Batman ’66 #30: “Main Title”
Written by Lee Allred
Illustrated by Michael Allred
Colored by Laura Allred
Lettered by Wes Abbott
Even starting on the cover, I could do nothing during this review but list off all of the gags, in jokes, and cameos that litter this issue and surpass the necessary word count by a fair shake. I mean, that lunch box alone is so sweet, and who wouldn’t want to be a charter member of the Batman & Robin Society?
For the final issue, Allreds Lee, Michael, and Laura come together to tell a tale that may not have necessarily needed telling, but believe me when I say we’re all the better for it in the end.
Yes, as the title states, we’re shown the origin story of the main title sequence of the show.
You know, this one:
Even though it’s mostly non-stop gags and in-jokes, there is a plot to hang it all on: the streets are quiet in Gotham, with hardly a crime to report. Naturally, Commissioner Gordon and Chief O’Hara are suspicious of the absence of any and all of Batman’s rogues, to the point that O’Hara wonders if maybe they should phone Batman.
“And say what? That law and order have broken out all over Gotham?” Gordon replies in a particularly great line.
As it turns out, most of Gotham’s malicious miscreants are gathered at Gotham Studios, a backlot that is housing their “crime convention.” I love just the very idea of that, the Joker and Penguin and Catwoman and even Ma Parker and Louie the Lilac congregating to show off their death-traps and discuss their hatred of the Caped Crusader and Boy Wonder.
And oh, what death-traps do they have.
The whole issue is full of pages like this, lush layouts packed full of jokes and references that I’m still picking up on a third time through.
The best part is the dummies of Batman and Robin, which confirms that the traps are tested before they’re deployed. Of course, this also suggests that Batman’s arch-fiends are so cock-sure of their traps because they were tested on mannequins that couldn’t escape instead of live human beings who could troubleshoot and point out shortcomings, but whatever. Those incredible giant magnifying glasses are good enough for me.
Meanwhile, the Riddler is upset that he wasn’t invited to the gathering (being in prison probably made that a little difficult), so he tips the Dynamic Duo off to the goings-on at the studio, which they promptly investigate.
That’s the basic gist of it, and if that’s all there was to this book that would be more than enjoyable, but the Allreds take things to another level with the sheer volume of lore they reference in these twenty-odd pages. I’m not a big fan of fan-service and references for their own sake, as I think they should make sense and be earned, but after delivering twenty-nine issues that ranged from fun to absolutely incredible in quality, a whole issue devoted what makes Batman ’66 great is more than warranted.
From the very first page, the gags and references are almost non-stop, and amazingly almost every single one lands. While the opening spread may look innocuous enough, the kid at the bottom is actually reading an old Batman issue.
Thanks to Brandon, I was able to identify it as Batman #183, a classically crazy Carmine Infantino cover for a story that served as inspiration for another crazy Batman story in DC Comics Presents: Batman No. 1. It is legitimately insane, and while #183 isn’t collected in Tales of the Batman: Carmine Infantino, the tribute story is, and if you haven’t checked it out you’re really missing out.
There are deep cuts like that throughout, even in subtly using obscure goofy villains like the Polka-Dot Man in an homage to the only part of Full Metal Jacket that anyone remembers.
Things really hit the fan in the second half, when Batman and Robin reach the studio, only to fall into a trap laid by the villains. A fight soon breaks out, and every single notable image from the title sequence is represented.
What’s even more impressive, and Lee Allred deserves heaps of credit for this, is that everything makes sense. Nothing just seems like it’s there because it has to be; the line-ups, the punches, even the Batmobile’s iconic entrance are all set up and fully justified.
The callbacks don’t stop there, though. Unless it happens in the upcoming Batman ’66 Meets the Man From U.N.C.L.E., we’re treated to the final wall climbing sequence, complete with a genuinely surprising cameo.
The husband and wife duo of illustrator Mike Allred and colorist Laura Allred have been long-time cover artists for this book, finally lending their talents to the interiors, and if you’ve ever read Madman or some of Allred’s other work you already know that it’s a style that does justice to the fun tone of Batman ’66. It’s cartoony, with bright and vibrant colors, and the way they lay out the action is energetic and exciting.
The sheer volume of images I wanted to share from this issue should be a testament to how great their work is here, and even though I had to limit myself I still barely scratched the surface. This is one of the funnest books just to look at in many a month, and the fact that it’s also a joy to read just makes it that much better.
I’m genuinely sad to see this book go, as it’s been consistently fun and unafraid to try new and different things, but the Allred team has given us a worthy send-off.
Until we meet again, chums.
BONUS: As I said (over and over again), there are so many cameos and jokes here that I could have just listed them off and left it at that and you’d still be likely to see something that would pique your interest. I kept a running tally of every cameo I saw, minus the bigger names of the main cast. Here it is, and feel free to add more or share your favorite gag in the comments.
- You love Batman.
- You’re a fan of this series.
- You like joy and happiness.
- Just read it, chum.
Overall: A careful balancing act of compelling story and a constant barrage of self-referential humor, this is one of the most fun, concisely told stories I’ve read this year, perhaps even since I began writing for the site. The action is exciting, every joke lands, and there’s plenty here to warrant multiple readings. If you want a single example of what makes Batman ’66 so great, one story to give someone who isn’t sure what this series is all about, give them this. It is all 120 episodes and 36 issues of previous Batman ’66 tales condensed into one exciting package.
Also, show them this episode: www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlusgU-MUZ4
Don’t listen to naysayers; it’s the best.