With the recent death of Adam West, it’s past due to take a look at his most endearing role, the 1966 Batman TV series and feature film.
Lost in Translation covered the origin of Batman back while analysing Batman Fluxx. Created in 1939 in the pages of Detective Comics, Batman represents the crossover from mystery men to costumed crimefighters, with a dash of Zorro. Since then, the character has evolved, going from grim hunter of criminals who used pistols to master detective who refuses to kill. Batman’s rogues gallery includes some of the most colourful villains in comics, including the Joker, the Riddler, and Catwoman, all of whom emphasize different aspects of the hero in their clashes.
Superhero adaptations have tended to lag about a decade behind the events in the comics themselves. The general audience isn’t as familiar with current events in titles, either having read the books when younger or just picking up on the better known storylines after the fact. Studios want a wide net when adapting, so minutiae in continuity, always a pain with comics, is often the first to be trimmed. Thus, during a time when DC Comics was turning Batman into the dark detective he’s best known as now, Fox and producer William Dozier were going a different direction, one more in tune with the Batman of the Fifties.
Today, the 1966 Batman TV series is seen as pure camp. Adam West starred as the Caped Crusader, with Burt Ward as Robin, the Boy Wonder. Together, they fought crime that the Gotham City Police Department was unable and incapable of handling. Deep underneath Stately Wayne Manor, the Batcave contained crime fighting equipment that predated many techniques now in use, including DNA analysis.
The series was a comedy, one without a laughtrack. For the first two seasons, Batman aired twice a week, with the first episode ending on a cliffhanger, typically a death trap where Batman and Robin faced certain doom, a doom that would be resolved at the beginning of the second episode. The villains, guest stars all, threatened the safety of the citizens of Gotham City and only Batman and Robin could stop them, usually in a climactic fight in the villain’s hideout filmed with a dutch angle.
Despite, or possibly because of, the series being a comedy, West played Batman serious, which heightened the comedic aspects but also gave the series and the character gravitas. The TV series didn’t shy away from why Bruce Wayne became Batman. Likewise, Ward, Stafford Repp (Chief O’Hara), Neil Hamilton (Commissioner Gordon), and Alan Napier (Alfred) all approached their roles as if the series was a drama. The odd situations and brightly coloured villains stood out in the contrast.
Batman attracted guest stars. Regular villains included Caeser Romero’s Joker, Burgess Meredith’s Penguin, Frank Gorshin’s Riddler, and Julie Newmar’s Catwoman, all playing against type. Romero kept his signature mustache, not quite hiding it under the Joker’s white make up. Other actors who appeared on the series include Victor Buono as King Tut and Vincent Price as Egghead. Even if they couldn’t get a role as a villain, other actors appeared during the weekly wall-climbing sequence, commenting on the oddness of two costumed crimefighters walking on their walls.
After the first season, the studio wanted to sell the series to foreign markets. To help with the sales, the studio made the Batman the Movie. The goal of the film was to introduce the series and its stars. To further intrigue audiences, the movie included four villains – the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, and Catwoman. With one exception, all were played by their regular actors. Julie Newmar wasn’t available for filming, so Lee Meriweather filled in. With four key villains, it wasn’t just Gotham City in danger, but the entire world, as they scemed to kidnap the delegates to the United World Headquarters.
The movie kept to the tone of the TV series. Helping there was being filmed between seasons, with the same cast and crew. Lorenzo Semple Jr*, who had also written several of the episodes, wrote the script for the movie, keeping the tone consistent. With the added time allowed by a film, 105 minutes instead of two 24-minute episodes, the story could be given time to unfold and the Bruce Wayne side of Batman could be explored. Just like the TV series, Commissioner Gordon and Chief O’Hara were stymied by the villains and had to turn to Batman and Robin to save the day. The film includes some now-classic lines, including, “Some days, you just can’t get rid of a bomb.”
The third season of the series saw several changes. The first was going to a more episodic approach, with each episode self-contained. No more cliffhangers to be resolved at the beginning of the next episode. The other major change was the introduction of Batgirl, played by Yvonne Craig. Barbara Gordon, the Commisioner’s daughter, joined the Dynamic Duo in their crusade against crime to keep Gotham City safe. Eartha Kitt stepped into the role of Catwoman when Julie Newmar was again unavailable. The episodes felt a little more rushed as the plot needed to be wrapped up at the end instead of allowing for the usual two parts. However, the change in approach gave the actors a bit of a break; the episodes were still meant for a half-hour time slot, which now aired once a week. There were some two- and three-part episodes, but they were still aired one part a week.
