. But I also have the unlimited budget of the artist’s skill, and Jonathan Case makes this look like a summer blockbuster. Batman and Robin can do insane feats that even hardened stunt men would fear. And the henchmen they have to fight really look like monstrous goons. If I do it right, though, you’ll hear West.
There are obviously major differences between this version of the character and the gritty, Frank Miller-inspired, Christopher Nolan “Dark Knight” version. Is that a freedom or a limitation?
It’s all freedom. We are able to say that a grown man dressing as a bat and fighting crime is a whacked-out concept, and embrace it all the way. I feel like the best shows didn’t lean into the camp too hard; they found the right tone and made something that was pop-culture cool in a way that really holds up.
I really like the earliest ones, like the first Riddler story. Frank Gorshin as The Riddler is pure, manic energy, bouncing everywhere, being entertaining and menacing at the same time. That’s a lot of what I’m looking to as inspiration, and why I led with a Riddler story for the book. I want that balance the best episodes have where kids take it seriously, and adults are entertained and still take it kind of seriously because you start to buy into the world.
I think with this you have to be able to get thrills and humor in balance, you can’t treat it like a lark. The story needs to be engaging and appreciate the audience.
You mentioned The Riddler, and the teaser art features The Joker and Catwoman. Will you be introducing new rogues to Batman’s gallery?
We’re going to bring in some who weren’t around at the time, and make them fit into the ’66 world. The first one like that will be Killer Croc.
The Julie Newmar version of Catwoman is teased in the art — does that mean no Eartha Kitt?
Oh, there’s going to be Kitt Catwoman. And you will get no explanation, just like in the show. But they won’t switch in the same story.
Is the series set in the 1960s? And if so, what does that allow for storytelling?
We don’t actually nail down dates, but we try to keep that sweet spot of the mid 1960s, where there’s just endless cool looks, fashions, designs, cars — everything to work with for the overall production design. It’s a very “Mad Men” quality, but pumped way up, obviously. You see computers just like in the show, especially the BatComputer, but you don’t hear anyone talking about the internet.
Will the stories be done-in-ones, two-parters like the TV series or longer arcs?
Since this is from DC Digital, everything is in 10-page installments, the first story being a three-parter made of those because the eventual print comics will be 30 pages of story each. But there are also 10-page shorts.
Finally, I love that you are working with Jonathan Case. I see you are both from With both of you hailing from Oregon, have you worked together before?
I’ve wanted to work with Jonathan for a long time, and it’s near magical that this has worked out like it has. I was lucky to see him working on his graphic novel “Dear Creature” for a long time before it published. He’s an excellent writer as well as artist, a true cartoonist.
Jonathan just hits the right tone immediately. Everything has a level of glamor and cool. Catwoman is a knockout and translating the Julie Newmar effect to comics is not something many people can pull off, but you’ll see she’s spellbinding. He loves the retro vibe of that era and knows it very well. He’s truly an amazing painter and cartoonist, and our awesome editor Jim Chadwick is having him bring his color design to the book. Color is such a huge part of the feel so it has to be right or this won’t be convincing as “Batman ’66.”
We have a lot of back and forth so this is as collaborative as it can possibly be, and that brings life to a book like nothing else. You’ll be able to sense the good time we’re having making it.