Sunday, September 20, 2015

Batman '66 Meets...

One of my favorite comics growing up was The Brave and the Bold. Every month, Batman would team-up with another hero for an adventure. According to Wikipedia, The Brave and the Bold became a Batman team-up book due to the popularity of the '66 live action Batman television series. The Brave and the Bold was part of the wave of Batmania. The Batman team-ups started with The Brave and the Bold #74 and ran through the 200th and final issue in 1982. The Brave and the Bold featured the first appearances of both the Justice League of America and Teen Titans. The book introduced Metamorpho and the Suicide Squad. Mark Waid and George Perez were part of a revival of the book starting in April 2007. This revival only lasted a few years, thirty-five issues, through August, 2010.

When the animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold was launched, two comic book series set in continuity were launched as well. The first series reached twenty-two issues; the second series reached sixteen.

In 2014, after launching the Batman '66 title, DC Comics brought together Ralph Garman, Kevin Smith, Ty Templeton and Alex Ross for a comic book sequel to the second season two-part episode "A Piece of the Action/Batman's Satisfaction" featuring guest stars Van Williams as The Green Hornet, Bruce Lee as Kato and Roger C. Carmel as Colonel Gumm. The six-issue mini-series, Batman '66 Meets The Green Hornet featured the team-up of The Joker and the newly christened General Gumm.

In December 2015, Jeff Parker launches Batman '66 Meets The Man From UNCLE. The Man From UNCLE was an NBC espionage series that ran from 1964 to 1968. It was also a Gold Key comic book series from May 1965 to April 1969. There were twenty-two issues in the comic book series.

The announcement of this second team-up series got me thinking: What other '60's combination television-comic book series could be the next for The Dynamic Duo? Below are my Top Five suggestions. Feel free to share your suggestions in the comments below.

5) The Monkees

The British duo Chad and Jeremy made a number of appearances on '60's television, from The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Patty Duke Show, Laredo, The Dating Game and My Three Sons. They also appeared in the two-part "The Cat's Meow/The Bat's Kow Tow", where Catwoman steals their voices!

Batman was part of the '60's pop-culture, from the music scene to the surf scene.

The Monkees, an American version of The Beatles, was not just a half-hour NBC sitcom about a rock band. Dell Comics published seventeen issues between 1967 and 1969.

One of the cool things about The Monkees was The Monkee Men!

It would be pretty cool for Batman and Robin to meet The Monkee Men!

4) Get Smart

The '60's were all about spies. Sean Connery as James Bond; Patrick MacNee as John Steed on BBC in The Avengers; James Coburn as Derek Flint; Dean Martin as Matt Helm; Robert Culp and Bill Cosby in I Spy; and Don Adams as CONTROL Agent 86, Maxwell Smart in Get Smart.

Since The Dynamic Duo will be teaming up with Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin from UNCLE, it seems only fitting that they should also team up with another Dell Comics character, Maxwell Smart.

Maybe Batman and Robin and Agents 86 and 99 could come together to thwart a KAOS plot by Seigfried.

3) My Favorite Martian

My Favorite Martian was a brilliant sitcom. Bill Bixby, who would later star as David Banner - "physician; scientist" - otherwise known as The Incredible Hulk, played newspaper reporter, Tim O'Hara. O'Hara stumbles across the story of the century - a Martian on Earth! Ray Walston played The Martian, who becomes Tim's Uncle Martin.

Uncle Martin had some great powers and gadgets. He had a spaceship; a time machine; he could turn invisible, read minds and levitate things with a forefinger!

My Favorite Martian was a Gold Key comic book series that ran for nine issues from 1964 to 1966.

DC is no stranger to Martians. One of their most prominent aliens is J'onn J'onzz, The Martian Manhunter! J'onn was seemingly a combination of Superman and Batman.

It would be interesting for The Dynamic Duo to team up with Tim and Uncle Martin for either a '66 adventure or maybe a time travel story.

2) The Wild, Wild West

The Wild, Wild West was a steampunk James Bond. Or, "James Bond on horseback". Modern gadgets and gizmos re-imagined in the Old West, with Robert Conrad and Ross Martin as US Secret Service Agents James West and Artemis Gordon. Steampunk was a genre popularized by 19th Century authors Jules Verne, Mary Shelley and H. G. Wells.

Another Gold Key Comics title, The Wild, Wild West reached seven issues in 1966.

The Batman comics that inspired the 1966 live action series had Batman and Robin travelling back in time to the Old West. It would be interesting to pair Adam West's Batman with Robert Conrad's James West for a Wild, Wild West adventure - maybe involving Shame?

1) Star Trek

Star Trek is quite possibly the longest running series ever. Three seasons on NBC in the 1960's; six feature films with the original cast. A Gold Key comic book series that ran from 1967 to 1979. A Marvel Comics series that produced eighteen issues. Two separate DC Comics series, one that reached fifty-six issues, another that reached eighty issues. Most recently an ongoing IDW series, featuring new stories with the rebooted, re-imagined, original crew. A long-running novel series.

Although a fixture set three hundred years in the future, Star Trek: The Original Series is definitely a product of the 1960's. A starship; cool gadgets and gizmos; a pointy-eared Vulcan.

One of Star Trek's specialties is time travel. Either a slingshot around the sun or through The Guardian of Forever. It's quite possible that The USS Enterprise could visit 1966 Gotham and Batman and Robin. Maybe Gotham would be another City on the Edge of Forever.

Those are my suggestions. Based on television shows that were also comic book series.

Maybe you've got a suggestion or two. Feel free to share.

