was created by Bob Kane in 1939 as a comic book hero. During his
long career he was featured in the Superman radio series
and in two movie serials produced during World War II. In 1966 the
ABC network decided to produce the first Batman television
series and it became an immediate hit. Initially, the show aired
twice a week. On Wednesdays, Batman and his sidekick Robin would
confront one of their archenemies and would end the episode in horrible
danger, only to save themselves at the beginning of the next episode
on Thursdays. These cliffhangers closely followed the tradition
created by Kane in the comic books.
series also followed the comic books' plot. Bruce Wayne (played
by Adam West) was orphaned in his teens when criminals killed his
parents. He inherited a huge fortune and, obsessed with fighting
the evil-doers who plagued Gotham City, became Batman, the Caped
Crusader. Under his mansion, Batman constructed the Batcave, an
elaborate laboratory used to fight crime. His young ward, Dick Grayson
(played by Burt Ward), also orphaned due to evil-doers, became Robin,
the Boy Wonder, under Batman/Wayne's tutelage. Together they defended
the city against the sick minded criminals that populated the underworld.
The only person who knew their identity was Alfred (Alan Napier),
Wayne's butler who raised Bruce after his parents were killed. In
the Batlab, and at the Batcave, Batman and Robin were helped by
the most advanced technology to fight their enemies. The Police
Commissioner Gordon (Neil Hamilton) could ask Batman for help either
through the use of a searchlight, the Batsignal, or the Batphone,
a direct line between the Police Station and Bruce Wayne's mansion.
To defeat their enemies, Batman and Robin also used the Batmobile,
their utility belts and other Batdevices.
of the series attracted several famous actors and actress to play
the villains. Among the most famous enemies were The Riddler (played
first by Frank Gorshin and then John Astin), The Penguin (Burgess
Meredith), The Joker (Cesar Romero), King Tut (Victor Buono), Egghead
(Vincent Price) and Catwoman (played at different moments by Julie
Newmar, Lee Ann Meriwether, and Eartha Kitt).
incorporated the expressive art and fashion of the period in its
sets and costumes. It also relied excessively on technological gadgetry
transforming the show into a parody of contemporary life. It was
this self-reflexive parody-camp of the comic character that boosted
the ratings of the program to the top ten during its first season.
The show was not to be taken seriously. The acting was intentionally
overdone and the situations extremely contrived. In the fight scenes
animated "Bangs," "Pows," and "Bops" would fill the screen every
time a blow was struck. These characteristics, besides displeasing
the "organized vocal Batman fans," were not enough to save the show
came to television under a massive advertising campaign followed
by heavy merchandising placement. Directed towards adults and children
this campaign reached the millions of dollars (McNeil, 1991). Originally
scheduled to start at the fall of 1966, the show debuted earlier
in the middle of the Spring season. ABC aired Batman on prime-time
from 12 January 1966, to 14 March 1968. By fall 1966, ratings were
already falling. To offset this trend, in the fall season of 1967,
the show was cut to once a week and Batgirl was introduced. This
time she came to save the show from falling ratings and not to protect
Batman and Robin against accusations of a homoerotic relationship,
as was the case for her creation by the comic book writers in the
mid-1950s. Batgirl (Yvonne Craig), the daughter of Commissioner
Gordon and a librarian, fought crime on her own and was many times
paired with the Dynamic Duo. Her debut, however, was not enough
to save the series. The producers tried to spice the plots with
the new sexy heroine, but it did not work and Batman went
off the air in mid-season in the spring of 1968.
1968 CBS produced an animated version of Batman in which
the super Duo shared one hour with Superman (in separated segments).
Even though the program introduced a less camp version of Batman
and Robin, possibly in response to fan criticisms to the prime-time
serial, the program lasted only two seasons. Between February and
September 1977 CBS broadcast an animated version of hero with the
voices of Adam West and Burt Ward. In September of that year, CBS
changed the New Adventures of Batman to The Batman/Tarzan Hour
in which Batman and Tarzan shared one hour back to back, in separated
the fall of 1992 FOX television released a new animated series capitalizing
on publicity for the movie, Batman Returns. This new series
followed the stylistic changes in the comic book hero. The FOX series
earned critical and popular acclaim for its high-quality graphics
and action-packed storylines. Interestingly, as in the two Batman
movies released in the 1990s, this new animated series erased Robin
from the scene, possibly responding to criticisms of the homoerotic
subtext between the two heroes. Originally shown every afternoon,
the FOX series moved to the Saturday morning FOX line-up in the
spring of 1994. At the same time the series also brought Robin back,
possibly responding to the word that a new Batman, film to be released
in 1995, would again include Robin in its plot.
Wayne (Batman}............................. Adam West Dick
Grayson (Robin).................................. Burt Ward
Alfred Pennyworth..................................... Alan
Napier Aunt Harriet Cooper................................
Madge Blake Police Commissioner Gordon..................
Neil Hamilton Chief O'Hara..........................................
Stafford Repp Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) (1967-1968)........
Dozier, Howie Horwitz
............................... Wednesday & Thursday 7:30-8:00 September
1967-March 1968.......... Thursday 7:30-8:00
G. Saturday Morning TV. New York: Arlington House, 1987.
R. and W. Uricchio, Editors. The Many Lives Of Batman: Critical
Approaches To A Superhero And His Media. New York: Routledge,
R. Super Heroes: A Modern Mythology. London: Batsford, 1992.