Film Review: Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016)

Also known as: Batman ’66 (informal title)
Release Date: October 6th, 2016 (New York Comic Con)
Directed by: Rick Morales
Written by: Michael Jelenic, James Tucker
Based on: Batman (the ’60s TV show) by William Dozier, Batman by Bob Kane, Bill Finger
Music by: Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion, Lolita Ritmanis
Cast: Adam West, Burt Ward, Julie Newmar, Steven Weber, Thomas Lennon, Jeff Bergman, William Salyers, Wally Wingert

Warner Bros. Animation, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 78 Minutes

Review:

“Quickly, Robin, to the crosswalk!” – Batman

It’s kind of cool to see the old ’60s Batman get some life again over the past couple years. There was the Batman ’66 comic series, I already reviewed all the collections, and then there were two of these animated features that were made just in time to use the voices of the original cast: Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar. Sadly, West recently passed away, so a third film in this series probably won’t happen.

But I’m here to talk about Return of the Caped Crusaders, which is the first of the two Batman ’66 movies. I’ll review its sequel at a later date.

I guess the thing that I liked best about this movie is that the tone and the humor were spot on. It really captured the spirit of the show and felt like it was written by people that cared about the source material.

I also liked that this could be much larger in scale than the show. It featured a dozen or so of the television series’ villains but had a larger focus on the big four from the series: Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman.

There is also a whole side plot where Batman turns evil and has to be saved from himself by Catwoman and Robin. If you remember the show, you probably remember the rivalry for Batman’s attention between these two characters. It just makes for some good, amusing moments.

This is a quick and action packed film like everything else DC Comics has been doing as animated features. But this one really stands out due to its style and how well it works without DC sticking to their regular animated formula.

Good, fun story and overall, a really awesome experience for fans of the old show.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The sequel to this film: Batman Vs. Two Face, as well as the 1960s Batman TV show and movie, the Batman ’66 comic and other DC Comics animated films of the last decade.

Comic Review: Joker: The Clown Prince of Crime

Published: December 3rd, 2013
Written by: Dennis O’Neil
Art by: Dick Giordano

DC Comics, 176 Pages

Review:

This book collects the mid-’70s Joker series, which ran for nine issues. The only story from this series that I had ever read was the one featuring the Creeper, which was also reprinted for the collection The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told. It was cool finding this and being able to check out this classic series.

I think the thing that I enjoyed most about this is that it allowed the Joker to shine on his own without any involvement from Batman whatsoever. The Caped Crusader never appears and just when you think he does, it is a ruse by the Joker. Although, I’m not sure why he is on the cover, or the Riddler and Penguin for that matter, as none of these people appear in the book.

We do see the Joker interact with other famous DC Comics characters though.

There are stories that feature Two-Face, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Catwoman, Scarecrow, Lex Luthor, the Royal Flush Gang, Sherlock Holmes and a brief cameo by the Hal Jordan version of Green Lantern. Then there’s also that entertaining story with the Creeper.

Being that this is a Joker comic, it really plays up the comedy and is actually funny, even if it is chock-full of ’70s hokey cheese.

This is a nice time capsule back to the Bronze Age of comics before things started to evolve with the style by the mid-’80s.

This is also a must own if you are a big fan of the Joker and want to have a nice laugh at the expense of the other villains and heroes he toys with here.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told

Comic Review: Batman Arkham – Poison Ivy

Published: September 13th, 2016
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 312 Pages

Review:

I love these Batman Arkham collections and I’ve read four of them before this one but had to take a break to read some other comics for awhile. So far, there are about ten of these collections: all at around 300 pages.

This collection featuring Poison Ivy was the next one on my list, as I have read plenty of her stuff since the late ’80s but never really got to indulge in her earliest stories before she became really popular in the early ’90s due to how great she was on Batman: The Animated Series.

This starts with her earliest stories and works its way up to more recent ones and is organized chronologically by the publish date.

The early stuff for her isn’t as old as some of Batman’s better known villains. Her first appearance was actually in 1966 around the same time as the Adam West Batman television show. This is probably why she was never included on the show alongside Batman’s most famous rogues.

