If you’re a comics fan, there’s a very good chance that you became one because of a TV show, a movie or a video game first. For millions of us, it was the 1960s Batman show starring Adam West.
It’s been a big year for fans of the show. There’s a ton of new merchandise and even though the show still remains unavailable (for now) on video, readers can get brand-new adventures from DC Comics.
DC launched Batman ’66 this summer, a digital-first comic that’s collected in print monthly. Back in July, while Parallel Worlds was extant, I had the chance to ask questions of the creative team behind the first arc: cover artist Mike Allred, writer Jonathan Case and interiors artist Jeff Parker.
Here’s a virtual roundtable:
Tell us your history with the show, how you watched it as a kid, and so forth.
Allred: Some of my earliest memories growing up in Roseburg, Oregon, were watching Batman in reruns where we got to see it in one-hour chunks: cliffhanger and conclusion. I can’t remember what channel it was, but my best guess is that it was a cable channel out of California. It was always there for most of my childhood and then for years and years I was never able to see it again. I took it very seriously. The campy wink of the show went over my head.
Case: My family traveled a lot. I grew up some on the Oregon coast and some on a sailboat in Mexico, and in both cases, TV wasn’t very available. I do have a memory of watching one of the episodes on a hotel TV, and my dad brushing it off as silliness. It’s been fun to rediscover it in a new context with Jeff Parker writing. He grew up watching the show and has an obvious love for the characters, especially some of the actors. We’ve stopped calling the Riddler ‘Riddler’ now, and just call him (Frank) Gorshin. It can be a verb we use while I’m drawing. ‘Gorshin it up’, for example.
Parker: I’m from North Carolina and I think it was Channel 8 WGHP that showed Batman reruns when I was a kid. I must have made a big production about having to see it because I remember one time my mother having to fuss with our deteriorating TV set for a whole show to get the signal to come in.
Have you ever met Adam West or any of the cast?
Allred: Yes! I spent a huge chunk of quality time with both Adam West and Julie Newmar. We are usually guests at the same events, but for years I avoided meeting Adam West, terrified that I would have a bad experience and destroy my childhood. I even sent Laura (Allred’s wife and colorist collaborator) to have him sign some stuff for the Allred tribe. But I finally got up the courage to introduce myself when I saw him alone in New York and, like the end of Casablanca, it was “the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
Parker: I only met Adam West at a car show when I was 8. The George Barris Batmobile was there and he was in costume signing for kids. He was so good with all of us, he’d be perfectly in character and everyone was thrilled. Shaking his hand with the glove on is one of those permanently-etched-in-history moments I can always go back to in my mind. Also, later he was out of costume walking around with pretty ladies and I must have been staring at him slack-jawed because he gave me that secret-identity wink. Very suave!
Case: Not yet! I’d like to. They frequent comics conventions, so I’m sure they’ll have a chance to tell me if I get their noses wrong or anything.
How did you prepare to get just the right tone for the project?
Parker: I watch the shows of course, but I try to adhere to the tone of the first season. There’s a lot of humor in this, but I generally stay away from funny premises, I prefer the humor to come out of the character and execution. That’s when I think the show was really firing on all cylinders, when it worked that way. I especially listen to the actors speaking when I’m writing their dialogue — that combined with the artists getting the body language right, like the way Jonathan does with Riddler and Catwoman, makes it all come together. When you read Batman’s lines, you should hear Adam West’s delivery.
Case: I wanted it to scream ‘retro’, so I’m doing some things to emulate old comics (mis-registration, screen tones, and punchy colors). More than anything, I have a lot of creative history doing graphic novels set in the ’60s. I set my atomic sea mutant love story, “Dear Creature,” in ’62, and parts of “Green River Killer” were around the same time. I’m pretty steeped in the era. Studying the actors from the Batman TV show is another part of getting it right. ‘Gorshining’ is an acquired skill.
Allred: This has got to be the easiest gig ever. It’s in my blood to draw stuff inspired by all the pop art joy that sprung from the Batman TV show.
What are some villains readers can look forward to seeing?
Parker: Penguin! Mr. Freeze (Otto Preminger style, though I do like George Sanders a lot). Cesar Romero’s Joker, of course. And many more after them.
Allred: It’d be great if the series could eventually feature all of the villains from the TV show.
Case: We have the heavy hitters, I know. Riddler and Catwoman are in the first story, and there’s a lot more down the line. The current story I’m on has the Siren, who controls men’s minds, and gives me lots of fun psychedelic drawing opportunities.
How many different Catwomen? Will we see John Astin’s version of the Riddler?
Parker: So far, we’re planning Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt for our Catwomen in different stories. But I will lie down in front of the Batmobile before you see John Astin’s Riddler. I love him as Gomez Addams, but he was a terrible Riddler.
Case: I do know there are plans to introduce new Catwomen with zero explanation, just like the TV show.