Higher than ever, but not for the first time as Jeff Parker and company have been riding the wave of interest in the classic take on the caped crusader for nearly two years now in DC Comics‘ “Batman ’66” digital comics. The short stories are about to see their 17th monthly print issue arrive in comic shops this week, and with the help of artists like Scott Kowalchuk, Richard Case and Leonardo Romero, Parker is getting deeper and deeper in to the camp classic’s world.
CBR News spoke with Parker about the latest in “Batman ’66,” and the writer was happy to explain why wackier villains and rogues unseen on TV will soon be a part of the book, how Batgirl is taking on a starring role in the months ahead and why the retro-series will never go out of style.
CBR News: On “Batman ’66” you’ve gotten a lot of stories created in a short time thanks to the digital-first format’s tendency towards shorter, one-shot tales. Now we’re at a point where it’s not just Joker and Penguin coming into the book, but the likes of Egghead as well. Is it freeing to be at a point where you can get weirder and weirder with it?
Jeff Parker: It’s that, but also now we’re getting to the point with the Harlan Ellison treatment getting handled by Len Wein and Jose Luis Garcia Lopez that we can have Two-Face as well. That really opens us up. I’ve been setting up other characters all along, but now I can start bringing in villains that were never on the show. The fun in that is to ask, “How do you bring them in as if they were on the show?” I think that’s really interesting. Everything is filtered through the ’66 universe, and you think in terms of the actors of the time and what they could do.
Though, we are working with a made up giant budget that the TV show could never have — we have time travel and stuff happening. We go farther than the show often. Egghead in the most recent story is walking around in the air. And if they would have had the budget, they would have done that.
You’ve got a King Tut zombie tale coming up. Is that some Halloween mojo working its way into the book?
Actually, I wanted to work with Scott Kowalchuk, and I knew he’d do a really good King Tut. He’s done some other character pieces that we can’t show yet of possible other characters that could be villains, and I just go, “I wish we could do all of these!” That guy really gets the feel of the show. He knows it better than everybody, but specifically he knows the goofy fun parts that make it cool. That’s a weird thing to explain to people — they either get it or they don’t. You can’t explain how the humor works, you just know how it works. That, to me, is when the book is really working. And Scott just slayed this story.
You know, I’ve caught a few episodes of the show recently because they’re re-airing them for some reason on IFC.
Right. Independent film means…pop art Batman? [Laughter]
But it was funny to see one of the very last episodes where Dr. Cassandra comes in and has a scheme to hatch all the villains out of prison. You’ve got stand-ins wearing Caesar Romero’s Joker costume or what have you, but they’re always filmed from behind so you can’t see their faces. And I thought, “Oh my God! This is ‘Knightfall’!”
[Laughs] See? They did everything on that show!
Do you feel the urge to do a crossover like that, without restrictions?
Oh, yeah. And we have the Arkham Institute in ours, which is like a very broad daylight kind of facility that’s not called an Asylum. It’s the ’60s version of it. In the most recent issue that Jonathan Case drew, they had a talent show there, so you got to see Joker and King Tut and everybody in there. That would have been too expensive for them to do on an episode — having Catwoman and the Siren and everyone back at one time. We’re going to have more of that coming up.
I also feel like we’ve got to make more room for Batgirl, too. I’m going to try to do more ten-pagers so that you have two separate stories per issues, and you can always bring in someone fun to draw Batgirl. I have to consider that there are a lot of artists out there who are great, and this was their favorite show as a kid, too. They really want to get on the book, and we want to get them in. It’s something that means a lot to them.
I’ve heard from female fans how much of an impact those Batgirl episodes had on them when they were young. It was like, you’re waiting there during the opening credits and hoping that that motorcycle is going to rumble by. I feel like there’s a level of responsibility you must feel to make this book as inclusive as possible with a character that powerful.
That’s the way Colleen Coover was. She said when she did the first Batgirl story that she liked other cartoons more as a kid, but she’d always check in with “Batman” first to see if the motorcycle would come by. If it didn’t, she’d move on to the other channel to watch Bugs Bunny. But if it was Batgirl, she was staying.
I also really like the characterization of Batgirl in the series. She’s very cocky. She’s always doing that “fists on the hips” pose like she’s in charge. They even play it up where first she shows up, and Batman and Robin are almost embarrassed. “We were doing okay! We didn’t need your help!” They never played her position as though she were the underling. She’s always been an equal, from day one. And I love how it’s Alfred who learns who she is. Suddenly, he’s in this position where he’s the only one who knows who everyone is, which is cool.
It’s very different from the modern take where there are a million characters who are all in the Bat Family.
Right. Usually you’d think that he’d need to okay it if you wanted to put a bat on your costume. But she just started doing it, and they call her Batgirl because that’s what she calls herself. “She seems to have a motorcycle. I guess she’s good.” [Laughter]
“Batman ’66” #17 goes on sale in print on November 26 from DC Comics.
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