The TV series reflected an older version of Batman, one that was more camp than the current version. Yet, the actors treated the characters seriously. The commentary with the movie by Adam West and Burt Ward showed that, even with the problems they faced – Ward especially – they still realized that they were playing Batman and Robin. The series was a comedy; the roles were still important to them and to the actors playing the villains. This approach is why the series is still beloved even today.
The movie of the series is a perfect example of adapting properly. In its favour, the goal the studio had was to give international audiences a taste of what the TV series offered. Changing that focus would have created problems for keeping the new audience. The movie’s budget also allowed to film on location instead of in studio and for the use of new bat-gadgets, including the Bat-copter and the Bat-boat. Footage of both would appear in the following seasons as needed.
Combined, the Adam West TV series and movie are an important part of Batman lore. Later adaptations would still pay homage to the work. Batman: The Animated Series introduced one of Bruce Wayne’s childhood heroes, the Grey Ghost, voiced by West himself. Elements of the TV series can be seen even in Tim Burton’s Batman of 1989. DC Comics even released a continuation comic for the series, Batman ’66. Adam West has left a legacy that will be remembered fondly.
First created in 1939, Batman has become a popular character throughout the 20th and 21st Centuries. His origin story tells of a young orphan, Bruce Wayne, who fights crime using an object of fear to strike at the hearts of criminals in Gotham City. Over time, Batman’s rogues’ gallery has grown, featuring criminals who are a reflection of the character, culminating in the Joker, the yin to Batman’s yang. However, the Caped Crusader doesn’t fight for justice alone; at his side are his young assistants, Robin and Batgirl.
Batman appeared in a number of media since his first appearance, from cartoons to movie serials to television to feature film and even to tabletop games. Each iteration has its own take on the character and on the franchise. The 1966 Batman TV series starring Adam West took a camp look at the character while most* movies made after the 1989 Tim Burton Batman film take a more serious tone.
While the transition from comic to both television and film can be relatively straightforward, though difficult, the further away from a story-based medium one gets, the more difficult it can get to keep the tone. Looney Labs took a further step, adapting the franchise to its card game, Fluxx. Batman Fluxx isn’t the first time a game publisher adapted a work to a game, as the various specialty versions of Monopoly can attest to. The goal, though, is to keep the feel of both games intact.
Fluxx is a deceptively simple game. Each player gets a hand of three cards, and the basic rules, draw a card then play a card, placed out on the table. There are several different types of card; Actions, giving a player instructions on what to do; Keepers, elements that may be needed to win the game; Goals, showing what Keepers are needed to win; and Rules, which change the game away from the basic set. Some published sets,** including Batman Fluxx, also have Creepers, which prevent a player from winning unless a Goal says otherwise, and Surprises, which allow a player to act outside his or her turn.
What makes Batman Fluxx related to Batman is how the Keepers, Creepers, and Goals related to the franchise. The Keepers focus on characters, equipment, and locations from the comics. There is both a Bruce Wayne Keeper and a Batman Keeper; if Bruce Wayne is out when Batman is played, the former gets discarded. After all, no one ever sees Batman and Bruce Wayne out together. The Creepers are the villains and include the classics like the Joker, the Riddler, the Penguin, and Catwoman among the ne’er-do-wells that can appear. In a change from a regular game of Fluxx, where Creepers prevent the players who received them from winning, no one can win while the villains are about unless the Goal requires a Creeper. As the rule pamphlet says, “[Y]ou are on Batman’s side and must first clean up crime in Gotham City”. Even some of the new the rule cards reflect the game’s focus; the Arkham Asylum Rule forces all discarded Creepers to be placed under it instead. If the Arkham Asylum Rule is discarded, the villains are dealt back out to the players, reflecting the revolving door the institute has in the comics.
