Tagged: Adam West

Ed Catto: It’s A Bat, Bat, Bat, Bat, Bat World

I’m a big fan of Batman. Always have been. Just this past weekend my wonderful Great Aunt Margaret reminded me that I proudly wore a bat-cape as a young boy. Don’t worry, I think I outgrew that by the time I was 22. These days, I let my Batman fan-ness show through with things like my Bat-article in this year’s Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, which focuses on the top Legend of the Dark Knight Batman stories. Jim Steranko provided a gorgeous Batman cover, so it’s a great honor.

But as my interest in comics has broadened, the focus on Batman, per se, has been pushed aside. There are plenty of fans to take my place. Batman attracts a lot of fans. It’s fine by me if it’s time for other fans to step up to the forefront. And it’s just as well. So many of today’s Batman stories, like the Christian Bale Batman movies or Playstation’s Arkham Asylum mythology, just aren’t my cup of tea.

And I know that at some point, there will be a special comic debuting or a reprint published that appeals to my vision of Batman. Recently I was surprised. I ended up having real Batman day.

This particular day started with catching a bit of HBO’s documentary, Starring Adam West. It showcases the actor, as you probably guessed. I only saw 20 minutes in the middle (I’d like to see more later) but there seems to be a healthy focus on Adam West’s role as Batman. The part I saw showed how he was invited to a Texas town and was honored as TV’s Batman.

There was a bit where someone announces him as the first Batman. Adam interrupts to correct him. The announcer adjusts and then refers to him as “the second Batman.” Many longtime fans, like those who read this column, know that two other actors starred as Batman in movie serials and three others voiced Batman in the long-running The Adventures of Superman radio show. It’s obvious that Adam knew that too. Instead of delivering a history lesson, Adam just offers the phrase “the Classic Batman” to the interviewer as a compromise. He’s clever and gracious, as he was throughout the documentary.

Later that very same day, the newest direct-to-DVD animated feature from Warner Bros. was scheduled for a special showing in movie theaters across America. It was one of those Fathom Events where they show something special in a movie theater on a slow movie night – usually a Monday or a Tuesday. My talented friends in the New York Metropolitan Opera, Gloria and Dana Watson, tell me that these Fathom showings have greatly expanded the Met’s audiences.

This animated adventure, Batman and Harley Quinn, heralds the return of creator Bruce Timm. It revisits the Bat-version of Batman: The Animated Series. This Emmy-award winning series has been celebrating its 25 anniversary this year. The recent San Diego Comic-Con found many opportunities to celebrate this ground-breathing series, with panels the famous souvenir book, and even debuting this animated feature.

While my Batman ’66 memories are firmly rooted in my childhood, Batman: The Animated Series reminds me of a totally different time in my life. For me, it’s more of a “young dad” thing. I clearly remember watching the debut episode one Saturday morning with my daughter Cassie. She was always a good sport, putting up with her crazy dad’s interests. I tried to tell her how the female characters from that first episode (Catwoman and Red Claw) were just like Disney heroines, but she was smart enough –even then – not to buy it. But she’d sit with me and we enjoyed so many episodes together.

I’m not sure if I am really a Harley Quinn fan. I’ve been pruning my comic collection and it was pretty easy to part with many Harley comics. But Batman and Harley Quinn offers a nuanced view of the character. Sure, she’s a nut, but this “episode” takes time to show many sides of the character. She can be sympathetic, clever, manipulative, annoying, frustrated and a showboat. And somehow, all these various aspects mix together to create a believable character.

The vocal talents shine in this feature. Kevin Conroy, for many the ‘real’ voice of Batman, is familiar but offers a few surprises along the way. Notable is Paget Brewster. You know her from her many TV appearances, and she brings something new to the villainous Poison Ivy.

It was kick to watch Batman in a theater with a bunch of fans. Batman & Harley Quinn offers plenty of insider jokes to long time Batman and DC fans, and we all laughed together.

Usually, I dive into select comics for my Batman fix. But It was a surprisingly enjoyable day to spend a little time with an old buddy: starting with the HBO documentary and then watching a cartoon… on a big screen. What a year for Geek Culture and Batman fans.

 

Marc Alan Fishman: Comics Are Dead. Thank you, DC!

So, spoiler alert. The comic industry as we know it is going to die. Well, according to Dan DiDio and Jim Lee it is. At the San Diego Comic Con – which I clearly didn’t attend because I already knew comics were dying – the DC honchos all but shook their rain sticks at the assembled retailers to eulogize the industry before revealing how they would save it.

Forgive me. You no doubt heard the thundering cacophony of my right eyebrow arching high on my face at a speed worthy of Barry Allen. The speed at which it jutted there clearly broke the sound barrier in a reflex akin only to those meta-humans with the ability to transcend space and time.

There’s literally too much to unpack from all they blabbed on about for me to fit in a single column. And rather than present evidence how the comic industry isn’t dying at all, I’d like to specifically snark back on one particular point DiLeeDoo made.

“Comic books have become the second or third way to meet characters like Batman and Superman, and we want to change that.”

Uhh… Why?!

The statement itself is a bland platitude at best. It’s big-wigs trying fluff up their retailers – as well as comic fans – into believing their medium is purer than the first or second ways fans meet their heroes. That somehow, DC’s publishing arm will find a way to get kids into the comic shop before they see any licensed character on TV, movies, or frankly… the Internet. Of all the laughable things said at this panel – forgetting the whole part where they confirmed Dr. Manhattan made Rebirth happen – trying to pit comics against their motion picture counterparts takes the cake and crams in a pie to boot.

I am 35 years old. The first time I ever saw Batman? It was Adam West on the campy syndicated re-runs, in between episodes of Happy Days. Superman? Learned about him second-hand on any number of references dropped during episodes of Muppet Babies, or an errant episode of Challenge of the Superfriends. And while I would eventually seek the printed page for more mature and significant adventures of those (and all other) characters, the tent-pole flagship Trinity of DC Comics was met in motion long before the pulp.

Furthermore, as a Gen-X/Gen-Y/Millennial/Whatever I’m classified as these days, my generation learned and loved superheroes first via these extraneous ways, because the comics themselves were mired in the muck of massive continuities. As I’ve long detailed in this space previously, when comics peaked my interest it was because of an adaptation of an X-Men cartoon I’d seen the week prior. Investigating at the local Fiction House stressed me out when I saw an actual X-Men comic was on issue 568 (or whatever), and the shop keep made no qualms telling me he wouldn’t even know where to start me out if I was wanting to collect the book.

Times have since changed aplenty, but that doesn’t mean the same issues still exist if we are to take to heart Dan and Jim’s sentiment.

A 9-year old girl goes and sees Wonder Woman with her mom. She falls in love with Diana of Themyscira and begs her mom to learn more. They venture into the local comic shop, and what then? If the cashier is worth her salt? She’ll have a great big display of the now Eisner-Award Winning Wonder Woman: The True Amazon ready and waiting. But peer over to the rack, and where does our 9-year old go? Is the current issue of Wonder Woman ready and waiting? And where is Batgirl, and any other female-driven comics all set and ready for their newly minted fan?

And beyond that, how on Gaea’s green Earth would you ever suppose you’d find a way to get this 9-year old girl into the shop before she’d been enticed by the multi-million dollar blockbuster action film. Simply put, that’s proudly brandishing a knife in a nuclear bomb fight. It’s dumb to even think it, let alone declare it like a campaign promise.

To this point, credit where it’s due: Dan DiDio denoted the need for more evergreen books – titles that live outside any common continuity to tell great one-off stories – to specifically meet the needs of fans who come in (or come back) to comic books. The truth of the matter is no book will ever compete with a big release movie or a weekly television show. Video killed the radio star for a reason. And the Internet murdered the video star and put the snuff film on YouTube. To cling to printed fiction as some form of hipper-than-thou solution that could wage war with more ubiquitous platforms all in the name of changing the way the public meets their heroes is a dish I’ll never order, even if I’m starving.

To declare this was all in part to save the industry … well Dan: is it fair to have cultivated the problem only to turn around and say now you’ll save us from the very issues you created? That is some Luthor-level vertical integration if I ever did hear it.

Save me, Dan DiDio. You’re my only hope. Well, barring Image, Boom!, Lion Forge, Valiant, Aw Yeah, Oni Press, IDW, Dark Horse, Action Lab, and Unshaven Comics.

Ed Catto: Spellbound by Batman

When Leonard Nimoy died, several comic conventions paused for a moment of silence as fans offered up the Vulcan salute. Those were lovely gestures as the nerd community showed how beloved the actor, and his signature role, was to them.

I wish that Batman’s Adam West had a signature gesture like that. A hands-on-hips pose means Superman. The Vulcan salute embodies all of Star Trek’s mythology. Television’s Wonder Woman had a spinning motion (it enabled her to change from her meek self into her heroic costume) that we of a certain age remember. Iron Man kind of owns that punching-the-ground-while-crouching pose. But TV’s Batman really could’ve used an iconic pose.

Perhaps it would be holding a bomb, with a lighted fuse, above one’s head? Perhaps that silly/sexy Batusi dance move, evoking a bat’s eyes and ears? Somehow they just don’t seem right. But he had something better.

The past weekend, the Batsignal was shining onto Los Angeles’s City Hall. And the folks behind it knew their stuff. This Batsignal was the version of the Batman emblem that Adam wore. The L.A. Times showed the crowds and the entire affair looked impressive.

Everyone seems to have an Adam West story to share. I have a few too. I was really struck by how kind and sweet the stories were. To his credit, Adam West seemed to be able to instantly understand, and respect, the different connections that fans had with his TV alter ego.

As Mark Evanier, and others, reminded us, Adam West was an actor and Batman was just one part he played. Kudos to MeTV for recently running episodes of 60s western and science fiction TV series featuring Adam West appearing in other roles, before running the very first two episodes of Batman.

And in many ways, playing Batman damaged his career. He was typecast and couldn’t get other roles subsequent to the series’ cancellation. It wasn’t until years later that he was able to figure it all out, with the help of his enthusiastic agent, Fred Westbrook. They found ways so that Adam could finally reap the financial benefits of his all-too-brief superhero years.

Sadly, Fred recently passed away too. He was an agent with a real respect for his clients. He was clearly a fanboy, but he used that drive to create engaging and profitable projects for his clients. Like Adam, Fred was a great guy too. And boy, did he love TV game shows. I don’t know if he was the nation’s biggest expert on TV game Shows, but it seemed like that to me.

I fell under the spell of Adam West’s Batman TV show, but it quickly translated into a love of comics. For many fans, seeing some of those covers we saw as kids bring indelible memories front and center.

Viewing these comics is like winning a ticket for a time machine. I’m immediately transported back to Pauline’s, the newsstand that was so close to my grandmother’s house. My dad would treat us to one treasure there (I’d always choose a comic) after our Italian Sunday Dinner each week.

Detective Comics #358 is that kind of a comic for me. There’s something about those DC silver age covers with red backgrounds that bring out the six-year-old in me. This issue features the debut of Batman’s unforgettable foe, Spellbinder!

What’s that, you say? Did you forget him? Yeah, well, I guess that’s understandable.

I think that everyone who read this story forgot about it. It’s not that it’s so bad. It’s just so bland. The Spellbinder is a bank robber with a gimmick – he can hypnotize people. And like a fairy tale, the Spellbinder fools Batman three times, until the Darknight Detective finally figures out how to defeat him.

But that cover – wow! As a kid, I had thought this would’ve been the battle of all ages! It’s all about wild colors and an undoubtedly an epic battle about to be waged. I certainly expected to see Spellbinder pop up in an episode of the 60’s TV series, but he never did.

I wonder who could’ve played Spellbinder on TV?

Holy Fashion Faux Pas! What a mishmash of colors and patterns. If it were published today, Tim Gunn would have a fit. Oh, and I’m not even talking about Spellbinder’s costume. I’m talking about those clashing Detective Comics and Batman logos. Spellbinder’s nutty costume is an absurd thing of beauty… and doubtlessly it struck fear into the hearts of comic artists everywhere. In fact, no one would draw him again for years.

My copy of this comic is really special. It’s the file copy of longtime Batman editor, Jack Schiff. In those pre-internet days, publishers kept old comics on file for easy reference. Curiously, by the time this comic was published, Schiff was no longer editor on the Batman line. But he sold his file copy collection to Tim Ash Gray of Ithaca’s Comics For Collectors back in ’92, and Tim sold them to fans.

