This is not the first time Batman ’66 has entered the Seventies. No, the Caped Crusaders actually made a few appearances in the decade following their TV series, though they’re programs that may be best forgotten. There was the short-lived 1977 animated series “The New Adventures of Batman” that, while somewhat charming, was cheaply animated and weird even by ’66 standards. Plus, you know, there was Bat-Mite, who can be awesome but absolutely was not in this cartoon.
Then, in 1979, there were the two “Legends of the Superheroes” television specials. Friends, they were positively insane. Just… just go here and pick a clip. Any clip. It’s a fever dream of poor production values, amazingly terrible costumes, and Seventies variety hour shows all rolled up into one crazy package.
Neither one of those was really a narrative continuation of the Sixties series, though. The cartoon you could make a case for, but even then it still stands apart as its own product. With the fifth issue of Batman ’66 Meets Wonder Woman ’77, the story finally takes Batman and Robin into the Seventies.
They should have stayed in 1966 as far as I’m concerned.
I’ll start with the good. Wonder Woman is represented well, coming to Gotham to find Batman and kicking some butt along the way. I liked her interactions with Barbara Gordon, now the police commissioner, and the fact that O’Hara also had a daughter who followed in his footsteps. It’s rather charming and a good progression for the characters, and Diana is appropriately in her element in the Seventies.
Then there’s Dick Grayson. No longer the Boy Wonder Robin, he has grown to be his own man and taken on the name of Nightwing.
In all his Disco-suited glory.
Bonus points for the hairy chest, which is absolutely hilarious.
I like that they tried to make that crazy outfit work in the world of Batman ’66, and with some of the tweaks David Hahn made to it I think it gets the job done. I’m a big Nightwing fan, as I’m sure you know, so incorporating him into one of my favorite Batman properties is ok by me.
But then… then there’s the moment. The moment everything in this universe turned. The moment that made me go from guarded appreciation of this book to genuine disgust.
Because he killed the Joker.
This is just wrong. That kind of event has no place in a Batman ’66 story at all. Sure, he did it because the Joker killed Alfred, but even then that’s going too far. That kind of darkness and cynicism is completely contrary to the sly, camp intelligence of this series. From a storytelling standpoint I can understand what Andreyko and Parker were trying to do, but it goes against everything that makes this Batman work.
Heck, it goes against everything that makes this Joker work, too. There’s a line in there about the Joker’s methods getting more brutal as the years passed, and that should not have happened. He’s a silly prankster, not the tactical anarchist of The Dark Knight or the psychopathic killer who shot Sarah Essen in cold blood. Murder isn’t the order of the day; it’s mischief.
This is a series that works because it never moves from 1966, and even though it’s decidedly a product of a particular time and place it works in that time and place. There is no need to make Batman ’66 darker, because Batman ’66 does not need to be dark. At all. Once it becomes dark it ceases to be Batman ’66, and this is not Batman ’66.
Needless to say, I’ve soured to this book. I can only hope that the finale is better, but unless they pull off a miracle this story has crossed a line that will by near impossible to get back over.
- You’ve been reading so far and need to finish.
- You like Wonder Woman.
- You absolutely have to have darkness and cynicism in your comic books.
Overall: More than anything, this issue angered me. It’s bad enough that this book hasn’t felt tonally consistent with other Batman ’66 stories that have come before, but now they’ve crossed a line that is all but unforgivable. No amount of Killer Croc in bell bottoms and high collared Nightwing will make up for complete character assassination. I never thought I’d say this about a ’66-related book, but I almost hated this.