Artist Andy Fish is picking up the blue scalloped gauntlet…
The official Batman ’66 comic by DC finished up its run earlier this year with the Allred family’s one-shot Batman ’66 Meets the Legion of Super-Heroes. There’ve been rumors that the series will come back for another team-up with Archie (more likely) or the Monkees (less likely).
In the meantime, artist Andy Fish is stepping into the void with his own unauthorized Batman ’66 project — a free webcomic that doubles as a prequel to the show. I suppose you could call this Batman ’64. But we’ll get back to that.
Andy’s been working toward this project for some time, quite independently of what DC’s been doing. He recently wrapped his Golden Age-inspired The Death Ray of Hugo Strange, which I wrote about earlier this year. (Click here.) It was a marvelous pastiche of the comics of the ’30s and ’40s and the movie serials, with a little Englehart and Rogers tossed in for good measure.
But now, with the late Adam West’s birthday upon us, it seemed like the perfect time to dive into what Andy — a bona fide Batman ’66 devotee — has cooking in the Batcave, complete with a SNEAK PEEK at some of his designs and sketches. The series, which will run in single-page installments, has just launched. You can find it here.
Until then, dig this Q&A with Andy, who explains the impetus for the project, his dealings with Adam West and his views on the show itself — and teases what you can look forward to:
Dan Greenfield: What’s the title and basic plot of the story?
Andy Fish: Right now it’s called The Sinister Sideshow of Dr. Scorpio, but I will likely break it into two arcs and have a pair of matching titles. It involves Dick Grayson and his fellow members of the Young Millionaire Wards of Gotham City visiting a circus sideshow that’s come to town and discovering there is more to it than meets the eye. The series is set in 1964 so Dick has just become Bruce’s ward — he’s a little bit younger, and you can see in the preview art that Batman doesn’t have the yellow oval around his chest yet. I’ll likely even lengthen the cowl ears and use a more screen-test style costume, at least at first, and Robin is only going to be just starting out as our story goes.
Dr. Scorpio is visually based on a great Charlie Chan villain called Dr. Zodiac, and there will be more than a few similarities there.
Dan: Your first Batman project was centered on the Golden Age. Naturally, the Silver Age would follow, but why Batman ’66 specifically?
Andy: All right, you ready for this? Batman ’66 was my plan all along but I wanted to warm up with a different era of Batman first. I love the Golden Age Batman because I love pulps and old movie serials — but my real love is for all things ’60s pop. The Beatles, the fashion, the style, the Avengers (Steed and Mrs. Peel), James Bond — the character only works for me if he’s in a slim tie and jacket and has Sean Connery’s accent — and of course Batman.
I love that show and I had the pleasure of doing many graphic designs and art things for Adam West over the years. I even did an issue of his Mis-Adventures comic a few years back and I both wrote and drew that one. The series was completely lacking anything actually Adam West related, and I was tasked with wrapping up what had already been written and I decided I wanted to inject Adam West elements into the story, so he mentions family, he’s reteamed with the monkey he first worked with in Hawaii, all of that stuff.
Best of all– after the issue ran I got a nice hand-written note from Adam telling me he loved it, thought it was the best of the series and asked to buy the splash page from the comic (I sent it to him free of charge, of course).
My initial take on Batman was just how I would do it — it was met with a lot of positive response so I’m going to give my try at doing what I consider the other “classic” Batman.
Dan: Describe the tone of this story. Is it going to be campy? Or more straightforward adventure?
Andy: Now I said I love the old show — but I need to clarify that a bit — I love the show when it works, and it works best as an adventure show with comedic elements rather than the other way around, which is what it became. So I’ve hand-picked a dozen episodes to use as my story bible and 90 percent of them are from the first season.
There won’t be any Batman chasing a villain and then him stopping because he realizes he needs to use the crosswalk to get across the street, all the while lecturing Robin about public safety.
Dan: You’ve picked the Joker as the villain. Was that because it’s the Joker per se or because you have a particular affinity for Cesar Romero’s version?
Andy: I think Cesar is the best Joker on film and that’s understanding how great Heath Ledger was. Jared Leto is a complete wreck as far as I’m concerned, but the Joker is not the lead villain — Dr. Scorpio is. I had initially planned on using only the Joker but Batman has so many great villains and I wanted to try my hand at coming up with an original villain too. I wanted to see if what I come up with is more Bookworm (Yay!) or Louie the Lilac (Boo!).
The Joker is the yin to Batman’s yang — you can’t have one without the other.
Dan: How many other villains are we going to see?
Andy: Several. Batman has such a great rogues gallery, but I don’t want it to be like the recent cartoon where we just see everyone for the sake of seeing them. I want the villains in this to be there because they belong there — not just fit them in out of nostalgia.
