The Legacy of the Batman: Part 3 – Comic Book references in the TV Series

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The death of Thomas and Martha Wayne was first shown in Detective Comics #33, November 1939. But the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents wasn’t something that was properly explored until the 70′s, when various writers attempted to give Batman a sense of inner darkness.

The death of Bruce Wayne’s parents is never shown in the TV Series. However it’s mentioned in a few episodes like the pilot episode ‘‘Hi Diddle Riddle’’ for instance.

In this panel from the same comic the origin of the batsuit was first explained.

The origin of the batsuit would be explained by Commissioner Gordon in Season 1 episode 4 ‘‘Penguin’s A Jinx.’’

“The origin of the bat costume ladies and gentlemen is simple”. “As Batman realized when he set out on his crusade, nothing so strikes terror into the criminal mind as the shape and shadow of a huge bat.”

As for the batsuit itself, the one worn in Adam West’s screen test, was the costume that Batman wore in comics from the mid-40′s to the early 60′s.

But the batsuit worn in the series was the “New Look” costume, which was introduced by Julius Schwartz in Batman #164 “Two-Way Gem Caper!, 1964.”

The TV Series is often credited for the solution to any problem take on Batman’s utility belt. But this is something that originated from the comics, because Batman’s utility belt initially was just a regular belt that didn’t have much significance, but in Detective Comics #29, the use of Batman’s utility belt was revised, when he used it to carry some choking pellets that he needed on a case. From then onwards the importance of the utility belt grew, as it would be used to contain whatever appropriate item that Batman needed for his current mission.

Some people have said that Batman does not do enough detective work in the series, but he does a lot of detective work in the Zelda The Great episodes. Yet those episodes are considered by some to be the most “boring” episodes of the first season.

In the comics Batman is very knowledgeable in the field of chemistry, and Adam West’s Batman on a handful of occasions is also shown to know a thing or two about chemistry.

And similar to how Batman’s tremendous willpower is tested in the comics, the willpower of West’s Batman is also greatly tested as well.

In some comics Batman is referred to as “The Batman” to make him sound more ominous and menacing. This aspect of the character was influenced by the 1930′s pulp magazine character The Shadow, who was one of the main influences in the creation of Batman. In reference to this, Batman in some episodes of the series is also referred to as “The Batman.”

And like Batman in the earlier comics, Adam West’s Batman on occasions would use his shadow to instill fear in villains. This was something that Batman creator Bob Kane had requested for him to do.

Batman fans who have grown accustomed to Batman’s dark brooding demeanor have often criticized Adam West’s Batman for his jovial demeanor. But the dark brooding portrayals of Batman didn’t really come around until the 70′s, so Adam West’s Batman who can sometimes be seen smiling and is known for saying things that are considered to be funny is actually true to how Batman was being portrayed in the comics.

Adam West (On exploring the character’s wilder side): Oh yes. But not with our Batman. It would have violated the tenor – or as you put it – the tone of the show. I think our Batman had to be fun, light-hearted, funny, tongue-in-cheekand I think that made kind of an homage to those earlier comic books, where Batman always had a quip or something. (Den of Geek June 2008)

Adam West’s comments in the above interview do not only apply to the period of Batman’s history when he became more of a lighter character, it also applies to a few of the first issues of Detective Comics when Batman was still being written as a grim avenger of the night. Batman in some of those issues could not only be seen smiling on occasions, he could also be seen making a few jokes as well.

And despite what some people may think about Adam West’s Batman being a deputized officer of the law, it was also true to the comics because Batman in the early issues of Detective Comics was a murderous vigilante who worked outside of the law. This was yet another aspect of the character that was influenced by pulp magazine characters like The Shadow.

But this characterization of him soon changed in an attempt by DC to protect Batman and its other characters from attacks by critics. So DC Comics editor Whitney Ellsworth promised that Batman would never kill or use a gun again. This lead to the introduction of Batman’s now infamous no killing rule. However, writers were allowed to ignore Batman’s no killing rule from time to time. But unlike before when Batman was written as a vigilante who worked outside of the law, he now had to work within the law as he had been turned into a deputized officer of the law.