Saturday, September 19, 2015


DC Comics Present and Chief Content Officer, Diane Nelson recently said (clickable link there) that there would be no shared universe between television properties like Arrow, The Flash, Gotham, Legends of Tomorrow, Vixen, Supergirl and the upcoming slate of films like Batman V. Superman. The reason is that it would hinder natural storytelling.

Nelson's quote is that it would, "...end up handcuffing our creators into trying to work with the same storyline or force them to hold back characters or introduce certain characters. Ultimately it hinders the ability for someone like (showrunner) Bruno Heller to come in and create ‘Gotham.’"

You can read the quote in a number of places. I found it here (clickable link).

As a fan of DC Comics characters, yes, this does bother me. It really shouldn't. It shouldn't give me the impression that characters like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are being managed by people that really do not understand them. There are a lot of fans, like myself, that believe that comics have been corporatized and the characters reduced to brands, and storytelling eliminated completely. There seems to be no shortage of disenfranchised comic book fans.

I had to stop and think about what she said.

DC Entertainment is home to the Multiverse. So, she understands what she's saying. To DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. creating multiple, individual, separate threads is not unusual. It would be unusual for DC and Warner Bros. to have a single, cohesive universe and timeline. That's Marvel's thing. Marvel is known for a single cohesive timeline. Marvel may dabble in multiple, alternate realities; however, those are secondary, or subordinate to the main single, cohesive timeline. Marvel may have had an Ultimate Universe; and now, a Cinematic Universe, but only DC has it's realities "categorized".

  • Earth-2 (Two) is pretty much everything Golden Age. More recently it has become an alternate reality, but originally it was Classic DC. Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, Carter Hall, Ted Grant; The Justice Society of America. Featuring alternate, or old-fashioned takes on Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. 
  • Earth-1 (One), where Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman really live, along with more modern heroes like Barry Allen, Hal Jordan, Ray Palmer, along with Katar and Shayera Hol.
  • Earth-3 (Three), for evil versions like Ultraman, Owlman, Superwoman, Johnny Quick and Power Ring. The Crime Syndicate has pretty much eliminated all other meta-humans to conquer that Earth.
There's also an Earth-S for The Shazam Family, there was an Earth for the Quality Comics heroes, an Earth-X for heroes like Plastic Man and Uncle Sam. There were each a bunch of different Earths for different purposes.

The purpose of 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths was to streamline everything, boil down all the alternate realities, timelines, universes and Earths into a single, cohesive DCU. It lasted for roughly twenty-five years and was most recently undone. DC now has 52 Earths!

The truth is, DC specializes in alternate realities. Look at the multiple iterations of Batman. There were the politically incorrect films in the 1940's; followed by the campy '66 television series; the late '60's, '70's and '80's cartoons as well as the Super Friends interpretation. There was the 1989 Batman film, followed in style by the 1992 Batman: The Animated Series. Batman teamed up with Superman, then the Justice League. There was a cartoon that looked at the early years of The Batman; then Batman: The Brave and the Bold. There was Beware The Batman. Now, we have a Batman-less television series, Gotham. This is just live action and animation. Batman has changed noticeably by decade in comics. Neal Adams and Dennis O'Neil specifically changed Batman following the cancellation of the Batman television series in 1969, returning him to his original dark, Gothic roots from the late '30's and early '40's.

Batman is just one of DC's many characters that has changed over the years. The only honest way to explain all of the different iterations co-existing is through multiversity. Which is DC's specialty.

Even though Marvel has Golden Age characters; Captain America, The Human Torch and Namor, the Sub-Mariner, Marvel has never had a separate or alternate timeline for these characters. The alternate realities are more "What If?", or "Elseworlds" material. Marvel has one single history and timeline, whereas DC has multiple, alternate histories. Which it continues to re-write.

As a fan of DC Comics and characters like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Justice League and Teen Titans, this is pretty disappointing. As much as I might like the comics, the cartoons, the television series or films, they are all going to be different from one another for the sake of "storytelling". It was incredibly disappointing that Smallville wrapped up with such a sense of hope and optimism and Man of Steel was released with a continued sense of dark brooding and angst. At least we have Superman: The Movie and Superman II.

As a fan, the question I'm left with is this: What stories are served by having a weekly television series franchise with one Barry Allen and a periodic film franchise starring another Barry Allen? Wouldn't that be limiting the scope of either, so as not to infringe on either? A television series can tell certain stories that roll out over weeks at a time. A film is more of a capsule. It tells a single story. It's a single adventure. There is an event and that event mist be resolved. Wouldn't there be a natural desire and inclination to recycle that audience from television to film, and from film and television to comic books and novelizations? Loop the media?

Looking at Nelson's argument involving the Fox drama Gotham, a Batman-less Batman series, the timeline there seems wonky. While no ages are given in the comics, none of the characters look older than Batman, except Gordon and Alfred. At least, on paper. Maybe in Batman '66 The Joker was a little older than Adam West's Batman. Gotham is presenting the formation of a Batman rogues gallery. Yes, it's compelling. But the basic conceit is that Batman inspired these tragic figures to come out of the shadows. More importantly, these characters are much more than any police force can handle because of their singular uniqueness. Gotham is contained in one "snow globe", while the big screen Batman is self-contained in another "snow globe" - separate from each other. That creates more confusion than it eliminates. I'm okay with Adam West being different from the Michael Keaton, Kevin Conroy and Diedrich Bader versions of Batman. But to have two similar versions co-existing simultaneously?

"I'm Young!"
"I'm Old!"
That's like the two Jennifers seeing themselves in Back to the Future, Part II.

Shocking, and confusing.

As a fan of DC Comics and some of the greatest characters ever, here's what I want: Keep It Simple, Stupid.