March 13, 2014


Nothing says Spy Vibe like Pop Art designs, secret lairs, and space age gadgets. Our radar has been buzzing over the past two days with the exciting news from DC that a dream-team has assembled to create Batman '66 Meets the Green Hornet. Based on a two-part crossover that aired in 1966, the comic series is being created by Kevin Smith, Ralph Garman, Ty Templeton, and Alex Ross. Speaking with USA Today, Smith said, "It's like getting to be 5-years old again and tell stories that you would have made up while watching the show as a kid. To be able to do it, man, it really does bring it full circle in a bucket-list kind of fashion." Spy Vibe sat down for a virtual round table yesterday with Ralph and Ty to discuss their lifelong passion for The Bat and the new book. Let me introduce you cats! [Cover below by Alex Ross].

Series co-writer Ralph Garman can be heard every weekday morning on Los Angeles' radio program, THE KEVIN AND BEAN SHOW. He also co-hosts the podcast, HOLLYWOOD BABBLE-ON, along with writer-director, Kevin Smith. Originally from Philadelphia, he is the host of the Spike TV's THE JOE SCHMO SHOW and is known for his appearances in SHARKTOPUS, FAMILY GUY, TWO FOR THE MONEY, RED STATE, and TED. His upcoming films include MacFarlane‘s A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST and Kevin Smith’s TUSK. A fellow Batman collector, I met Ralph on 66Batman. Welcome, old chum! [Ralph below with Kevin Smith, image from The Unheard Nerd].

Ty Templeton is a celebrated comic book artist and writer who has worked on most of the biggies in the biz. He is well-known for titles based on Batman: The Animated Series, as well as major properties like The SimpsonsRen & Stimpy, and DC's Batman '66. Ty was nominated for an Eisner Award as best cover artist in 1998, and he won as outstanding writer for The Batman Adventures in 2005. He also teaches cartooning and fosters art education in Toronto through his Comic Book Bootcamp. Ty's comic DB page here. [Batman Adventures #1 below, cover and interior pencils by Ty].

Ralph, what is your earliest memory of Batman? 

Ralph: I don't really have any memories BEFORE Batman. He's always been a part of my life. My parents would tell me stories about how they would put me in my high-chair as a baby in front of the TV in 1966 and my first song was "Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na, Batman!".

We're about the same age, and I recall playing "Batman" in my friend's garage and pretending to drive his parents' black Cadillac (with fins!). Did Batman loom large in your childhood fantasies?

Ralph: It was always what we played in my backyard. My mom actually made me a pretty good '66 Batman costume (by hand!), and a Robin costume for my best friend. [Ralph below at 10-years old].

When did you begin collecting? What kinds of things did you look for? Were you attracted to graphics, comics, toys, records?

Ralph: As a kid, I was easy to buy for at Christmas and my birthday. All I ever got was Batman toys! And, that's how my collection started. I held onto all those toys I had as a kid, including many of the boxes they came in. And, I never grew out of it. Once I started to make a few bucks as an adult, I just started buying the cool vintage stuff I always lusted after.

When did you become a serious collector? What are some of your prized treasures?

Ralph: It was gradual. I was always adding new stuff, and the quality just started getting better as I started to be able to afford it! LOL. My favorite pieces are the actual, screen-used props and costume pieces from the series that I've gotten a hold of. I've got a pair of Adam's bat-gloves, George Sanders' Mr. Freeze helmet, and some other great items. [Ralph below with his Bat-collection, click for larger view].

Chip Kidd turned me on to a documentary he mentioned on his blog called Tokyo Toy Guy, about Batman collectors around the world. Have you been able to connect with this community of fellow fans?

Ralph: Yeah, it's a great group of folks, and it's always fun to talk to, and hang with, them. I'm always on the website 66batman talking "shop" with that gang.

Were you also a fan of James Bond, Man From UNCLE, and others from the spy boom? Did you ever collect spy paperbacks and other items?

Ralph: I'm a huge spy genre fan! Especially the "groovy" 60's stuff. Connery's Bond, UNCLE, even the FLINT and MATT HELM movies! But, I never collected much spy stuff. Only one obsession at a time for me! LOL

Thinking of both Batman and Bond, who are your fave villains? What do you think makes a great baddie?

Ralph: I've always loved Frank Gorshin's Riddler, and my fave Bond baddie remains Auric Goldfinger. Both of those guys have some things in common: great theatricality, surface charm, but a real sense of sinister danger underneath it all. [Rare Riddler record below]. 

If you were a hero or diabolical mastermind, what would your secret lair be?

