One of our favorite writers takes you through the Batcave with the story behind DC‘s treatment of Harlan Ellison‘s “lost” outline.
UPDATED 6/11/16: It’s Len Wein’s birthday this weekend, so we’re re-presenting The LEN WEIN INTERVIEWS, in which he reveals all about his Bronze Age run on Batman. For the full INDEX of stories, click here. You’ll be glad you did!
The Batman ’66 Blu-ray and DVD sets come out in just ONE MORE DAY — check out my review here — so it seemed fitting to me that we run this interview with Len Wein about The Episode That Never Was:
Sci-fi legend Harlan Ellison did a treatment back in the ’60s that would have introduced Two-Face to the TV show. Never happened.
But where Batman ’66 is concerned, everything old is new again, so DC‘s publishing Batman ’66: The Lost Episode on 11/19, both in print and digitally. The scripter is one of our favorites — Len Wein (check out his own brush with Batman ’66 here) — and the penciller is another great, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. It’ll be 10 Batbucks but judging by what Wein says below, it sounds like it’s worth every penny.
Len was at New York Comic Con and we sat down and talked about the comic, which, I gotta tell you, is something I’m really looking forward to (no surprise there).
Dan Greenfield: So tell me about your involvement with this particular project.
Len Wein: Well, basically, Harlan had found the original outline he had written for the Batman show in ’66. There’s a long story, which is not mine to tell, about why it had been rejected.
He said, “They’re doing a book on this thing right now,” and submitted the outline to DC and they were thrilled to buy it. He told me about all this and I said, “Oh, man! What I would give to write the script.” And he said, “Tell them.” They called me back and said, “Sure! You wanna write the script, write the script.” (Dan laughs)
And then somehow we got my dear friend, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, involved penciling. He’s one of the joys of my life. I’ve worked with Jose for 30 years now and every time we do something together, it comes out spectacular and I give all the credit for that to Jose because he’s one of the finest artists in the business ever! Then when people started finding out that Harlan and I and Jose were doing this, they were volunteering to participate. (Dan laughs)
Joe Prado said, “I can ink it if you like.” Alex Sinclair called up and said, “You promised me I could color the next Garcia-Lopez job.” Alex Ross calls up and says, “Can I paint the cover?” I mean, it just … GREW … It went from being an issue of the book to a one-shot special which is now Batman ’66: The Lost Episode.
It also will have Harlan’s original outline in there, Jose’s original pencils, other things… There may be a juggler in the book if you open it up. I don’t know! (Dan laughs) There’ll be all kinds of things! It’s this runaway special that everybody’s thrilled about, myself not least among them. I can’t wait.
How much interplay was there between you and Harlan when you wrote the script? You were working from an outline.
I was working from an outline.
How did that go?
It went the only way it can. Harlan said, “I trust you with my life. Be kind to my baby. Let me know when it’s done.” And I said, “I promise everything will be fine. Do not call me in between, do not make suggestions, do not help me, or it’ll never be finished.” He said, “Duh. I trust you, that’s why I mentioned it to you.” And so that was it.
You’ll see when you match the script to the outline, I actually made a lot of changes. Harlan, although one of the great writers of the last century, didn’t quite get the concept of “two” in Two-Face. (Dan laughs) Everything happens in two — two sidekicks, you need two of this, (etc.) … So I made those adjustments but it’s his story still and he would call me two, three times a week just to say, “Hi, how are you? What’s new?” when all he really wanted was, “Where’s my story?” But he would never say it because he promised me he wouldn’t! (Len laughs)
It was a lot of fun and I can’t wait to see the finished product because everything on its way to the finished product is spectacular. Jose’s artwork is, as ever, utterly beautiful.
From that point, when you were done with the script, I assume that you and Harlan made what ever adjustments you were going to make and it went on to Jose. Now what happened from that point? What was the interplay there?
As far as we’re concerned, I’d keep prodding the folks at DC to send me every step of the way. I’m an old editor by heart. I’d want to go through it. Harlan has just been sitting waiting for the finished product.
Once he read my script and liked my script and made no notes to my script… He just said, “It’s perfect. You did me good.” That’s exactly what he said. He’s now just waiting for the finished book.
As far as Jose… once you had the script done, tell me about the collaboration between you two.
Well, I handed him a full script. It’s the kind of job that needs that kind of tight work so I did it as a full script. Then, basically, I handed it to Jose. The nice thing about getting all these A-listers on the book is we all trust one another. When you’re with all the best in the biz, you don’t have to nitpick and worry. Every so often, somebody will miss a tiny thing. There’s one shot where Alex missed coloring half of Two-Face’s nose. That kind of major problem. (Len laughs)
Everybody does what they do and they do it so brilliantly there’s not much work on the process as it goes along. It’s just the packaging at this point and DC packages really cool stuff so I’m not worried about that.
Now are you excited that the Blu-Rays and the DVDs are coming out finally?
Oh! Finally! I’ve been watching Me-TV on Saturday evenings because they’re rerunning the old episodes. But yeah, I had mixed feelings about the show when it finally aired. I was a serious, teenage Batman fan and you have to emphasize teenage Batman fan. But I loved so many of the villains. So many were brought to life virtually out of the comic. You know, Frank Gorshin’s Riddler was dead on the money. Burgess Meredith’s Penguin was perfect.
Still the best!
Oh, God, yes! Cesar Romero — God bless him — if he had shaved off the mustache, would have been a much better Joker. But he was (great ) …They all were! This was a band of characters I grew up with and I thought the show was good.
Back briefly on the comic. It just occurred to me there’s always been the rumor it was supposed to be Clint Eastwood who was to play…
And it remains to this day a rumor.
Yeah, I don’t think it was necessarily true because it kind of doesn’t make sense given where his star was at that time. But when you were writing it, were you writing it with a certain voice in mind?
Just the voice I’ve written him with every time I’ve written that character in comics. Two-Face is one of my favorite villains. I’ve used him a number of times in the comics. So it was my…
… It was your Two-Face. OK. Now does he look like anybody in particular or is he sort of a generic look?
No, he’s sort of a generic. You know, it’s Jose’s astonishing ability to make you feel like you recognize him without making him look like anybody.
He looks like Two-Face…or a slightly subdued version. Because the TV show would have subdued that face. They would never have done what The Dark Knight did with him, for God’s sake. He’s Two-Face.
Is he in purple and orange? Did you go that route?
We did! (Dan laughs) His face is green.
Good. Good! All the classic elements!
Batman ’66: The Lost Episode is due out 11/19.