January 17, 2017


Batman Book Interview: Go behind the scenes of the 1960s Batman show in the new book, Batman: A Celebration of the Classic TV Series. From the press release: "KA-POW! This is the book Bat-Fans have been waiting for! For the first time, the classic 1960s TV series starring Adam West and Burt Ward as the dynamic duo Batman and Robin gets the lavish, in-depth coffee table book tribute it so richly deserves. From the Rogues Gallery of Villains, including the Penguin, the Joker and Catwoman, to the car every kid wanted - the Batmobile - its all here!" Authors Bob Garcia and Joe Desris stopped by the Spy Vibe lair this week to chat about their new book, Batman production history, and even their favorite 1960s spies. Welcome to Spy Vibe!

What aspects of the series are covered in your new book?

Bob: It's a behind-the-scenes look at the show from its very beginnings through its end. While the book does have portions of interviews with some of the show's stars, we also talked to the producers, the crew and the writers. We discuss how ABC contacted Bob Kane & National Periodicals about doing the Batman TV show, and how they brought it to Fox, who had William Dozier produce the show. We interview the folks integral to the development of the costumes, vehicles, makeup, and design of the series. And we have hundreds of photos giving the reader a great look behind-the-scenes at the making of the show.

Tell us a bit about how you approached research and gathering additional materials.
Bob: Well, 24 years ago, I was assigned to write a behind-the-scenes look at the TV show by Fred Clarke at Cinefantastique magazine. And that's how I met my writing partner on this book, Joe Desris. He provided an episode guide, vintage photographs, and comic history for the piece. The reference material available back then was mainly geared toward more frivolous aspects of the series, leaving me with no choice but to do a number of interviews. Luckily, back then, I was able to talk to many of the principals: ABC executives, Fox executives, directors, stuntmen, etc. I also contacted the Dozier Archives and had copies of his correspondence sent to me. For this book, Joe and I went to the Archives ourselves and spent a week there. Titan Books also sent us to Los Angeles, where we were able to talk to quite a few people, including Julie Newmar, Robert Butler (the director of the pilot), the series' make-up artist Bruce Hutchinson, the head of post-production Robert Mintz, and most importantly, Greenway Production staffers Sam and Bonnie Strangis.

What are a few key things you uncovered while working on the book that excited you?

Bob: We found some great things, like the 1965 memo that detailed which comic book issues were mailed to screenwriter Lorenzo Semple, Jr. before he even got the assignment to write the pilot. Which is really cool, because you can also see where the characters he used in his early episodes came from. And understand why a relatively minor character like The Riddler was in that first season.

Joe: All those early memos showed how quickly the show came together. We knew it had to have been fast, but seeing it all documented—from concept to script to hiring and casting and set building—really brought home the effort involved. Even with Semple living in Spain in an era without FedEx, email and accessible fax machines, reliance on a few intercontinental air flights, several phone calls and many Air Mail packages made it all happen. Behind-the-scenes details have always fascinated me, whether finding those rehearsal shots of the first Batclimb with Jerry Lewis or long shots of the set picturing numerous crew members. I came across a picture of Batman and Robin in the Batcave, reading about the demise of Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson in a newspaper. It turned out to be from a scene filmed for the Liberace episode but which was eventually cut when the show ran too long, so I knew that had to appear in this book. I also discovered that nobody had ever assembled a complete list of every “Holy…” exclamation used in the TV series. Some compilations got close, while a few lists mysteriously added examples that never appeared in any episode, but I started from scratch and assembled my own.

What do you remember about your own first introduction to the Batman series?

Bob: I was eight and the ads were everywhere for the show, so of course, I plopped down in front of the TV set for the premiere and I was hooked. I loved the fact that the villains looked like and acted as they did in the comic books.

Joe: At the time, Batman was just another show I watched, although I was very much into the comic books. I only missed one episode of Lost In Space during its initial broadcast, meaning that I rarely saw Batman on Wednesday nights. I often had conflicts with other things on Thursday evenings and so it wasn’t until the 1970s when I got to see more episodes, and especially after I got a VHS tape recorder in 1980 and then had to assemble the entire series.

How were the book images generated?

Bob: Vintage photographs were brought together from different photo archives, but primarily those of Joe Desris and Adam West.

Where did you source the many artifacts in the book?

Bob: Batman memorabilia that appears in the book comes from the William Dozier Archives and several private collectors.

The design of the book looks really nice. In these few sample images below of the layout, we get a sense of a thoughtful and fun cocktail of vintage graphics, rare photos, and text.

Are you guys collectors? When did you start collecting and what kinds of things did you look for?

Bob: I've only collected various versions of the Batmobile and some of the comics. That's the extent of my Batmania. Joe, however, has been collecting Batman merchandise, photos, and comic books for decades.

Joe: My first Batman collectables other than comic books were the Topps bubble gum cards in the spring of 1966. I bought baseball and some non-sport cards, but the first Batman series with 55 cards was the first set of anything I completed, thanks to some judicious trades with fellow fans in the neighborhood.

I’ve loved looking at Chip Kidd’s collection of Japanese Batman toys and memorabilia. Does your book look at how the show was celebrated in international markets?

Bob: We find more tie-in material all the time. We know the show was syndicated worldwide very quickly. For example, It was in England, Canada and the Netherlands while it was still in its first run on ABC in the United States. But we aren't aware of the timeline for its entire broadcast history worldwide. There is much more digging to be done to get the full story of the syndication and subsequently the full extent of the international tie-ins.