Ralph: A well-equipped cave with a secret entrance/exit. No question about that!

Congratulations on the new Batman '66 Meets Green Hornet comic! Were you also a fan of The Green Hornet growing up? What did you love about it?

Ralph: I was introduced, like many folks, to Hornet and Kato via the 2-parter Batman crossover. After that, I hunted down THE GREEN HORNET and devoured it. I loved all the gadgets, and the Black Beauty, of course. The revolving garage floor and secret billboard exit?! So awesome!

The Green Hornet TV show, and Batman to a lesser degree, seemed to play the stories really straight. That earnestness, coupled with Pop Art sensibility, helped the shows appeal to both adults and kids. Many modern projects based on 1960s properties tend to swing the playfulness too far into parody. How are you and Kevin approaching the writing in terms of this line between sincere drama and making it fun?

Ralph: I just approached the project as if we were living in the year 1967, and we were hired to write sequel episodes to the original crossover. No commenting on it, no parody. We ignore that it's been 47 years since, and just stay true to the shows as they were. [original Batman/Green Hornet crossover production still below].

Your story takes place in the 1960s. What elements from that era will we see in the comic?

Ralph: We don't lean too heavy on that, because the shows didn't either. When you watch the shows now, they're pretty timeless and not very "current events" heavy. (If you ignore the "flower children" in the Louie The Lilac episodes. LOL) The only thing you need to keep in mind is what you CAN'T include. No science or inventions that didn't exist in 1967. It's a fairly low-tech world of dial phones and newspapers. So, Batman and Green Hornet's gadgets seem so otherworldly in comparison!

I'm a huge fan of Ty's art on the Batman Adventures comics (based on the amazing Animated Series). And Alex Ross, of course, has been creating epic renditions of Batman for DC and Green Hornet for Dynamite. What are your initial impressions of the whole team and what each person brings to their role?

Ralph: It's an overused phrase, but this is a "dream team" for me. I got to write the book under the guidance of Smith and our amazing editor, Jim Chadwick. Then, we were given our choices for artists and Ty Templeton was on the list! Smith and I both said he was our ONLY choice. And, I think he's doing maybe his best work ever on this! And then, Jim broke the news that Alex had agreed to do the covers. He is comic book royalty and deservedly so. These six covers will be instant classics for Ross fans, as well as BATMAN and GREEN HORNET fans.

You got to voice an Adam West character on Celebrity Death Match in 2006. As a life-long fan, how does it feel now to be writing for his 1960s version of The Bat? 

Ralph: It truly is a dream come true. Adam has become a friend of mine over the years, which is crazy enough, but to hear his voice in my head as I write new "dialogue" for him is surreal. I've been preparing for the gig my whole life! LOL. [Ralph below with Adam West]

Ty, what is your earliest Batman memory?

Ty: It's likely to be the TV show… I'm at exactly the right age for it. I would have been five years old when it first went on the air, and then six and seven for its subsequent seasons. There were always comic books around the house, but from before I have a conscious memory, Batman was always my favourite Superhero, perhaps with only Superman a close contender in childhood.

Did you grow up collecting comics and watching cartoons? What were some of your favorite characters?

Ty: I grew up as the youngest sibling in a family that had parents in show biz, (and a father who had made a living as a cartoonist when he was younger) so there was a TON of pop culture stuff around the house growing up, and a lot of comic and cartooning stuff. I remember reading Asterix and Tintin when I was just learning to read, along with Dr. Seuss. And as I got older, my grandmother would let me read copies of Superboy, Iron Man and the Legion of Super-Heroes that she would keep at her house for her grandkids to read when they came over. Grandma was really good about keeping the comics in nice shape and they all fit back into a cereal box when we were done reading them. I still have that collection of comics from the late fifties and early sixties that started off in my grandmother's house. They're mostly in good shape.

Sweet story, man- I love it! After working as a writer and artist on many comics based on Batman: The Animated Series, which carried influences from Fleisher/Art Deco and 1960s Space Ghost, how did you approach the new Batman ’66 comic and the new Batman/Green Hornet series?

Ty: My art approach to the Batman '66 series is not really related to the Batman Animated stuff I did, besides both having Batman in 'em. The new series is about getting the feel of the sixties, and the likenesses of the actors, neither of which was a consideration in any of the animated stuff. This is far closer in tone to my Dexter illustrated comic that I did for Showtime a couple of years ago, at least in terms of matching the look of a TV show in a comic. I've done some Star Trek comics, and the same muscles get used there. There are so many versions of Batman that working on different ones doesn't really get confusing or involve much overlap. [Ty's new art below from Batman '66 Meets the Green Hornet].

