Thursday, October 8, 2020

Bat-lets Final Thoughts


Talk about beginning strong and ending with a tornado of dopiness and budget cuts.  
(That probably should have been some kind of figurative language there.)

Like most people of my generation I grew up watching Batman in syndication, where they aired them out of order.  The obvious decline over time wasn't so obvious watching them that way. The series went from the beginning where the show was a accurate replication of comics of the time period with some camp and sly winks thrown in to allow adults to enjoy it, through the celebrity hype of the second season and ultimately the final season's descent into surgically removed funding and self parody. 

As an example, Frank Gorshin's Riddler starts off as terrifying in his mood swings and  unpredictability, while his third season appearance could have been any generic villain. 
Luckily, thanks to Burgess Meredith and Victor Buono, there were still high points. 

This explains why Anabelle's comments grew exponentially as the show progressed.

There are on screen places (not to mention an excellent comic book) this series continued in, but nothing that generated the Play by Play from Anabelle that the original did.

There was an excellent made for TV movie called Return to the Batcave the Misadventures of Adam and Burt.  It was a 2003 mix of actors recreating behind the scenes of the show, and an loopy modern day plot of Adam West and Burt Ward trying to rescue a stolen Batmobie from Julie Newmar and Frank Gorshin.  Sadly, I only have it on a VCR tape off the original broadcast, so my technologically advanced daughter refuses to watch it.

Most of the direct follow ups are the responsibility of one James Tucker who started off as a storyboard artist on the Batman and Superman Animated serieses, and was a producer on Justice League.  On the commentary for "Legends of the Dark Knight" he pointed out the Dick Sprang animation based version of Batman (with many nods to the West series) was the show he wanted to do.

He got his wish a few years later as show runner on Batman Brave and Bold!  In an interview featuring Adam West, him and other creators, on the classic series blu-ray he stated that his goal with Brave and Bold  was to have it be what the 1966 series felt like to him as a kid.  He definitely succeeded, as well as incorporating every crazy idea from over seven decades of comics, yet somehow also giving the stories great heart mixed with both the goofiest and darkest emotional moments of any animated series.

Aside- Mr. Tucker also produced, did character designs for, and directed several episodes of the Legion of Superheroes cartoon. This has nothing to do with Batman, since it was Superman centered to tie in to the Superman Returns release.  However, it was my daughter's favorite when she was little, and s
he is very excited about the new Blu Ray release. Since these are "Kid's Eyes" posts, her moment in McDonald's needs to be documented.  The Happy Meal toys were split (once more) between the crappy mini Barbies they always had as "girl toys" and mini Legion action figures as "boy toys."  Anabelle naturally wanted a Legion toy, preferably Saturn Girl.  Because they were "boy toys" Saturn Girl was not included in the line. At four years old, my daughter tore into McDonald's in  an epic rant (fully sanctioned by me) demanding to know "How DARE THEY" leave out one of the founders of the team because they believed "Girls don't like superhero toys," and what a stupid assumption that was.    That's my girl.   

James Tucker’s most direct follow up to the Adam West Burt Ward series was writing and producing the animated movies starring the remaining cast of the old show itself. I’ve said these were awesome before and I’ll say it again now. THESE WERE AWESOME!

Admiring his creativity on these works inspired me to try "The Tuckerverse." (a name he's not fond of as stated on commentaries, but truly deserves) It's the recent line of direct to home release DC animated films he's the main producer of. I was originally reluctant as they started based on the Nu52.  However, working in some classic stories (Hush, Death of Superman, Judas Contract) caught my attention and they are excellently done. The films tie those adaptations into an over arching story and go in some crazy, Elseworlds like directions which really pay off making them highly engaging.  He clearly understands the characters, so taking them in new directions provides a fresh, but a still "correct feeling" interpretation. The finale- Justice League Dark, Apokolips War rivals Endgame  in scope, capstone finishes, surprises and epicness.

The greatest follow up to the old series however came during my childhood.  It was the Legends of the Superheroes two parter that aired in 1979.  According to Mark Evanier, it was the end result of Joe Barbera selling the network two hours of prime time without knowing what they would be.  Having watched them many times, I'm still not sure what they are.  

West and Ward returned as Batman and Robin, with a bunch of lesser known actors and models filling in as Captain Marvel, Green Lantern, Flash, Huntres, Black Canary, and Hawkman.  Plus sit com favorite, and Space Station K-7 Resident William Schallert was there as "Retired Man."  
The villains, including Gorshin's Riddler, were all commedians. Charlie Callas as Sinestro, Howard Morris as Dr. Sivana, Jeff Altman as Weather Wizard and so on.  Part one acted as a lower budget looking than usual Batman episode, but with location shots.  Each villain does some marvelous comedy schtick to thwart the heroes.  Part two is where the awesome, and crazy ratchets to near infinite as it is a roast, hosted by Ed McMahon, with additional comics joining in, such as Ruth Buzzi as Aunt Minerva, and Pat (Ursula) Carroll as "Hawkman's Mother."  There's one point where Robin gives Batman bad news through charades.  It is wonderfully insane from start to finish. 

Anabelle didn't have a running commentary for it, she just enjoyed it, laughed at it, and went on to share it with others.

That's my girl!


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