The 1966 Batman television show was one of the most successful and influential adaptations of comic books to mass media of all time. Over the course of three seasons and 120 episodes, the series became a cultural force with its unique combination of tongue-in-cheek humor, thrilling superhero adventure and celebrity guest stars, and shaped the way the public would view the Caped Crusader for the next five decades. Now, in the midst of a well-deserved renaissance of the show, ComicsAlliance is proud to present The Batman '66 Episode Guide, an in-depth examination of every single adventure, arch-criminal and deathtrap cliffhanger of the series.

This week, the Mad Hatter launches his final plan to steal his 13th Hat... the Batman's cowl!

 

 

Batman 1x14: Batman Stands Pat

Script: Charles Hoffman
Director: Norman Foster
Original Air Date: February 24, 1966
Special Guest Villain: David Wayne as The Mad Hatter

 

Before we get into this week's episode, a correction. Last week, I mentioned that "The Thirteenth Hat" wasn't based on a story from the comics, and it turns out that's not exactly the case. Former Detective Comics writer Mike W. Barr wrote in to let me know that it's actually loosely based on Dave Wood and Sheldon Moldoff's "The New Crimes of the Mad Hatter" from Batman #161, his second Silver Age appearance.

Both stories involve the Hatter getting his revenge on the jurors who put him away after the events of Detective #230, including a fireman, a chef and the owner of a bowling alley, but that's about where the similarities end. The comic, for instance, doesn't have the Hatter's terrifying jury box full of mannequins, and the TV version doesn't have a Robin Hood cosplayer getting his hat stolen at a RenFaire archery contest.

Incidentally, it makes sense that Barr would know - he wrote one of the best stories about this version of the Mad Hatter during his run with Alan Davis, which you can find in Detective Comics #573.

Anyway, now this is happening.

 

 

When we last left our heroes, they were in dire peril indeed. Batman had been coated in Super Fast Hardening Plaster and left to suffocate, while Robin, after being knocked unconscious in a fight, has been gagged and tied to a statue of a horse. To make matters worse, the Mad Hatter has enlisted Octave Marbot, the sculptor he was impersonating last week, to carefully chip away the plaster from what we have to assume is Batman's corpse so that he can use it as a mold to make his own cowl.

Shockingly, as Marbot splits the plaster, the "statue" seems to come alive, and Batman shatters the plaster from within, gasping for air. The Mad Hatter and his goons decide that a retreat is in order and beat feet rather than deal with fighting Batman again --- a solid choice --- and we, the audience, are left wondering what miraculous trick allowed the Caped Crusader to survive those long minutes within an airtight cocoon of plaster! Was it a technique learned during his years of training that allowed him to draw out every life-saving second from the oxygen in his bloodstream? Some incredible device from his utility belt that allowed him to breathe even when it should have been impossible?

 

 

"Much easier than it seemed, Robin. I simply held my breath."

All right, look. Not to disparage Charles Hoffman's writing ability or anything, but that is a straight up cop-out and you know it. This entire series is built around cliffhangers and miraculous escapes, and, "Oh, I held my breath" is literally the worst possible explanation for getting out of a deathtrap that was ever featured on the show. If it wasn't for how great David Wayne is at pronouncing the words "hat factory" later on in this episode, that would tank the whole show.

Back at the Batcave, the Dynamic Duo try to puzzle out just what the Hatter's plan is, based on the pattern of his crimes and his mention of Batman's cowl being his "13th hat." It seems that in addition to the five kidnappings and hat robberies that have already been committed, six more Gotham Citizens (and their hats) have gone missing, for a total of eleven. That leaves one victim unaccounted for, putting the pressure on the Dynamic Duo to figure out the pattern before the Hatter strikes again.

Now, at this point, you might think that it would be a good idea for Batman to check and see what the eleven victims (and himself) had in common that could've given the Mad Hatter his motive. This is not what he does. Instead, he literally asks the computer to define the word "dozens."

 

 

In a perfect world, this would've resulted in the Bat-Computer spitting out a punch card reading "Yo mama so dead Neil Gaiman's writing comics about her."

