TV superhero icons collide as DC’s most popular live action TV hero from the 1960s meets it’s most popular live action hero from the 1970s.
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Graham: Get ready for an epic that spans three decades and brings together two of the most beloved nostalgic takes on D.C.’s big superheroes as we take a look at Batman 66 Wonder Woman 77, straight ahead.
Annnouncer: Welcome to the Classy Comics podcast where we search for the best comics in the universe. From Boise Idaho, here is your host Adam Graham.
Graham: One of the precursors to the revival in interest in Adam West Batman series, was the Batman 66 comic series. It was a digital first series and ran for 52 digital issues and then went over to crossing over with other programs from the 1960s. There was Batman 66 meets the Green Hornet. A pretty obvious choice that one. Then Batman 66 meeting The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Batman 66 meeting Steed and Peel from the 1960s Avenger series and then a nostalgia for Batman 66, got someone at D.C. Comics thinking how about we do Wonder Woman 77 on the Lynda Carter T.V. series and then they did Wonder Woman 77 meets the Bionic woman, which was just an absolute delight to read and that brings us to the ultimate D.C. nostalgic crossover Batman 66 and Wonder Woman 77.
Now, of course the question is how do you bring those two series together because they are in two different eras. Why actually, they are in three different eras because the first season of Wonder Woman was a period piece set during World War two. In the second and third season on C.B.S., the series became a modern series in order to save budget. So, with writer Jeff Parker on board who wrote the original Batman 66 series, they went with a three-era structure for the story.
The first third of the book kicks off with Batman and Robin intervening in a robbery where the earth Eartha Kitt Catwoman is stealing the book, Lost World of the ancients the second volume and she’s doing it on behalf of a Ra’s al Ghul, who is being represented by his daughter Talia, who gets away even though Catwoman is caught and agrees to share what she knows.
And this leads to a trip to the Batcave where Bruce tells the story of what happened to the first volume and that was that an auction was happening at Wayne Manor where both volumes were being auctioned off. There were a variety of bidders there. Among them was the father of a girl named Talia and another man. They both lost out to a long-time collector but one of the losing bidders revealed himself to be a Nazi. In fact, he was there in a Nazi uniform along with several other men. Now, you might think it does not make sense even if you are a Nazi spy to be one running around in a World War Two America with a Nazi uniform on even if you’ve got an overcoat on over it but this is a comic book and in comics, Nazis often wore their uniforms when it made no sense to do so behind American lines and right in the USA. So, I will allow it.
And so, we see Talia and Bruce making off with the book and being chased by Nazis and Ra’s al Ghul trying to get the books away from both the Nazis, the legitimate buyers and Bruce. At the same time, at the auction is Diana Prince, who, of course, turns into Wonder Woman when it is time to go into action and we get to see a lot of great Wonder Woman action, we get to see some sense of Bruce’s resourcefulness as well as Bruce stumbling into what would become the Batcave. We also see a Batman 66 origin for Ra’s al Ghul and this is something that Parker and the other writers on Batman 66 have done in introducing popular Batman villains who weren’t introduced in the original 1960 series for various reasons including that they hadn’t been created in the comic books yet and introducing them into this 1960s world and so we get to see that with Ra’s al Ghul. So, the first couple parts are a nice fun period piece and also kind of hints at the nascent relationship between Bruce and Talia.
So, in our second part, Batman Robin and the Lee Meriwether version of Catwoman all flying to Paradise Island and apparently, and I don’t know if this was something in the Wonder Woman T.V. series, men are allowed on Paradise Island but they have to have a female chaperone. This is not true to the original comics but it does save a little bit of tedium so I think that’s not a bad change. And their trail on what was going on in the book leads them to a labyrinth where ,of course, our heroes encounter a griffin and a cyclops and I love the part where Batman sprays like mace into the cyclops’ eye but at the end of the trail, they find that Ra’s al Ghul was looking for another Lazarus Pit and he found it and he got what he wanted and he tells them that there’s no real need to find and he’s actually right because unlike the mainstream comic version, there’s not really this big sinister thing that they’re trying to stop him from doing but they came all the way out here to stop and fight him so they try to and you get a fun but pointless fight scene. It also introduces the Wonder Girl from the T.V. series who was in three episodes and slightly confusing because she looks so much like Diana but again it’s a callback to the T.V. series. It’s a bit fun but pointless for most of the second half of the second part.
