In our first Batfan profile of BATMAN ’66 WEEK, Chuck Williams — maker of supremely accurate Batcostumes — steps into the Batcave!
Chuck Williams, 53, is a professional art director and sculptor who lives with his wife and partner, Lynne Williams, in a secret Midwestern lair. Chuck’s the first of Five People Who Kept the Batsignal Lit whom I’ll be profiling this week. He, like the others, answered a series of questions and I think you’ll dig the answers.
Why is Chuck going first? Luck of the Batdraw.
A little background: He was born in Jacksonville, Fla., and began his career in local TV, film and stage productions as well as Sally Industries, creating audio-animatronic characters. After living in Boston and studying at the Boston Museum School of Fine Art, he moved to Los Angeles and eventually became the senior staff sculptor of Walt Disney Consumer Products. At the end of his studio contract, he co-founded Williams Studio 2.
Dan Greenfield: How far back do you go with the show? Where did you watch it as a kid?
Chuck Williams: I watched the initial run back in the ’60s. Batman was the reason our family got rabbit ears for the T.V.!
It also inspired my first wall mural. The Batcave done on my bedroom wall in crayon! My parents weren’t thrilled with it…
You create ridiculously accurate replica costumes from the show. Tell me how you got into that. What inspired you to do it?
You are too kind! It’s a combination of factors.
I have an early memory of being 6 or 7 and going into a fabric shop and finding the right fabric to my young eye for the Robin trunks. I returned days later with my money to learn it was gone. The feeling of wanting to start building a costume and being shut down really stuck with me. I made a few parts like the utility belt in the ’80s for fun.
Years later I was still fascinated with the mystery of the Batman costumes and materials used for them so I thought I would put together a costume for myself. Fortunately I married well! My wife Lynne is a trained pattern maker and costume fabricator.
I was constantly picking her brain for help in making this costume happen — with her help not only in the making of it but also in how to think like a costumer. That is what helped me find parts and fabrics that had previously been thought to be extinct. Continuing to solve the mysteries of these costumes keeps me at it.
Nope, never denounced it. Always had a place in my heart for the show.
Now of course you’re getting the disks. Which set? What about all the merch now? What have you picked up for your own Bat self?
Ordered the Blu-rays the first day they were available! I picked up a couple sizes of the Mattel Batmobiles and the Batman and Robin figures but that’s about it. We have helped several toymakers with their products but I don’t collect very many things.
OK, now getting into the nitty gritty: What’s your favorite episode?
Hmmmmmm, toss up between The Purr-fect Crime and the False Face episode. They both have solid comic stories and the direction and pacing keep them moving well. They had also dialed in the look of the batsuit by then. I liked the more subtle humor and poking fun at the source materials.
The worst episode is …
Gotta be Nora Clavicle. To me it personifies what went wrong in the third season. Self-parody and low budget.
Now what about your favorite villain?
George Sanders Mr. Freeze. Solid unapologetic comic book villain performance. He wanted to do harm and wasn’t silly doing it.
Viewing the show vs. seeing it through adult eyes, what about it have you changed your tune on? For example, as a kid I didn’t like King Tut. Now, I think he’s hilarious.
Really understanding what they are saying. As a kid I just wanted action, action, action. Now it’s the innuendo and funny lines that make me howl and keep me coming back.
If you had one Batgadget to choose from (not including the utility belt because that’s cheating), what would it be?
Instant Unfolding Batcostumes with Utility Belts. Only because it would make my life easier…
What was the best death trap?
I liked the Doom Trap in the Zelda episode. Also has one of my favorite lines. “Pipe down, Robin, we have to humor him. What’s the big idea genius?”
Overall, what’s your favorite aspect or favorite moment in the series (or the movie)?
My favorite thing about the show was the over-the-top art direction. The Batcave, the Batmobile, the Bat-Cowl and costumes are all so iconic. Each one is a home run! You never knew what you would see next but whatever it was it probably had a label on it.
Your turn. Talk about anything you’d like that we haven’t covered.
I’m very glad that I started down this road to build a Batsuit! I only wish I had started sooner so I could tell Jan Kemp and Pat Barto how much I appreciate their outstanding work .