This week marks the digital release of Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, the new film that reunites Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar for an all-new adventure set in the campy, pop-art gotham city of the 1966 Batman television show.
The movie stands alongside projects like the Batman '66 comic and the home video release of the entire series as part of a new (and welcome) wave of appreciation that we're enjoying here at the 50th anniversary, but by its very nature, that sets a standard that ends up being very difficult to live up to.
Time is a flat circle. When Matthew McConaughey’s character spoke these words in True Detective’s first season, he probably didn’t have the Batman character in mind (although, maybe he did, there’s a lot about that show I didn’t quite understand). And yet, here we are, in the year 2016, and many people are legitimately as or even more excited for an animated Batman movie starring Adam West than they were for the blockbuster Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. What was once camp is now mainstream, and vice versa
Batman and Robin are back in action with the newest trailer for Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, Warner Bros.’ newest animated version of the Dynamic Duo, complete with a vintage Batmobile, day-glo yellow utility belt, “holy insert-noun-here” exclamations, and superfluous labels on things like “GIANT OVEN.”
If there's one thing that has made the nightmare of existence worth it over the past few years, it's been the revival of and new appreciation for the classic Batman television show. Between the long-awaited release of the series on DVD and the new adventures that have been running in the Batman '66 comic book, it's been a good time to be a fan of what is unquestionably the greatest mass-media incarnation of the Dynamic Duo. But in a few months, we're getting something all new and amazing.
On October 11, Warner Bros. will release Batman: Return of the Caped Crusader, a new animated movie that's not just based on Batman '66, but also features original series actors Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar, reprising their roles as Batman, Robin, and Catwoman.
So on the one hand, the "Premium Format" figures from Sideshow are sculpted with a realism that's almost frightening. If you're not expecting to see them lurking on a bookshelf, you can very easily glance at them and think that your home is currently being invaded by foot-tall versions of Batman and Catwoman who stepped right off the television screen. But on the other hand, having a home that's being attacked by tiny Batman characters is kind of everything that I've ever wanted in my life.
It's a good thing, then, that Sideshow just released photos of their newest Premium Format figures: Batman, based on Adam West, and Catwoman, based on Julie Newmar, going up for pre-order this week.
Q: It's the 50th Anniversary of Batman '66! Can you rank the best episodes? -- @TheKize
A: I wrote a fair bit about Batman on Tuesday to mark the actual day that it made its debut back in 1966 --- and, you know, I've written a whole bunch about it in general --- but you know what? You're right. The 50th anniversary of what is arguably the single greatest superhero show ever produced is something that's worth celebrating for a while yet. But ranking the best episodes? That's a tough one.
It's not that I don't have my favorites, you understand, but with 120 episodes produced over three seasons, mostly divided into the two-part adventures punctuated by a deathtrap that would serve as the show's trademark, there's just too much to choose from. Even at its worst, the show was still fun, and with that many great performances and ludicrous plots, narrowing it all down to a top five is a pretty difficult task. Difficult... but far from impossible.
The camera, tilted diagonally, pans across the crowded dance floor of a nightclub called What A Way To Go-Go as Batman casually walks in through the front door. The music continues, but the dancing stops, as Gotham citizens take notice of the world's most famous crime-fighter in their midst. One of them shouts and points, almost fainting, a cigarette girl offers to check his cape, and the club's owner comes over to personally welcome him, asking if he'd like a table. "I'll stand at the bar," replies Batman, standing in the middle of the crowd in a cape, mask and tights, a bright yellow utility belt full of batarangs and explosives around his waist, "I shouldn't wish to attract attention."
That, according to interviews, was the scene where Adam West understood exactly how to play the role that would make him famous: Reserved and stilted and almost painfully square despite the inherent ridiculousness of everything around him. And fifty years ago today, on January 12, 1966, that scene was broadcast as part of the debut of Batman, the television series that would define not just its title character, but --- for better or worse --- the place of superheroes in American pop culture for at least a generation.
If you know anything at all about DC Comics' and Warner Brothers' licenses, you know that with the rare exception of DC Collectibles, it's almost impossible to find any action figures of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman or the rest of the laundry list of characters without it coming from Mattel. There are some allowances however with large-scale figures, such as those Hot Toys, Sideshow and even NECA have produced in the past. If you're looking for 1/12 scale though (6-7"), your pickings are slim.
There are some instances, by the grace of the toy gods, where a company like NECA can put out its much-requested 1/4 scale figures at a more affordable and space-permitting scale. Previously, NECA teamed with Warner Bros. and Toys 'R Us to offer its Michael Keaton Batman (1989) figure at standard figure size as part of a bundle with the anniversary release of the film on Blu-ray. At the time, many fans begged for that same treatment to be given to the likes of NECA's 1/4 scale Christopher Reeve Superman and Heath Ledger Joker. It seemed like an opportunity like that would never happen again. Until it did. Today.
Have you longed for the day when Frank Frazetta's artwork would do more than live on the page? Does your sixth-scale collection lack the imposing threat of the Death Dealer? Friends, I have news for you that you may find welcome. Not only is Frank Frazetta's iconic executioner being remade as figures and statues, but so are a few other Frazetta classics from companies like Go Hero and ARH. What's more, they won't be alone. Plenty of comic characters that haven't gotten quite the same attention as Marvel's and DC's big guns will soon be able to stand side-by-side with Hot Toys' and Sideshow Collectibles' interpretations.
You might recall Go Hero's name from a few months back. It's the company that helped Das Toyz bring the first Stan Lee sixth-scale figure to market (a new one is in development at Hot Toys now too because... reasons?). Though I'd never heard of Go Hero before, the company's showing at NYCC made me wish I had. The big name characters at larger publishers (particularly those with movies) tend to get the sixth-scale treatment from companies, but Go Hero's focus is on those that normally don't get a moment in the sun. Death Dealer probably hasn't seen a ray of light beyond a handful of collectibles over the years, but he'll have a figure from Go Hero soon enough.
From 1966 to 1989, as far as the world of popular culture outside of comics was concerned there was only one Batman, and his name was Adam West. Though the show only originally ran for three seasons before it’s cancellation, reruns of the series’ 120 episodes have been in continuous television rotation throughout the world to this day almost fifty years later.
In the spirit of nostalgic fun we’ve compiled a cavalcade of some of our favorite art from the Batman '66 comics and the creative works of many other Bat-fans from around the internet.
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