Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Batman 1966 More Fantasy Casting

According to, one of the most asked about television shows for season  or series box set collection is the 1966 live action Batman series starring Adam West and Burt Ward. Forty-seven years after it debuted on ABC as a mid-season replacement, it is still hugely popular. It was a show that every celebrity, star, actor and actress wanted to be on. That right there may be the reason it has yet to be collected in season sets or a series set.

Royalties may be holding up home release on DVD of the Batman television series indefinitely. Royalties to estates of cast members, celebrity villain guest stars and the bat-climb cameo appearances. The series was a collaboration of DC Comics, Warner Bros. and competitor 20th Century Fox, along with Greenway Productions. There may be royalties due for the Batmobile, and certain costume and set designs.

Jeff Parker, along with Jonathan Case, Mike Allred and Ty Templeton have been working on a new DC digital-to-print comic, Batman '66. It is possible that the estates for actor Alan Napier (Alfred) and Madge Blake (Aunt Harriet) have not agreed to license the likenesses of the stars for the series. The first issue shows different character designs from the actors that played the characters. Parker said in an interview with Comic Book Resources promoting the series that he would like to introduce modern villain Killer Croc based on actor Ted Cassidy, from The Addams Family, Star Trek and I Dream of Jeannie.

It's this kind of dream casting that got me thinking.

What if?

What if Lyle Waggoner had been cast as Gotham DA Harvey Dent? What if Jessica Walter had been cast as Dent's fiance Pamela Isley. What if over the course of a season these two characters had begun their descent into the villains Two-Face and Poison Ivy? It would have risked the shows light, comedy camp factor, but it could have given the series depth and legs. So would adding Bruce's comic book fiance Julie Madison, in star Raquel Welch. Bruce and Batman both could have been conflicted by Kathy Kane, played by Meredith MacRae, who would be inspired by the Caped Crusader to become Batwoman. Along with Alfred, Bruce and Dick would have Dr. Leslie Thompkins to confide in as played by Donna Reed. Bruce could seek legal counsel from Julie's father, Judge Madison played by Raymond Burr.

Another character that would be great to introduce into the 1966 timeline would be Wayne Foundation director, Lucius Fox.

Up until the series wash cancelled, and The Batman was returned to more dark, Gothic roots, Bruce Wayne was a millionaire-philanthropist, and head of a charitable organization, Wayne Foundation. It was not the industrial Wayne Enterprises in later years similar to Luthorcorp. It would be cool to see Moses Gunn in the role of Lucius Fox, bringing even more diversity to the cast and series. Believe it or not television was a male dominated club even into the 1990's with programs like Law & Order. Richard Brooks provided a racial diversity; but it wasn't until the mid-'90's and the casting of S. Epatha Merkerson, Jill Hennessy and Benjamin Bratt that gender and ethnic diversity was reached. Gunn would round out the regular and recurring cast of supporting characters for Batman and Robin.

The campy approach to the series eliminated a number of classic, more Gothic or scary villains; such as Two-Face, with his horrific scars. The Scarecrow was another, along with psychiatrist Doctor Hugo Strange, Clayface, Blockbuster and Poison Ivy. I would also suggest rogues like the Golden-Age Green Lantern villain Solomon Grundy, The Golden-Age Flash nemesis Rag Doll, and the rogue Deadshot.

With Two-Face (Lyle Waggoner) and Poison Ivy (Jessica Walter) covered; I would cast '60's Western-Action-Sitcom star Denny Miller, as Solomon Grundy. Most recently, Miller was the Gorton's Fisherman. 

This would be a radical change from the safe formula that dominated the series. The villains had pretty much been reduced to common thieves, robbing banks, stealing payroll, benefit proceeds and valuable works of art. Murder and mayhem was replaced by petty larceny and kidnapping. Grundy would be Batman's Frankenstein, a Hulk -years before the Bixby-Ferrigno series that lasted five seasons on CBS. Grundy would be simple and basic. He would be a better television rogue than Blockbuster.

Next, I would cast the late comic actor Wally Cox as Professor Jonathan Crane, alias The Scarecrow. Cox was best known as the voice of Underdog. It would be fun to see Cox in a very different role. Fear gas would be kinda cool against Batman and Robin. A Scarecrow episode could start with robbery, but then he would move on to terrorizing Gotham with his fear gas.