With Batman now working with the police, they needed a way to contact him if things went wrong which happened more often than not. So the bat-signal was introduced in Detective Comics #60 (February, 1942), and was the primary way of getting Batman’s attention. But during the “New Look” era this all changed when the bat-signal was replaced by the hotline phone. This change is obviously reflected in the TV series as the main method of contacting Batman was via the hotline phone.

However the Bat-Signal is still used in a handful of episodes as well as in Batman: The Movie.

During this period Batman’s image as a creature of the night was being phased out, because he was turned into a friendly, open, polite, public law-abiding citizen; who would mostly appear in broad daylight, who would teach criminology at Gotham University, and who was someone that had a very strict moral code about what was right and what was wrong, etc.

Even though Batman in the comics and Adam West’s Batman were deputized officers of the law, there were times when they didn’t have the support of the general public and even Commissioner Gordon himself.

And while the TV series has been called stupid for the absurd situations that it put Batman in, it actually draws from the inherent absurdity that could be found in comics. It might not have been how Bob Kane had originally intended to portray the character, but the idea of Batman taking part in public events had been used on a number of occasions.

And the idea of strange transformations for Batman was used on a few occasions in the series, but Batman in 50′s and 60′s comics wasn’t exactly a stranger to strange transformations either.

The show’s dialogue which has been called cheesy or corny, is no less cornier or cheesier than some of the humor that be could be found in the comics.

And certain elements of dialogue (like Robin saying Golly Batman\Gosh Batman, and Batman calling Robin chum) were taken from the comics.

As for the bat prefix it existed in the comics in many different forms. And referred to his vehicles such as the Bat-Tank, his allies like Ace the Bat-Hound and Mogo the Bat-Ape, as well as some of his gadgets like the Bat-Signal, and his transformations into things like a Bat-Baby and a Bat-Merman.

So when William Dozier and company came up with such things as a Bat-zooka, an Alphabet Soup Bat-Container, Bat-shark repellent, etc, they were acknowledging something that had already been appearing in the comics.

The show’s extensive labeling of items was seen by some to be an unnecessary addition to the show, but it was something that was done not only by the TV Series, as comic stories would use what’s called an expo label to explain or highlight things that the reader could clearly see for themselves.

And although the series is generally regarded as being a good lighthearted adaption, it sometimes crossed the line with what is acceptable. Like in “Batman Displays His Knowledge” when Batman tells Catwoman that she has a quality that’s rare in women, to which Catwoman replies what’s that Batman?, Batman replies you’re ready on time.

In “The Ogg Couple” after saving Batgirl Batman tells her that perhaps crime fighting is better left to the men, because this isn’t exactly women’s work. And in “Nora Clavicle and The Ladies Crime Club” female rights crusader Nora Clavicle takes over Gotham City with a bunch of female officers who are armed with rolling pins instead of truncheons. This is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of some of the sexism that can be found in this episode.

But some women in comics weren’t portrayed much better either. As they were generally portrayed in a manner which made them look annoying, inferior, vain, etc.

Bruce Wayne
In some episodes members of the public are seen complaining about how Bruce Wayne is nothing more than a disconnected playboy. This is in line with the comics as Bruce Wayne is portrayed as a disconnected playboy.

And like Bruce Wayne in the comics, Adam West’s Bruce Wayne uses this to his advantage by making people think that he isn’t Batman. But because he uses his vast resources as the head of Wayne Foundation to help out those who need it most.

Some people naturally work out that he is Batman, because they narrow it down to who could possibly be Batman. And Bruce Wayne tops that list as his height and physique obviously matches that of Batman’s, and he also has the money that would be needed to fund a career in crime fighting. But just as Bruce Wayne does in the comics he protects his secret identity. By convincing people into thinking that while he may not be Batman, Batman is a very close personal friend of his.

However some characters in both the comics and TV series manage to work out that this is far from the truth. But these characters are either convinced otherwise, made to forget after suffering amnesia, etc.

With that said there are occasions in both the comics and series when Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson have to go undercover to investigate locations that they couldn’t possibly go into while being dressed as Batman and Robin.

