Hitting digital first this week is Batman ’66 Meets the Green Hornet, the latest DC miniseries which debuts this Wednesday, May 21st, from creators (and Batman superfans) Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman, with art by longtime Batman artist Ty Templeton. Nerdist got the chance to chat the two writers up on their new mini-series and all things Batman.
Nerdist: It seems that for years the ’60s Batman television show was like a dirty word to fans of the comic book version of the character. But now, everyone seems to be cool with this version again. Why do you think fans are warming up to the Adam West incarnation of Batman again after all these years?
Ralph Garman: I think when the show came out it made such a huge impact culturally, and that’s all anyone knew of Batman. And I can imagine that for the people who were working at DC, who were working to bring the character back to his more serious and somber origins, and who were working hard to put their own spin on the character, it must have been endlessly frustrating to them to keep fighting the public image of Batman. Because for the general public who didn’t read comics, the TV show was all they knew. So I think they resented it probably a little bit.
But now we’ve had so many different versions of Batman that have changed people’s perspective on the character, from Tim Burton to Chris Nolan’s series, and then the animated series, and now Gotham is coming out, and Brave and the Bold… I think now there [have] been so many different kinds of Batmen out there, that there is no longer any kind of threat of the sixties Batman usurping anyone’s vision of Batman. And now that everyone’s a little bit more relaxed about it, and people have accepted that there are all different kinds of Batmen and that it was a great show, and that it did a lot for the character.
N: I’ve never really understood the hate towards ’60s Batman, which to me is a brilliant spoof. I mean, no one questions that Frankenstein is a brilliant novel, and yet we all love Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein just the same.
RG: The series at the time wasn’t even that much of a spoof… I mean, if you read a lot of the comics of the early sixties, especially from writers like Gardner Fox and some of the other writers, it really reads like a lot of Batman episodes. You’d be surprised. The show was actually reflecting what was going on in the comics at the time. In retrospect, when everyone said, “Oh no, it’s a really serious comic,” go back and read some of those issues from the late fifties and early sixties, and you’d probably be surprised.
N: There were some 100+ episodes in the series. When picking which episodes to have as your starting point, any reason why you guys went for the Green Hornet crossover episode over all the others?
Kevin Smith: I’d done this Green Hornet mini-series for Dynamite Comics, that was based on this script that I wrote for this failed Green Hornet movie for Miramax that never happened. So they wanted to turn that into a comic mini-series, which they did, with Jonathan Lau on the art, who did a fantastic job. And I guess that sold well, then DC talked to Dynamite about, “Hey, why don’t we do a Batman/Green Hornet crossover book?” and they asked me if I wanted to write it. And I said yeah, but I was thinking it would be modern Batman and modern Green Hornet. Because I’d just done a modern Batman for DC with The Widening Gyre, and I’d also done the Green Hornet book, which started in the sixties era, but then pulled up into the present, so I’d assumed we’d be going with a modern Batman.
But when the dust settled, suddenly it was Batman ’66, at which point I was like, “Oh shit, honestly, I’m gonna need to bring somebody with me on this one, this guy I do my podcast with Hollywood Babble-On, Ralph Garman, this guy knows his Batman ’66 world inside and out, and knows it reverently.” And if you put me on this book alone, eventually there is gonna be a “dick-in-the mouth” joke or some double entendres. This guy will keep the book on the straight and narrow. This guy LOVES Batman ’66, and he makes all the difference. If the series works at all, it’s because of Ralph, and if it fails, it’s because of me.
N: The old Batman show ended up creating a ton of villains that weren’t in the comics, characters like King Tut and Marsha, Queen of Diamonds. Were you guys tempted to make up your own characters for this comic?
RG: Well, most of the characters from the show are originally from the comic, like Chief O’ Hara wasn’t, but Commissioner Gordon is in there, Alfred in there, Aunt Harriet is in there, Dick and Bruce obviously, most of the characters from the comic were in there. A lot of the villains for the series were made up for sure, and we’ll be touching base on all those characters, those that were made up for the series and those that come from the comics as well.
KS: On this book we’ll be working with a villain that has already been established in the original two-parter episode that this is a sequel to, so you know, we get to play with that, and then Ralph found a really cool way to reinvent that character with a comic book origin, one that solved the problem of not being able to show the original actor’s likeness in the comic book. But even beyond that, I don’t think we’d be tempted to make any new characters because there were already so many cool villains, both from the comics and those made up for the TV show. If there’s any temptation to bring any villains in, it would be to do one from the comics rogues gallery that never exited in the TV show, but one that’s very much of Batman’s universe. There’s certainly a few, some of them were way too disturbing to do in a show at that point. At one point they talked about doing Two-Face, but it never happened.
N: I’ve heard rumors for years that it was supposed to be Clint Eastwood, but then the show got cancelled and we never saw that happen.
RG: Yeah, Clint Eastwood was supposed to play him.
N: Now Kevin… if DC were ever to do a Batman ’89 comic, setting the story in the Tim Burton/Michael Keaton universe, would you be down to write it? I know you have a love of that version of Batman.
KS: Oh my god, that’s my dream, dude. I could never make 1989 Tim Burton’s Batman in real life, but…if you let me do Batman ’89 in the universe that’s in the world of DC Comics, oh… I’d go apeshit. I love that Batman so much. Even though it’s ridiculous compared to Christopher Nolan’s version. When it first came out we were all like, “This is DARK and SERIOUS Batman!” But now compared to Nolan’s Batman, it seems as campy and comical as ’60s Batman was to us back then. But I would love to do Batman ’89. Please get me that job, I’ll give ya ten percent.
N. I think it’s a great idea…I mean, there’s as much nostalgia for that Batman now as there is for Batman ’66. DC should get on that. Maybe we could get Billy Dee Williams as Two-Face finally. Lando got kinda shafted in that series.
RG: It would be the Batman who can’t turn his head.
N: Kevin, your podcast, Fatman on Batman, it’s become a treasure trove for longtime Batman fans like me. It’s kind of an amazing show.
KS: Thank you. It’s a passion, that one’s all passion…and the show isn’t even about Batman anymore, as it is about people who change their lives to do something that they wanna do, and Batman just happens to be there sometimes.
N: And a lot of these comics creators aren’t going to be around forever, and you are archiving their stories for posterity, and as a fan I have to say thank you for doing it.
KS: I just got so lucky this year. The Denny O’Neil stuff was amazing, and Neal Adams was great. The Neal Adams episodes are absolute gold. The Neal Adams episodes were like life-maps. Not just if you like comic books, they were just like ‘this is how you live your life’ episodes. He’s crazy entertaining.
RG: We’re gonna have an episode just for the Batman/Green Hornet book too.
KS: It’s true, We are doing Fatman on Batman Live on June 1st at the Petersen Auto Museum, where we talk all about the book. That’s why we skipped episode #66 in the numbering of the show, I left it open for this. So we’ll do this episode where we talk about the book and how it came to be, and then we’ll have a live reading of the comic, with Ralph doing all the voices. It should be a lot of fun.
Batman ’66 Meets the Green Hornet will launch as a 12-part, digital-first biweekly series beginning May 21st and will debut in comic shops as a print comic on June 4th.