Holy Superhero – It's Batman!

by Guy Belleranti

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Batman and Robin, 1960s television
Batman and Robin, 1966
1966 saw a live action version of Batman come to television.

Adapted from Bob Kane's comic book series, the program was an instant success. It combined action with campy humor.

The one half hour program usually consisted of 2 part stories, with the first part always ending in a cliff hanger. In these cliff hangers, Batman and his Boy Wonder partner, Robin, were always trapped in silly and seemingly inescapable situations. They might be hung over a vat of acid or trapped in a huge mousetrap or who knows what else.

Batman was Bruce Wayne in public life, while Robin was Wayne's ward, Dick Grayson. They lived in Wayne Manor with Alfred the Butler (played by Alan Napier) and Aunt Harriet Cooper (played by Madge Blake). As Batman and Robin (the Dynamic Duo) they battled colorful super criminals while trying to keep the people of Gotham City safe.

Adam West played Bruce Wayne/Batman and Burt Ward was Dick Grayson/Robin. A typical episode would begin with some villain committing a crime. Then Police Chief O'Hara (played by Stafford Repp) would consult with Commissioner Gordon (played by Neill Hamilton), and the Commissioner would press a button on the Batphone.

Alfred the Butler would answer on the other end, relay the message to Bruce Wayne, and Wayne and Grayson would spring into crime fighting action, sliding down the Batpoles (behind a hidden door) to the Batcave. Upon reaching the bottom they would be garbed in their Batman and Robin costume/disguises and jump into the Batmobile.

Many name stars appeared as colorful villains, some of them multiple times. Some of the most popular were:

Burgess Meredith as The Penguin
Cesar Romero as The Joker
Frank Gorshin as The Riddler
Julie Newmar (and Eartha Kitt) as Catwoman
Vincent Price as Egghead
Victor Buono as King Tut
Joan Collins as The Siren
Otto Preminger (also Eli Wallach and George Sanders) as Mr. Freeze

The program was goofy, often ridiculous, but always good fun. Everything about the program was exaggerated. Each episode had Burt Ward's Robin crying out Holy something or other, and the fight scenes were crazy. When Batman, Robin and the villains clashed the words POW, BAM, WHAMMO and the like would flash on the screen as they fought.

Batman became so popular during its first season that a major motion picture with the program's main stars was released the same year.

The third and final season saw Batgirl (played by Yvonne Craig) join the show. But by spring of 1968 the program had run its course and after 120 episodes Batman was cancelled. However, the program has lived on in reruns. And both animated and motion picture versions of the super hero continue to be popular.

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