You can have your Avengers. You can moon over the various versions of Peter Parker’s Webslinger and clamor for more of his comic book buddies to bank on the big screen. But in a world of clearly commercial concerns, the Bat is where it’s at. Yes, Bruce Wayne, philanthropist and million/billionaire (depending on the era) raconteur and playboy has been the movie going publics fave rave for woe these last 40 years. He’s been the subject of a successful funny book run, reinvented by famed writers such as Frank Miller, reimagined as a ‘40s serials icon and a ‘60s camp champ. Yet it was the high concept ‘80s, and the even more micromanaged millennium, that turned the masked vigilante known as the Batman into a pure pop phenomenon.
It all started way back before blockbusters and boffo opening weekends. TV executives were looking for a companion piece to the popular ‘50s take on Clark Kent’s alter ego, aka The Adventures of Superman. That series, starring the George Reeves, was a huge hit among kids, and sensing a similar media splash, they figured the Bat would be best. Loathing the comics and going for a more potent pop art approach, ABC introduced Adam West as their wealthy warrior and Burt Ward as his faithful sidekick, Robin. With its plethora of guest stars as classic villains such as the Joker, the Penguin, and the Riddler, the show was an instant success. In fact, it was such a monster that it actually aired twice a week—the first episode setting up a cliffhanger that the next installment would resolve a few days later.