By: Kryptonian Detective
My first movie memories are of watching Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989 at the theatre at the age of six. Despite my young age, that was not my first exposure to Bob Kane’s wonderful creation. My first encounter with Batman came a couple years’ earlier watching re-runs of the 1966 television series Batman starring Adam West and Burt Ward as the dynamic duo. I can remember sitting in front of the television at 4pm every weekday afternoon watching the series while enjoying my snack of milk and cookies. The show is most known to casual observers for its camp and humour. Yet, when I watched it as a child I didn’t notice any of that. I took it very seriously. I watched the caped crusaders protect Gotham City from the evil doers that showed up from episode to episode.
Speaking of the villains, they were one of the most enjoyable aspects of the series. My favourites were always the heavy hitters from the comics. They were all played by top notch actors of the time. Cesar Romero proved that crime is a laughing matter as the Joker. Frank Gorshin was perfectly puzzling as the Riddler. Burgess Meredith squawked and waddled his way through nefarious plots. Finally, Julie Newmar, who seductively managed to claw her way under Batman’s skin. Each actor brought these characters to life for the very first time on screen and left their mark on the characters. Cesar Romero has one of the most iconic joker laughs, and that’s including Mark Hamill. Burgess Meredith is the Penguin. So much so, that I can’t watch Rocky the same way, since I discovered that Mickey was once the Penguin. Frank Gorshin made the Riddler a household name among Batman’s rogues gallery, when his comic book counterpart played more of a minor role. Then there’s Catwoman. Julie Newmar exuded sultry sex appeal, long before Michelle Pfeiffer sauntered her way into the cat-suit. Unknowingly, my four year old self’s crush on Catwoman made me a part of “cougar” culture, long before the phenomenon began.
Another aspect of this show that drew me in was all of Batman’s gadgets. Where do I begin? The utility belt. That contraption had everything from bat lock picks to Bat shark repellent. Every kid who’s ever used their imagination and pretended to be Batman has imagined what he has at his disposal in that utility belt. That’s all well and good, but changing into the costume must be a time consuming hassle, right? Not when you have bat poles that take you directly from your study to the Bat – Cave, and with the flip of a switch you go from Bruce Wayne to Batman. Inside the aforementioned Bat-Cave is the Bat – Computer. This computer could solve almost any problem Batman and Robin threw at it. Talk about technologically advanced. Four and a half decades later our computers still cause us problems, not find solutions. None of these “wonderful toys” can compare to the Batmobile of that series. Sure, the 1989 edition looks like a Formula One race car on stereroids, and the Tumbler can trample through New York City traffic, but the 1966 Batmobile was a thing of beauty. You could go crime fighting with it one minute, and then go for a relaxing Sunday drive the next minute. Now that’s versatility.
I have listed several aspects of the show that has had a lasting effect on me, but what appeals to me the most about the show in retrospect, was its morality. At some point in the show, typically the end, Batman would have a moral monologue, whether it is the importance of education, or trying to reform criminals. In a modern world where the heroes are morally ambiguous, (cough Marvel cough) it’s refreshing to look back on a hero that always did the right thing. While my favourite version of the character is the one that appears in the current comic books and Christopher Nolan films, I will always have a fondness for this Adam West iteration. It was my first introduction to Batman, and has had a hand in creating the comic book fan I am today. If it wasn’t for this show, the Batman comics may have been cancelled, changing the comic book landscape forever. 45 years ago, this show began the first wave of Bat – Mania, a craze that grows stronger as the years pass and with every incarnation of the character.