History of Comic Books: The Silver Age Chapter XXI: Batman Starring Adam West

In 1966, Executive Producer William Dozier was hired by ABC to produce a TV series based on DC Comics ‘ Batman. Dozier had never read a comic book prior to starting the show, but he read some for research, and decided to give the show a campy feel. The show starred Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin. It should be noted that both West and Ward were big fans of the comics. The program lasted 3 seasons, with a total of 120 episodes. Some even adapted actual stories, such as “The Joker’s Utility Belt” (Batman #73), “Partners in Plunder” (Batman #169), and “The Mad Hatter of Gotham City” . (Batman #161).

The show is famous not only for its campy style, but also its guest cast of villains. These included Burgess Meredith as the Penguin and Caesar Romero as the Joker. One episode even crossed over with ABC’s Green Hornet, a TV series inspired by the pulp and radio series of the same name. Some characters were played by more than one actor. The Riddler was played by Frank Gorshin and John Astin (best known for his role as Gomez Addams in The Addams Family.) Catwoman was played by Julie Newmar and singer and actress Eartha Kitt.

In addition to using villains from the comics, the show also had its own villains, such as Egghead (played by Vincent Price) and Victor Buono as King Tut. King Tut was such a popular villain that he even made his way into the comics.

The third season introduced Batgirl (played by Yvonne Craig) to the cast, in an effort to boost ratings. Batgirl was in reality Commissioner Gordon’s daughter Barbara. Although there was already a Batgirl in the comics, Barbara ‘s version began appearing in the comics, beginning in Detective Comics #359. The original Bat-Girl (notice the hyphen) was Bette Kane, sister of Batwoman (not Katherine Kane, but a different character who has nothing to do with the modern version). These two characters were created as romantic interests for Batman and Robin in response to Dr. Frederick Wertham’s claims that Batman promoted homosexuality. After Barbara was integrated into canon, Bette Kane later became Flamebird. Chief O’Hara also appeared in comics.

Today, the show is on DVD. DC Comics has made its own parallel universe comic based on the show, dubbed Batman 66 (after the year the show debuted). It’s also been animated into the DC Animated Universe. Some fans have criticized the style, but I feel it should be celebrated for its legacy.

Next: Charlton Comics (Ditko’s Departure part 1)


History of Comic Books: The Silver Age Chapter XX: Blind Justice

In creating Daredevil, Stan Lee originally had the idea of creating a hero that would be defined by limitations. He wanted a hero who actually worked within the system, and that description fits Matt Murdock well, as he is also a lawyer.

In the first issue, we learn that Matt’s father Jack Murdock was a boxer who refused to throw a fight, causing him to be murdered. Matt was driven by this memory, leading to both his profession and his superhero identity. The issue also introduced Karen Page, Matt’s secretary, and Foggy Nelson, his partner and best friend. As a child, Murdock was hit by a radioactive liquid when he saved a man. This caused his blindness. However, Murdock learned that the liquid had heightened his other senses, as well as granting him a “radar sense”, which allowed him to sense his surroundings around him.

Although Stan Lee wanted Bill Everett to be Daredevil’s artist to give him a comic, Everett was only able to draw the first issue. This was because he was also art director at the Eton Paper Corporation. After 3 issues by fill-in artists, Wally Wood (who had also worked for EC) was hired as his replacement. Wood would play a big part in establishing the mythos. He suggested that Murdock’s costume should be red instead of yellow, feeling that someone dubbed “The Man Without Fear” shouldn’t be wearing a color associated with cowardice. Wood was also responsible for the concentric circles that symbolized his radar sense, and even the double-D logo on his chest. Issue #16 began his friendship with Spider-Man, which continues to present day. Eventually though, Wood quit the series, feeling he wasn’t getting enough compensation for his ideas. He was later replaced by Gene Colan.

Stan Lee considers #47 to be one of his favorite stories. In it, Daredevil helps a Vietnam veteran who was framed. Issue #50 has Murdock reveal his identity as Daredevil to Karen Page.

As with the X-Men, big changes would happen when Daredevil was written and drawn by Frank Miller in the 80’s.

Next: Batman in Color!

History of Comic Books: The Silver Age: Teen Titans

Brave and the Bold is one of DC’s most celebrated comic books, so much so that not only has it been revived, but a TV series was created to pay tribute to it. The idea behind it was that each issue would feature a teamup. In #58, Kid Flash, Aqualad, and Robin investigated a disappearance of several teenagers from a town. Although they weren’t explicitly called the Teen Titans, this is generally considered the first appearance of the team. I believe writer Bob Haney wanted to create the team as an attempt to reach the readers of Amazing Spider-Man, by giving them a team of teenagers to identify with. (Granted, Haney isn’t the best at writing dialogue for teenagers, but everyone has weaknesses) This was basically an experiment.

However, in the next issue, the Teen Titans were officially formed. Robin formed the team because he felt left out of Justice League missions because he was too young. So he got both Kid Flash and Aqualad to join him. Also joining the team is a kind of new heroine named Wonder Girl. Haney had made a mistake. Wonder Girl had originally been created to make Wonder Woman more wholesome. She was given two sidekicks, Wonder Girl and Wonder Tot, both of whom were actually younger versions of Wonder Woman. Haney didn’t realize that Wonder Girl was supposedly not supposed to even exist on this timeline. So he created Donna Troy, unwillingly starting a continuity snarl that to this day subsequent writers just can’t resist trying to “fix”, and each time, they make it worse and worse.

The Titans eventually got their own comic, which lasted 43 issues. In addition to the initial quartet, two possible fifth members were tried out during the Silver Age. First came Beast Boy of the Doom Patrol, but the Patrol wouldn’t allow him to permanently join. The more successful addition was Green Arrow’s ward Roy Harper, Speedy. As the comic continued, other members joined: Lilith Clay, Malcolm Duncan and the duo Hawk and Dove (more on Hawk and Dove soon!) But soon came the 80’s, and a successful revival by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez. But that is for the Bronze Age.

Next: Flying Blind

History of Comic Books: The Silver Age Chapter XVIII: Answering the Call

While the Justice League of America supposedly led to the creation of the Fantastic Four, I’d say the Avengers are the closer parallel. Like the JLA, all of the founding members were previously introduced in other comics. Both teams have had several roster changes over the years, while the FF are usually the same four members (OK, sometimes we’ve had changes like that one time She-Hulk joined for a while.) . The original roster, as pictured above, didn’t even stay unchanged by the next issue. Hulk would leave in the second issue, and none of the others even seemed to want him on the team. Wasp in particular was glad to see him go.

Issue #4 saw the return of Captain America. Namor had already returned as an antagonist of the Fantastic Four, and the fans seemed to want Cap as well. He then shared Tales of Suspense with Iron Man until its 100th issue, in which he’d finally get his own comic. We’d also see the debuts of three major enemies: Baron Zemo, his Masters of Evil, and Kang the Conqueror.

Issue #16 saw the first major change to the roster, as former villains Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and Scarlet Witch joined. Although Black Widow would be offered membership in #44, she wouldn’t join until the 70’s. Black Panther would become the team’s first African-American member, in 1968. We’d also see the recruitment of The Vision, Falcon, and Black Knight by the end of the decade.

Today the Avengers are almost as much of a flagship team for Marvel as the X-Men, buoyed by the successful MCU movies. Artists such as John Buscema, Sal Buscema, George Pérez, and Al Milgrom have all graced the pages, alongside writers like Roy Thomas, Kurt Busiek, and others. The team has even spun off to various fronts. But those are stories for a different time.

Next: Meddling Kids