Ever since the first issue of DC's Batman '66 comic climaxed with an honest-to-Gotham airplane chase scene that ended in a fiery explosion, it's been pretty obvious that one of the goals of that book is to do things that they never could have done on the TV show. As much as the comic has captured the tone of the series, it's also made it a point to go bigger, throwing in bigger set pieces for the action, exotic locations and stories that literally go to new places that we never saw on the show. But there's one other way that the comic has been expanding on the show that's even more interesting than just pitting Gotham City's arch-criminals against a giant crime-fighting robot.
Over the past two years, writer Jeff Parker and a rotating cast of artists that includes Joe Quinones, Jonathan Case, Rubén Procopio, Sandy Jarrell and Giancarlo Caracuzzo have been introducing villains that never appeared on the show to the world of Batman '66, bringing pop-art takes of characters like Harley Quinn and Killer Croc to the comics. And they've been doing it in a way that's absolutely fascinating.
If you've been wondering why I've been a little more excited lately, why bird songs are a little sweeter or why food tastes a little better, it's because the latest storyline of DC's digital-first Batman '66 comic has involved Batman and Batgirl heading to Japan to take on Lord Death Man.
Jeff Parker, Sandy Jarrell and Jordie Bellaire have done a pretty amazing job creating story that I wish would've happened on television, but giving it the unlimited budget for stuff like a new Japanese Batmobile and an army of ninjas, and it's pretty great. To get some insight into just how it all happened, I spoke to Parker for his thoughts on bringing in other period-specific villains, why Lord Death Man is so much more exciting than his original American counterpart, and ideas for other non-Gotham location that could use a visit from the Caped Crusaders!
Back when I was a kid, my single favorite episode of Batman '66, the one that I liked even more than the one where the Joker tried to conquer Gotham City by winning a surfing competition and becoming "King of the Surf and All The Surfers," was the one where Batman, Robin and Batgirl took a trip to Londinium in order to fight Lord Ffogg and his small army of mod pickpockets. Something about getting those characters out of that version of Gotham City is always interesting to me.
So you can imagine how excited I was when opened up this week's issue of Batman '66 and found out that Jeff Parker, Sandy Jarrell, and Jordie Bellaire had taken Batman and Batgirl on an international trip to Japan to battle it out with Lord Death Man. I'll admit that I'm predisposed to like this stuff, but trust me: It is basically perfect.
Readers demand a lot from superhero comics: consistency, continuity, adherence to the rules of the universe, compelling heroes, magnetic villains, satisfying endings, and the list goes on.
But those of us who have been reading for years (if not decades) are chiefly looking for one big thing above all else: novelty. We want to see something we’ve never seen before; characters we recognize as the heroes and villains we love being put into scenarios and settings wholly unlike what’s come in nearly 80 years of superhero comics.
That’s notoriously hard to do. Many times, stories end up being very similar to what’s come before, and when creators do try something new, they elicit complaints from readers who don’t like particular changes or decisions. But what if you could strip away those pressures and build a superhero comic that’s so strange and unique that it’s a must-read?
That’s what Jiro Kuwata’s 1960s Batman comics, currently being republished as the DC Digital Series Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga, are. A strange combination of classic Batman comics, the 1960s Batman TV-show, Marvel-Age science-based storytelling, mysticism, cartoon physics, Tokusatsu, and of all things, Scooby-Doo, it isn’t like any comic I’ve ever read. It’s endlessly surprising, and I love it.
Many fans were pleased by Batman Inc. writer Grant Morrison's recent resurrection of Lord Death Man, a skull-faced Batman villain who first appeared in an obscure 1960s Batman comic, and later took on a major role in Jiro Kuwata's apocryphal and awesomely weird Bat-Manga. Among those fans? Indie musician Sam Mickens of Xiu Xiu and The Dead Science, who was so inspired that he wrote a so
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