This has led to people saying that Adam West never really changed his voice when playing Bruce Wayne or Batman, but in pre-crisis comics Batman’s voice was described as being calm and masterful which is exactly how Adam West sounded as Batman.

Over the years though Adam West has been mocked for his physique when playing Batman. As many observers of the series have said that he didn’t bother to get in shape for the role. But it was actually the bat costume that was making him appear this way.

The problem was, the waistband of the tights was designed to stop-your-breathing tight, to keep them wrinkle-free as I moved. Anything covered with skin cells was going to spill over, especially after lunch. The Newsweek article was typical of the media seeing “camp”-an out-of-shape Batman-where there wasn’t any. (Adam West on being called a flabby travesty of muscle beach by Newsweek, Adam West back to the Batcave)

Because Adam West’s 20th Century Fox press bio suggests that he was in better shape than people have given him credit for as he is described as having an athletic build.

“He is personable, tall, with an athlete’s physique, a warm voice, expressive green eyes and a conversational style very much his own.” (Adam West’s 20th Century Fox press bio)

It may not appear that way to some people, but depending on the artist, Batman in some comics from the 40′s, 50′s, and the early 60′s, is drawn with a physique that wasn’t too different to Adam West’s. And at 6’2 Adam West is also the only actor to match Bruce Wayne’s actual height in the comics.

Wayne Manor
The Batcave in the TV Series is located underneath Wayne Manor, much like how it is in most interpretations of the character. And it could be accessed through entry into Bruce Wayne’s private study room.

But while the main way of getting into the Batcave in the TV Series was by sliding down the bat poles, it could also be entered via a service elevator like the Batcave in the comics at the time of the series. Also like the Batcave in the comics at the time of the series, the TV Series Batcave has a computerized crime file, an area for Batman’s laboratory, and a turntable for the Batmobile.

Batmobile
Speaking of the Batmobile, the first Batmobile with any kind of bat features on it appeared in Batman #5. Interestingly it’s this Batmobile that Bob Kane wanted the TV Series Batmobile to be modelled after, but George Barris decided to modernize the look of the car by incorporating the bat features into the car instead.

The focus on features of the TV Series Batmobile, like the focus on features of the Batmobile in the comics then varied from story to story to fit the requirements of what it needed to do for each story.

Robin\Dick Grayson
While Burt Ward has often criticized for the level of enthusiasm that he shows as Robin, he apparently was told by William Dozier not to act, but to just be himself since he already fit Dozier’s vision of what Robin would be like if he were to exist in real life.

And while a lot of people point out the amount of times that Robin was captured in the series, Robin in the comics was also captured quite often as well. As it was believed that it added suspense to Batman stories.

In the final episode of the series Minerva mistakenly refers to Robin as Batman’s son. Which might seem stupid to some people, but Robin in the comics had often been described as being somewhat of a son to Batman. Because of this kidnapping or harming Robin in either the comics or the TV Series brought out the worst in Batman.

But Burt Ward’s Robin is far from useless, as he often comes up with the answers to Riddler’s Riddles, and he also helps Adam’s Batman to solve cases in a way that is very similar to how Robin helped Batman to work out clues to crimes in the comics.

Holy Cats, Holy Smoke, and Holy Smokes, all started off as commonly used expressions for surprise in comics. But it seems that after a while they soon became things that only Robin would say. Because Robin in 40′s, 50s, and 60′s comics can be seen saying either or all of the aforementioned things.

William Dozier and Co obviously took notice of this. As they expanded his holy sayings for the TV Series with over 300 different variations.

Alfred
In both the comics and TV series Alfred proved on many occasions that he was so much more than just a butler, as he at times is called upon to impersonate Batman. Or he even (as himself) has to step in as an extra in the-field crime fighter. This doesn’t come as too much of a surprise as Alfred in the comics had previously fought in the war, so it’s understandable that he would be able to take care of himself when called into action. In a possible connection to this Alfred in the episode “Hot Off the Griddle” makes a reference to the fact that he once fought in the war.

