This is a masterpiece of glorious kitsch.
The cover to Batman ’66 #30 — the series’ final issue and the BATBOOK OF THE WEEK — is the best Batcover of the year. Why? Well, I admit I’m an easy mark.
1. It’s Batman ’66, my Bat-obsession within my Bat-obsession.
2. It’s about TOYS.
3. It’s drawn by Mike Allred, with suitably go-go colors by his wife and partner Laura.
Holy three strikes!
Batman ’66 #30 is the BATBOOK OF THE WEEK because this issue is a celebration of everything that made that show so grand and silly. It’s the final print issue of the regular monthly series, too, which makes this something of a Chief O’Hara-sanctioned Irish wake.
Sure, we’re going to be getting specials like Batman ’66 Meets the Man From UNCLE and other sure-to-be-groovy adventures, but this is still the end of the de facto fourth season of the show. (Fifth, if you consider the ’68 Filmation season a faux fourth season.)
The story itself, which seems like a total gas, was written with Mike’s older brother Lee and you can get a special preview just by clicking right here. (Oh, and if you want a look at some real-life vintage Batmerch, check out my interview with Chip Kidd by clicking here.)
But that cover is something that really caught my eye and Mike, as he usually is, was all-too-willing to talk about it and give you a behind-the-scenes look at how it all came together:
Dan Greenfield: Where did the cover idea come from?
Mike Allred: It was a HUGE deal to me that DC finally got the likeness rights to Adam West and most everyone from the TV show. So I thought it would be a blast to redraw a bunch of the merchandise from the period but really try to amp up the likenesses.
A lot of that stuff was often generic looking and made little attempt to look like Adam West and Burt Ward. It was the best opportunity to release my pure obsession with the Batman-Mania I was born into in the late ’60s brought about by the TV show. My big brother ensured that our house was filled with it and fought the battle for the TV that a baby brother wasn’t equipped to do.
Along with the Beatles, Monkees and James Bond, my arrival to this planet was thrilling. I simply wanted to inject that affection into the entire book, starting with the cover and all the merch that made Batman-Mania that much more exciting for a little kid.
Dan: How did you select the items you wanted to feature? Are there any Easter eggs in there that have a more personal meaning?
Mike: I either have, did have, or wanted everything you see on the cover. That stuff is in my blood. Probably most meaningful is the metal lunchbox. I’ve been able to hang with the super-cool and super-gracious Adam West, or should I say Bat-cool and Bat-gracious Adam West. But when I finally met Burt Ward for the first time it was after becoming their official cover artist. They signed the lunchbox and Thermos to our family. I think because it was so hard for me to find an unbroken Thermos before eBay existed, it has the most personal earned value, a bit of a treasure hunt, and an easy choice for the centerpiece of the cover.
Dan: Anything you left off you wish you’d included?
Mike: There were several 3D flicker rings. I got one in there, but there were several that I would have liked to squeeze in if I had more time. Clutter normally is not a preferable design element, but I didn’t let that stop me on this baby. Also, there was a weird drawing board I couldn’t find reference for, or even know exactly what it was called. But I spent hours with what was essentially a Batman temporary drawing pad. It was a piece of clear plastic over a dark board. You would draw with a plastic pencil on the clear plastic, leaving an impression, and then you’d erase your drawing by pulling up the clear plastic. Does that ring a bell?
Dan: You included the water gun! Awesome.
Mike: TWO water guns! One with the trigger in Batman’s neck and the other where the trigger is between his legs. How’d that ever get made?
Dan: I had the Soakies. They were probably the first Bat-toys I ever got. That or the Corgi Batmobile and Batboat set. I was so young that it’s hard to remember. What was your earliest?
Mike: So happy mom wanted to have clean kids. We had all kinds of bath toys.
Dan: Now, what’s the deal? No Megos? How can you not have Megos?
Mike: Megos came later, more a ’70s toy. I tried to stick with the initial tidal wave of merch that was launched from the show.
Dan: What were your favorite Bat-toys when you were Young Mike?
Mike: I had a Batmobile that I could actually ride in. Even when it stopped working, I got a big kick out of just sitting in it, tearing up the streets of Gotham in my imagination. It got busted up pretty good and mom and dad finally threw it out, but I managed to save the steering wheel for a long time after. Other than that, the hand puppet had a smell that was literally intoxicating. Man, that smell brings back memories.
Dan: Do you own any of these items today?
Mike: I owned almost all of them at one point or another. Some were passed down and destroyed by our kids. I’ve never been much of a “keep it mint” guy. I wanna play with the stuff. Having said that, we got some nifty glass cases to keep some of the stuff on display, like the bubble bath, the “neck” water pistol, the entire bubble-gum card set, buttons, 3D flicker rings, the Life magazine, and, of course, the lunch box and Thermos. And then a lot of newer stuff not on the cover like those super-realistic Hot Toys figures. Likenesses so real I could almost swear they’re alive and watching my every move when I’m in my studio. I’m in a staring contest with Batman and Robin right now.
ALSO ON THE BATSHELVES THIS WEEK: This is a really promising week. Batgirl is back, with the delayed Issue #46; plus there’s Batman: Europa #2; Justice League #46; and Robin War continues in We Are Robin #7. On the merch front, there’s the Mask of the Phantasm action-figure two-pack from DC Collectibles.
And if there’s a Batcover this year that’s gonna even remotely challenge Batman ’66 #30, it’s this week’s Batman and Robin Eternal #11: