Who Is Batman?

Batman 1966-79

And then...television. Batman debuted on ABC in 1966 and became an instant phenomenon. Journeyman actor Adam West played Batman in a bizarre but compelling manner, perfecting a singular style of hammy restraint.

 

 

Who Is Batman? CONTINUES...


"It was kind of a trendy thing to do at the time."

Burgess Meredith, "The Penguin"



And then...television. Batman debuted on ABC in 1966 and became an instant phenomenon. Journeyman actor Adam West played Batman in a bizarre but compelling manner, perfecting a singular style of hammy restraint. The show was an explosion of high camp and pop art design, with stars like Cesar Romero and Burgess Meredith turning up to play the villainous Joker and Penguin, and Julie Newmar becoming a sex symbol for her erotically charged portrayal of Catwoman. The popularity of Batman on TV was as short-lived as it was intense, and it remains controversial among Batfans. On the one hand, it was good fun and certainly cemented the popularity of the franchise; then again, it seriously undermined the serious thematic underpinnings of the character that had recently been reinforced in the comics. In the final analysis, it's difficult to overstate the importance of the program to the establishment of Batman in the pop-culture firmament.


"I didn't do anything to Batman that wasn't already there in a primitive form." 

Neal Adams, Batman artist



Batman
comics took another visual leap forward in the late sixties when artist Neal Adams took over the title. Adams was something of a comics wunderkind, and his hyper-realistic and expressive style would reverberate throughout the industry for years, inspiring countless Adams-clones. His Batman is at once realistic and mythic, and the artist's formal daring and eerie atmospherics took the character into visually darker territory than ever before.


This period also saw Batman making forays into Saturday morning cartoons, both in his own series produced by Filmation and in various iterations of The Super Friends, produced by Hanna-Barbera. The stories and characterizations were bland, but the character designs—tweaked by the great Alex Toth—were pleasingly graphic.

 
 

"Who Is Batman?" pages: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 

Photo credits—Cesar Romero as the Joker: © 20th Century-Fox Television; Neal Adams drawing and Superfriends design: Batman: The Complete History; Superfriends:
© Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.