Her origin tale is pretty good but she isn’t quite the character that she would become. In fact, her origin is rehashed in a few of the different stories collected in this big volume of tales. I do like the older Ivy stories and really enjoyed the one that saw her face off with Wonder Woman, as opposed to Batman, but it’s the later stuff that really made this book for me.

Once we get into the mid-’80s, we see a darker and more serious take on the character. Her story where she comes off as a reformed victim, only to be laying traps for those that wronged her is damn good. It’s also a two-parter and takes up sixty pages or so of this collection.

Everything beyond that is also pretty solid. The editor did a nice job selecting key stories out of the large collection of Poison Ivy tales that have been told over the years.

This is a good collection and frankly, I love that DC is finally releasing books like this for the Batman rogues that have a long enough history to fill up 300 pages.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Other Batman Arkham collections.

Comic Review: Batman: The War of Jokes and Riddles

Published: December 19th, 2017
Written by: Tom King
Art by: Mikel Janin

DC Comics, 200 Pages

Review:

I haven’t been too keen on modern comics from the big publishers: Marvel and DC. I’m not wholly opposed to reading them, as there are a few titles I still like. However, modern writers seem to be trying to reinvent and alter things too much. Then there is the whole SJW movement in comics that are forcing change in a bizarre and unnecessary way, as oppose to creating new characters that can stand on their own.

The Batman Rebirth stuff doesn’t seem to be full of SJW meddling but it does make some drastic moves and alters the narrative in ways that don’t feel organic.

My biggest issue with this story, is that the Riddler, one of the main characters, is pretty much a murderous, blood thirsty psycho that carves question marks into his flesh and plays more of a mob boss with a penchant for green suits than the classic villain we all know and love. Also, he has sideburns, looks attractive and wears his dress shirts wide open like some sort of douchebag.

The Joker seems pretty much normal, even if he is drier and more bland than what one is used to. But his story starts with him not finding anything funny anymore. Sort of like the kid that takes his ball and goes home because the bigger kid keeps tackling him to the ground. The Joker has no energy here but I guess that’s the point of the story and how it plays out. Still, in no situation whatsoever, can my mind even imagine this sort of version of the character.

Then there is the relationship between Batman and Catwoman, which sees Batman turning a blind eye to Catwoman’s crimes as long as she grinds on his junk once in a while. Besides, she’s not a “sick” criminal. Regardless, Batman’s code seems to be thrown out the window as long as he gets to play “hide the churro” every few dozen pages or so.

And speaking of Batman’s code, he tries to kill the Riddler in cold blood, unprovoked in the moment, with a machete to the face. No, seriously. This is something that happens in this tale.

The problem with this story arc is maybe the same problem I have with modern comics. The writers and the creators either don’t have respect for the source material and want to put their own spin on things or they just don’t understand or know the source material. I’ve been reading Batman comics for over thirty years and this is the most un-Batman story I have ever come across.

The writer doesn’t understand these characters, tries to throw way too many into the story and then doesn’t even weave a good or engaging enough plot to give this any sort of point. The entire plot revolves around the Joker feeling gloom. The big reveal at the end shows that this was all an elaborate ploy by the Riddler to solve the biggest riddle of all: why won’t the Joker laugh.

I’ll tell you why the Joker won’t laugh. It’s because he’s lived for nearly eight decades and never has he been in a story as dull and as dumb as this one.

I really wanted to like this because it has been a long time since I’ve cared about Batman. Yes, I still read older stuff on a regular basis but the series has just been lost to me ever since the end of the Grant Morrison era.

On the positive side of things, the art is pretty damn good. I don’t like some of the new character designs but the book still looks nice.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: Probably other Batman stuff in the Rebirth line but I doubt I’ll read anything else from this era.

Comic Review: Batman ’66, Vol. 5

Published: May 17th, 2016
Written by: Jeff Parker
Art by: Jonathan Case
Based on: Batman (’60s TV Series) by William Dozier, ABC

DC Comics, 184 Pages

Review:

This is it, the final collected volume in the Batman ’66 run of comics. It’s a sad, sad day. But, there are some crossover titles featuring Batman ’66 and other TV shows from that era, which I will have to read. But for now, let’s see if the final collection in the series was a worthy finale.