Instead, they just get the definition, and since the Bat-Computer chooses to use "men and women" in its example sentence, the World's Greatest Detective finally remembers that all eleven people were jurors at the trial where, as the star witness, Batman put the Mad Hatter in jail. To be fair, he does acknowledge that he probably should've come to this conclusion earlier, to which Robin replies, "All in all, Batman, you've been pretty busy." That may be true, but crimefighters don't deal in excuses, Boy Wonder.

The only remaining juror, and therefore the Mad Hatter's next target? Turkey Bowinkle, owner of a Gotham City Bowling alley. One more time, just in case: Turkey Bowinkle, which he tells Alfred is "a nickname, an' in the lingo of tenpins, it means t'ree strikes!"

 

 

Yes, Alfred. Rather than tip the Mad Hatter off that they know his plans, Batman and Robin send in Alfred, masquerading as a genealogist, to plant a tracking device in the bowler's bowler. It's a ruse that pays off, too, when Lisa, the Hatter's haberdashing hench-hottie, hastily helps hijack the headwear.

Bowinkle ends up spotting the Hatter and confronting him, however --- with the truly great line "Who let you outta the jug, Tetch?!" --- and in the struggle, the super-power transmitter that Alfred planted in the hat falls out, cluing the Hatter in to the Caped Crusaders' setup. It doesn't stop him from kidnapping Bowinkle, though, and in fact, proves to play right into his plan for luring him to the hat factory.

 

 

Incidentally, this is also when the Mad Hatter goes into pretty explicit detail about how he wants to skin Batman and turn him into a hat, and then says in his next breath that he plans on robbing "the Gothsonian Institution's priceless collection of presidential headgear." Fourteen episodes in, and the show hadn't quite gotten its tone down, I think, which is evidenced by yet another look at the vertical Bat-Climb up the side of the Hatter's lair, which still feels a little weird without the celebrity window cameo popping up halfway through.

They enter through the window, but the Hatter and his men were, of course, waiting for them in ambush. They surround Batman and Robin with guns drawn, and after Lisa enters to complete the tableau - with Batman saying she's "up to her pretty neck in evil," for anyone out there who needs a new Twitter bio --- the Hatter offers Batman a deadly tour of his hat factory.

 

 

Or as he calls it, his "heyat fyactaray!" Seriously, David Wayne's voice is a delight. I want to make it into a blanket and sip cocoa underneath it on these cold winter days.

Batman, of course, is having none of it, and just turns around and starts punching armed thugs, bringing us to this episode's installment of the Bat Sound Effect Onomatopoeia Matrix:

 

Click for full size

 

Maybe it's because they had more time to work with since the rest of the plot is so thin this time around, but the climactic fight scene here is easily the best that we've seen in the series so far --- which is extra shocking considering that this is otherwise a pretty lackluster episode. The heyat fyactaray makes for a really great set piece, full of whirling spikes and chopping swords that can put Batman and Robin in danger, and Wayne just goes all out, trying to strangle Robin with his bare hands. It's kind of weird that so far, it's the Mad Hatter who has presented the most convincing physical threat to the Batman, but here we are.

It has a great ending, too, when Batman swings across the fyactaray floor on a lamp to dropkick the Mad Hatter into a giant vat of acid, which is a) pretty awesome, and b) something that you'd think Batman would probably want to avoid, considering what happened the last time he knocked a crook into a vat of acid.

 

 

With that, the Hatter and his running crew are easily taken into custody, and this week's adventure is brought to a close in an epilogue where Bruce Wayne buys Aunt Harriet an $85 hat.

All in all, it's a bit of a disappointment. The first half of this adventure is super fun, with a ton of potential and the great hook of the 12 jurors being targeted for revenge. This one, though, feels thin and stretched out, with Batman just sort of stumbling into the solution without actually solving anything, even with the show's trademark logic-defying apophenia. Batman himself is even quippier than he usually is, too, offering not one but two one-liners after defeating the Hatter at the end. Fortunately, there are great performances throughout from Wayne, Ward, and West, the last of whom was particularly hitting his stride as Batman at this point.

Fortunately, next week brings one of my favorite episodes, as the Joker returns and targets that most sacred institution, the American high school!

 

Index of Episode 1x14

Bat-Gadgets

  • Anti-Crime Computer
  • Super Power Transmitter

 

Exclamations

  • "Holy frogman!'