This issue is overflowing with nostalgic treasures, including:

  • More Superheroes – There’s an Elongated Man back-up (with some sharp Sid Greene art for a change) and Superman fights for Unicef in a one-page adventure on the inside front cover
  • Lots of Toy Car Ads – Geez, if future archeologists study this comic, they’d come to the conclusion that little boys in the 60s only read comics and played with toy cars. Still, one these ads showcases artwork from beloved DC artist Murphy Anderson.
  • It’s not the first time Batman fought villains on a building and certainly not the last. After the memorial service, the skyscraper battle now makes me think of the LA tribute to Adam West and the Batsignal shining on L.A.’s City Hall.

So many of us are willingly spellbound by Batman. There are a lot of good things about that. Like a long train, we all jump on at different points. That’s kind of special too. For me, it all started with that TV series and Adam West.

Mike Gold: Adam West Saved More Than Just The Universe

ComicMix’s crack legal columnist Bob Ingersoll is more than just a lawyer with a great wit, although that would be enough. For decades, Bob has been my go-to guy on the subject of television minutiae. So, it came as no surprise when he was the first to tell me and a group of our friends that Adam West died.

Yep, that sucks. Last week at this time, it would have been difficult to find a nicer guy in show business. Most of us are well aware of West’s résumé and I won’t bore you with it at this late date. Here’s the IMDB link – be sure to come back now, y’hear? But there’s one fun fact we tend to overlook.

Adam West saved the American comic book industry.

It was not a great time for the comic book racket. The founding families still owned most of the big players – DC, Marvel, Harvey, Archie – and unless you were Dell Comics, you were pretty much entirely dependent upon newsstand sales. The problem was, the newsstands were disappearing faster than a speeding bullet. The mom ‘n’ pop candy, grocery and magazine stores were dying off like the last reel of a Michael Crichton movie. The neighborhood newsstand, a product of our larger cities, were being urban-renewed into oblivion. Local drug stores were vaporizing before our very eyes.

What replaced all this stuff were big chain stores and huge shopping malls. The problem with these places was profitability. These stores measure profit in “turns” or how fast the product sells, and in “per-square-foot” increments. In response, the Comics Magazine Association of America developed large spinner racks that could hold maybe 500 comic books in a few square feet. The problem here is that policing comic book racks is expensive and takes a lot of time, and there’s not much profit in a 10-cent item.

In response, in 1961 the publishers raised the cover price 20%. Too little, way too late. It turns out there’s not much profit in a 12-cent item, either.

Publishers had been going out of business since the market started to turn south in the late 1940s. By the mid-50s some of the big guys – Quality, Fawcett, Fiction House, EC Comics – no longer survived. You’d think Fredrick Wertham had written another book. Despite Marvel’s slowly growing success, things looked bleak indeed.

And then, in January 1966, ABC-TV started broadcasting a twice-weekly series titled Batman, starring Adam West. The show went through the roof… and virtually all of the surviving comics publishers started adding more superhero product to their line. And these books sold. Some outlets that didn’t carry comics started doing so. For the first time, paperback reprints from a wide variety of publishers became widespread. Tower Comics (T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, et al) burst onto the scene in the fall of 1965, just as the Batman hype was gathering steam. As such, they were a bit ahead of the curve.

Tower was joined by King Comics, Archie’s superhero imprint Mighty Comics, Lightning Comics (Fatman the Human Flying Saucer, Super Green Beret), and Myron Fass’s M.F. Enterprises (Captain Marvel, Eerie Publications – which was a horror imprint).

Television fads suffer from the laws of gravity, and the Batman craze only lasted a couple years. The other shows produced by Batman’s William Dozier either died after one year (Green Hornet) or never got off the ground (Wonder Woman, Dick Tracy). None of the aforementioned new publishers lasted very long, with the exception of Fass’s Eerie Publications.

However, in their wake, they left a much stronger DC Comics and an even stronger still Marvel Comics, particularly after Marvel got out from under their distribution deal with DC Comics’ Independent News Distributors – later known as Warner Publishing Services – in 1969.

I place the success of the Batman show and its dramatic impact on the American comic book publishing field at Adam West’s feet. Of course, if West had not been cast the program might have been as big a success. That’s something that we cannot divine. But Adam West did pull it off and he did so masterfully. West had the perfect approach for the material, simultaneously being heroic, “unknowingly” ironic, paternal, and strong of ability, spirit, and character. No easy feat.