Dan: You showed off a color-test image recently that reminded me of Filmation. Is there a Filmation sensibility at play here?
Andy: I’m still playing with the visual style for this. I don’t like photo realism in comics, it’s just not my thing. I like more cartoony style work. Give me Mike Mignola over Alex Ross any day of the week. Nothing against Alex, I just like what I like. But having said that — deciding what this is going to look like has become the biggest stumbling block — do I do it like the opening credits? Or like Filmation? I think I’ve found a happy medium.
Dan: Since yours is a free webcomic, you’re not burdened by the shackles of licensing rights. You can draw various likenesses at will. Anybody in particular we should look out for?
Andy: I still tread lightly here, with full respect to DC Comics, but yes doing it as a not-for-profit, only-for-fun project allows me the creative freedom to do it how I want it done — that’s a blessing and a curse. Unlike the previous Golden Age adventure, which I produced weekly sink or swim, this one will be posted as I finish a page — and I’m going to put the art and story first so no rushing, no eye on the deadline. That might be frustrating for readers since I can only do it between paying gigs but in the end it will offer a better product.
I’d definitely expect to see some Easter eggs though, and that includes cameos, but I can’t say much more than that without giving away plot points.
Dan: What was your take on DC’s Batman ’66 comics?
Andy: This is a tough one because I like Jeff Parker very much. I just spent (a recent) weekend set up next to him at Rose City Comic Con in Portland. I think he did a nice job of coming up with interesting plots and story twists, but his take on Adam is not my take on Adam. I just finished the Wonder Woman crossover and there were just way too many times that it didn’t sound like things Adam would say, and he certainly didn’t behave the way I think he would have behaved.
There have been other writers on the series and I’ve yet to find one that really hits what I think works about Batman ’66. The Green Hornet crossover had moments of outright slapstick in it and that’s just not Batman to me.
But it’s a tough series because even over the course of three seasons you really have several different shows there. Most of the first season is pretty straightforward adventure with a few wink winks here and there. The second season is almost a straight sitcom and the third season is a parody of the first two seasons.
Depending on where you land on your take on Batman ’66, it could be a very different take and it wouldn’t be wrong, it just might not be how it was done in the other seasons or the movie.
For example — there’s an episode in Season 1 (I think it’s the first Joker one) where Batman parks the Batmobile in front of the museum in a no-parking zone — he starts to get back in the car to move it but a policeman comes along and moves the sign and Batman rushes inside to get to work.
Handled in a later episode, Batman would have spent three minutes lecturing Robin about how following the rules of parking is what keeps a city running smoothly — all while the villain gets away.
Or in another Season 1 episode, someone can barely talk because she’s seeing Batman and Robin for the first time in person — she’s about to faint. But in Season 2, Phyllis Diller is mopping a floor and when Batman arrives she thinks he’s her replacement and remarks how it’s good to see he wore his old clothes.
Two similar scenes handled two very different ways — it seems like the vast majority of the writers working on the (DC) book choose the comedic over the dramatic and I won’t be doing that. No going for low-hanging fruit just to have a laugh at Batman’s expense.
I really think I have a handle on what made the first season a mega-hit when it first aired and where the producers lost their way with the show.
Dan: What is it about Batman ’66 that endures?
Andy: It’s the classic combo of adventure for the kids who are taking it completely seriously, but then there’s the humor in it for the adults to get a laugh or to see the crazy situations.
Batman should never be the butt of the jokes, nor should he be in on them. He’s a hero the same way Clayton Moore’s Lone Ranger was. He knows he’s square but he also knows he’s right. All the craziness should go on around him, but in the end he’s going to win because he’s Batman.
With Adam’s passing, the bar has been raised even higher to do a series that rightly honors what made him and the show so great.
I’m on deck and I’m going to give it my best to knock it out of the park, or at least go for a double.
Dan: What is it about Adam West’s performance that really made it all work?
Andy: I’m going to upset a lot of diehards when I say that Adam didn’t always get Batman — but Lorenzo Semple did. He wrote the Bat-bible for the show and the pilot and that’s what gave Adam his initial direction on playing the character. But later on, as the show goes on and as Adam ventures off on his own as Batman through the ’70s and into the ’80s, when he’s doing car shows, etc. — he’s completely lost his way. He sees himself as a clown and that was absolutely what went wrong with the show.
Still, the show wouldn’t still be around today if it weren’t for Adam and his performance, which when it was done right, it was brilliant. The ’60s Batman should be in on the joke, but never the butt of the joke and that’s a difficult line to balance.
For a SNEAK PEEK at Part 2 of The Sinister Sideshow of Dr. Scorpio, click here.
For the ADAM WEST Birthday Celebration, click here.