Adam West Talks About Making the Batman TV Show

To commemorate the release of Batman: The Complete Series, Warner has released these short clips of Adam West discussing favorite topics about the show.

Driving the Batmobile:

Working with Cesar Romero, who played the Joker:

The show’s campy nature in pop culture:

And dancing the Batusi:

Batman: The Complete TV Series Limited Edition

It’s here! It’s here! I was thrilled to finally get Batman: The Complete TV Series Limited Edition (and you can see my pictures of the box opening). It’s been a long time (for complicated legal reasons), but the show is even more fun than I remembered.

The episodes are beautifully restored, vibrant, and colorful. The picture quality is so good you can even sometimes see Adam West’s five-o’clock shadow or Burt Ward’s much older stuntman. The show is broken up as follows: 3 discs for the 34 episodes of the first season; 6 discs for the 60 episodes of the second; and 26 episodes on 3 discs for season three. That set also includes the Special Features bonus disc. (Remember, when thinking about show length, the episodes aired twice weekly, with a cliffhanger between the two parts.) You can check out how brilliant the restoration looks in this comparison clip, with the much sharper and less washed-up new remastering on the right:

It is so much fun watching this show again. I have new appreciation for so much of this, particularly Burgess Meredith as the Penguin. And Frank Gorshin as the Riddler is mesmerizing, stealing focus whenever he appears. I now know who some of the other classic stars are, having seen the movies of, for example, Reginald Denny since I first saw the show.

The special features, while few, are more comprehensive than I realized they would be, with three featurettes at 30 minutes each.

“Hanging With Batman” mixes a current (2014) interview with Adam West with flashback material, including Batman screen tests and a much older interview, to cover his career, how he came to the role, and how it changed his life.

“Holy Memorabilia Batman!” is all about the collectibles associated with the show, mostly based on the separate holdings of Ralph Garman and Kevin Silva (who has the Guinness-approved world’s largest collection), which are amazingly extensive. They each have separate rooms featuring display cases. Also included is a guy who builds Batmobile replicas. It was interesting to note that none of these dedicated fans talk about comic books at all.

“Batmania Born! Building the World of Batman” is the more extensive piece. It starts with fans reminiscing about the show, including Bruce Timm, Dan DiDio, Jim Lee, Mike Carlin, and Paul Levitz. Also participating are Burt Ward (who points out some of the more suggestive material that I previously hadn’t recognized), Julie Newmar, and Stanley Ralph Ross, a writer on the original show (in what I think is archive footage). It’s striking how, although in the first special feature, West describes the show as a comedy, so many of the then-young viewers loved it straight. They thought it was the best adventure, although now they recognize the fantasy involved.

Burt Ward as Robin and Adam West as Batman

I liked the way many of the commentators placed the show in the cultural context of the 1960s, particularly in how it appealed to different age groups in different ways. They also discuss the design of the unique settings, costumes, and the animated opening, comparing it to the comics of the time. I hadn’t realized how important the Batman show was, as Carlin points out, to drive sales of color television, with the bright looks used. As this special progresses, they even talk about why the show ended and the effects of the series.

This is a surprisingly good documentary that I may end up watching again before I finish watching this set. Whoever selected the show clips to go along with it should get special recognition for picking out some amazing footage.

The longest additional piece is “Bats of the Round Table”, at 45 minutes. In it, Adam West, Kevin Smith, Jim Lee, Ralph Garman, and Phil Morris get together for a meal and discussion about the show. It’s really neat to see the emotion in West’s face as people talk about how much they appreciated him and the series. He lost a lot of years because of this show, and it’s great that he’s still around to see the effect he’s had, now that it’s again ok to like it (instead of looking down on it).

“Inventing Batman: In the Words of Adam West” features the actor walking us through the first two episodes, “Hi Diddle Riddle” and “Smack in the Middle”, commenting on the notes that he made in those first scripts about building his character.

Yvonne Craig as Batgirl

The 12-minute “Na Na Na Batman!” has famous people, such as those starring on Arrow, The Mentalist, Supernatural, and The Following, remembering the show and the theme song. Holy cross-promotion, Warner!