More important, West had a great attitude about his work. After a brief period of trying to break out of the stereotype, he embraced the cape and cowl and renewed his work as Batman in television specials, in animated cartoons, and in public appearances. In fact, his last such effort – Batman vs Two-Face, starring West, Burt Ward, Julie Newmar and William Shatner as the titled bad guy – will be released later this year.

His death last week made the top of the CBS radio news. It received break-ins on all media and the headline zippers on cable news shows. It set the Internet ablaze. Adam West was, and remains, a part of our American culture.

Adam West was, and remains, a major part of comic book history.

Adam West: 1928-2017

Adam West: 1928-2017

Adam West, an actor defined and also constrained by his role in the 1960s series “Batman”, died Friday night in Los Angeles at the age of 88 after a short battle with leukemia.

For many people in the comics community and the world beyond, West’s portrayal of the Caped Crusader was the first version of Batman they ever knew, and while the role chafed on him after a while, he eventually became reconciled to his unique situation:

Some years ago I made an agreement with Batman. There was a time when Batman really kept me from getting some pretty good roles, and I was asked to do what I figured were important features. However, Batman was there, and very few people would take a chance on me walking on to the screen. And they’d be taking people away from the story. So I decided that since so many people love Batman, I might as well love it too. Why not? So I began to reengage myself with Batman. And I saw the comedy. I saw the love people had for it, and I just embraced it.

The enduring power of his performance lasts to this day, with DC Comics producing a Batman ’66 comics series and the recent animated release Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders.

In recent years, West was introduced to a new generation of fans through his recurring voice role as Mayor Adam West on Fox’s “Family Guy.” The self-parodying West was a regular on the show from 2000 through its most recent season. Seth MacFarlane posted this tribute:

West in recent years did a range of voice-over work, on such shows as Adult Swim’s “Robot Chicken” and Disney Channel’s “Jake and the Neverland Pirates.”

He is survived by his wife Marcelle, six children, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Our condolences to his family, friends, and fans.

Marc Alan Fishman: Is Lego Batman The Best Batman Ever?

This past weekend my wife and I tried to be adults, but Fandango’s inexplicable UI rendered my better/prettier/sexier/amazinger half confuzzled. The tickets we purchased to see “Split” by M. Night Shamalamadingdong were for the wrong date (as in three days prior to when we were currently out). D’oh! Mistakes happen, no biggie. But with a sitter on the clock, and time dwindling, we opted instead to catch “Get Out” by Jordan Peele. Until we noticed that the entire theater was sold out — save for two seats not together. And boy, it’d be a hindrance to a date night to not sit together.

So we saw “Lego Batman.” It would be the second time I’d seen it in as many weeks.

I won’t bury the lede: “Lego Batman” is amazing. It’s a visual and auditory roller coaster that nearly never comes up for air. In fact, I can honestly think back to only two sequences in the over two hours of show time where there are actual silent, simple pauses of reflection. All other times it was non-stop jokes, fights, and fun-fun-fun.

One of the more interesting debates I’ve seen creep up lately in my social network posits that “Lego Batman” is indeed the best filmed adventure of the caped crusader. Through the mixture of camp, thoroughly deep comic references, and a balanced story that actually deals with the emotional baggage of Bruce Wayne in a thoughtful non-emo-broody-whiny-baby way… most nerds are finding a hard time placing any other Bat-film above the Danish brick-based flick.

Are they wrong?

By way of Gene Ha sharing it, Ty Templeton says so. Ty places “Lego Batman” at honorable mention status… falling fourth to “The Dark Knight,” “Mask of the Phantasm,” and “Batman: The Movie”.

If I’m being bold myself, I agree that “Lego Batman” isn’t the best Bat-movie. “The Dark Knight” still is. It won’t be topped in my lifetime. I’m nearly certain on that. But I’d proudly put the Lego flick in a comfortable second place. The two films are truly polar opposites, and nearly incomparable given their intended target audiences. But the devil is in the details, and as Templeton himself denotes: Zach Galifinakas doesn’t do the Joker any justice. Whether it’s the script itself or the delivery of the lines, it’s odd that the yin to Batman’s yang truly is the yoke that holds “Lego Batman” down just enough to place it solidly as the best all-ages Bat-flick… but nowhere near the best overall film in the franchise.

