Whose Baby Are You?

ITV4’s repeats of 1974’s second series of Kojak are my new jam! The pin-sharp picture; the gritty locations in near-bankrupt Manhattan; the classy , feisty guest-stars blend beautifully with the charisma  and dark wit of Telly Savalas’ eponymous police detective.  

Telly’s “baby” catchphrase partially inspired the title of today’s post but of course, it’s a lyric to the Batgirl theme- and the Adam West tv series was also repeated regularly on ITV4 back in 2012.

That series is the inspiration for DC’s Batman ’66 title: today we’ll look at that comic’s first year as part of  the ‘optikon’s continuing celebration of Batman’s 75th birthday.

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I think what’s interesting about the comic is how it attempts to capture the aesthetic of the tv show- arch narrative captions, bizarrely colourful villains and absurd death-traps- with such verve and obvious enjoyment.

The Batman Family issues from 1976 ( to which we’ll probably return in the next post) revived Batwoman, Bat-Hound and villains like Kite-Man and Signalman who were very much associated with the late 50s. Characters and concepts that seemed too frivolous or simply silly for the Darknight Detective of the 70s.

But aside from a handful of Denny O’Neil scripts circa 1974, the Camp Era seemed to be off-limits- almost toxic, such was the repulsion it seemed to create in Bat-fans.

For me, however, that was the Bat-Era I first experienced- compounded by early-70s STV screenings of the 1968 Adventures of Batman cartoon. Therefore, the world of Stately Wayne Manor and Aunt Harriet resonates with me.

The very first issue features my favourite, Frank Gorshin’s Riddler, stealing from Catwoman. The second teams Mr. Freeze and the Penguin. In the back-up Siren enslaves Liberace’s Chandell and Bruce Wayne’s date Kathy appears as Batwoman in an hallucination. Since I’ve felt for a while that Batwoman deserved to be in the early-60s Fox/Sekowsky JLA, this pleased me greatly.

However , if I had to choose my top 5 from Year One, they are-

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3) The Joker Sees Red/Scrambled Eggs: We meet Dr. Holly Quinn who works at Arkham and Joker is bedevilled by The Red Hood ( which, you’ll remember, was his original nom de guerre). Meanwhile Egghead captures B&R with his Egg-Zeppelin.

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4) The Hatter Takes The Crown/The Clock King Strikes: We glimpse the Beatles touching down in London Town and meticulous obsessives Mad Hatter and Clock King are revealed as brothers. There’s also a British Batmobile, which reminds me of the” Batchap” newspaper strip.

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5) The Sandman Says Goodnight/Tail of the Tiger Topaz: The otherwordly Michael Rennie is captured on the cover and the perky purple Batgirl meets Miss Kuga, the Eartha Kitt Catwoman. This is perhaps the most Pop Art issue.

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8) King Tut Barges In/Showdown with Shame: The Dynamic Duo pursue the Mad Monarch back to 1292 BC. Later, once upon a time in the West, Batman (in Spaghetti Western mode) foils Shame’s train robbery.

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11) The Joker’s Big Show: They’re all in this one; Falseface, Bookworm, Siren, Tut and the other patients at the Arkham Institution assist with the breakout of Catwoman and the Joker. Dr. Quinn loses her sanity and become the patient of Dr. Hugo.

Other issues feature The Minstrel, Olga, Zelda the Great and Marsha, Queen of Diamonds – none of whom I expected to see in comics . Ma Parker and the Black Widow must be waiting in the wings ( and-if only- Simon, the Perfidious Pieman!)

I think it’s delightful that this playful “kooky” take on Batman exists to balance the morbid ultraviolence of the mainstream titles. That spirit will continue  in upcoming posts with The Joker’s Daughter , the Phantom General and Fatman.

Coming soon: Let’s all meet up in the Year 3000

All images presumed copyright of their respective owners

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One comment on “Whose Baby Are You?

  1. Kid Robson says:

    I bought the first three issues, but have still to read them. Hard to believe that Adam West’s Batman first aired almost 50 years ago. Scary, too.

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