Sunday, September 21, 2014

BATMAN and the Mean Streets of Kennington

In May 1967,  during the hiatus between season 2 and season 3, Adam West flew to England and shot a road-safety film, some photos of which are captured here. Batmania was still at its height in Britain. According to the notes on these photos, the film and photoshoot took place on Denny St in Kennington on May 12th 1967, in London.

The incongruity of Batman juxtaposed with an Austin 1100 car, or surrounded by onlookers in a grey London jumps out of the photos.

According to a blogger pcarroll3 on , Batman's dialog in the film was :
"I'm taking a break from crime-fighting in Gotham and I'm here to tell you about a daily deadly danger.... TRAFFIC!.. and it finished
REMEMBER, Always do your..(pause for effect, look stern into the camera) KERB DRILL! I loved it.

Original Publication: People Disc ? HM0458 (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)


Ask any Batman fan who grew up in Britain in the 1960s what Robin's most famous "Holy..." aphorism was, and he'd say "Holy Broken Bones!". Yet this quip of Robin's is never found in the 120 episode series. Why is this?
For those of us entranced by the series in the UK (myself aged 6), every episode of Batman was prefaced by a short film of Batman and Robin standing in front of some curtains talking directly to camera about the perils of thinking Batman could fly, and not jumping off of roofs in an effort to emulate Batman.

The only photos of that safety film shoot are captured in card 27 of the Bat Laffs set of photo cards of the Batman TV series, and card 41 from the Belgium Monty Gum set, both shown here.

What happened to that intro film? Does it still exist?

The blog contains the following explanation to the short intro being made.

With the release of the feature film and the series now airing overseas, a new problem besides sagging ratings arose, as Executive Producer William Dozier recalled, 'In England, kids started jumping out of windows; they thought Batman could fly. They thought the cape was wings. We had to do a special lead-in to the show, with an interview with Batman saying, "Boys and girls, I do not fly. I can't fly any better than you can. Don't think I can and don't think you can. And don't take chances by trying to jump off the roof." They were doing it, but never in this country. Thank heaven it never started in this country.'

Found among William Dozier's files, was the following note from the executive in charge of Fox's overseas operations. It included the actual intro aired in England:


Into camera, seriously

BATMAN Robin and I want all you youngsters to understand we have no wings, and no superhuman powers, and we can not fly.

ROBIN And listen, kids, if either of us tried to fly, or jump off a high place, we would be badly hurt. So would you so for gosh sakes, don?t ever try it. Holy broken bones!

And then Robin punched one fist into the other gloved hand, in time-honored fashion.

Does anyone else remember this?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

That's the Wonder of Woolworth's

A little bit of a trip down memory lane today with this photo of my earliest Batman and Robin collectibles, and which pre-date my earliest Batman comic acquisition (#186 - Cover Date Nov 1966 - "The Joker's Original Robberies").

The figures in the photo are 4” high plastic figures produced by toy soldier makers Charbens or Cherilea in the UK in the late Summer of 1966. Although the Batman TV series (the catalyst for my comics interest) premiered in the US in January 1966, it was not until July 4th that it premiered on ITV in the UK). 

The two figures you see were purchased by my mother in Woolworths in Palmerston Road, Southsea in September 1966, and given to me after school one day while we waited in Pembroke Road, Old Portsmouth for my father to collect us on his way home from work.

When my father arrived, he also produced a figure of Batman that he had purchased himself from Woolworths in Commercial Rd, during his lunch hour! So I ended up with two Batmen and one Robin!

These figures are incredibly rare, in any condition, virtually unknown outside of the UK. A quick “google” has shown that a pair of these figures is up for sale at $454, and a shabby Batman on its own for $125, with no base. I see that a firm has acquired the moulds, and it is now possible to purchase unpainted versions of the Batman figure for a modest price.

Woolworths played a major role in selling Batman-related merchandise in the 1960s, and we’ll take a look at some of the other items in later blogs. As far as I know, Woolworths never sold American comics in the UK, but they were a major influence on promoting awareness of the superhero genre in a drab Britain.

