I've got two Batmen, and I ain't ashamed; two Batmen, and I love 'em both the same.
Let me tell you 'bout my first Batman.
I became a Batman fan 50 years ago, following the debut of the Batman TV series in January of 1966. I was six years old, and that show would have a far greater impact on my life than any other TV show. I had heroes already: I watched reruns of The Adventures Of Superman, and had read some Superman comic books, as well--I specifically remember a Lois Lane 80-Page Giant, which was likely my first comic book; I adored Popeye cartoons; and, of course, everyone in my neighborhood knew Flash Gordon, whose 1930s movie serial exploits were shown every afternoon by Baron Daemon, Syracuse's hugely-popular local vampire TV host. In fact, my earliest memory of Batman is from Baron Daemon's show, when a commercial for the Caped Crusader's then-forthcoming new TV series was aired, prompting the Baron to exclaim in his mock-Transylvanian accent, "Vhat's dis? I'M the only Batman around here!"
I was probably initially resistant to Batman because its Wednesday night showing aired opposite one of my favorite TV shows, Lost In Space. That resistance certainly didn't last long, because I was a dedicated Batman fan in no time.
When you're six years old, you can believe in heroes, and you can believe with wide eyes and open heart. You can don the Halloween mask, fasten the towel around your neck, and get right down to the serious business of ridding North Syracuse of evildoers. POW! BIFF! The Joker? The Riddler? No match for these fists o' steel, bucko.
Of course, at six years old, I had no idea that this TV show was making fun of Batman. Smugly, complacently, even pompously, the creators of this camp sensation television phenomenon thought themselves above this corny character, whom they were milking and ridiculing to great success.
But the joke couldn't sustain itself. What had seemed stylish and fun to the viewing public in the show's first season gave way to increasing hokiness; by the third season, the larger audience had moved on, and the show was cancelled.
Batman had a long history prior to becoming a TV star. Our hero debuted in Detective Comics # 27, cover-dated May 1939, the creation of cartoonist Bob Kane and (then-uncredited) writer Bill Finger. The character flourished in the '40s, appearing in multiple comic books (Batman, Detective Comics, and World's Finest Comics [co-starring with Superman on the covers, and eventually in the stories themselves]; Batman's partner, Robin the Boy Wonder, was also a cover-featured solo star in Star-Spangled Comics, with Batman himself a frequent guest star). Batman appeared in a syndicated newspaper comic strip, in two low-budget movie serials, and made guest appearances on the Superman radio show. Batman was one of the very few costumed comic-book heroes to survive the superhero bust in the late '40s/early '50s; by the time the TV series was cancelled in 1968, Batman comics had been published regularly for nearly 30 years.
And for all that, the campy TV series had turned Batman into damaged goods. Even with a new Saturday morning TV cartoon show, sales of the Batman comics plummeted. To re-establish his relevance, Batman needed help. Batman needed a hero of his own.
Enter Neal Adams.
Stay tuned for the next exciting chapter of My Two Batmen, coming soon to this page. Same Bat-Blog, Same Bat-Blogger.