A hidden nugget from 1965…
Everything today is hype! Hype!! HYPE!!!
I mean, virtually every announcement in comics — and comics-related media — is accompanied by a big brass band and a choir singing six-part harmony.
I should know. I’m guilty of it all the time.
So imagine my relative shock when I happened upon this little item tagged onto the end of the letters column from Batman #178, which while cover-dated February 1966, was released in early December 1965:
Let that sink in. This was the way DC Comics chose to alert its readers that a Batman TV show was coming.
I just happened upon it because last summer I began re-reading every Batman and Detective issue, starting with 1964’s New Look. I do it in fits and starts and just hit Issue #178:
Here, let me give you even more perspective on the announcement, such as it is. The snippet is at the bottom right corner of this two-page spread:
Man, times have changed.
What I especially like is that editor Julius Schwartz tells readers the show was planned for fall 1966. As we all know, right around the time this was published, a desperate ABC-TV moved Batman up to January as a mid-season replacement.
So readers of this comic had just about a month to wait for a pop-culture phenomenon that would endure for more than 50 years.
May 22, 2018
1. When I was a kid, it always disappointed me when the cover art was better than the art inside the comic. And boy, is that the case here.
2. I’m wondering if DC wasn’t legally allowed to trumpet the arrival of the TV show because it was being produced by a different company. Your point is still a valid one though, you’d think that SOMEONE would be shouting from the rooftops that this show was coming.
May 23, 2018
The art situation on the Batman comic at that time is very interesting. DC Editor Julius Schwartz had taken control of Detective Comics and had assigned the art to Carmine Infantino & Joe Giella. But the art on Batman was still controlled by Bob Kane and he had Sheldon Moldoff doing pencils. Moldoff is a comic book legend, but his art is a far more “cartoony” style than what Schwartz wanted and Infantino provided. Joe Giella inked both books and DC wanted a seamless, house look. So, poor Joe had the thankless of trying to create a similar look from two wildly different pencilers. The stuff on Batman looks weird because of this mismatch – The art in Detective was far superior at this time because Infantino & Giella meshed well together.
May 22, 2018
Holy understatement! It’s as if Alfred was making the announcement… “begging your pardon sir, but we may be on Network TV in the fall…”
May 22, 2018
Lou Scheimer (President of Filmation) told me personally that there wasn’t a lot of people working at DC with media savvy or TV experience during the mid 1960s which is why DC Executive Allen Ducovny was given the Executive Producer’s job of working with Filmation to create the Trilogy: (The new adventures of Superman/the Aquaman/Superman Hour of Adventure & The Batman/Superman Hour). Ducovny dates back to the Superman radio days. I think if Marvel had a live action Captain America series on tap around the same time, Stan Lee would have gotten the word out fast and loud! In addition, Lou also said in his book that Archie Publications was a great partner to work with in comparison to DC when it came to promoting the comic to cartoon projects.
May 23, 2018
That was the first Batman comic I ever owned. I was hospitalized in the Spring of 1966, and my Dad brought me some Batman comics because I liked the TV show. I was only 5 and couldn’t read, so my parents read them to me. I don’t remember the other issues, but I definitely remember Batman on the parachute cover. I
May 23, 2018
Batman premiered in January of 1966 so that would have been 1 month away from Batman #178. DC while they signed off on this was against it. DC, Bob Kane and ABC-tv wanted a straight Batman tv program. It was William Dozier who was all about the camp. That is why.
May 24, 2018
I wish the series would have nailed Batman’s costume as well as they did Robin’s but at least it was waaaaaay better than the serials costume. I love the 66 series but only saw a little bit of it in reruns as a kid. Then in the 80s saw the show daily as a college student. I was a little disappointed that it was a comedy but it grew on me quickly. No car like the Batmobile!!!
January 12, 2019
I think the pushing up of the premiere date from the planned Fall of 66 to the right-away January of 66 took away any plans that DC probably had planned to plug its coming in the issues leading up to the Fall. After that brief snippet about the test-pilot in #178, there was simply NO time to push it. It was on TV almost immediately after #178 came out in December 1965. The show premiered less than a month later on January 12, 1966. I think there would have been much more trumpeting if the Fall premiere plans had been kept on schedule. Therefore, it’s almost a miracle that its sudden appearance on TV out of nowhere was a smash ratings hit anyway…truly phenomenal given no time for promo announcements. I was in front of my TV that night. My brother Robin (no kidding!) and I wanted to watch our then-favorite show, “Lost in Space”…but thank God our older brother Kelly changed the channel to watch the “Batman” premiere. I was 4 years old. We screamed at him for changing the channel. Then, something magical happened. After that opening sequence led to the most awesome animated opening and theme song in TV history, Robin and I were hooked. We wouldn’t see “Lost in Space” again for a long time.; The Adam West series led to my first ever comic book purchase soon afterwards. It was Batman #180 (Deathman!). Of course, at age 4, I asked Mama what they were as I stood in awe of the spinner rack at Ellis’ Ice cream Parlor in Fountain, North Carolina. She replied “they’re funny books!”:) Well, at age 57, I’m still grateful that my Mama turned me onto my lifelong love of “funny books.” Dan, thank you for bringing back these wonderful memories. Your blog is King!
January 13, 2019
Hey, thanks, David! That’s a nice memory there…
February 12, 2020
Just to let everyone know, ABC had a mega-disaster for its fall season. Most of the new shows tanked, with The FBI being a notable exception. ABC got the show rushed to a January 1966 debut, and it shows when you take a look at the pilot’s production. It was full of plot holes. And that rawness makes the pilot so very special. And it was a special time when the show premiered. And I was there.