Next, I would cast limber comic Dick Van Dyke as the contortionist clown villain, Rag Doll, Peter Merkel. It would be fun to see Mr. Van Dyke bring the same multi-jointed action from Chitty-Chitty, Bang-Bang, and Mary Poppins to Batman. He was between series at the time Batman was on, so it would be a hoot to see.

Finally, I would cast another family-friendly actor, Disney staple Dean Jones as actor Matt Hagen, alias Clayface. He didn't become an actor until the Batman: The Animated Series years; but it would be fun to combine the original Basil Karlo and Hagen into this '60's live action Clayface. He would be similar to a the Spider-Man villain, The Chameleon, or what Malachi Throne's False-Face character ended up being: a master of disguise.

It would be cool to see Two-Face, Poison Ivy, The Scarecrow, Clayface, Solomon Grundy and Rag Doll added to the already larger-than-life celebrity guest-villains.

What do you think? Hit or miss? Share a comment.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Batman 1966 Casting Call: Judge Madison, Vicki Vale and Jack Ryder

The Batman is a Gothic creature of the night. He is The Dark Knight. He is also the Dark Knight Detective.

After the cruel murder of his parents, Bruce Wayne what every normal, rational individual with tons of money and a lot of free time would do. Become a revenge-seeking costumed vigilante. Dressed like a bat.

For three seasons, two nights a week, on Wednesday and Thursday nights on ABC, Batman was the "Caped Crusader". He fought the good fight in broad daylight. On occasion he went out after dark. He was not scary, and neither were the rogues he fought. As ground-breaking and landmark a series as the 1966 live-action Batman television show was, the producers still played it safe. The show was a half-hour program two nights a week; but really, it was a sixty minute program broken up into two half hour segments that hinged on a cliffhanger. Producers didn't want to scare younger viewers, or alienate adult viewers watching with their children, so Batman became campy, and played for laughs. Gone were the Gothic, scary, thriller elements - and characters. Two-Face, The Scarecrow and Clayface were nowhere to be seen on the series. The Joker, instead of the insane psychotic we all know and love, was more clownish than terrifying like he was in the early comic books. The 1950's had been unkind to comic books. German-American psychiatrist Frederic Wortham had concluded in his 1954 book Seduction of the Innocent that "comic books were a negative form of popular literature and a serious cause of juvenile delinquency". Wortham had become a "Harold Hill", his "pool" were comic books. Twelve years later, in January of 1966, Adam West and Burt ward took the country by storm when Batman debuted. Batman was a show EVERY body wanted to be on.

Instead of characters like Two-Face, The Scarecrow, Clayface, Poison Ivy, viewers were treated to Bookworm, Egghead, King Tut, Lorelei Circe, Louie The Lilac, Marsha Queen of Diamonds and Zelda The Great.

Interestingly enough, immediately after the series had been cancelled, The Batman returned to his Gothic, suspense roots with stories by Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams, like, The Secret of the Waiting Graves.

Batman was still campy in cartoons, though.

In 1989, The Batman returned to theaters as a dark figure of the night with Michael Keaton as The Batman.

 But, what if? What if YouTube videos were true? What if fan-made videos and films were what the original producers had accomplished with the 1966 series? Over the passed couple of days, I've wondered aloud who I would like to see added to the cast, here and here.

Along with Adam West, Burt Ward, Alan Napier and Neil Hamilton, I would add Lyle Waggoner as Gotham City DA Harvey Dent, Jessica Walter as Dent's fiance Pamela Isley, Raquel Welch as Bruce Wayne's fiance Julie Madison, Meredith MacRae as Kathy Kane and Donna Reed as Dr. Leslie Thompkins.

On top of that I would cast the late Raymond Burr, best known as Perry Mason and Ironside as Julie Madison's father, Judge Madison. Like Chief O'Hara and aunt Harriet Cooper, the judge would be a completely original character created solely for the series. Batman would have access to Commissioner Gordon, DA Harvey Dent, Dr. Leslie Thompkins and Judge Madison. Bruce and The Judge would be social friends, because of his engagement to Julie. Like Harvey, The Judge would be a resource for law. But, The Judge might not be one hundred percent sold on The Batman as a Caped Crusader. More as a Dark Knight. One of the weaknesses of the series was that Jim Gordon and the Gotham City Police were reduced to incompetence around Batman. Instead of trying to arrest and unmask a costumed vigilante, he's been "duly deputized"! Instead of the urban myth that helps promote his war on crime and inspire fear in criminals, Jim Gordon has a hotline under glass in his office to summon the savior of Gotham.

