BATMAN ’66: When the Caped Crusader First Battled the ZODIAC on Screen

The new flick The Batman reimagines the Riddler as a Zodiac killer pastiche. But Batman has fought the Zodiac on screen before…

Hey, The Batman is finally here — with Catwoman, the Penguin and the Riddler on hand. Zoe Kravitz’s Selina Kyle and Colin Farrell’s Oswald Cobblepot are pretty recognizable. Paul Dano’s Riddler, however, has already been compared to the infamous, real-life Zodiac killer.

Given the new movie’s grim-and-gritty tone, the Zodiac concept is a really compelling idea. But, remember, things weren’t always so dark: The Caped Crusader battled “the zodiac” in one of the 1966 Batman series’ most memorable episodes — and here’s 13th Dimension columnist Jim Beard to give you his clever and humorous take on the famed three-parter, which featured a Joker/Penguin team-up.

Speaking of: Jim’s the editor of three Batman episode guides, featuring a Batcave full of experts (including, humbly, yours truly): Zlonk! Zok! Zowie! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Essays on Batman ’66 – Season One, Biff! Bam! Ee-Yow! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Essays on Batman ’66 – Season Two and Oooff! Boff! Splatt! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Guide to Batman ’66 – Season Three.

You can click here, here and here, respectively, to order each, if you’re so inclined. (Do it! You’ll love ’em!)

Oh, and check out fellow columnist Paul Kupperberg’s look at when Batman battled the Zodiac Master — back in late 1963. Click here.

Here’s Jim:

By JIM BEARD

I’m to understand there’s a new Batman movie where the Riddler has been remade into a “Zodiac Killer” wannabe—I haven’t paid much attention to it ’cause the Caped Crusader has already gone up against the Zodiac… back in 1967!

Yep; you know what this means. It’s another of my Batman ’66 lists, this one recasting the signs of the Zodiac with characters from the Second Season Batman three-parter, “The Zodiac Crimes/The Joker’s Hard Time/The Penguin Declines”!

Aquarius. That’s the Delivery Boy (Rob Reiner) in “The Penguin Declines”—he’s bearing much more than water for the dirty bird; he’s carrying the whole kit and kaboodle for him!

Pisces. Just like a fish, Chief O’Hara’s all wet—with strawberry jelly!

Aries. Gotta love those henchmen—Mercury, Mars, Saturn, et al—they ram through whatever the Joker throws ’em at, and don’t give up until the Dynamic Duo finally clobbers ’em!

Taurus. Robin’s always struck me as a little bull in a china shop. Just watch him in the Batcave when the crooks appear—Batman has to hold him back from willfull murder!

Gemini. The Penguin plays a dual role here: Killer and Lothario. And it’s us who get swept off our feet by him both times!

Cancer. Leo Crustash the singer, but not because of his name—he’s just a big ol’ crab!

Leo. There’s no doubt in my mind the one true lion king here is Batman—who else could break chains and pry open a boy-eating clam with nothing but his muscles?

Virgo. The maiden Venus gets an incredible story arc in this episode, much more than just about any other moll on the show, as she wrestles with her loyalty to Joker and her growing admiration for Batman.

Libra. There’s no truer physical manifestation of the Scales of Justice in this than Commissioner Gordon—and he’s as rock-steady as the statue the crooks steal.

Scorpio. They may not have stingers of their own, but boy did those zoologists get stung when their precious palaremus demnese slips out of their fingers!

Cops held at bay by red herrings

Sagittarius. Listen, chums; Cesar Romero as the Joker is dead on target every single moment he’s onscreen in this episode—probably one of his greatest turns on the show.

Capricorn. Is this episode the Greatest Of All Time? Hmm, could be—could be!

MORE

— SILVER AGE BATMAN: When the Caped Crusader Battled the ZODIAC in the Comics. Click here.

— Dig This SNEAK PEEK at the New BATMAN ’66 Season 3 Guide. Click here.

Jim Beard has pounded out adventure fiction since he sold a story to DC Comics in 2002. He’s gone on to write official Star Wars and Ghostbusters comics stories and contributed articles and essays to several volumes of comic book history. His prose work includes his own creations, but also licensed properties such as Planet of the Apes, X-Files, Spider-Man, Kolchak the Night Stalker and Captain Action. In addition, Jim provided regular content for Marvel.com, the official Marvel Comics website, for 17 years.

Check out his latest releases, a Green Hornet novella How Sweet the Sting, his first epic fantasy novel The Nine Nations Book One: The Sliding World, and the most recent Batman ’66 books of essays he’s edited: Zlonk! Zok! Zowie! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Essays on Batman ’66 – Season One, Biff! Bam! Ee-Yow! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Essays on Batman ’66 – Season Two and Oooff! Boff! Splatt! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Guide to Batman ’66 – Season Three.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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5 Comments

  1. Surprised they did not edit them together into a feature for international cinemas

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  2. One of my favorite episodes of the series. The only thing keeping it from being perfect is the absence of The Penguin in part two. It’s not really much of a team up between The Joker and The Penguin, when Penguin doesn’t even appear In the second part. Cesar Romero and Burgess Meredith are absolutely pure gold, as always in this three part yarn and Batman showing a genuine romantic interest in Venus is an unexpected and nice touch.

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  3. I’ve never been able to figure out the Venus character…was it a directorial edict, the actress’s choice, the script, or something else? The way her character is played is psychotic! It’s like the character had MPD or something. This is the only thing I have seen Terry Moore act in that is a truly puzzling performance.

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  4. On Batman trivia, listen to Danny Elman’s theme first four notes, 1989. Then listen to Lee Zahler’s first four notes opening The Batman Serial 1943. (You’ find it on YouTube.)

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  5. The Joker steals a police car to use its radio to give false leads about the Libra statue of Justice, with a knowledge of police procedure rivaling Heath Ledger in THE DARK KNIGHT.

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