The game pulls from several sources. The artwork on the Keeper and Creeper cards is inspired by Batman: The Animated Series, which took some of its tone and direction from both the Tim Burton films and the comics being published at the time. Some of the Goals reflect the darker version of the Dark Knight, including “I Am the Night”, requiring Batman and the Bat-Signal. Others, though, come from the Adam West TV series and the older, pre-Dennis O’Neil comics; for example, “Stately Wayne Manor”, requiring Bruce Wayne and Wayne Manor. Even the variant lyrics for “Jingle Bells” come up, with “The Joker Got Away!”, requiring the Joker and the Batmobile.
The proof, though, comes through playing the game. Fluxx is a fast paced card game, with the stated time on the box being five to thirty minutes. It’s possible to go through the deck several times, especially with rules like “Draw 5” in play. The new cards do reinforce the feel of a Batman comic, though. While there are villains out, no one can win as crime continues in Gotham City. The Keepers Batman, Batgirl, and Robin allow a player to remove a Creeper from play, but the Commission Gordon card does not. The Bank Keeper card provides a bonus to the player with it in front of him or her, a bonus that makes the card worth taking. The Batcomputer provides bonuses to its owner. The Batcave prevents Surprise cards from being played on its owner. Players can start getting the feel of being Batman as the game progresses, at first stymied by villains before getting ahead of them.
Batman Fluxx combines two franchises well, keeping the flavour of both without either being overwhelmed by the other. The game holds up to replays thanks to the randomness of the cards while not getting dull.
* The exception being the Joel Schumacher helmed 1997 film, Batman & Robin.
** Cthulhu Fluxx includes Ungoals, which, if the conditions are met and the signs are right, end the game as the world is unmade and everyone loses.
Didn’t expect to have a news round up so soon after the last one, but several major announcements came out over the past two weeks too good to sit on. Let’s get to them.
Showtime announces Twin Peaks to return in 2016.
David Lynch is involved through Lynch/Frost Productions. No word on whether the new series is a reboot or a continuation, but will be a limited series, with nine episodes. The big problem with the original series was that the network wanted more even after the mystery was solved. The nine episode limited series will let Lynch tell the story he wants.
Ghostbusters reboot confirmed.
This isn’t the sequel Dan Aykroyd has been pushing for. Paul Reig, director of Bridesmaids and The Heat, will be working on a gender-flipped reboot. Joining Reig is writer Katie Dippold, who has worked on Parks and Recreation and The Heat. Will it work? Depends on audience reception, really. The original Ghostbusters was second only to Beverly Hills Cop in terms of popularity in 1984 and both movies took advantage of music videos to get noticed.
LeCarré’s The Night Manager being turned into a limited BBC series.
John LeCarré’s spy thriller will star Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston in the BBC adaptation. No word on who the actors will play yet.
Lost Sherlock Holmes film turned out to be misclassified.
A 1916 silent film adaptation of Holmes thought lost turned out to be mis-filed by Cinematique Français decades ago. This isn’t the 1914 A Study in Scarlet that the BFI was looking for, as reported last month, but an American film made in Chicago by William Gillette. The BFI is excited over the find. A Study in Scarlet is still being sought.
Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy being adapted.
The three books in the trilogy, Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars, will be adapted for SpikeTV by Vince Geradis, a co-executive producer of A Game of Thrones. Robinson will be on board as consultant.
World Wide Dredd.
A seven-part Judge Dredd web series has been announced by Adi Shankar, producer of 2012’s Dredd. Shankar has been working on a project featuring the Dark Judges. The news follows the Day of Dredd campaign to get a sequel to the 2012 movies done.
The LEGO Movie spin-off announced.
LEGO Batman will be getting his own movie. Will Arnett will return to voice LEGO Batman while Chris McKay, animation supervisor for The LEGO Movie will be the director. Release date is expected to be 2017. I am now wondering how well LEGO Batman will fare compared to Superman vs Batman, and would not be surprised if the LEGO version did better.
Welcome to Lost in Translation’s news round-up, looking at information about upcoming adaptations, remakes, and reboots.
Warner reschedules Batman v Superman – Dawn of Justice
Warner Bros blinked and moved their movie to March 25, 2016, so that it wouldn’t be in direct competition with Marvel’s Captain America 3. That moves the film to outside the summer blockbuster months, but may gain a bit with March Breaks in high schools.
Babylon 5 getting a feature film reboot.