Next, I would add news photographer Vicki Vale, Batman's version of Lois Lane, with fashion model-slash-actress Lauren Hutton. She could be the original Kim Basinger. Vicki would be obsessed with revealing this urban legend and unmasking Batman. Of course, Bruce Wayne would be fascinated by her photos. Nothing like Corto Maltese; more along the lines of portrait, landscape and scenery.

And then there would be Jack Ryder. Much like Vicki Vale, Jack would be obsessed with proving that The Batman is a vigilante and a menace to Gotham City. This would be tricky. Crusading television newsman Jack Ryder is the alter-ego of The Creeper. If The Joker could have a "martian" in an episode, (episode 118, "The Joker's Flying Saucer") then certainly Batman could face Jack Ryder's "Hotseat" program, while teaming up with The Creeper; along with Meredith MacRae's Batwoman, Cyd Charisse's Wonder Woman and Peter Lupus' Superman.

I would invite James Darren, from Gidget, The Time Tunnel and T.J. Hooker fame to join the Batman cast as Jack Ryder.

This is all fantasy casting. If there were no limits. What if? What if each one of these celebrity actors and actresses were available and agreeable to appearing on the series.

Jeff Parker expressed the desire in a recent interview at Comic Book resources to introduce Killer Croc to the Batman '66 comic book he is currently producing for DC. He expressed the desire to base the character on Ted Cassidy, who played great characters on The Addams Family, Star Trek and I Dream of Jeannie. I started wondering - what else could be possible?

What if?           

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Batman 1966 Casting Call: Leslie Thompkins, Julie Madison and Kathy Kane

Ben Affleck has just been inducted into an elite fraternity: The League of Batmen. He joins Michael Keaton, George ("Franchise Killer") Clooney, Val Kilmer, Christian Bale and Adam West. He also joins the likes of Olan Soule, Gary Owens, Frank Welker, Jeremy Sisto, William Baldwin, Bruce Greenwood, Rino Romano, Diedrich Bader and Kevin Conroy - just to name a few! - who have voiced The Batman for animation. A petition is being circulated to undo Affleck's casting. At last count it had reached 25,000 signatures. Warner Bros. received 50,000 letters from irate Batman fans about Michael Keaton's casting. Pick one of the many actors to portray Batman, and I'm sure someone is dissatisfied with the performance. I liked Keaton's Batman; his Bruce Wayne was a bit on the weak side. Bale's Batman is much to coarse for me, but I liked his Bruce Wayne. I would describe it as affable. Kilmer was like George Lazenby, the "transitional" Batman. Kevin Conroy managed to capture the best Batman and the best Bruce Wayne with just his voice. Adam West will probably be forever stereotyped as the character.

The 1966 live-action Batman television series starring Adam West and Burt Ward was a groundbreaking, landmark series. It was such a pop-culture phenomenon that EVERY body wanted to be on it.

Lyle Waggoner lost the role to Adam West. I think he would make an awesome regular cast-member as Gotham City District Attorney Harvey Dent. Dent was played in the 1989 film by Billy Dee Williams - also known as Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars films - Tommy Lee Jones opposite Val Kilmer in Batman Forever, and Aaron Eckhart in The Dark Knight. He was voiced on Batman: The Animated Series by Richard Moll, Bull from the '80's sitcom Night Court. The character really shined in both the O'Neil-Adams era of the Batman comics and the Timm-Dini animated universe. Instead of Stafford Repp's memorable Chief O'Hara, I would have loved to see Lyle Waggoner transform from DA Dent into Two-Face.


Alongside Waggoner's Dent, I would add Jessica Walter as Pamela Isley. It would be cool to watch these two actors unravel over the course of a season. Walter's Isley would reveal herself as the pernicious Poison Ivy; Waggoner's Dent would descend into the tormented Two-Face.

As much I like Dick Grayson's aunt Harriet Cooper, I would introduce a character that was introduced much later in the comic books: Dr. Leslie Thompkins. She was introduced in 1976, and became a surrogate mother-figure to a young Bruce Wayne. She and Alfred Pennyworth watched Bruce Wayne grow into The Dark Knight. She would know about both Bruce and Dick's dual idnentity, which would eliminate some of the inherent camp and silliness. Leslie could have added a sense of melodrama and philosophy to the series. The Donna Reed Show was just winding down in the Spring of 1966, I would have cast Donna Reed as Dr. Leslie Thompkins. I would have cast her as a series regular to get around her stance on guest-starring roles.

