With this edition of The Legacy of the Batman, take a close look at the influence of the Batman comics of the time on the world and style of the TV Batman’s movie outing.
Like the TV Series, this movie not only draws from Golden Age and Silver Age comics; it is also in line with what would be done in those comics.
For instance the opening scene in the movie is true to the comics, as Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson would often travel around in roadsters.
The Batmobile hotline which Robin is seen using when he and Batman were on their way to the airport had been incorporated into the comics around the same time that the hotline phone in the Batcave was introduced.
The Batcopter that Batman and Robin board at an airfield shares a few elements with two previous air vehicles that Batman used in the comics.
• The Batgyro, which first appeared in ‘Batman Versus the Vampire’ (Detective Comics #31, September 1939)
• The “New Look” Batcopter, which first appeared in ‘The Outsider Strikes Again!’ (Detective Comics #340, June 1965)
While this wasn’t always the case the public being greatly appreciative of Batman and Robin in the TV Series was similar to how their counterparts were treated in the comics.
Similar to how Robin controls the Batcopter in the movie, Robin in the comics was also capable of piloting the Batcopter when similar situations arose.
Before the existence of this movie Batman had tangled with a shark in “Blackbeard’s Crew and the Yacht Society” (Batman #4, Winter 1940).
And while people have always believed that the shark repellent originated from this movie its use in the comics predates this movie by eight years. It was first used in a story called “Manhunt in Outer Space” (Batman #117, August 1958) written by Arnold Drake.
In another example that displays Robin’s knowledge of piloting the Batcopter, he sets the Batcopter on autopilot as he descends the ladder with the can of shark repellent in hand.
The press conference that happens hours after the shark attack is held in Commissioner Gordon’s office much like they were also done in the comics.
Commissioner Gordon, referring to Batman and Robin as fully deputized officers of the law is a reference to Golden Age (c. 1938 — c. 1950) and Silver Age comics (1956 — c. 1970) in which Batman was written as a deputized officer of the law.
This characterization of Batman began with the story “The People vs. the Batman” (Batman #7, November 1941).
And although he did temporarily lose this status in “Commissioner Gordon Walks a Beat” (Detective Comics #121 March, 1947).
Batman didn’t actually lose his deputized status until the Modern Age of comics (c.1985-Present), because some writers in the Bronze Age of comics (c.1970 — c.1985) were still writing him as a deputized officer of the law. His status as a deputized officer of the law wasn’t completely retconned from continuity until DC Comics reality altering event Crisis on Infinite Earths. Nowadays, though Batman is presented as a vigilante who works with Commissioner Gordon, despite not having the support from the rest of the Gotham City Police Department.
Considering how much Penguin was calling the shots in this movie, it wouldn’t surprise me if the idea of hijacking Commodore Schmidlapp’s yacht was his, which would make this a reference to The Blackbird of Banditry!’ (Batman #43, October 1947) in which the idea of Penguin hijacking a ship is also used.
Joker’s Joy Buzzer was previously used in the series in the episodes “The Joker Goes to School” and “He Meets His Match The Grisly Ghoul.” It was also used in “The Joker is Wild” and “Batman is Riled” which were based on “The Joker’s Utility Belt” (Batman #73, October, 1952).
The cat that Catwoman sicced on them to show them that despite calling themselves the united underworld they were not very united at all, is a nod to Catwoman’s cat in the comics, because Catwoman’s cat in this movie much like her cat in the comics is called Hecate.
Penguin’s submarine is visually similar to Penguin’s blimp which first appeared in ‘The Blackbird of Banditry!’ (Batman #43, October 1947), and was then used on several other occasions in Golden Age and Silver Age comics.
In the early 40’s Batman was one of many comic book characters that was featured in stories that used elements from World War II. So the use of real life Cold War elements such as Polaris Missiles, War Surplus Submarines, among other things that are used in this movie was in line with what had previously been done in the comics.
Although he didn’t appear in too many comics before the series in the ones that he did The Riddler often relayed his riddles in highly visible locations. So the scene in this movie is faithful to the comics.
