Monday, May 26, 2014

[Best of Batman] Batman '66 by Jeff Parker volume 1

Batman continues to remain a household name because of all the superheroes from comics, he's the one who gets the most film, television and game adaptations, more so in the last few decades or so. Every era has its own special flavor of Batman. These days our Batman is marked by the Nolan franchise--a proper dark knight who is brooding and always intense; plus the New 52's revamp of this same gritty package by a roster of great writers like Morrison, Snyder, Finch, Fabok, Tomasi, etc. My Batman definitely has to be the nineties version; with Tim Burton's films and their gothic influences as well as Paul Dini's amazing and critically well-received animation series. These are the two distinct Batman flavors I mainly subscribed to.

But there was a spectacular time in the sixties when Batman became a television phenomenon and captured the fancy and affection of children and adults in a way that is uncannily unparalleled to this day. The Adam West and Burt Ward version is all kinds of campy and clean fun and may come off as a dissonant echo to a younger generation, considering its general tone is a mixed bag of patronizing, self-conscious and cheesy exposition, dialogue and performances. I stumbled upon online copies of the episodes about four years ago and I admit that I was so shocked and disgusted by the comedic style of the show that I put it aside just as quickly as I have watched the first four episodes. I came back to it later on with a more nuanced understanding and appreciation of the history and progression of Batman as a pop culture symbol, and finally acquired the taste necessary to embrace this version.

I was therefore very thrilled that DC decided to take this risky venture to bring to the comics pages the sixties version that, although may still have a strong following and demographic, is not the most popular version of the Dark Knight these days. The project could have fallen apart easily but it's a damn good thing it didn't. Now on 35 issues, Batman '66 has flourished well and is still going strong. It's all thanks to the earnest and enjoyable prose that main writer Jeff Parker put into each story, and the illustrations drawn and composed by Jonathan Case, Ty Templeton, Joe Quinones and many others who have brought a freshness and vibrancy to the narrative that truly brings back the nostalgia and quirkiness of the original television series. The first volume collects the five issues of the line-up, and have varying degrees of humor and wacky formulaic storylines that would take anyone back in time when comics are supposed to make you laugh and relax you.

Comics have come a long way, sure, but there is no shame in going back to its simpler roots during its most idyllic times and Batman '66 proves that you can relive the magic and fantasy of your childhood superheroes all over again. This is a magnificent project I'm glad they have pushed through. The sixties version may not be my Batman but it does speak to me in some artistic level; the overall atmosphere and sensibility of this collection has the perfect blend of style and substance. It doesn't take itself too seriously but it also doesn't insult the readers' intelligence. I'm happy to have reviewed the second, third and fourth issues individually last month. And I cannot wait for the next collected editions to come because Batman '66 will always have a place in my bookshelves as well as in my heart.


*With stories infused with a great sense of comedy and ferocious flair, this is a Batman that will baffle, entice and tickle you in all the right ways.

No comments:

Post a Comment