Who is Batman? Is he the troubled hero from the darker versions on the big screen? Is he the haplessly corny character from the Saturday morning Justice League cartoons? Sure there are a few hardcore fans who can go back to the late 30’s pulp detective era comics of the gun toting noir vigilante and claim that version since it was the original. But to many, the mainstream popularity really hit fandom when Adam West donned the tights and cowl, pulling the character straight from the faded pages of the comics to our living rooms.
There were other superheroes on the screen at the time, but most of them were relegated cartoons and comic strips. When it came to live action, West and his cast mate Burt Ward made campy comedy tolerable, believable and even kinda cool.
Then, when television producers discovered the benefits of crossing over storylines, new fans were established because viewers familiar with one may not have been familiar with the other until they were forcibly introduced via the plot cross-over. The Batman series did this with the Green Hornet series on the ABC network in March of 1967 when the caped crusader was joined by Van Williams and Bruce lee for two linked episodes, A Piece of the Action and Batman’s Satisfaction.
Jump ahead a mere 47 years later and the foursome are once again pressed into collaboration. However, this time they are back on the pages of paper comics* and this fusion of the foursome is just as entertaining. In a six issue series published under a collaboration between DC Comics and Dynamite Entertainment, our childhood is revived once more a much more vibrant presentation than we were used to in the older comics. Written by Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman with artwork by Ty Templeton and lettering by Wes Abbott, fans of the television series will not be disappointed.
The Batman 66 series follows new adventures set in the previous world of the 66’-68’ television series. Batman 66’ Meets the Green Hornet begins where the television cross-over episodes left off. We all know that the dynamic duo are loyal citizens, but only the audience knows that the Green Hornet and his partner Kato are vigilant defenders of justice only disguised as criminals. As both sets of super heroes do battle with classic villains like Admiral (formerly Colonel) Gumm and The Joker, they also deal with the conflicting archetypes of who heroes should really be.
In what begins with the diabolical plot by Gumm to steal “the priceless fossil collection owned by Italian adventurer Franco Bollo” from a train, the story quickly progresses through the daunting adventures familiar to the classic television show. All the while, Batman and Robin struggle with tracking Gumm and Joker while simultaneously dealing with Green Hornet and Kato.
The emotional banter between Gotham City’s millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and Daily Sentinel publisher Britt Reid (location unknown) reminds readers of the difficulty the characters endure while trying to maintain their secret identities. As each “civilian” defends their respective local hero, their passion and dedication to crime-fighting and differing views of how it should be done is almost exposed.
Robin and Kato are just as combative with their own ideals. Robin does not disappoint with his familiar “Holy this!” and “Holy that!” while Kato shows his penchant for quoting Confucius. The mockery will bring an appreciative smile to any loyal fan.
Readers will also be happy to see the familiar narration throughout the story. It’s as if William Dozier himself can be heard with every dramatic word. The corny anecdotes and end of episode (chapter) cliffhanger warnings are sure to bring cringes with every pun and chills with every warning of doom.
Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman have written a fun story that stays true to the original characters, but the artwork of Ty Templeton and color by Tony Aviña is what brings the necessary authenticity to the mix. The vibrant images are indisputably Adam West as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Burt Ward as Dick Grayson/Robin, Van Williams as Britt Reid/Green Hornet, Bruce Lee as Kato/Kato, and Cesar Romero as The Joker. Even a partial image of actor Roger C. Carmel can be seen just before his character Gumm takes on a surprising transformation.
The covers of all six comics in the series are just as impressive as the pages within. Issue 5 is a personal favorite as it depicts the infamous Black Beauty racing side by side with the iconic Batmobile. Though Alex Ross is credited with the cover artwork of the short series, a variant cover was also created by Michael and Laura Allred.
It took almost a half century, but the “fearless foursome” finally get to stand toe-to-toe and side-by-side as their arch enemies cause havoc in Batman 66’ Meets the Green Hornet. It only took six issues for the dynamic duo of DC Comics and Dynamite Entertainment to bring fans of the two iconic super hero teams together in this exciting trip down memory lane. Hopefully we won’t have to wait that long again to see this foursome join forces again…someday.
*Trivia note: Green Hornet first appeared in 1936 on Detroit radio station WXYZ, the same station that first introduced us to The Lone Ranger three years earlier in 1933. The comics version of the Green Hornet did not arrive until the early 40’s. Yet, the Batman character arrived on the scene right in the middle of this
transition when mystery Detective Comics (eventually becoming DC) first introduced the caped crusader in 1939.