Aunt Harriet
In Detective Comics #351, 1966 Dick Grayson’s Aunt Harriet Cooper, who was somewhat of an amateur detective deduced the secret identities of Batman and Robin, after stumbling across the elevator leading to the batcave.

But Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson managed to convince her that they’re not Batman and Robin. By telling her that the batcave is underneath Wayne Manor because they’re good friends with Batman and Robin.

In comparison Aunt Harriet in the TV Series was pretty clueless. As she never suspected a thing. So the only way that she would have discovered their secret identities is by entering Bruce Wayne’s private study room. (Which was the location of the hotline phone and the sliding bookcase entrance to the Batcave.) But she was never allowed in Bruce Wayne’s private study room. Though despite not being allowed in the room she came close to entering it on a few occasions.

But she was always prevented from entering the room in some way. However in ‘‘That Darn Catwoman’’ she finally asks why she isn’t allowed in Bruce Wayne’s private study room. To which Alfred replies because it’s Bruce’s way of retreating from the opposite sex.

Commissioner Gordon
Later interpretations of the character gets more involved with police work, but Commissioner Gordon in Golden and Silver Age comics did his work at the office. Which is exactly how he was portrayed by Neil Hamilton.

And much like how he is written in the comics Commissioner Gordon in the TV Series is also unaware that Bruce Wayne is Batman, so Bruce Wayne in the TV Series is able to maintain a close friendship with Commissioner Gordon in the same way that Bruce Wayne does in the comics.

Green Hornet and Kato (Visiting Heroes)
Despite not being owned by DC Comics the Radio, Movie Serial, and Comic Book stars Green Hornet and Kato were used in the series, because William Dozier had also acquired the rights to produce the Green Hornet TV Series. And since the Green Hornet and Kato hadn’t had a comic book series in years, Gold Key Comics acquired the rights to publish a Green Hornet comic that was being based on the Green Hornet TV series. Nowadays though the comic book publishing rights for Green Hornet and Kato are owned by Dynamite Entertainment, so the episodes “A Piece of the Action” and “Batman’s Satisfaction,” are equivalent to company crossover stories that are seen in the comics.

Batgirl\Barbara Gordon
Barbara Gordon is a librarian and Commissioner Gordon’s daughter in both the comics and TV Series. And she is a red head in both the comics and TV Series as well. Although in the comics she is a natural red head. In the TV series she was a brunette who wore a red wig as Batgirl.

In the comics she underwent a tantalizing transformation from Barbara Gordon to Batgirl, from a closet in gotham library that was turned into a dressing room. This idea was never used in the TV Series, because she undergoes her transformation from her apartment instead. But the idea was used in the network presentation that convinced ABC to add Batgirl to the show for a third season.

Though it may seem silly that Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson were unaware that Barbara Gordon was Batgirl, and that she was unaware that they were Batman and Robin, it was in line with what was going on in the comics at the time. As Bruce and Dick hadn’t found out that Barbarba Gordon was Batgirl, and she hadn’t found out that they were Batman and Robin in the comics yet either.

The vanishing act was something that Batman first did in “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,”(Detective Comics #27, November 1939), and it’s something that’s most commonly associated with the character today. But it’s one of the few earlier character traits that was never performed by Adam West’s Batman. But the vanishing act was something that Batgirl did throughout Season 3.

Gotham City
After the 1941 editorial policy had kicked in, Gotham City wasn’t presented as being as nasty of a place as it had once been. But crimes were still being committed in it, which is why Gotham still needed Batman because the GCPD couldn’t be relied on as they were pretty much useless. This is exactly how Gotham City is presented in the TV Series. But even though Gotham was presented as generally being a nice place in both the comics and TV series, some characters were actually still killed off from time to time. And whenever death wasn’t used in comic stories or episodes of the series it was referenced instead.

Joker
Although Cesar Romero refused to shave off his mustache which he always had throughout his career, his portrayal of the Joker reflected what the character was like in the comics. Because Joker had been noticeably softened since his first appearance in Batman #1, this was as a result of editors and creators reacting to the public outcry to violence in comics. So by the time the 50′s and 60′s rolled around the character had essentially become a goofy prankster with no homicidal tendencies.