Given the eccentric and colorful world of Batman ’66 and The Green Hornet, what are some of the elements and conventions you look forward to including in your new series?

Ty: I've already gotten to include some of the best stuff from the series- the CARS! The Batmobile and the Black Beauty have already shown up in the episodes I've finished so far. But who doesn't love a good Bat-Pole and a vanishing fireplace gag? [below: 1966 TV casts with Batmobile and Black Beauty, click to enlarge].

1960s properties are often adapted by pushing the fun elements too far into parody. Is this a line that you and your team have to keep an eye on?

Ty: The original Batman series was very much comedic in nature in the dialog and death traps, etc.  Green Hornet played it much more seriously on the TV show, and the trick is that we have to keep each to their own world without making them incompatible. FORTUNATELY, there's that delightful two-part crossover episode that gives us a blueprint for the right amount of camp, tongue in cheek, action, and drama. [Vintage Green Hornet comic below from Gold Key].

Were you also a fan of James Bond and ‘60s spy shows like The Prisoner and The Avengers growing up? Best Bond movie?

Ty: HUGE Bond fan. Best Bond Movie? Gosh there's too many to pick. I love From Russia with Love. I love Goldeneye. I love the recent Casino Royale.   Liked Living Daylights a lot. Didn't love Roger Moore, but do enjoy all the actors (including Lazenby), though most of Brosnon's Bonds (except the excellent Goldeneye) get awfully dull. Liked, but didn't LOVE the British Avengers, as I was a far bigger Peel than Steed fan, and gave up after she left. I'm afraid I'm the one guy you'll meet who thought The Prisoner was pretentious nonsense.  Didn't like it much, but still love Leo McKern and Patrick McGoohan.

Do you have favorite spy-related art, like book covers and movie posters?

Ty: Hmm… does Mad Magazine's SPY vs. SPY count? I've never been a particularly strong spy image collector… never really considered such a thing.  Though I suppose I'm a big fan of all pulp images, including the Private Eye stuff, which is kind of spy like.

Thinking of both Batman and Bond, who are your fave villains? What do you think makes a great baddie?

Ty: Best villains are ones you can root for…. ones that have a sympathetic back story or motivation, like Ra's al Ghul, who wants to save humanity (though he's willing to kill millions to do it), or Doctor Doom, who is primarily motivated to save his mother from hell. Blofeld is a good villain primarily because of that cat he won't stop petting. It humanizes him while he's plotting to destroy the world.  My Favorite Batman Villain is the Joker, though, because he's Batman's polar opposite. Batman is the ultimate control freak who wants to be in charge of every situation. Joker is chaos in human form- the best foil for a control freak. [Batman Gotham Adventures #31 below, Joker cover by Ty].

If you were an international spy or villain, what would your secret lair be?

Ty: No question. Dormant volcano. The cost of heating it is quite low, and you don't have to build much, just hollow out the magma crater at the top. Plus, you're likely to be in the tropics, so there's swimming!

Nice! What were some of your major influences as an artist as you developed your own style?

Ty: There's too many influences to list 'em all, but the main handful are Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, Gil Kane, Harvey Kurtzman, Wally Wood, Burne Hogarth, Joe Sinnott, Alex Toth, Al Williamson, Bill Elder, Joe Kubert and Curt Swan. I'm forgetting too many, but that's a start.

Do you collect comics or memorabilia to inspire and/or research your projects?

Ty: I collect comics because I love to read them. I keep up with my friend's work (Dan Slott on Spidey! Leonard Kirk on Fantastic Four, Nick Bradshaw doing Wolverine, etc...) and I genuinely enjoy reading things like Jonah Hex and the Avengers (though lately, since Bendis left, the Avengers have been a slog...)

I recently carried your torch on Spy Vibe to lobby Google to celebrate Bill Finger. Did you ever hear anything back from Google? For Spy Vibers, Finger was the unsung creator of many major conventions in the Batman mythos.

Ty: Thanks for the support. Google never contacted us about any of it, but we got the word out, and that was just as important. [Bill Finger tribute art below].

What are some of your favorite memories about working on Batman Animated-related comics?