The third part opens up with Wonder Woman in Gotham City and she’s wearing an outfit that kind of looks like the Kathy Crosby one from The Pilot. It’s blue and it’s kind of an interesting design though definitely not her traditional take and she’s fighting the 1970s version of Killer Croc and it’s a fun battle scene that ends with Commissioner Gordon and Chief O’Hara coming to take away the bad guys. However, Commissioner Gordon is actually Barbara Gordon and Chief O’Hara is actually the original Chief O’Hara’s daughter.
I think this only half makes sense. Barbara Gordon becoming commissioner I could kind of see because that is generally either in an elected or appointed position but the chief of police is more of a career, law enforcement position and I don’t think Chief O’Hara looked old enough to have a daughter who would be old enough to take that position but whatever, that’s kind of a nitpick, I guess.
But she is there because there is A clue that the League of Shadows is at work and Barbara informs Wonder Woman that Batman has actually retired and that Dick Grayson is in charge of defending Gotham as Nightwing and of course this is 1970s Nightwing and this particular outfit is just such a 1970s look. There was a 1970s drawing of Nightwing and this stays pretty close to that as opposed to the modern costume. It really fits the era beautifully.
We do find out in a visit to the Batcave that the reason that Batman retired is that he quit after a battle with the Joker in which the Joker discovered his secret identity and came to Wayne Manor and Alfred died in a heart attack and it ended with Batman killing the Joker. That’s actually a really dark turn for Batman 66. So, I don’t particularly like that. I will say it’s nice that Wonder Woman is encouraging him to forgive himself, to understand that he’s only human and that if the only person who died in all these years of crime fighting was the Joker, he’s actually doing quite well.
Bruce isn’t really in a place to hear that right now. So, Wonder Woman goes to find Nightwing who she finds fighting Copperhead and she manages to save the Julie Newmar version of Catwoman from being killed by a copperhead and then after that they gather at Catwoman’s club.
Meanwhile, Batman is investigating, on his own, what’s going on with Ra’s al Ghul and begins to uncover some information and begins to debate with himself whether he should really go back out there and there’s a really fun visual as there is the angel and devil on the shoulder thing except for the angel, they have like Alfred and for the devil saying that he shouldn’t go back and he has no business going back being Batman, is the Joker and, of course, it is the 1960s Joker. So, they have the little bit of a mustache because Caesar Romero famously refused to shave off his moustache for the role wearing makeup over it. So, they even worked that little detail in here.
However, Ra’s al Ghul senses that Batman is on to him and so confronts Bruce in the back cave at the same time Talia goes after Wonder Woman, Catwoman and Nightwing at Catwoman’s club and she actually has her own 1970s henchmen. You know, they’re members of the league but they are dressed in green polyester shirts but not to be topped, because this is her club, Catwoman has her own group of 70s henchmen and they’re dressed in cat pattern clothes with these 1970s hats and they go and they fight and it is a really fun set up. And Batman finds a clever way to get away from Ra’s al Ghul and they head for where they figured out that Ra’s is.
In the 1960s Batgirl shows up, i.e., Barbara Gordon, who I guess is carrying on being Batgirl even while police commissioner and if you didn’t think that the team up could get any more epic, up pulls a brand new 1970s batmobile that’s really cool. Not as cool as the 1960s version but it’s a really sleek design that’s very true to the decade. With Nightwing even noting Batman’s arrival with its Batman drawn with the 1960s T.V. logo and so there’s a final battle with the rogues before Batman and Wonder Woman make it to Ra’s al Ghul. I won’t spoil the whole ending here but it’s a pretty fun little maylay.
Overall, I have to say that the art is just wonderful. It is a visual feast. If you’re a fan of one or both of these shows, you get so much here that they just really are meaning to serve you, the fan. You get to see all three versions of Catwoman. You get to see all of these different characters. You get some really fun fight scenes. You get designs that are really true to the era. They either brought to life what had been on television or they managed to make some really good creative choices so that you see something that is really true to what it would have been if it had been in the 1970s.
The writing on this is usually pretty good. I think there are a few turns that don’t make sense such as the new Chief O’Hara and the dark into the Batman 66 era and I also never got a real sense of Ra’s al Ghul having a truly evil master plan. Mostly he seemed to be about getting himself into Lazarus Pits, which is probably not a good concern for the world’s greatest crime. Still, if you are a fan, like I said, of either of these shows, this is a good book for you. It’s not written with new fans in mind or trying to be particularly assessable. It knows its audience and it serves them well. So, I will give Batman 66 meets Wonder Woman 77 a rating of classy on the strength of the art and some pretty decent writing.
All right that’s all for now. If you do have a comment, send it to me firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter at classycomicsguy and be sure and rate the show on iTunes. From Boise Idaho, this is your host Adam Graham signing off.