The birth of Batmania — and the Batusi!
In celebration of Detective Comics #1000 and Batman’s 80th anniversary this month, we’re counting down the 13 GREATEST BATMAN STORIES EVER — from all media — as selected by a panel of 16 experts, including such luminaries as former DC publisher Paul Levitz, legendary Batman artist Neal Adams and Batman: The Brave and the Bold producer James Tucker. For a complete rundown of how the vote was conducted and the full list of panelists, click here. The countdown will run daily across 13 days and culminate in THE ULTIMATE BATMAN READING AND VIEWING GUIDE, which will feature every single Batman story cited by our panel.
Next up on the countdown is another episode from Batman ’66 (PICK #13 was The Purr-fect Crime):
10. HI DIDDLE RIDDLE/SMACK IN THE MIDDLE
Written by Lorenzo Semple Jr. Directed by Robert Butler.
The debut two-parter of the classic Batman TV show is frequently considered the best episode of the series — an entry that established the series’ tone when it was at its best: campy without being too broad, with healthy helpings of stylish action and adventure. Adam West and Burt Ward immediately conveyed an easy rapport and brought to the small screen an enduring vision of the Dynamic Duo.
Much has been written and said — both here and elsewhere — about the world created by producer William Dozier and top scripter Lorenzo Semple Jr. But it’s always worth pointing out the enormous impact made by the show’s first Special Guest Villain: Frank Gorshin as the Riddler.
Before Jan. 12, 1966, the Riddler was a relatively obscure bad guy who had only recently returned to comics. (He was resurrected in 1965’s Batman #171 after a mere two appearances in 1948.) But Gorshin’s performance was so electrifying, the Prince of Puzzlers vaulted to the Rogues Gallery A-List, making him not just a comic-book mainstay but a popular villain in merchandising, video games and the modern screen.
Panelist Michael Eury notes: “This Batman pilot/premiere was the gold standard for Lorenzo Semple Jr.’s campy scripts, and torch-lit the Batmania that changed the world.”
Fellow panelist Chris Franklin adds: “The pilot episodes of the ’60s Batman TV series achieve that precarious balance between parody and sincerity better than any of the shows that followed, thanks to the sly wit of Semple Jr. West and Ward’s Batman and Robin are so square they have sharp points, and the comedy comes from how ludicrous this all seems in live action. The episodes also catapulted the Riddler to the top of the Rogues Gallery, thanks to a truly inspired and demented portrayal by Frank Gorshin.”
NEXT: The #9 PICK is…