Comic Book Questions Answered - where I answer whatever questions you folks might have about comic books (feel free to e-mail questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
A reader named Pez-La wrote in to ask:
A weird thing happened at work today; at least 3 different customers in the bar I run used the phrase "Good thinking, Batman!".
Each of them were from a different part of the world (One American, one Dutch and an Australian surfer dude, and I'm a Scouser [from Liverpool, England - BC]!), but we all kinda knew what we meant; as in "That's a very good idea!"
Is this a thing, per se? Was it something in a comic, or from the 60s TV Batman? Just seems odd that it'd be such a widespread 'catchphrase' to be (to me at least),easily recognized.
It's an odd one, Pez-La, in that it, like a lot of other memes of its sort, really don't have a precise origin. There's really not an answer at why it has become a popular catchphrase now, fifty years after the original "Batman" series made its television debut, but we can at least see where it originated as a phrase.
The phrase first appeared on Urban Dictionary way back in 2008 (and yes, it means exactly what Pez-La noted, basically just another way of saying "Good idea!"). That's more than long enough for it to travel across the globe, so it is not surprising to me to learn that it has become an accepted phrase from people of different parts of the world.
The term was first used on the "Batman" TV series in the season 2 episode "The Penguin's Nest." However, it was Batman saying it to Robin at first...
Robin: It sure is a shame, Batman. A restaurant with such terrific chow turning out to be a mere front for some criminal scheme.
Batman: Look at it this way, Robin. That $100 cover charge is pretty stiff. Penguin's "terrific chow" is hardly within the budget of the average worker.
Robin: Gosh yes, you're right, Batman. All the needy people in the world, all the hungry children.
Batman: Good thinking, Robin.
However, it is pretty clear that what we have here is a distilled shorthand version of the quote, similar to how "Beam me up, Scotty" became the popular version of the famous phrase despite it never actually being used as such on the "Star Trek" TV series. On "Star Trek", Captain Kirk was always asking to be beamed back to the Starship Enterprise. It really did not matter that he didn't use that precise phrase, but the point is that the quote captured the essence of the show.
So here, a common occurrence on the show was Batman solving mysteries or riddles (often precisely from the Riddler, as it were) and then Robin reacting impressed by Batman's knowledge. Thus, it is only natural that the phrase "Good thinking, Batman" became a distilled version of the relationship between Robin and Batman on the very popular television show and has stuck as part of the popular culture (another great example would be "Elementary, my dear Watson").
So therefore, I would still credit the phrase to the 1960s "Batman" TV series, Pez-La.
Thanks for the question! If anyone else has a question, feel free to drop me a line at email@example.com!