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.
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