J. Michael Stracysnki has announced that he will be writing the script for the reboot film. JMS was the creator of the TV series, and is hoping to get Warner Bros. to fund the film. If not, then Studio JMS will provide the funding. No other details are known.
John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War becoming TV series Ghost Brigades.
The pilot script is still being developed, but SyFy will be airing the series. Scalzi has a FAQ and an interview with one of the scriptwriters, himself. This is in addition to the Redshirts TV series on FX.
Shazam movie confirmed; Dwayne Johnson has undisclosed role.
Dwayne Johnson may play either Captain Marvel (get it right, CBC!) or Black Adam, but he didn’t say which. However, one of his favourite characters is Black Adam.
Casting announced for Andy Serkis’ Jungle Book.
Benedict Cumberbatch has been named as the voice of Shere Khan in the Warner Bros.’ version of The Jungle Book. This should not be confused with Disney’s remake, which will have Idris Elba as the tiger.
Phineas and Ferb to have Hallowe’en special.
Sure, most of Disney’s properties have Hallowe’en specials. None had Simon Pegg or Nick Frost recreating their roles from Shaun of the Dead until now. The pair will join the rest of the cast from Phineas and Ferb in a so-far undisclosed story. The writing for the cartoon targets the entire family and has been known to throw in references to The Rocky Horror Picture Show in the past.
Power Rangers movie has release date set.
Lionsgate has set June 22, 2016, as the release date for Power Rangers. Now all they need to do is film it. Cast and director have not yet been named.
An Astronaut’s Guide to Life to be adapted for TV.
Canadian astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield, who commanded the International Space Station during Expedition 35, will have his book adapted for television. ABC has picked up the rights and will have Col. Hadfield as a consulting producer on the pilot.
Minority Report in development for TV series.
Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television may be adapting his movie Minority Report, based on the Philip K. Dick short story “The Minority Report”. The series is expected to focus on the PreCrime unit from the movie.
The new year brings new news.
Death Note: The Musical, coming to South Korea in 2015.
The anime /Death Note/ is being turned into a musical with music by Frank Wildhorn (Broadway play Jekyll and Hyde, Whitney Houston’s “Where Do Broken Hearts Go?”) and Jack Murphy. This isn’t the first musical about a serial killer. Sweeney Todd was at one point a ballet.
Warner Bros, Joseph Gordon-Levitt in negotiations for Sandman.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt may star and co-produce the adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. Gordon-Levitt may even direct the feature. David S. Goyer will also be on board as co-producer.
Sweetpea Entertainment moves for partial dismissal of D&D rights case.
Hasbro has been trying to regain the movie rights to Dungeons & Dragons from Sweetpea Entertainment. Sweetpea was responsible for the 2000 movie plus the far better direct-to-DVD sequel and was working on a script based on Chainmail, D&D‘s progenitor game. At issue is who currently holds the movie rights. The original contract required Sweetpea to release a sequel within five years of the original movie, but Hasbro does not count the direct-to-DVD works while Sweetpea does.
Ghost writing and spin-offs; what happens after an author has died.
It’s not a new phenomenon. Now, though, with best sellers and adaptation rights bringing in money to publishers, the desire to continue an author’s series is growing.
Star Wars comic license being given to Marvel
Not that unexpected, considering that Disney owns both Marvel and Lucasfilm. Dark Horse had a great twenty-year run, though, and set a standard that will be difficult to match.
With the changeover, comes the fun of working out continuity.
Lucasfilm’s Leland Chee (@HolocronKeeper on Twitter) heads the group tasked with getting the canon straight. The story group will have to work out how the movies, TV series, comics, books, role-playing games, video games, and toys all work together. Interestingly, West End Games’ Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game is still an influence on Star Wars despite WEG’s bankruptcy in 1998.
Magic: The Gathering being adapted as a movie.
This isn’t as dire as it sounds. As a collectable card game, Magic: The Gathering has a setting that has been developed since 1993, and storylines in each expansion set. As long as Fox, the studio making the movie, can keep the familiar elements and introduce them to people who haven’t played while still keeping fans of the game not-annoyed, the adaptation stands a chance.
The Wonder Woman prequel TV series has been cancelled by the CW. The network left the possibility of a future Wonder Woman series open. It looks more that the CW doesn’t want to botch the series and is being cautious.
Batman finally to be released on DVD.