This week’s article is a celebration though, not a nit-picky snark fest. Minor voice foibles aside, “Lego Batman” has a cup that runneth over in fan-service. By building on Will Arnet’s id-cum-Batman take on the character — equal parts Frank Miller’s “God-Damned Batman” and Adam West’s “Gosh-Darned Batman” — we finally get a Batman that changes from act one to final curtain. Look long and hard at every other film; I dare you to see true growth. Letting the villain fall off a church, or out of the back of a train doth not a hero make.

Bats aside, “Lego” also features the first true collaboration between Bat-family members that stays nearly believable. Taking orphan endangerment with a grain of salt and you’re left with the most complex female character in a Bat-movie, period. Babs Gordon in “Lego Batman” leaves little girls as proud as the boys exiting the theater. Suck on those bricks, Dr. Chase Meridian.

And did I mention the movie gives frames of film to Crazy Quilt, Zodiac, Calendar Man, Orca, Clayface-as-voiced-by-Allison-Brie, and still manages to tie in Lord Voldemort, King Kong, Sauron, and the flying monkeys of Wizard of Oz into the final battle? On that merit alone, “Lego Batman” boggled and baffles the mind with pure joy.

In the annals of Bat-films “Lego Batman” is a tough act to follow. Especially when Ben Affleck is already souring to the character. While it may never go down as the best, it will clearly hold sway in nerdy debates to come over the next millennia which flicks are really any more fun.

“All great articles end with amazingly relevant quotes. And Marc Alan Fishman is the best quoter of all time.” – Batman

Mike Gold: Holy Geriatrics, Batman!

Batman 66 Blu-Ray

Bear with me once again as we step into the “borrowed” WABAC machine to visit another era – one fraught with its own cultural peccadillos, its own world-view, and its own sensibilities.

You’ve probably heard that WB is extending their never-ending line of direct-to-disc DC-based animated features this fall to include a new, original, and undoubtedly awesome story set in the world of the 1966 Batman teevee show. In order to do this effectively they needed to procure the services of the sadly few surviving series stars, so they wisely put Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar in a recording studio to belt out their performances as Batman, Robin and Catwoman-the-first, respectively.

None found this a new experience. West has been voicing all sorts of stuff – most notably, Family Guy, although he returned to Gotham City in several of the subsequent animated Batman teevee series. Ward voiced Robin in numerous animated shows, and Newmar voiced Catwoman in the Arkham Asylum video game. She also played Martha Wayne to Adam West’s Thomas Wayne in The Brave and The Bold. And good for them; I’m glad they’re still around and still working.

But, wait. Let’s take that stolen borrowed WABAC and zot on down to January 12, 1966, the day the original live-action Batman series debuted. ABC promoted it heavily, stoking up the crowds to a fevered pitch with shots of sundry stars in action and of the greatest teevee car ever built. “People” were awaiting that debut with great curiosity while “comics fans” were looking for entertainment and validation. Many comics fans at the time felt they received neither.

The show was a joke. A sitcom in the classic “Hi Honey I’m Home” sense of the term. I enjoyed it, although my friends did not. I was a big fan of comedian/actor Frank Gorshin, and he was brilliant as The Riddler. I also enjoyed Burgess Meredith as The Penguin, both Newmar and Eartha Kitt as Catwoman, and Victor Buono as absolutely everything he ever did anywhere. And the show was funny – unfortunately, before too long we had seen everything they could offer and Batman the Phenomenon grew boring.

But not before the mid-summer debut of the wonderful movie version, which offered us all four main villains and a slew of fabulous toys (to quote a Joker of another mother) and a decent story, written by the teevee show’s developer, Lorenzo Semple Jr. Remember that name.

jujubes-theater-boxI think the reason why so many of my fellow comics fans of the time disliked – well, make that hated – the teevee series was because it was too close to the comic books. Not the Julie Schwartz-edited books of the time, but the Jack Schiff run that preceded it. Julie took over in 1964, around the time the teevee show started pre-production. Still, Julie did heroic work in restoring Batman to its historical glory, and this new… sitcom… seemed to undermine that effort.