I would also cast Julie Madison, Bruce Wayne's actress fiance from the early years of Detective Comics. I would cast the character as recurring in a romantic triangle for West's Bruce Wayne. She would be a bit self-obsessed and oblivious to others around her, which would explain why she wouldn't discover Bruce's dual identity. It wouldn't matter. I think she would be the perfect first season romance. She would be in competition for Bruce's affections with the much more adventuresome Kathy Kane. Why these two women were never used on the television series is beyond me. It would be interesting to see Bruce deal with his feelings for Julie, Kathy and the alluring Catwoman. Here's who I would see as Julie Madison: Raquel Welch.

I wouldn't see Bruce and Julie lasting the complete run of the series. Remember, Bruce is supposed to be something of a ladies' man. So, he would be engaged to Julie at the start of the series. She would be perfect as a younger version of Aunt Harriet. Oblivious and clueless. She would be cast in a film at the end of the season, and due to busy schedules, the engagement would be called off.

The other figure in the romantic triangle would be the daring and adventurous Kathy Kane. She would be inspired, much like in the comics, to become Batwoman. not only would she be the perfect counterpart for Bruce Wayne; but, the ideal female counterpart to Batman, before the debut of Batgirl. It would be interesting to see some competitiveness come up between Batwoman and Batgirl. Kathy would be hard to cast, because like Yvonne Craig's Batgirl, the role would be somewhat physically demanding. But, I would cast the late Meredith MacRae in the role. At the time Batman debuted, she was in-between My Three Sons and Petticoat Junction, so she could have been available as Kathy. She could have stayed blonde, and then thrown on a brunette wig as Batwoman.

Most series have a limited licensing. The Batman television series would have a license to use characters related to Batman and appearing in Detective Comics and Batman. So, that would limit the use of Justice League and Teen Titans characters respectively. However, DC could have beat Joss Whedon by decades if they had begun with either The Adventures of Superman, or Batman. With the death of George Reeves in 1959, the potential for Superman to make a guest-starring or cameo appearance opposite Adam West would fall to Mission: Impossible's Willy Armitage, played by Peter Lupus.

Lupus made several commercials as Superman. He has the physique and the look of the Man of Steel. Special effects might be tricky to pull of his appearance; flying being the biggest challenge, but take away the flying, like showing Two-Face's horrific scars, and Superman and Batman could have had been The World's Finest before Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck.

To complete the Trinity, I would have cast dancer Cyd Charisse as Wonder Woman. Diana Prince would have added yet another female lead to the series, and another romantic link, and possibly another romantic triangle; this one between Lupus' Superman and the Amazing Amazon.

It would be cool to see a three-part episode with Superman, another three-part episode with Wonder Woman; and then, a full four-part episode, or two-hour television event with Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. 

Batman could have been one of the longest-running super-hero television series in history. Still, forty-seven years later, we're still enjoying it, and the newly minted merchandising and a DC Comic of original stories based on the landmark series.

As always, I'm open to suggestions. I'd like you to share your comments and thoughts below.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Batman '66 Casting Call: Harvey Dent with Pamela Isley

My first exposure to super-heroes was Batman. My first exposure to Batman was through reruns of the 1966 live action Batman television series starring Adam West and Burt Ward. Growing up outside Chicago. I caught Batman first on WGN, Channel 9 and later on WFLD, Channel 32. The show was awesome. I loved it! of all the actors that have played or voiced Batman, including Ben Affleck - just cast to play The Dark Knight in the sequel to Man of Steel - I think Adam West is my favorite, because he was my first.

Now, I have to admit that there are other fans like me that are probably more passionate about the show than I am. The Bat-blog is just one of many, many sites devoted to Batman and the 1966 series. Jim Beard's Gotham City 14 Miles is another cool look at the series. Wally Wingert is a huge fan. I loved his version of "Wild, Wild West", Adam West!