My favorite was when the young lady who plays Arrow’s sister reminds them she wasn’t alive when the show was on. And how the folks from The Following apparently did commentary after filming a fight scene, since they have dried blood on their faces. Many of the guys ooh and ahh over Catwoman and Batgirl, and then the gals come back to talk about the Batmobile.

A section titled “Bat Rarities! Straight From the Vault” includes these few short but juicy items:

  • Batgirl Pilot (8 min), starring Yvonne Craig, in which we learn that “Gotham City abounds in girls of all shapes and sizes — debutantes, nurses, stenographers, and librarians.” Nice to know those are the only options. Batman and Robin guest star as they all fight Killer Moth in the library.
  • Burt Ward Screen Test With Adam West (6 min)
  • Lyle Waggoner and Peter Deyell Screen Tests (4 1/2 min)
  • James Blakeley Tribute (2 1/2 min), in which the post-production supervisor on the show talks about the use of the sound effects

(The studio provided a review copy.)

LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League vs. Bizarro League Announced

As a followup to the LEGO Batman movie, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has announced that LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League vs. Bizarro League will be available on Blu-ray (list price $24.98), DVD ($19.98), and digital on February 10, 2015.

LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League vs. Bizarro League

The purchase version of the movie will come with an exclusive Batzarro minifigure while supplies last. The direct-to-home-video movie is described as “action-packed and hilarious”, and I have to admit, based on the trailer below, the alternate Justice League versions are pretty funny, if broadly drawn. The plot is described as

Batman has joined the newly formed Justice League in order to keep tabs on Superman, a mistrust that is complicated by Superman’s clumsy — but well-meaning — clone, Bizarro. Bizarro’s creation of the Bizarro League has caused confusion amongst the world’s greatest Super Heroes, but an even greater and mysterious threat may force the Justice League and Bizarro League to band together to defeat evil.

Lego Justice League vs. Bizarro League

The special features on this release include the TV special Lego DC Comics: Batman: Be-Leaguered, a featurette on Bizarro, and bloopers. Here’s the trailer, featuring Greenzarro and Bizarra, among others:

(Surprised, in a kids’ movie, to see Green Lantern Guy Gardner refer to a frightened character as “such a pussycat”, since it seems to be a really obvious placeholder for something else, but I suppose that’s a skill in writing for all ages — hide the stuff only adults will get.)

KC Appreciates Marvel’s Anniversary Celebration

Marvel 75th Anniversary Celebration cover

In his latest Westfield comics column, KC talks about why he liked the Marvel 75th Anniversary Celebration comic (which I also enjoyed). He also gives you an earworm you’ll spend all day shaking.

Mike Dawson Ponders Raising a Daughter

Mike Dawson (Freddie & Me, Troop 142, Angie Bongiolatti) has posted a thought-provoking comic about raising a daughter.

The strip takes off from this shirt about being a “feminist father”.

Mike Dawson comic panel

Dawson continues to ponder what it means to fill that role, given certain standard jokes and expectations. Much as I dislike the attitude that too many men have that equal rights don’t matter until you have a daughter (or that equal marriage rights don’t matter until your kid comes out, as we’ve seen in a number of Republican politicians), I don’t think that’s the case here. Sometimes it’s human nature not to get involved in a cause until you’re personally affected (which is why we may not see, for example, male comic fans caring about the lack of suitable superhero comics for kids until they have kids), but Dawson’s strip carries through with a strong air of honesty and serious thought that extends beyond his immediate situation. In other words, he’s not just thinking about himself, but the culture. Ultimately, he realizes that the final ramification of truly being feminist is that it’s not just about him.

Penguins of Madagascar Support Veterans

I know it’s just to promote their upcoming movie, due out November 26, but DreamWorks put together this video in which the Penguins of Madagascar learn about veterans with the aid of First Lady Michelle Obama. I found it good-hearted, and she does a surprisingly good job acting with a cartoon character.

