Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

The PopCult Toybox: Batman ’66

The Mez-Itz Batman/Robin/Batmobile set

The Mez-Itz Batman/Robin/Batmobile set

If you’ve been reading PopCult for any length of time, you’re probably aware that I am somewhat enamored of the Batmobile from the 1966 TV show. Some people would say I have an unnatural obsession with it. I prefer to think of it as an intense fondness.

Mattel's Batmobile

Mattel’s Batmobile

The fact of the matter is the TV Batmobile, designed by George Barris over the body of the Lincoln Futura concept car, is one of my favorite cars of all time. Part of this may be because I grew up watching the classic 1966 Batman TV show, starring Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin. Like many people, in my adolescence I went through a phase of intensely hating the TV show, but I never lost my love of the Batmobile. I was greatly disappointed when the 1989 Tim Burton Batman movie did away with Bruce Wayne’s classic wheels and replaced them with an even less feasible phallic-looking automobile.

My dislike for the TV show subsided as I regained my childhood fondness for the show and realized that the two Joel Schumacher Batman movies, plus that goofy voice Christian Bale uses in “The Dark Knight” movies, were far sillier and campier than anything on the original series.

I’m not alone in my admiration for the TV show and one of the great mysteries of television is that due to some sort of arcane dispute between Warner Brothers (the owner of DC Comics) and Fox Television (the producers of the show), the Batman TV series has never been released on DVD, nor has it been heavily merchandised. In fact, due to a long running dispute between George Barris and Warner Brothers, no official toy versions of the classic Batmobile were produced for over thirty years.

Batman and Robin, six inches tall, by Mattel

Batman and Robin, six inches tall, by Mattel

Lately, something behind the scenes happened and a floodgate of what is now called “Batman ’66” merchandise has been announced or has been released. We haven’t got our hands on the TV show on DVD yet, but it’s considered an inevitability. There will be action figures ranging in size from two inches to thirty-one inches, TV style Batman figures that range from fifteen dollars to almost four hundred and a parade of manufacturers getting ready to assault the wallets of die-hard Batman ’66 collectors everywhere.

This week, the PopCult Toybox is going to bring you brief reviews of some of the earliest products to surface in this tidal wave of Bat-nostalgia.

First up, we’re going to look at the offerings from Mattel, who have released a line of six inch action figures, along with a deluxe Batmobile scaled to fit them and a special city scene set. Mattel has also released Barbie and Ken as Batman and Catwoman, but I haven’t snagged those yet.

The nicely-detailed cockpit of the Batmobile

The nicely-detailed cockpit of the Batmobile

Close up

Close up

We’re going to start off with the Batmobile. One of the largest official versions of this car released so far this Batmobile, which retails for sixty dollars and up, is a very nice reproduction of the George Barris design.

The detail is very nice, with working Bat seat belts and an extremely detailed interior. In fact, this Batmobile is more accurate than the full-sized one that visited South Charleston back in August. As cool as that one was, it didn’t have the rear dome. Batman and Robin fit very well into this car. It rolls nicely and displays well and therefore, straddles the line between being a toy and a collectible. It’s a good, lower-priced alternative to the upcoming 1:6 scale Batmobile from Hot Toys, which will retail for around eight hundred dollars.

Adam West as Batman

Adam West as Batman

The Batman figure is a very well-sculpted likeness of Adam West in his TV Batman outfit which to be honest, looks just a little silly, but will evoke waves of nostalgia from folks who grew up watching the show. Boasting an incredible eighteen points of articulation, this six inch figure does a decent job of hiding most of the joints, although there is a strange abdominal joint that’s a little distracting but very handy when you’re slipping him into the Batmobile.

This Batman figure also comes with a cloth cape and a molded on utility belt. All in all, it’s a pretty sharp figure and can be found individually carded for between sixteen and twenty dollars.

Burt Ward as Robin

Burt Ward as Robin

Robin is only available as part of a two-figure set with a Batman figure. The two come with a display base that mimics the side of the building they used to climb up on the TV show.

The head sculpt on this figure is a very good likeness of Burt Ward as Robin. He also has eighteen points of articulation and a cloth cape, although his cape and the cape worn by Batman in the two figure set have wires sewn into them so that they can be posed along with the figures.

The two-figure set retails for thirty-five dollars and up and is a little pricy for a toy. But it’s not too bad for a collectible. It’s a shame that they didn’t make Robin available as an individually carded figure.

Batman and Robin climbing a wall. Cool, but a bit on the pricey side

Batman and Robin climbing a wall. Cool, but a bit on the pricey side

My one major criticism of this line is that the prices push them just a little bit out of the reach of being toys for kids. Children generally love the Batman TV show when they get a chance to see it, but parents who are looking to buy Batman, Robin and a Batmobile are pretty likely to balk at the idea of dropping a hundred bucks on them.

I have also managed to snag two of the villains from the series, The Penguin and The Riddler and they share the good qualities of the Batman figure but also are just a little pricy. All of the individually carded figures include a display base and a collector’s card.

bat tpys 008

The Riddler bears a terrific likeness of Frank Gorshen and the articulation/joint lines works very well with his question mark covered outfit.

bat toys 007

The Penguin, which again has an amazing likeness of Burgess Meredith as the fine feathered fiend, does not have the same articulation as the other figures since he’s built somewhat differently. But he does come with an umbrella accessory.

There are three more figures due to be released any day now: Caesar Romero as The Joker, Julie Newmar as Catwoman and Batman depicted wearing big yellow swim trunks with red polka dots and carrying a surfboard from the “Surf’s Up” episode of the show. There was also a special figure of Batman doing the Batusi produced for the San Diego Comic-Con.

The future of this line is uncertain. There have been reports that Mattel does not intend to release any figures beyond what’s already in the pipeline. However, the fact that they’ve never released Robin as an individually carded figure and that Yvonne Craig has recently agreed to allow her likeness to be used as Batgirl might put the lie to those rumors. ┬áThere are certainly plenty of colorful villains that they could produce, along with Batman and Robin’s alter-egos Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson in their civilian identities.

This toy line could have been a huge hit but it seems that Mattel is happy to simply send small quantities to stores and let it languish in the collector’s market.

The Mez-Itz Batmobile

The Mez-itz Batmobile

bat toys 012One other nifty little Batman ’66 item has made its way into our hands. The Mez-itz Batmobile with Batman and Robin has made its way to hobby shops and it’s not a bad little item. Mez-itz, in case you weren’t familiar, are tiny little action figures that look like a cross between “Dunny” style art figures and Fischer-Price Little People. They’re part of a wave of very small action figures that have become popular with people who don’t have a lot of room. These figures usually only have five points of articulation and are very rounded with all the detail simply being printed on their surface.

bat toys 013Having said that, these tiny little guys are pretty cool. The cartoony depictions manage to evoke Adam West and Burt Ward very well and they don’t take up much space. So these are great if you want to show your love for the Batman ’66 TV show, but don’t necessarily want to shout it from the rooftops.

These figures come with a stubby nubby little Batmobile. It’s not as detailed or sharp looking as the real Batmobile. The corners are rounded and it’s sort of fat and cute. But that’s part of the charm. It’s the kind of Batmobile Hello Kitty would drive.

bat toys 011

The entire Mez-itz set with the Batmobile and two figures sells for around twenty-five dollars, which is much more reasonable if you’re a parent wanting to brainwash introduce his kid to the wonders of the Batman ’66 TV show.

The Toybox will return next week same PopCult time, same PopCult channel.

1 Comment

  1. Stephen Beckner

    I wonder if the Caesar Romero Joker will have his moustache sculpted on the head and painted over….

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