The Adam West TV series will, at long last, see a DVD release. Warner and Fox have worked out the legal differences over rights. No specific date has been set.
Batman/Superman movie delayed until 2016.
Warner delayed the release of the movie, still untitled, until May 2016. Start of production won’t start until second quarter of this year.
AMC working on Walking Dead spin-off.
The spin-off of the TV series adapted from the comic is slated for a 2015 debut. Robert Kirkman, who created the original comic series, will use the spin-off to expand the world of /The Walking Dead/.
The Final Girls to star Jamie Lee Curtis.
The series will be a drama featuring a group of girls who survived horror stories as the sole survivor. The name comes from the trope where the last character to reach the end credtis of a horror movie is usually the well-behaved girl. Curtis herself played one in Halloween.
Stephen King nervous about reaction to The Shining sequel.
Doctor Sleep follows Danny Torrence after he has grown up. King hopes that people think that the book will be better than The Shining, reflecting the experience he has gained since the original book was published.
A Wrinkle in Time adapted as a graphic novel.
Madeleine L’Engle’s classic children’s novel has been adapted by Hope Larson as a graphic novel.
Star Wars adapted to, wait, Shakespeare? Really?
Verily. In an effort to help students grasp Shakespearean plays, Ian Doescher wrote William Shakespeare’s Star Wars. After Doescher sent in the first act, Lucas Films encouraged him to continue. “True it is, that these are not the droids for which thou search’st.”
Commissioner Gordon to get prequel series.
The announcement came on the same day that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premiered. Fox managed to outbid Warner Bros. TV on the series, which will focus on the time Gordon spent as a detective on the Gotham City Police Department. Bruno Heller, creator of The Mentalist, will helm the show.
Dark Horse announces Firefly/Serenity continuation comic.
Firefly is seeing a resurgence lately, with tabletop RPG, boardgame, and now a new comic. A release date and a writer have both not been set.
Constantine may be developed for NBC.
NBC has ordered a script based on the DC Comics character John Constantine. A pilot has still has yet to be greenlit.
Lost Three Stooges film found!
A copy of the seventeen minute short “Hello, Pop!” has been discovered in a shed in Austrailia. The short was thought to be lost in 1967 in a fire.
Voice work begins on Thunderbirds Are Go!
A remake of the Supermarionation TV series will be a mix of puppetry and CGI. David Graham will reprise the role of Parker, Lady Penelope’s driver. Lady Penelope will be played by Rosamund Pike.
Live action Cruella de Vil movie in works.
Glenn Close, who played the puppy-fur-loving villain in the live action 101 Dalmations and 102 Dalmations is the executive producer of the movie. Disney also has a live action Cinderella in the works.
CBS to adapt The Songs of the Seraphim novels.
Angel Time is in development with author Anne Rice signed on as executive producer. Vampires are not involved.
Rainmaker Entertainment, who bought Mainframe Entertainment, has announced a reboot of the CGI animated series ReBoot. Rainmaker renamed its TV division to Mainframe Entertainment in conjunction with the news on the 20th anniversary of the creation of ReBoot.
There was much rejoicing.
Walter White’s obituary runs in Albuquerque newspaper.
Fans of Breaking Bad paid for an obituary for lead character Walter White after the series finale.
Obsidian Entertainment is hiring.
Obsidian Entertainment is looking for artists, programmers, designers, producers, testers, and interns to seniors.
(Via @ChrisAvellone on Twitter)
How a computer program discovered the author of A Cuckoo’s Calling,
Robert Galbraith was recently outed as the nom de plume of JK Rowling. Patrick Juola describes how his program determined Rowling was, indeed, the author through stylometry.
Ben Affleck: Batman.
Twitter got burning at the news. Reaction is, well, negative is a good, descriptive word. Affleck will play the Dark Knight in a sequel to Man of Steel, expected release date is 2015.
Steve Ballmer retirement date set.
Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer will retire in the next year. This adds a new complexity as Microsoft adjusts from a lukewarm welcome for Windows 8 and the shrinking of the PC market.
Artists, musicians have delayed cognitive reduction.
Along with being creative, artists and musicians can continue to create even with vascular degeneration. Neurologists in Toronto determined that artists and musicians are better protected against diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Bilingual patients showed similar results.