The Bruce Wayne and Miss Kitka date is similar to a date that Bruce Wayne and Elva Barr had in ‘Your Face is Your Fortune’ (Batman #15, February 1943). Though a major difference is that Elva Barr was genuinely attracted to Bruce Wayne whereas Miss Kitka was trying to lure Bruce Wayne into a trap.
Alfred in the comics would sometimes disguise himself when he was out with Batman and Robin so that he wouldn’t be recognized as Bruce Wayne’s butler. This is reflected by Alfred’s disguise in this movie.
While the hotline phone and the bat-signal are both used in this movie and in the series. The hotline phone in the comics and in the series was the preferred means of communication between Batman and Commissioner Gordon. It was supposed to mimic a similar hotline that connected the president of the United States to the premier of U.S.S.R.
Robin turning off the micro-bat scanner when Bruce Wayne and Miss Kitka are engaging in facial inspections highlights the innocence of the character. In the comics Robin or Dick Grayson would sometimes turn away whenever Batman or Bruce Wayne was kissing a woman.
In the initial script the united underworld used back mounted jet-pack umbrellas to kidnap Bruce Wayne and Miss Kitka. This idea may have been inspired by the cover of “The Menace of the Giant Birds” (Detective Comics #171, May 1951) which Penguin is seen using a back mounted jet-pack umbrella on.
But in the movie the united underworld kidnaps Bruce Wayne and Miss Kitka. Whilst riding on jet umbrellas which originated from Batman #169 “Partners in Plunder.”
The Joker’s Jack in the Box which one of Penguin’s henchmen was knocked onto in a fight with Bruce Wayne was one of The Joker’s trademark gadgets from the comics.
The henchman that was launched out of Penguin’s hideout after landing on The Joker’s Jack in the Box landed in the waiting arms of Penguin’s Exploding Octopus. This idea wasn’t included in the initial script, in the initial script, it was actually a Giant Exploding Umbrella that was used instead. But the Giant Umbrella that would’ve been used for this scene had been destroyed after the episodes “Fine Feathered Finks” and “Penguin A Jinx.” Which, as I mentioned earlier were based on Batman #169 “Partners in Plunder.”
The producers of the series decided to go with Penguin’s Exploding Octopus, which saved money as it was never shown on screen, but it wouldn’t be the first time that Batman and Robin had been thrown into a death trap with an octopus. Although the one in ‘The Island of 1,000 Traps’ (Batman #139, April 1961) wasn’t an exploidable one like the one in this movie is.
Since the references in this entry focuses on things that were in the comics prior to this movie, or things that were in line with what would be done in the comics, this example falls in the latter category. I wasn’t able to find any examples of villains dehydrating people in Batman or Detective Comics, but the movies’ screenwriter Lorenzo Semple, Jr. believes that the idea of dehydrating people was in the style of the comics.
The dehydration effect is incredibly primitive by today’s standards, because it was before morphing on a cgi computer, so you just have a silly light and you cut to a pile of stuff on the floor. It’s funny for that reason alone I can assure you I wasn’t in on this production stuff, but I’m sure that if people could’ve thought of something more elaborate, and they could’ve done it they would’ve. But it is in the style of the comic book. (Commentary Track by Screenwriter Lorenzo Semple, Jnr – The Special Edition Blu-ray of Batman: The Movie)
As goofy as it may have looked the Bat-climb was true to the comics, the grapnel hook that Batman uses in later interpretations hadn’t been incorporated into the comics yet. Therefore, Batman would get around by hooking his silken rope onto something and would then climb onto\or up a building.
We are more used to seeing Batman as a serious crime-fighter, so the idea of seeing him running around with a bomb will seem rather silly to most of us. But even in the comics during the “New Look” era, Batman was still being written in stories that included fantastical elements. For example, in Detective Comics #339, May 1965, Batman had to hold a man that had been turned into a gorilla over his head for as long as possible, just so that he could deactivate a bomb that was strapped to the body of this man that had been turned into a gorilla.
This movie has taken some criticism for the fact that Batman willingly takes Penguin dressed as Commodore Schmidlapp to the Batcave. While the circumstances are different Bruce Wayne shows Barney Barrows the Batcave in “The Mental Giant of Gotham City” (Detective Comics #217, March 1955) though he did it reluctantly. Whereas Batman in this movie does it in hope that Penguin would lead him to the location of the villain’s new hideout.
