Batman ’66 #22: “The Penguin Turns the Table/Batman Shows He’s Able”
Written by Mike W. Barr
Illustrated by Michael Avon Oeming
Colors by Tony Aviña
Letters by Wes Abbott
Ask me again another day and I might have a different answer, but it think that the villain from Batman ’66 that has stuck with me the most is Burgess Meredith’s Penguin. That might just be because I love Rocky so much, but other than toning down his mannerisms he’s a pretty spot-on representation of the character.
That’s not to speak ill of any of the other performers, of course. Frank Gorshin’s manic, spastic take as the Riddler is hall of fame worthy, but he made way for the modern interpretation of the Joker. Cesar Romero’s Joker, for that matter, was a fantastic funny man, but he’s remembered more for his mustache than anything else.
Julie Newmar’s Catwoman… uhh, too many cat puns? I don’t know, this is getting away from me.
The point being, I’m always up for a good Penguin story, and after a lengthy dry spell in these pages we finally have one here.
Comics legend Mike W. Barr handles writing duties this month, no doubt fulfilling a lifelong dream given the respect towards and knowledge of the tone of the source material. His work here is up there with some of the best scripts on this book, perfectly balancing the trademark dry humor and two-fisted heroism of the series.
The Penguin, with his newest henchmen M. T. and Nest (keep in mind that this is a guy who bought a surplus submarine from the military under the name “P. N. Guin.” Oswald’s either the worst at made-up names or the best), has bucked tradition and begun pulling bat-themed crimes. This sets off a fun cat and mouse game between him and the Dynamic Duo where they try to figure out the pattern, so used to themed crimes as they are. That, on top of Batman insisting on minimizing collateral damage, makes for a pretty entertaining romp.
Michael Avon Oeming’s art took me a little while to get used to, seeing as it’s pretty exaggerated and cartoony, but once I did I was totally on board.
He gives us funny moments like this:
And then full-page spreads like this:
It’s moments like those that truly make me appreciate what they can do in a comic that wasn’t realistic on television. It’s the same great storytelling as before, but now we can see our heroes swing from rooftops or travel to Japan.
Not only that, but slightly more character development is afforded in this continuation than was allowed on television. Genuine character studies are nowhere to be found, and back stories are referenced to provide a character’s motivation at most, but with five decades between us some more modern ideas can creep onto the page.
Which brings us back to the Penguin. I’ve always liked the idea that he is perfectly sane, just driven to crime for personal gain. While none of the villains from this series are necessarily psychotic, the seeds of neuroses are there. The Penguin, however, can be seen as a respectable man if he wishes (which, especially in modern stories, he does), and even with “wak waks” and more umbrellas than any one person would ever need, Meredith made you believe he was a refined man with a few quirks like any of us.
Lady Justice has her knight, however, and as always good prevails. In the end, our heroes triumph with a groaner of a pun, but it was a term I’d never heard before so I learned something from it. And really, chums, being entertained is no excuse to become lax in our studies.
Fun Fact: That cover is, of course, an homage to 1942’s Batman #9.
It’s an oft-replicated image that has inspired many tributes over the years, and this one ranks up there with the best of them.
- You love the Penguin.
- You love Batman ’66.
- That sweet cover grabbed your attention.
- Puns, man. So many puns.
Overall: Some of the best dialogue in months from this book can be found here. The story is fun, with twists and turns that make this an actual mystery, and it’s a great Penguin story, which has been lacking in these pages for a while.