Well, one cool thing about this final volume, is that it introduces us to more classic Batman villains that weren’t originally a part of the Batman television show from the ’60s. In volume three we got Harley Quinn and in volume four we got Two-Face. Here we get even more: Solomon Grundy, Clayface, Poison Ivy, Bane, Scarecrow and Killer Croc.

The first story in this book is called The Short Halloween, which is a play on words of the famous story arc The Long Halloween. This tale is about two mean trick or treaters dressed as the Joker and the Penguin, who are going around robbing kids of their candy. A young boy and his little sister go out as Batman and Robin in an effort to stop the dastardly villains. It’s a very short but cute story where the real Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder make an appearance at the end.

Following that story, we see the origin of the Batman ’66 version of Solomon Grundy, who is resurrected from beyond the grave by Hilda, the witch grandmother of Marsha Queen of Diamonds. After that is a third short story that takes Batman ’66 villain False Face and establishes him as Basil Karlo a.k.a. Clayface, who is a big time comic book villain that hadn’t yet appeared in any Batman ’66 related stories.

We then get a story revolving around Carolyn Jones’ Marsha Queen of Diamonds but Hilda isn’t there, probably because she had just been in the Grundy story. Then we get our second Harley Quinn tale in the Batman ’66 universe, which also has a one panel Cesar Romero Joker cameo. Then we get to see the Joker, the Frank Gorshin Riddler, the Burgess Meredith Penguin and the Eartha Kitt Catwoman team up and hold an advertising agency hostage in a story that just features Batgirl as the hero and parodies the television show Mad Men.

The next story is one of my favorite in the Batman ’66 franchise, it is the debut and origin story of Poison Ivy. The story started with the “murder” of Milton Berle’s Louie the Lilac, who you find out, is actually just in a catatonic state due to a poisonous plant concoction. Batman and Robin investigate and fall into the clutches of Ivy. The Ivy character is well written here and she is handled in a way that really fits the Batman ’66 style.

Next up, we are introduced to the Batman ’66 version of Bane, who is in league with the Riddler and comes to Gotham City as a lucha libre star. He crushes his opponents and believes that he breaks Batman’s back ala the classic Knightfall story arc. Bane returns to his home country as its ruler but Batman, Robin and Batgirl show up to change his plans.

We then get two shorter stories, each introducing us to two other classic villains yet to appear in the Batman ’66 franchise: Scarecrow and Killer Croc. Both are pretty straightforward and quick tales but it would have been cool to see them get more fleshed out had this series continued on.

Then we get a tale that features the first comic book appearance of Shelley Winters’ Ma Parker. Alongside her are a team of villains comprised of Killer Croc, Solomon Grundy and Killer Moth, in his only Batman ’66 appearance. The Julie Newmar Catwoman enters the story in the second half.

Lastly, we come to the grand finale of the entire Batman ’66 series with a story called Main Title. This awesome and incredible final issue is a recreation of the opening credits to the Batman show. So we get an actual narrative and see all (or most) of the Batman villains make a cameo as they try to overtake Batman and Robin. This whole fight takes place in a movie studio in a green screen room, explaining the green background in the classic show’s opening credits sequence. This was a pretty creative send off for this series and brought things full circle.

Initially, I thought that I wouldn’t like this volume in the series as much as the others because it had such a high emphasis on wedging in as many new villains as it could. However, every story was well crafted and served a purpose. This actually ended up being my favorite of the five volumes. As a fan of the 1960s Batman televison show, this was as perfect as a comic book can get featuring this particular pocket of the Batman universe.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: The rest of the Batman ’66 comic collections.

Comic Review: Batman ’66, Vol. 4

Published: December 8th, 2015
Written by: Jeff Parker
Art by: Richard Case
Based on: Batman (’60s TV Series) by William Dozier, ABC

DC Comics, 176 Pages

Review:

Well, I’m up to the fourth of the five collected volumes of this series, so that means I’m sadly, closer to the end than the beginning. This has been a fun ride, as I am a big fan of the 1960s Batman television series. It’s true to the source material and just feels right.