Case in point: Around 1980 I was editing a magazine called Video Action and I pulled from my mini-horde of comics friends to write for the magazine. Marv Wolfman, he of enormous and well-earned comics fame, reviewed the movie Flash Gordon – a decent adaptation of the classic comics strip, except for the actors who played the male and female leads (yeah, that’s a problem). Marv started out with a condemnation of the movie’s writer, the aforementioned Lorenzo Semple Jr., as the man who ruined Batman. To be fair, Marv handled all that with his usual laser-like wit and affable charm, but he made it clear that he didn’t want to be invited to any dinner parties that Semple might attend.

That was then, and this is now (and so is the next moment; but I digress). Baby boomers love to talk about how great rock and roll was back “in our day,” but a lot of the most popular stuff heard on the radio sucked and we-all condemned it. But as both we and the music aged, we’d hear those tunes on the car radio and we’d find ourselves singing along.

I think, so it is with Batman 1966. It’s part of our childhood, our kids think it kinda ridicules our childhood and they like that, and it’s a hell of a lot easier to see the intended humor in the series when you contrast that approach with the almost psychopathic Batman we’ve seen over the past two decades. As an unintentional parody of these more “serious” times, the 1966 show can be kind of fun.

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is due to be released on home video in mid-October and I’ll probably see it. It won’t get the same reception that the 1966 theatrical received when I went to see it at a Saturday matinee filled with 11 year olds, but that’s because it’s less likely that the younger movie-watchers will be hurling lethal Jujubes at one another.

But, of course, I’m not speaking for Marv here. To the best of my knowledge, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is not based upon a script by Lorenzo Semple Jr.

 

Review: Lego Batman 3 – Beyond Gotham

Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 7.17.56 PMMake no mistake – the box says Batman 3, but this is clearly the DC response to the Marvel Lego Super Heroes game from last year.  With over 150 heroes and villains, an oncoming storm of DLC, and a sweeping plotline, this is the biggest look at the Lego DC Universe yet.

The title says “Beyond Gotham” and they follow up straight away – the opening video features the six Lantern Corps that aren’t green. Sinestro, Star Sapphire, Saint Walker and Larfleeze start off bickering but are quickly defeated and put under the thrall of the game’s Big Bad, Brainiac.  In only the opening levels of the game the narrative moves from an underground battle against Killer Croc to a outer space where Batman and Robin team up with fellow Justice Leaguers Flash, Cyborg and the Martian Manhunter.

Batman3_2All the Lego games bear some common concepts – the characters fight and puzzle their way through various levels based on the narrative of the story the game is based on, a list so far including Star Wars, Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean.   Everything is awesome destructible, the debris revealing “studs”, the common coin of the Lego realm, which can be used in between levels to purchase new playable characters.  Various characters have different powers – some can fly, some can shoot fire – and each power will allow the player access to different parts of the levels.  Since many characters and powers are not available at the start of the game, the replay value of the series is impressive, nearly exhausting for those insist on chasing the virtual dragon that is the elusive 100% completion rating.

One of the joys of each successive Lego game is to see what new gameplay is created, and what features are pulled from previous entries in the various series.  The interchangeable specialty suits make a welcome return from previous Bat-games, not only for Batman and Robin, but other heroes like Cyborg.  The score multiplier from the Marvel game has been added, and quite useful; too – the number of studs needed to fill the “True Hero” bar on most levels are painstakingly high.  Where Marvel had Stan Lee hidden amongst the levels for you to save, Batman 3 fills that role with the finest Bat-Actor to ever draw breath, Adam West.  Flying characters hake an appearance, including the first large-size mini-figs like the giant true form of the Martian Manhunter and Arkillo of the Yellow Lantern Corps.

The breadth and depth of characters in the game is truly staggering.  From the A-list JLA members to the mid-carders like Blue Beetle and Booster Gold, even villains for the other heroes to fight, like The Cheetah and the Rainbow Raider.  Guest stars from past the fourth wall are a new addition – DC creators Geoff Johns and Jim Lee get the mini-fig treatment, as do Conan O’Brien and Kevin Smith.  In addition to his cameos as a hapless actor in distress, Adam West also voices the Batman from the classic 1966 TV series (now out on DVD) in a special level, complete with retro Batcave and minifig design, and the comic-booky sound effects that have so inextricably affixed themselves to any news media coverage of comics.