(Note : the pictures of Woolworths in Portsmouth from 1966 shown here were swiped from Flickr, taken by a chap called Richard Baker. His photos capture a Britain transitioning from austerity to the "Swinging Sixties", a world away from the imagined colour and excitment of America, as seen through the lens of the Batman TV series).

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Word to the Wise

with Nigel Brown

Bronze Age Comics – an objective review of their past, present and future

I believe it was David Hartwell who said that the ‘Golden Age of Science Fiction’ was whenever the individual concerned was 12 years old. This probably applies to comics, too, which is why the so-called ‘Bronze Age’ of comics is my personal Golden Age. I was 12 years old in 1971.

But, nostalgia aside, am I right to laud the Bronze Age over other eras in the panological timescape?

The next time you buy a comic, take a look at what you’re really getting. I bet you see it as issue ‘whatever’, of ‘whatever’ comic – you’re pleased to have it: it helps fill a gap in a run, or it’s a nice example of a particular comic… you may even be looking forward to reading it, assuming it’s not imprisoned in sealed plastic... and when you do, you read the story, the letter column (maybe) and you glance at the adverts. Then you secure it away in a mylite sleeve, supported by an acid-free card, finally wrapped in a mylar outer sleeve in your humidity-controlled air-conditioned vault.

But what if you look at it through different eyes? What if you take an objective view, let the scales of nostalgia fall from your eyelids?

I felt it would be interesting to disregard completely the content of the comic strips themselves, ignoring all artistic considerations in an attempt to be as objective as possible.

That’s what this investigation is all about, and the results tell a story as fascinating as the art and stories of the comics themselves.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Mad DC Comic Hunt (or Tales of the Fabulous Bronze Age)

by Nigel Brown

This is an unashamed account of a time long gone, thirty-nine years ago by the calendar. Let me start at the beginning…


Like most people I was brought up on Dandys, Beanos, Toppers etc. but one day, when I was about seven, I wanted something different. I was getting tired of the wholesome adventures of Desperate Dan and the rest of the gang. My eyes lightened upon a rack of glossy looking comics and I soon purchased my first American comic, Superman No. 190.

There’s no need to tell you how much more exciting those DCs were, and I soon began to collect them at a rate of about one a week. Then I discovered that other shops that sold DCs and it wasn’t long before I had a collection of about sixty comics… collected so that I could read them again whenever I wished.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Moral Parker

Detective #426 Aug 72, on sale June 29 1972
The penultimate Frank Robbins-drawn Batman story, close to the end of an arc he started in Detective #416 with "Man-Bat Madness".

Fan reaction to his artwork had been varied to say the least. For those fans who had come to know and love the realistic, athletic Neal Adams Batman, the artwork of Frank Robbins was a smack in the kisser, an unsettling throwback to the 1940s and a style of art pioneered by Milton Caniff. I was one of those fans in the summer of 1972, knocked off-kilter by the abupt change in style, by the cartoonish and unrealistic physiques. Yet, like so many of the early detractors, I became a huge fan. Darwyn Cooke is probably the closest we have today who epitomises the same use of a cartoonish style to bring energy and verve and excitement and a sense of place and time in equal measure.

Robbins only drew five Batman stories between 1971-1972, each one a classic of genre storytelling - the Gothic Horror, the Locked-Room mystery, the Prison Break, the impassive Hunter, and the Modern Horror - the stories bookended by Man-Bat's closure.

Most of Robbins' Batman work was as a writer, but the stories he also drew have a power and pacing that the solely written efforts do not evince. Like his previous solo effort - "Blind Justice, Blind Fear" (Detective #421) - a melodramatic ode to the prison break dramas of the thirties, this story is classic Frank Robbins; a pared-down story - tight plotting - spare artwork - fifteen pages of taut tale framed in a classic three-act story arc. Robbins' Batman is a private detective working pro-bono. The Bat-costume is his work clothes, his trench-coat. He's first and foremost a shamus - a colder Philip Marlowe, roaming the mean streets, the deserted wharves, mixing with the big money, hiding in the neon shadows, going where the police cannot go.