So how does this volume fare in regards to the first three, which I have already read and reviewed?

Well, it has multiple stories that feature Roddy McDowall’s Bookworm, so that’s a huge plus, as he was my favorite one-off villain that was invented for the show.

Other than that, the book is a lot of fun.

This volume starts with a King Tut story that has a small cameo by Bookworm. We then get a story featuring Art Carney’s The Archer, which is followed by a story where Bookworm is the main villain. After that, we get the first comic book appearance of the television show villains, Professor Marmaduke Ffogg and Lady Penelope Peasoup.

The next story is my favorite one, thus far into the Batman ’66 comic series. It stars Cesar Romero’s Joker in a plot where he is a superhero with his own sidekick and a purple Batmobile. It’s a fun story that just feels right for the Romero Joker. Plus, it has small cameos from Vincent Price’s Egghead, Burgess Meredith’s Penguin and Julie Newmar’s Catwoman.

Following this great tale, we get a story that starts with the Penguin but leads into meeting the Caped Crusaders’ first Japanese villain, and exclusive to this comic series, Lord Death Man. He wears a cool skeleton costume and controls a horde of ninjas. This adventure also sees Batman go to Japan with Batgirl, as Robin is on the shelf due to vertigo from his encounter with the Penguin.

We then get a solid Penguin story and although he seems like he is monopolizing this volume in the Batman ’66 series, this is the first story featuring him as the primary antagonist.

Following all that great stuff, we get to the final chapter in this collection which features a famous comic book villain making his Batman ’66 debut, as he was never featured on the television show: Two Face.

Two-Face was originally supposed to appear in the Batman TV show back in the ’60s but he was considered too gruesome for network television. So finally getting to see him appear alongside the Adam West Batman and the Burt Ward Robin was pretty cool. And the story was a nice read, as it felt true to the Two-Face character without altering the Batman ’66 tone.

This volume in the series may be my favorite. It has the debut of Two-Face, my favorite Joker story and two appearances by the Bookworm. Not to mention a lot of Penguin and an Egghead cameo. The only real low point was the Ffogg and Peasoup story, as I wasn’t a fan of them on the show to begin with.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: The rest of the Batman ’66 comic collections.

Comic Review: Batman ’66, Vol. 3

Published: April 28th, 2015
Written by: Jeff Parker
Art by: Jonathan Case
Based on: Batman (’60s TV Series) by William Dozier, ABC

DC Comics, 168 Pages

Review:

I’m really loving this series and it actually keeps improving with each collected volume.

This third collection starts by bringing in one of the established comic book villains to the Batman ’66 universe. A character that has never appeared in the ’60s Batman show. Her name is Harley Quinn. In fact, she was actually invented in the ’90s for Batman: The Animated Series and wasn’t even brought into the comics until the end of that decade. But seeing a popular Batman villain get ’66-ized is kind of cool.

The Harley origin story happens alongside a Joker and Catwoman team up that also features a lot of cameos from various villains locked within Arkham Asylum.

After that epic tale, we get to see the return of TV only villain, Marsha Queen of Diamonds, originally played by Carolyn Jones of The Addams Family. That is followed by a short tale featuring Van Johnson’s The Minstrel. We then get a False Face story, followed by a bigger team up adventure that puts the Joker with the Riddler and has cameos by the Clock King and the first comic book appearances of Art Carney’s the Archer and Milton Berle’s Louie the Lilac, one of my all-time favorite Batman ’66 villains. Following that is another team up, this time featuring Tallulah Bankhead’s Black Widow and the Penguin. The last story gives us Egghead and comes with small cameos by the Otto Preminger version of Mr. Freeze and the Riddler.

This volume was heavy on the team ups and cameos but I like that it showcases a lot of the villains and think the stories work really well this way, as Batman ’66 was a short lived series and the show had a lot of villains to cover, many of which were exclusive to just the show.

Ultimately, this is just another great collection of the series that I had hoped would go on forever.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: The rest of the Batman ’66 comic collections.