Batman3_1But they don’t stop there. This game ties into Batman’s 75th anniversary, and as such pulls in characters and suits from many media.  In addition to the Batman suits from the movies, Batman Beyond is featured in the game, along with his villains like Inque.  Batman The Animated Series gets a tp of the hat with The Gray Ghost, and of all people, Condiment King, and Brave and the Bold brings us the Music Meister.

In a first, the cast of the WB’s hit series Arrow appear in the game, with voice provided by Stephen Amell.  Felicity Smoak, Malcolm Merlyn and the Huntress will be making an appearance in a DLC pack.  But if I had to choose the single most WTF-y included character, it’d have to be The Green Loontern, AKA Daffy Duck, AKA Duck Dodgers from the episode of the TV series where Dodgers accidentally got Hal Jordan’s laundry by mistake.  THAT’S what I call obscure.

In addition to the common design and base gameplay, surely the most beloved common feature of the Lego games is their wacky sense of humor, and this game does not disappoint.  In addition to the wonderful and fun plot and dialogue, be on the lookout for endless throwaway gags in the background.  As Hawkman (or is he?) enters the Hall of Justice, he passes various souvenir stands dedicated to the heroes, including an Aquaman booth choked
with unsold merchandise.  Or as Princess Diana takes to the air, the classic Wonder Woman TV show theme starts to play.

It is not unreasonable to say that there are those who are playing each and every Lego game because of their love of the series, over and above the licensed property that the latest game based itself on.  This game will satisfy both Bat-Fans and Legomaniacs alike.

Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is available for all current Xbox, Playstation and Nintendo platforms and handhelds.

Emily S. Whitten’s Grand SDCC Adventure – LEGO Batman 3 Edition!

The LEGO Batman 3 video game will be released in retail stores in North America on November 11, 2014, and it sounds like it’s going to be so much fun. Obviously as part of the LEGO video game franchise, it will feature the usual enjoyment to be had in playing that set of games; but on top of that, the story sounds cool, and everything the cast and crew said about it at SDCC makes it sound like it’s going to be the best LEGO Batman game yet. If you don’t believe me, you can watch three exciting and hilarious trailers for the game here. And you can check out my SDCC interviews below!

Click here to see Travis Willingham (Superman, Hawkman, Booster Gold) and Laura Bailey (Wonder Woman, Catwoman) talk about why everyone loves the LEGO video games, what it’s like doing multiple voices in the same project, their favorite versions of the characters they play, and favorite lines from the game.

Click here to watch Troy Baker (Batman) discuss what it’s like to voice Batman and his Batman fandom, his favorite character relationships in the game, why he’s looking forward to playing the game, who else he’d like to voice from the Bat-verse, and what experiences made him a stronger actor.

Click here to hear Arthur Parsons (Game Director) share how the previous LEGO games have informed LEGO Batman 3, cool things they’ve gotten to explore in this game, fun characters we’ll see, and awesome game mechanics.

Click here to see Josh Keaton (Green Lantern, Shazam) & Scott Porter (Aquaman, Superboy) chat about what it’s like coming back to play Hal Jordan again, Green Lantern’s role in this game’s story, the dynamic of the voice acting community, why Aquaman is fun to play, and what versions of the characters inspired them when making the game.

And click here to see Adam West (!!!!!) discuss what it’s like to have been known for Batman for so many years, why he loves Batman, his favorite lines from LEGO Batman 3, his favorite Batman villain and which villain he’d like to play, being the character of “Adam West” in so many things, what he’d want to be sure was in his utility belt, and much more.

(Nota bene: I know the sound quality on the Adam West video isn’t great. We do what we can in crowded press rooms. In case you’d rather listen to it with a better sound quality, click here for the audio version.)

And until next time, Servo Lectio!

Coming Soon: “Batman: The Complete Television Series”

Cinephilia: Batman: The Movie

Cinephilia: Batman: The Movie (Photo credit: enigmabadger)

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will officially unveil the details of its highly-anticipated November 2014 release of “Batman: The Complete Television Series” at a Comic-Con International panel – featuring special guests Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar – on Thursday, July 24 from 6:00-7:00pm in Hall H.

The actors behind Batman, Robin and Catwoman will give fans their first inside sneak peak at the most anticipated home entertainment release in fanboy history. All the details will be revealed, including an initial look at exclusive content, limited edition packaging, and dazzling HD remastered footage from the landmark series.

Take a look!