Penguin
Burgess Meredith took everything that the Penguin was known for in the comics. Like his habit of smoking, his variety of trick umbrellas, his love of birds, and really brought the character to life. But a lesser known fact is that he also tapped into the character’s tendency to pretend that he was a reformed criminal.

Catwoman
Julie Newmar tapped into several aspects of the character in that she did all of the things that Catwoman was known to do in the comics. For instance she (as well as the other catwomen) used cat pun dialogue like Catwoman in the comics had done, she at times wielded at a cat o’ nine tails which was Catwoman’s weapon of choice in the comics, she also touched upon the character’s tendency to somehow survive certain death situations. And finally, she had that complex relationship with Batman, where they both had feelings for each other but they could never be together as they were on opposite sides of the law.

This aspect of Catwoman’s relationship with Batman in season 2 of the series was going to lead to a storyline where Catwoman would force Batman to marry her. However, when Eartha Kitt had taken on the role in Season 3 of the series, This plan was dropped due to possible racial controversy. But what’s interesting about this is that in the same month that Eartha Kitt had taken on the role of Catwoman, Catwoman in the comics had also been trying to force Batman to marry her.

There is a difference though, as Catwoman in the comics thought that Batgirl had a romantic interest in Batman, which is why she was treating her so harshly in “Catwoman Sets Her Claws For Batman” (Batman #197, December, 1967). Whereas Batgirl in the TV series did have a romantic interest in Batman. But Eartha Kitt’s Catwoman wasn’t in the least bit interested in Batman. But she did have a rivalry with Batgirl which started when she took offense to the fact that Batgirl was given an award for being the best dressed woman in Gotham City.

Riddler
Frank Gorshin did a very good job portraying the Riddler’s obsession with trying to outwit people with his riddles. His performance in episode 24 “Give Em the Axe,” is a perfect example of how seriously Riddler’s need to leave a riddle behind after every crime was taken.

Moth (Riddler’s Moll): Why take time for that? Riddler: Looking visibly upset at this stupid question he replies, A crime is no fun without riddles. I’ll have you know that’s the main reason I took up this crime game.

Frank Gorshin even looked like Riddler from the comics as well.

But even though John Astin has often been criticized for his calmer portrayal of the Riddler. It’s his performance that was more in line with how the Riddler had been portrayed in the comics. Because observers of the series are more used to seeing Frank Gorshin’s Riddler who had a tendency to switch from manic laughter to grim seriousness. But this aspect of Gorshin’s portrayal of the Riddler has been said to be more like a character trait of Joker’s. As the switch from manic laughter to grim seriousness is something that is more commonly associated with the Joker than it is the Riddler.

Mr. Zero (Who was re-named Mr. Freeze for the series)
Otto Preminger the second Mr. Freeze’s default appearance matched Mr. Zero’s look in the comics.

But George Sanders the first actor to play Mr. Freeze in the series, actually portrayed Mr. Freeze in a way that was similar to how Mr. Zero was written in the comics. Which isn’t a surprise as the George Sanders episodes draw from “The Ice Crimes of Mr. Zero” (Batman #121 February, 1959), which was Mr. Zero’s only appearance in the comics prior to the series.

Mad Hatter
There were two versions of Mad Hatter in the comics. Both of whom had completely different motivations. Though the one thing they had in common was that they both had an obsession with collecting headwear. With that said David Wayne’s appearance and personality were based on the 2nd version of the character, who wasn’t interested in having an Alice like the first version of the character was. Instead he was only interested in collecting hats of all shapes and sizes from all over the world, but the one hat that he most desired to add to his collection was Batman’s Cowl.

Eivol Ekdal
Eivol Ekdal the inventor who tested Batman’s ability to escape traps in the “Zelda The Great” and “A Death Worse Than Fate” episodes was actually a villain from the comics. In fact his only appearance in the comics prior to the series took place in “Batman’s Inescapable Doom-Trap!” from Detective Comics #346.

False Face
In the comics False Face mimicked the appearances and personality traits of wealthy people. However when he was unmasked and his real face was revealed, we learned that he was white haired and toothless.