Penguin used this opportunity to smuggle his henchmen into the Batcave. In comparison to this the idea of a villain getting into the Batcave through unauthorized means was also used in the comics. In “The Thousand and One Trophies of Batman” (Detective Comics 158, April 1950) A villain called Dr. Doom hid in a sarcophagus that was taken back to the Batcave.
Penguin’s gas umbrella that was used on Batman and Robin, prior to the Penguin’s theft of the Batmobile, was just one of the many trick umbrellas from the comics that he would use over the course of the series.
The original Batcycle in the comics came with a sidecar, just like the Batcycle’s that were used in the TV Series and this movie do.
Batman running through the streets of Gotham City during rush hour maybe a tongue in cheek reference to the absurdity of Batman of appearing in broad daylight. Even in the “New Look” era Batman at times was still appearing in broad daylight.
It’s often pointed out that The Joker and Penguin in the comics are never seen wearing domino masks. So people have often been critical of the fact that they wear domino masks in this movie and in the series at times, but in some comics The Joker and Penguin would wear paper thin disguises that simply consisted of a pair of glasses.
The Dynamic Duo’s relentless pursuit of the United Underworld, culminates in a battle on the deck of a submarine, like the battle that their comic counterparts had with Tiger Shark in ‘Tiger Shark’ (Detective Comics #147, May 1949).
In Season 1 and in this movie the comic book sound effects are superimposed over or next to the action, which is similar to how they were presented in the comics. In the second and third seasons, they were created on different colored backgrounds and edited into the film instead. The reason for this is that it was cheaper to edit them into the film instead.
Nowadays The Joker would use any underhanded tactic that he could to gain the upper hand in a fight, but back in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, he was nothing special in hand to hand combat.
This unorthodox duel between Penguin and Batman is yet another element taken from “The Blackbird of Banditry!” (Batman #43 October, 1947).
The scene where Batman and Robin are seen separating the dehydrated world leaders is one of the few scenes over the course of the series that actually makes use of the laboratory section of the Batcave.
At the end of the movie the credits first say “The End,” and then says “The Living End…..?.” Which indicates that the story is not quite finished, so the ending to this movie is equivalent to comic stories that end with a cliffhanger.
Sources: Comic Influences on Batman: The Movie (1966) By Silver Nemesis from Batman-Online.com, Joshua Saiewitz’s Review of Batman #8, December 1941 – batmancompletion.blogspot.co.uk, theMan-Bat from SuperHeroHype.com, Golden and Silver Age of Comics Wikipedia Pages, Joshua Saiewitz’s Review of Batman #7, November 1941 – batmancompletion.blogspot.co.uk, Golden Age Batman Character Profile – batmanytb.com, Bronze and Modern Age of Comics Wikipedia Pages,
Superherohype.com user Kurosawa’s posts in the Frank Miller’s Holy Terror thread, Michael Uslan’s forword for Batman: The Dynamic Duo Archives 2, Moscow–Washington hotline Wikipedia Page, Commentary Track by Actors Adam West and Burt Ward The Special Edition Blu-ray of Batman: The Movie, Tone – The Wikipedia Page of Batman: The Movie, Batman 15 – Catwoman’s beauty parlour, Batman fights Nazis, and Commissioner Gordon’s portrait – babblingsaboutdccomics4.wordpress.com,
Alfred’s Profile from the Caped Crusaders: A Heroes Tribute Featurette – The Special Edition Blu-ray of Batman: The Movie, Batman: The Movie – Joel Eisner’s Official Batbook: The Revised Edition, Commentary Track by Screenwriter Lorenzo Semple, Jnr – The Special Edition Blu-ray of Batman: The Movie, The Joker from SuperHeroHype.com, Paper Thin Disguise / Comic Books – tvtropes.org, The tvtropes.org pages for Batman: The Movie, The End… Or Is It?, Freaky Friday Flip, and Ironic Echo.
I would also like to thank 66batman.com user Andy Fish who provided me with a copy of Batman #130, March 1960- “Batman’s Deadly Birthday.