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Batman in the Sixties

(This review originally appeared in NextPlanetOver's The Scoop. However, its archive has since been disabled.)

Reviewed By Beth Hannan Rimmels

Writer: Various
Artist: Various
Publisher: DC Comics

Batman_60s_small.jpg (22291 bytes)My only memory of Batman in the 1960s is via the Adam West series that was an afternoon television staple in the ’70s. I thought it was cool (and I wanted to grow up to be either Catwoman or Batgirl) without ever wondering why it was so different from the Batman I read in The Brave and the Bold. I also never quite understood why some readers of the tales from the ’60s denounced that period of the comics as bowing to the TV series while others staunchly deny any similarity.

Turns out, both camps are right—after a fashion. Batman in the Sixties is a well-constructed overview of the changes the Dark Knight Detective went through in that decade. It starts off with several stories by Batman co-creator Bill Finger and includes several characters today’s fans might have heard of but never seen, including Batwoman (Kathy Kane) and the original Bat-Girl (Betty Kane). Text pieces between the sections explain the various transitions, such as when editor Julius Schwartz took over in 1964, got rid of supporting characters like Bat-Mite and demanded that the "World’s Greatest Detective" act like one. Writers like Gardner Fox emphasized Batman the man and his intellectual prowess rather than just his fighting skill.

Then, in 1966, the TV series debuted and the comic book mirrored the show—somewhat. Supervillains replaced the clever-but-normal villains and some camp was injected but not as much as the TV series. The TV series ended in 1968 and with it went the more outrageous villains and jokes in the comic book series. Batman slowly began dealing with real-life issues, and women’s liberation entered via the Barbara Gordon Batgirl. The biggest change came with the story "One Bullet Too Many" in 1969 when Dick Grayson finally went off to college, leaving Batman to fight crime alone.

Besides reprints of stories that are hard to find by legends such as Finger, Fox, John Broome, Murphy Anderson, Carmine Infantino, Dick Giordano, Gil Kane, Dick Sprang, Sheldon Moldoff and others, the trade paperback includes lots of extra info, such as a look at the evolution of the Batmobile, a Rogue’s Gallery, a fold-out diagram of the Batcave and cardboard cutouts of Batman and Robin. Adam West’s introduction, I’m sorry to say, didn’t do much for me, but it makes perfect sense to have him do it. All in all, Batman in the Sixties is a treat for anyone interested in earlier incarnations of Batman.

1999 NextPlanetOver.