The PopCult Bookshelf
Batman: The TV Stories
Written by Bill Finger, Gardner Fox, John Broome and others
Drawn by Dick Sprang, Sheldon Moldoff, Carmen Infantino and others
Introduction by Michael Uslan
Beneath a gorgeous cover by Amanda Conner, Batman: The TV Stories collects a variety of Golden and Silver Age Batman stories which inspired the 1960’s television show. This is not the “Dark Knight.” These are stories of a more innocent, light hearted and fun Dynamic Duo.
In his introduction, Michael Uslan questions his own choice as the writer of the introduction to this volume. A sworn enemy of the campy 1960’s TV show, Uslan has been the executive producer of the Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan Batman movies (he doesn’t mention the Joel Schumacher ones for some reason). However, he does address this matter and writes about how he has come to reconcile the idea of having different versions of Batman in the media. He also gives great background information on the stories in this slim but entertaining volume.
At 160 pages, this collection is about equal to two of the classic DC eighty page giants. The stories are very well chosen. We get to see all of the key Batman villains and several stories that directly inspired episodes of the TV show.
The Riddler is represented in two stories, one of them from 1948 and another which brought him back after seventeen years in limbo, from 1965. These stories are the blueprint for Frank Gorshin’s interpretation of the character.
There are also a pair of Joker stories that are right in line with Caesar Romero’s portrayal of the “clown prince of crime.” We also get to see the Penguin, Mr. Zero (who was re-named Mr. Freeze,) and the Mad Hatter. There’s even a couple of stories that were basically re-told with different villains replacing their comic book incarnations.
The stories are all well written. Batman was a top title and attracted top talent, including Bill Finger, Batman’s uncredited co-creator. The artwork on the stories is also impressive. The first half of the book finally gives proper credit to artists like Dick Sprang and Sheldon Moldoff, who ghosted the strip for Bob Kane, while most of the second half of the book has the stunning artwork of Carmen Infantino.
All in all, Batman: The TV Stories is a great collection of Batman stories from the days before the pendulum swung from the campy television show to the ultra dark stories of Frank Miller. While Miller’s “The Dark Knight” remains the ultimate Batman story, it’s a shame that since it was published over twenty five years ago, so many of the creators who have followed seem determined to use it as a starting point to launch the character into even darker directions.
Batman: The TV Stories works as an antidote to all the dark and heavy Batman tales that have been foisted on the public in recent years. It’s nice to see that there’s more to Batman than perverted pschybabble and adult themes.
The timing couldn’t be better for this collection, since the news just broke this week that after years of legal wrangling, the Batman TV show is finally coming to DVD sometime this year. There’s also an excellent new series of stories being published as Batman ’66, which includes all the characters from the classic TV show as they appeared on the TV show.
For comic book fans who are burned out on all the dark, grim and gritty superhero stories, Batman: The TV Stories is the book for you.