Colleen Coover Brings Yvonne Craig’s Batgirl to ‘Batman ’66’, One Of The Best Drawn Bat-Books In Years
It just was only last week that we got word that actress Yvonne Craig had signed a licensing agreement with DC Comics parent Warner Bros. to allow the production and sale of new merchandise and other products — the first in literally decades — based on her likeness as Batgirl, one of the most beloved figures from the great Batman television series of the 1960s. It would seem that preparations were well underway before the announcement, because today DC has confirmed the first appearance of Craig’s Batgirl in the pages of its startlingly good comics series Batman ’66. On sale this week, the story will be written by the book’s ongoing writer Jeff Parker and feature artwork by ComicsAlliance favorite Colleen Coover, who joins cover artist Michael Allred and storytellers Jonathan Case, Joe Quinones and Ty Templeton in making Batman ’66 one of the very best looking Bat-books DC has published in years.
Although that was all the way back in 1967, Craig’s charismatic performance as the independent, plucky and clever daughter of Batman confidant Commissioner Gordon — who like the Dynamic Duo themselves was unaware of Batgirl’s true identity — has remained the prevailing, iconic vision of Batgirl despite numerous re-imagnings over the years. Her appearance in this week’s new issue of Batman ’66 marks the first official Yvonne Craig-related Batgirl material in decades (a consequence of protracted but recently resolved legal difficulties with the TV show’s producers 20th Century Fox) which is really quite shocking given the character’s enduring popularity and influence.
Coover and Parker’s story is a solo adventure for Batgirl, who squares off against the Eartha Kitt incarnation of Catwoman. Coover won an Eisner earlier this year for her work on her Monkeybrain Comics series Bandette (with Paul Tobin), and she and Parker previously collaborated on X-Men: First Class. The Batgirl issue of Batman ’66 features a variant cover by another CA favorite, illustrator Dave Johnson.
Batman ’66 is part of DC’s generally very good digital-first initiative, distinguished by the “DC Digital” or “DC Entertainment” brands and overseen by senior editor Jim Chadwick and SVP – Vertigo and Integrated Publishing Hank Kanalz. Titles include the anthologies Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight and Adventures of Superman, which invite an impressive assortment of new and established writers, artists and cartoonists to tell short stories in their own idiosyncratic styles; Batman Beyond 2.0, a continuation of the mythology of the fan favorite Batman Beyond animated series from the 1990s; Batman: Li’l Gotham, a light-hearted but routinely gorgeous imagining of Batman’s vast cast of heroes and villains from Dustin Nguyen; Smallville Season 11, a continuation of the popular live-action series that actually features Superman in-costume; Ame-Comi Girls, a series written by Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray and drawn by a large roster of artists that spotlights DC heroines like Supergirl, Batgirl, Wonder Woman and Power Girl as depicted in the manga-influenced PVC figure line from DC Collectibles; and Injustice: Gods Among Us, an ongoing series written by Tom Taylor based on the video game that DC touts as one of its better sales successes.
In every case, the digital-first line offers fans of these characters and creators a variety of stories and styles with which to enjoy them, and without the strict narrative and aesthetic confines of the publisher’s mainline “New 52″ superhero universe, which is important.
Batman ’66 is arguably the best of the lot, and certainly the best drawn. Coover, Templeton, Allred, Case and Quinones are among the most solid cartoonists working right now, and I was also impressed with issue #9’s artist Sandy Jarrell, whose work I previously hadn’t seen. The book is of course an exercise in nostalgia, but it’s also a kind of thrilling redemption for a distinctly weird but brilliant concept of Batman that by most accounts DC editorial hated for many, many years (and couldn’t even get into anyway, due to legal questions about the show’s relationship to 20th Century Fox). That Batman ’66 of all things is one of the best looking Bat books we’ve seen in ages also speaks to the built-in coolness of this “universe,” and how its unique designs and other characterizations can allow for some genuinely fun superhero cartooning.
The Batgirl issue of Batman ’66 goes on sale Wednesday from DC Entertainment and also in the ComiXology, IBooks, Nook and Kindle stores.
[Images via TV Guide]