It’s in support of Got Your 6, an organization that

“believes that veterans are leaders, team builders, and problem solvers who have the unique potential to strengthen communities across the country.

As a coalition, Got Your 6 works to integrate these perspectives into popular culture, engage veterans and civilians together to foster understanding, and empower veterans to lead in their communities.

Through entertainment industry partners, Got Your 6 works to normalize the depictions of veterans on film and television to dispel common myths about the veteran population. Through nonprofit and government partners, Got Your 6 ensures successful veteran reintegration and empowers veterans to lead here at home. Together, Got Your 6 and its partners are shifting public perceptions so that veterans’ leadership and skills are recognized and utilized at home to strengthen communities.”

So, basically, well-intentioned propaganda to counter the perspective of veterans as crazy, outsiders, or walking problems that movies have portrayed for so long. Given how few people actually know someone in the military, though (in contrast to previous eras where service was more widespread), it’s a good idea.

Best of the Year Lists Are Starting

In conjunction with the growing tendency to start pushing shopping for Christmas (decorations! gifts! peppermint-flavored anything!) as early as possible, early November is now when the “Best Books of 2014″ lists start appearing. What’s the connection? Selling more books, of course. It’s terribly unbalanced, of course, because a great read might come out in the one-sixth of the year left to go, but I suppose publishers know and work the system. The last two months of the year is now for large gift books, not high-quality tomes in competition for the critical push.

Anyway, Amazon picked 20 graphic novels, with Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? topping the list.

It’s a great book, it’s true, and one of the most horrifying I’ve read in a long time. (In the true sense, as “wow, I feel like this could happen to be and I’m deathly scared of it”.) As cartoonists, and their parents, age, and as daily life memoir becomes a more prominent comic genre, I expect to see more of these kinds of stories, having to struggle with helping aging relatives. See also Lucy Knisley’s Displacement, due out early next year.

Amazon’s list is notable for how diverse it is — they always include a good range of types of works, although I have trouble believing anything Deadpool is really one of the top 20 of the year. One might think that they were driven by marketing concerns as much as artistic quality, but slamming Amazon for being a business is already one of the top ten news stories of the year. If nothing else, their list is a good indicator of the range of titles and subjects and art styles out this year.

(Weirdly, although Batman: A Visual History [note: not a comic!] made their list, nothing from DC proper did. Hmm.)

Less obviously commercial is Publisher Weekly’s list, which consists of these five titles, all also included on the Amazon list:

Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple
How to Be Happy by Eleanor Davis
The Love Bunglers by Jaime Hernandez
Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoët

Kawaii Manga: Adorable!

This colorful, heavy book contains a selection of walk-throughs, showing how 22 different images (from 16 artists) were built digitally. They’re all loosely “kawaii”, or super-cute, and manga- or anime-influenced. (Seriously, the thick paper over 350 pages makes for a hefty tome. This isn’t a “carry it around with you” book.)

The sections are “Cute Girls”, “Happy Time”, “Sweet Dessert”, “Super Adventure”, and “Magical World”. Each image begins with a short paragraph explaining the character. It reminded me of a pitch book for a licensing meeting, as though the artist was hoping they’d get picked up for a cartoon. The last section finally credits the artists and gives small bios and web links for each, along with additional finished images.

I’m not sure who the audience would be for Kawaii Manga: Adorable!. It’s not a how-to, since the image sequences require a certain amount of knowledge on the reader’s part already, particularly in terms of software tools. It’s far from step-by-step, with big jumps between various stages of the gallery. Yet artists who are familiar with the expert digital techniques required likely can find their own examples online. And although it’s promoted as being about manga art, there are no sequences, just single images.

I feel as though there’s some story behind the volume that I’m not getting. I would have liked more information on how this book was put together, or why the various artists were included. The cover credit says “selected by Eva Minguet”, but I don’t know who that is or on what basis she picked the contributions. Perhaps if I was more into this visual style, I’d recognize some of the names and better understand the thrust of the book. (The publisher provided a review copy.)




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