The campy action of Adam West’s 1960s portrayal of Batman has been coming back in great leaps and bounds over the past year. It is now being referred to “Batman ’66” and fever is high. The release of the first trade collection of the Batman ’66 comic (ISBN 9781401247218) will be in May and fans have recently been inundated with fun toys related to the franchise including Batman and Catwoman Barbie dolls, Mattel action figures, a HeroClixs line, key chains, and much more. Fans also recently got word of the official announcement that the show is finally coming to DVD late this year, just in time for Batman’s 75th anniversary. Batman: The TV Stories, released on January 8th, is a preliminary collection for fans waiting to get the ’66 trade.
In this book, ten original Batman stories from the 1940s through the 1960s that inspired episodes of the TV show are collected for the first time, including Batman #53, 73, 121, 140, 169, and 171, along with stories from Detective Comics #230, 341, 346, and 359. (All publicity about the book neglects to mention the story from #341.) This is an excellent introduction for new and old Batman fans as it collects some important milestones in Batman history, such as the introduction of Mr. Zero (who would later change his name to the more menacing Mr. Freeze), the Riddler’s first appearance, and the first Batgirl story, which was written specifically to introduce the character of Barbara Gordon on the TV show. Other villains featured include the Penguin, Mad Hatter, and multiple stories with the Joker.
Additional highlights include an introduction by Michael Uslan, executive producer of the recent Batman movie franchise, who discusses his experience with the TV show when it first aired. He shares that he has come to realize that the campy 1960s Batman serves an important purpose to Batman history as a fun, silly introduction for younger fans who will hopefully stick with the character and discover his darker side as they grow up. Standout stories include “A Hairpin, a Hoe, a Hacksaw, a Hole in the Ground,” in which the Joker goes around stealing seemingly inane objects with no purpose, and “Remarkable Ruse of the Riddler,” in which Edward Nigma is released from jail and convinces Batman and Robin to let him team up with them to catch a group of crooks terrorizing Gotham.
These ten stories feature text and art by well-known comic book creators in Batman’s history, including Bill Finger, Gardner Fox, Carmine Infantino, Dick Sprang, and Sheldon Moldoff. The biggest weakness of the collection is indeed the cover (drawn by Amanda Connor, who is now currently doing the new Harley Quinn series). My problem isn’t her art—the cover is colorful and eye-catching—but more so the context. While I like the cover, it really doesn’t represent the work that is contained within. Catwoman is featured on the cover, and she doesn’t even appear in the book in any of the stories. This could be a huge disappointment for any Catwoman fan. Furthermore, these are comics from the 1940s to the 1960s, so the art will feel very old-school to some readers, especially younger readers who have only grown up with more recent comic book art techniques. A browsing reader might not expect the art that is contained within. However, I would hope that they could look past the older style and enjoy the history of characters they love.
Additionally, the marketing of Batman: The TV Stories and the upcoming Batman ’66 trade are very confusing right now for potential buyers. Amazon currently has the cover for the TV book as the cover for the ’66 book. I cannot find an actual cover image for the upcoming collection of the new ’66 comics. So, as a note of warning for potential buyers: check the ISBNs!
This collection will genuinely appeal to a wide range of readers. Older adult fans or teens that have caught reruns of Adam West’s performance will get a kick out of this collection’s historical nature. Younger readers who haven’t encountered the darker side of Batman or are unfamiliar with him could be handed this volume and get a few laughs out of it. Even parents who are Batman fans that have elementary age children who aren’t ready to introduce their kids to the more mature themes of Batman could have some fun reading this volume together. Lastly, in case anyone is concerned about possible violence, there isn’t anything too controversial in these stories—there is only very mild violence in classic “how will Batman get out of this?” moments of peril.
Batman: The TV Stories
by various authors
Art by various artists
DC Comics, 2014
Publisher Age Rating: 10+