Joe: As I understand it, a lot of those Japanese items are from the collection of Saul Ferris. He lives only about 45 minutes away from me and we bump into each other at conventions in the area. Saul is a relative of Harve Bennett and provided some information about him for the book. My collecting interests have tended towards Batman material published and released in the US and it was fascinating to see all the Japanese items Saul has. Regarding syndication, we did learn that after the series ended on ABC in 1968 and went into syndication, it has continually been broadcast somewhere, certainly in the United States, but also in foreign markets, and is still running today.

What are some of your prized treasures?

Bob: I have a few very nice letters from members of the cast and crew. But I think you are looking for things that Joe might have.

Joe: I’ve acquired a lot of cool stuff over the years, some of it pricey and some of it inexpensive, but things that still resonate are those acquired as a kid, including my earliest comic books (with my name scrawled in red ink on the first page), those Topps gum cards (even with creases and soft corners), clippings of the Batman newspaper strip that I faithfully cut out and saved every day, and especially a homemade Batman cape and cowl my mom made—objects worthless to most but priceless to me.

I also love those Topps cards. The Norman Saunders art is amazing! He really captured a dynamic Pulp/Cliffhanger Serial-style Batman. Have you been fans of any of the specific Batman comic artists?

Bob: Batman had always been around at my dentist's office, in the kid's comic stack at restaurants, even at my local shoe store, but I didn't follow the comic until Neal Adams began drawing him. Back in the day I bought anything with Adams art: Batman, Detective Comics, and Brave & Bold. Then I followed B&B with Jim Aparo, who I loved as a Batman artist. The Steve Englehart & Marshall Rogers years were tremendous. Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Batman Year One is seminal. Jim Lee's Batman is pretty great as well.

Joe: DC’s 80-Page Giant anthologies and other reprint editions from the 1960s and 1970s made me a life-long fan of artists Dick Sprang and Jerry Robinson, although I didn’t know who they were until they began getting credited in those reprints. Carmine Infantino was impressive on Batman (and nearly everything else he did) and I discovered more of his work as I completed runs of Mystery In Space and Strange Adventures. Batman stories by Neal Adams and Dick Giordano were a special treat and I remember thinking they should draw every issue of Batman and Detective when I was buying comics in the early 1970s. However, I just enjoy the character, and since Batman has proven to be an elastic literary figure, he can be successfully interpreted by various artists and writers, across decades and in different media: comics, newspaper strips, animation, feature films, TV and of course licensing. Some versions work better but I have found all of them enjoyable on some level.

What are your favorite Batman episodes?

Bob: I dearly love the pilot and any episode with Burgess Meredith or Julie Newmar.

Joe: My favorite Batman villain is Joker and I enjoy all of those escapades, but my favorite episode is the two-part False Face from season one. Constantly eluding Batman, seemingly impossible to catch.

Because of elements like gadgets, design, and crime story conventions, did you also get into U.N.C.L.E., 007, etc? Tell us about your favorite spies.

Bob: I was hooked on James Bond from the day my parents took me to see Dr. No. Though, I was so young, I didn't even notice Ursula Andress. She was just "the girl." And girls were icky. Since then I've seen every Bond movie in the theater and somehow the girls have gotten progressively less icky. And Jinx, Natasha Romanoff and Peggy Carter are downright bewitching. I also loved The Man From U.N.C.L.E. which confused me as a kid. I knew I was supposed to like the American spy Napoleon Solo, but Illya Kuryakin was so much cooler. Then there were Maxwell Smart, Nick Fury, Flint, and so many others which inevitably led to Jack Ryan and Bourne. Oddly enough, I've never followed any spy novel series, just in comics, films and TV.

Joe: The spy craze was a big part of the 1960s, and I recall a neighbor who had some very cool Agent Zero M toys, including the Snap-Shot and Movie-Shot cameras. The spy stuff never clicked in a big way with me, although I recall seeing Get Smart and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and did have the U.N.C.L.E. board game. Immensely enjoyed McGoohan’s The Prisoner and after getting into videotape, tracked down episodes of Secret Agent. Really enjoyed his half-hour Danger Man series as well, although they were extremely difficult to locate in the 1980s, with some coming from film transfers. I’ve always enjoyed film noir which has its share of spies and detectives, but without the gadgets. Boris and Natasha (Bullwinkle) probably were the best animated spies.

If you were an evil villain or hero, what would you choose as your secret lair?

Bob: I'm definitely the tropical island paradise kind of guy. Villain or hero, it's sunny skies and warm beaches for me.

Joe: As a collector, it would have to be the Batcave because of massive storage capacity and fantastic existing artifacts and memorabilia. No crime fighting, just battling other collectors on eBay; a fast internet connection would be paramount to aid in sniping. That “secret” aspect could be a problem since there would be lots of packages delivered.

Thank you for sharing your project with Spy Vibe! Readers can find Batman: A Celebration of the Classic TV Series at Amazon, AmazonUK, and at your local bookshop. Related posts: Interview: Batman Animated designer Shane Glines Interview, Interview: Ralph Garman and Ty Templeton, Interview: Ryan Heshka, Batman TV and Manga releasesBatman 66: The TV Stories BookBatman in Swinging London, Julie NewmarBatman 66 posters, Adam West Sings!Adam West spy adSpy Vibe visits the BatcaveJames Bond & Batman RobotsAndy Warhol BatmanMan From UNCLE & Batman Manga.

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