Chris Mason is a Batfan. So is John Mogan "Bat" Neal. One of my favorite sites to visit is The Lost Issues, which boasts an archive chock full of The Brave and the Bold team-ups with The Batman. Other than maybe Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Jerry Robinson, or the maybe the late, great Mike Parobeck, Ty Templeton is probably closest associated to the character in comics now. Yeah, there are other, "better" artists; like say, maybe Jim Aparo, but I mention Templeton, because he's been involved in a lot of the Batman tie-in books, like the current Batman '66. Jeff Parker is writing the book and Jonathan Case is the primary artist, but Templeton just nailed the main story in issue two featuring The Penguin (Burgess Meredith) and Mister Freeze (Otto Preminger).

Parker said in an interview that he would like to have Killer Croc base on Ted Cassidy who played Lurch on The Addams Family, as well as characters on Star Trek, I Dream of Jeannie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Six Million Dollar Man. He was a voice actor as well lending his voice to cartoons. One of the final things he did was narrate the opening to The Incredible Hulk television series.

Every one wanted to be on the Batman television series.

That got me thinking. Why weren't characters like Two-Face, Clayface, The Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Julie Madison, Vicky Vale or Kathy Kane on the show. Producers created Chief O'Hara for the series, and he had never appeared in the comic books. Circus performer Dick Grayson was given an Aunt Harriet, one of the few female roles on the series, as a way to balance out the boys club. If Bruce Wayne was such a ladies man, why didn't he have a steady or semi-regular girlfriend or fiance like he did in the comic books?

That got me thinking.

For grins and giggles, I'd love to re-cast the 1966 Batman television series.

So, we have Adam West as Batman/Bruce Wayne and Burt Ward as Robin/Dick Grayson. The legendary Alan Napier as Wayne family butler Alfred Pennyworth and Neil Hamilton as Commissioner Jim Gordon. Now, if we can't undo the casting of Stafford Repp as the stereotypical Chief O'Hara, then I would certainly limit his appearances and make him a recurring character. A couple of characters that were created later might not have been bad to introduce.

Madge Blake's Aunt Harriet is something else entirely. Instead of an Aunt Harriet for Dick Grayson, I would go modern and introduce Dr. Leslie Thompkins. The young woman who was there immediately after the Wayne's were murdered, and with Alfred, were there for Bruce as he grew and developed.

I would develop a romantic triangle between Bruce's fiance, Julie Madison and the adventurous Kathy Kane. I would also introduce news photographer Vicky Vale, who is bent on unmasking Batman and revealing his true identity. I would also add Jack Ryder as the crusading television reporter exploring the Batman phenomenon. I would also have Lucius Fox as part of the series as the Wayne Foundation administrator.

But before getting to any of these changes, the first regular cast member I would add would be Bruce Wayne's good friend and Batman's most fiercest adversary, Gotham City District Attorney Harvey Dent.

Although legend has it that Clint Eastwood would have been a news anchorman who became disfigured by an exploding television to become the gruesome Two-Face; and some fans have pitched actors like Warren Beatty for the role, I would suggest Lyle Waggoner. Waggoner famously lost the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman to Adam West. He was a regular on The Carol Burnett Show and later played Steve Trevor on the '70's series Wonder Woman.

I would have Mr. Waggoner, as Harvey Dent, a part of the series from the start. I would have him there in place of Chief O'Hara. When Batman is served by Frank Gorshin's The Riddler in the premiere episode, I would have him as Batman or Bruce consult his friend Harvey for legal advice. I would have Harvey around to break up the formula of the show. Harvey would give the series some variety. I would also transform him into Two-Face by the end of the first season. Another nod from the future Batman: The Animated Series, I would have the late Natalie Wood from West Side Story as Harvey's long-suffering fiance Pamela Isley. She would be revealed midway through the first season as the vixen, Poison Ivy. Julie Newmar's Catwoman stands out as the one recognizable rogue from the comics. Some, if not all of the other female rogues were fairly obscure. Wood's film schedule may have prevented her from appearing, maybe Jessica Walter would have been more available. Walter might be better for the role, later starring in Play Misty For Me, opposite Clint Eastwood, and several on-screen roles as a villain. One of my favorite performances is on Quincy, where she murders her doppelganger and assumes her identity.

Okay, so, we have the Dynamic Duo, Alfred Pennyworth, Commissioner Gordon; along with D.A. Harvey Dent and his fiance, Pamela Isley.

Stay tuned as we look at who should be on board as Dr. Leslie Thompkins, Julie Madison and her father, the honorable Judge Madison

If you have suggestions, or feedback, I'd love to hear them in the comments below.