Saturday, July 27, 2013

I Reads You Review: BATMAN '66 #1

BATMAN ’66 #1

WRITER: Jeff Parker
ARTIST/COLORS: Jonathan Case
LETTERS: Wes Abbott
COVER: Michael Allred and Laura Allred
VARIANT COVER: Jonathan Case
36pp, Color, $3.99 U.S. (September 2013)

Rated E (Everyone)

Batman ’66 is one of DC Comics’ digital-first comics.  These digital comics are initially released in a digital format to be read on computers, smart phones, and other handheld devices.  Print editions follow digital publication.

Batman ’66 is inspired by the classic American TV series, “Batman,” from 20th Century Fox Television and Greenway Productions.  Batman was a live action television series based on the DC Comics comic book character, Batman, and starred Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin, the two crime-fighting heroes who defend Gotham City.  “Batman’s” original run on television lasted for three seasons, from January 12, 1966 to March 14, 1968, for a total of 120 episodes.

Batman ’66 #1 is the print comic book edition of the opening story, “The Riddler’s Ruse,” from writer Jeff Parker and artist Jonathan Case.  The story opens in Gotham Park, where millionaire Bruce Wayne and his “youthful ward,” Dick Grayson, are on hand for the awarding of the Lady Gotham statuette to the Gotham Police Department.

The festivities are interrupted by The Riddler, who is determined to steal the Lady Gotham, professing a need to protect the work of the statuette’s creator, the late artist, Oskar Villkoop.  Is he really an art lover?  The Dynamic Duo will need the help of another arch-nemesis, the slinky Catwoman, to solve The Riddler’s latest baffling crime conundrum.  Holy Strange Bedfellows, Batman!

I first discovered the “Batman” TV series ages ago when a local television station began airing the show in syndication.  I instantly fell in love with the series, and that the show did not resemble the Batman comic books I was reading at the time did not bother me.  I was surprised to discover that quite a few comic book fans hated “Batman.”  The editors of the Comics Buyers Guide, a weekly publication of comic book news, features, and collectibles, once claimed that “Batman” was the primary reason the public at large did not take comic books seriously.

With DC Comics’ recent announcement of Batman ’66, a comic inspired by the series, I had the opportunity to discover that there are many comic book fans who loved the show.  And we have reason to cheer.  Batman ’66 is the decades-old TV show embodied in comic book form.

Batman ’66 is not a great work of comic book art, but it is a great comic book.  Please, allow me to explain.  Batman ’66 is not Batman: The Dark Knight Returns in terms of its impact on Batman the character and on superhero comics (as TDKR has been for the last quarter-century).  However, for me, Batman ’66 and TDKR are alike because the latter was the kind of comic book that was so much fun for me to read that I read it over and over again.  The first time I read TDKR, it so stunned me that I immediately read it again.  My copy could not be in “Mint” or “Near Mint” condition just from the wear I put on that comic book through repeated readings.

I can’t stop flipping through Batman ’66.  I had so much fun reading it.  That it is so much like the old TV show makes me think Jeff Parker and Jonathan Case are in need of an exorcism.  Surely, they made a deal with some kind of supernatural entity to pull this off.  The witty asides, the droll humor, the campy style, the colorful milieu, the corny moralizing, and Batman’s let’s-all-follow-the-rules approach to everything:  it’s all here; “Batman” is back.

I love Jonathan Case’s eye-popping, pop art aesthetic.  It references “Batman” without being slavish to it.  The composition and graphic design form a wild style that recalls Neal Adams and also the angular photography of the television show.  The art moves and grooves, and Case makes the coloring mimic an old-fashioned two or three-color 3D comic book.  Give that man an Eisner nod.

Jeff Parker and Jonathan Case have put fun first in this new comic.  Digital or print: Batman ’66 is a winner.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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