In the TV Series False Face also mimicked the appearances and personality traits of people, but he was never unmasked and Malachi Throne who played the character wasn’t even credited for the role until the credits of the second episode.

Clock King
Walter Slezak’s portrayal of Clock King was an amalgamation of two clock themed characters from the comics. His appearance and personality were characteristics that were taken from a villain called The Clockmaster, who had a clock symbol on his tie, a will to use trick clocks to announce his crimes, and a desire to never participate in fights as he preferred to let his henchmen battle on his behalf. And the idea for the giant hourglass deathtrap and clock tower with moving figures was first used by the Green Arrow villain Clock King in Worlds Finest Comics #111, August 1960.

This next part is where the Comic Book and TV Series comparisons get tricky, because some of the created for TV characters like Bookworm, Archer, Puzzler, Sandman, and Siren, all have namesakes in the comics. So the writers of the TV Series were either thinking of the characters that were already existing in the comics when they decided to use similar names for some of the villains in the show, or they may have just used similar names to pre-existing characters in the comics. Whilst creating their own characters that were completely unique to the show.

The idea for each villain on the show to have henchmen with them was an idea that originated in the comics.

William Dozier’s narration for the series is comparable to the narration that can be found in comic stories.

The tilted camera angles weren’t just used to show that a villain was crooked. They were also capturing the way that some comic book artists drew comics.

The bright colors that were seen on the show were an attempt to mimic the vivid color combinations that are used in comics.

Some of the concepts for the created for TV villains had similarities to things that were previously done in the comics. In the TV Series it’s said that William Ohama McElroy the professor of yale university became King Tut after being hit on the head with a rock, and the idea of a person becoming a villain after being hit on the head with a heavy object was previously used in “The House of Batman” (Batman #102 September, 1956). And the idea of a villain using an Egyptian motif was used in “The Fox, The Shark, and The Vulture” (Detective Comics #253 March, 1958).

The comic book sound effects seen mostly during the fight scenes was reminiscent of the comic book sound lettering which had always been a part of comics.

The giant deathtraps and props seen on the show can be traced back to comics as well, because they were a frequent part of Batman stories in Golden Age and Silver Age comics.

Episodes that feature a cliffhanger can be compared to comic stories that carry over into other issues, while episodes that don’t feature a cliffhanger can be compared to comic stories that are finished in a single issue.

The miraculous escapes that were often used on the show, are very much like comic book Batman’s narrow escapes from certain death.

And the formulaic idea of Gotham’s villains being sent to the Gotham State Penitentiary, only for them to repeatedly break out of it was also an idea that comes from the comics.

On a final note the uncredited Batman co-creator Bill Finger was offered the chance to be a consultant for the series in Season 1. But for whatever reason he turned the role down. However, he co-wrote The Clock King episodes in Season 2 of the series, and he did contribute many of the things that I have mentioned in this entry.

DISCUSS

Sources: SuperHeroHype forum users theMan-Bat and The Joker, dialbforblog.com, www.batmantelevisionseries.com, Bob Kane to Wiliam Dozier, November 29th 1965, box 6, Coll. 06851, William Dozier’s Papers, American Heritage Center,  Adam West’s 2008 Den of Geek interview, Comics101.com, The 1966 Batman Message Boards, Batman-Online.com, Adam West: Back to the Batcave, tvtropes.org, Mark Bennett’s Blueprint of the Batcave, TerryMC from comicvine.com, The Interactive Batmobile Featurette, ozandends.blogspot.co.uk, Cinefantastique’s February 1994, special commemorative Batman issue, 2001 Batman Featurette, holysmokesbatman.com, Caped Crusaders: A Heroes Tribute Featurette, The Unaired Batgirl Pilot, Joel Eisner’s Official Batbook: The Revised Edition, Adam West Naked!, The Will Shriner Batman Reunion, Icons of the American Comic Book, Gotham City’s Most Wanted Featurette, The Riddler’s Interactive Arkham Asylum Profile, disk 4 Batman: The Animated Series Volume 4, dc.wikia.com,


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