You really hadda be there…really.
1966….BATMANIA! It’s almost impossible to explain it to someone who was NOT there to experience the national obsession with ABC’s Batman TV series starring Adam West as The Caped Crusader and Burt Ward as Robin The Boy Wonder was beyond huge. In it’s initial season Batman and by extension Batmania was bigger than Elvis, Sinatra or the Beatles…it was bigger than (gasp) HARRY POTTER!
You could not go anywhere and not see the Batman logo plastered everywhere. It was used to merchandise everything from kid’s toys to bread and breakfast cereal. I myself saved my pennies until I had the $6.96 I needed for the Official Batman Kit which consisted of a plastic cowl (which would NEVER be sold to kids today), a batarang and cord, plastic cape and various small pieces that MUST have been designed for kids to swallow. BUT in 1966 we kids did not concern ourselves about lethal toys. We laughed in the face of such dangers. We were made of sterner stuff than the X-Box generation! And $6.99 was a LOT of bread back in the day. If I hadn’t been a died in the wool junior super hero I might have cracked my sister’s piggy bank for the dough….ok…I DID crack her piggy bank but it was all for the cause of justice. After all how could I be expected to fight crime without my official Batman Kit?
But I digress…( as I often do)
Batman was the height of camp. It lampooned everything from the politicians and establishments of the day to the biggest entertainers. It was also sexy with a capital “S”. Don’t believe me? Then let me just say Julie Newmar and we can move on! There was NOTHING serious about Batman.
But you couldn’t prove it to s 9 year old kid. I and my gang (muscled by my cousin Cindy, the toughest kid on the block) took Batman absolutely at face value. This was deadly serious stuff to us. I mean who could ignore the threat of King Tut? The villainous conundrums of The Riddler? Ot the Clown prince of Crime The Joker (not to mention Julie’s Catwoman who made us 9 year olds notice that girls might NOT be quite so yucky as we always believed). If only we could locate the Dynamic Duo. I was sure we would be invaluable in their battle against the bumbling forces of evil, and the Gotham City PD.
But since the Brooklyn line did not run to Gotham all we could do was provide moral support by NEVER missing an episode of Batman. We hung on every BAM! POW! And Gazonk! …and we never, NEVER asked why the bad guys didn’t simply shoot Batman when they had the chance. Well stupid Stevie did but he was stupid and we exiled him the first time he asked such a blasphemous question. (Stupid Stevie grew up to become a professor of advanced mathematics, but somehow never became a great comic book collector. To my knowledge to this day has never had a date!)
But I digress…
The other way in which I personally provided moral support was to get my hands on every single Batman comic I could lay my hands on. It wasn’t enough just to buy them from the local candy store. I canvassed every teenager in my neighborhood and got THEIR old Batman comics for a dime a piece. I must take a moment to point out that this was a sad exercise for me as said teens were eager to part with their comics for a mere pittance. I was convinced that senility hit at about age 14. Truly tragic.
There’s that wacky digression again!...comics!
I read Batman comics obsessively! Even putting aside my beloved Superman books for a time. And during that summer of 1967 after the first season, I had convinced my counselor at east New York Day Camp that not only could I NOT swim but that I was so afraid of the water that the only thing to do was let me sit in the stands and read my comics every day at swim time. In fact I was, and am, an excellent swimmer and take to the water like a duck. But such was my Batmania that no sacrifice was too great. The BAT must be fed after all.
And if you could travel back in time to those halcyon days of Batmania you might very well come across a 9 year old boy sitting by the pool at East New York Day Camp, plastic batcowl firmly on his head, reading ad re-reading Batman Annual #12. A determined look in the eye, a defiant curl to the lip. A true believer.