Ty: Getting to work directly with Paul Dini on a couple of issues. I drew some scripts he wrote, and later, got to co-write some scripts with him. That was an honour. Also: Meeting other Batman fans. When you work on the character for as long as I did, I became part of the Batman fan community, and got to be on a lot of email chains and newsletters, etc. It gave me a real look into Batman fandom and what the good folks want to see. Let's never forget working with the magnificent Rick Burchett and Mike Parobeck, two of the best collaborators a man could ask for. Plus my editor Scott Peterson was a real education on what a good editor does (as opposed to ham-fisted or micro-managing editors).  Scott was my favorite editor to work with. It's not a surprise he went on to write many issues for the character. [Batman Gotham Adventure #10 below, written by Ty with cover art by Bruce Timm and Shane Glines]. 

That whole period of those Bruce Timm/Paul Dini Batman and Superman shows seemed like a real renaissance in strong storytelling and visual style. We can also point to shows like Ren & Stimpy and The Simpsons, which you also got to work on in comics. What do you carry from that era that informs your work now?

Ty: Well, there's an element of "hitting the style guides" that's similar to getting likenesses correctly, but the level of geometric design and simplicity involved in animated series (I did a year or so doing animated Spider-Man, as well as The Simpsons and Ren & Stimpy) is not the sensibility of the Batman/Green Hornet series, so it's not explored much in this new style. It's like being a jazz drummer and being asked to sit in with a rock band… best to forget the brushes and get on with the new style. [TV still below from Spy Vibe's Batman image archive on Pinterest here]. 

Are there elements of 1960s comics or cartoons that you like to incorporate?

Ty: No, not likely. Those were a different animal. Though I wouldn't mind adapting the Filmation Batman series at some point, since they've never been done in comic form- and wouldn't it be nice to complete the set of animated Batman comics with that last one? But they're not related to this Batman/Hornet book, other than the character of Batman.

Desert Island list: what 5 movies, books, and records would you want with you if you were marooned? 

Ty: Movies: Buckaroo Banzai, Spinal Tap, Hard Day, A Hard Day's Night, Casablanca, Planet of the Apes. Books: Breakfast of Champions, Cyrano de Bergerac, Alice in Wonderland, Watchmen, Jack Kirby's Complete New Gods. Records: Everything by all four Beatles, everything by Randy Newman, Paul Simon, Pete Townsend and Nat King Cole (especially the swinging trio stuff).  But then you're making me give up my guilty pleasure pop stuff like Bowie and Billy Joel and Harry Nilsson and the like… demanding aren't you?

Thanks again to Ralph and Ty for talking with Spy Vibe about Batman '66 Meets The Green Hornet. Readers can look forward to digital release in May, followed by print editions starting in June. Congrats, lads! [Batman Manga image below by Kuwata, Batmanga edited by Chip Kidd].

MIKI ZERO and Beatles autograph sale news continues below. Related posts: Spy Vibe's GIANT Batman image archive on Pinterst here, Cold War ComicsWin Scott Eckert Honey West InterviewShane Glines InterviewWilliam Maynard Fu Manchu InterviewRichard Sala InterviewMod Tales InterviewBatman '66 and Andy WarholSpies: the World Around UsMan From UNCLE pagesSix Million Dollar Man records and toysSHIELD Artist EditionsSolar and Bionic Man Return. Jason Whiton website here. Jason's Mort Walker [Beetle Bailey] book here

Coming Soon! Meet MIKI ZERO in the new novel by the creator of Spy Vibe. The year is 1965. Japan is buzzing with post-Olympic excitement as a new symbol of world peace and modernism. But when a dress concealing secret information is stolen by a terrorist known as The Hawk, Miki Zero uncovers a deadly plot that could kill millions and send the country back into military rule. Based on newly declassified intel from the Cold War. More info at my website here. [Preliminary cover above]. 

“Jason Whiton has given us a present in the guise of supercool Asian heroine Miki Zero. I, for one, am looking forward to more of her adventures.” - Raymond Benson, author of James Bond continuation novels and The Black Stiletto series.

Spy Vibe's SPRING SALE! Celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Beatles in America with Spy Vibe's sale of original Beatles autographs, rare books, 007, and more! That's right, Spy Vibers, I'm selling part of my collection! Details on eBay here

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Recent Ian Fleming posts on Spy Vibe: Ian Fleming LettersErno Goldfinger, Ian Fleming Music Series links: Noel CowardWhispering Jack SmithHawaiian GuitarJoe Fingers Carr, new Ian Fleming CatalogJon Gilbert interview, Double 007 Designs, Bond audio book reissues, discovery of one of Ian Fleming's WWII Commandos, James Bond book covers, Ian Fleming's Playboy interview for Kindle, Spy Vibe's discovery of a rare Ian Fleming serialization, rare View to a Kill, Fleming's Royal gold typewriter, Ian Fleming's memorial address, Spy Vibe's Ian Fleming image archive.

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