Here's the cover I recreated to make the "Secret Origins" cover seen above!


Today, exactly 40 years ago to the day, the Batman TV show premiered on ABC TV! In 2006, Batman is flying high, but decades ago, the entire Batman family -- Batman, Robin, Alfred, Batwoman, Batgirl, Bat-Mite, and Ace the Bat-Hound -- was in trouble. Big trouble. Potentially FATAL trouble.

It was late 1963. Sales of the Batman titles were low, and getting lower. “It's this simple: Batman is dying. We're giving you two guys six months to fix it. If not, it's over.” That’s what DC publisher Irwin Donenfeld told editor Julie Schwartz and artist Carmine Infantino. Batman, an American institution, faced cancellation.

"The book was at 32 percent sales,” Infantino recalls. “Which is a heavy loss. [Batman creator] Bob Kane hadn't even been doing the work -- he was farming it out to others. He hadn't touched the drawing for years. What he was turning in was too old-fashioned.”

So, with just six issues to turn the tide, Editor Schwartz and artist Carmine Infantino developed the "New Look Batman." To mark the change, a yellow oval was added to the Bat-insignia on the Caped Crusader’s chest, similar to the circular yellow Bat-symbol worn by “The Batman from Planet X” in Batman #113 (Feb. 1958). Here’s how the "New Look" Batman was introduced to readers in 1963:
DETECTIVE #327, MAY 1964 DETECTIVE #329, JULY 1964 BATMAN #165, AUGUST 1964
Old Look Batman Meets Hugh Hefner

A new Bat-logo made its first appearance on Batman #170 -- and the next issue, #171, would prove to be one of the most important since Batman’s creation. The book’s .eye-catching cover (pictured left), drawn by Carmine Infantino, featured the Riddler as a human punching bag in a Gardner Fox story titled "The Remarkable Ruse of the Riddler." A kind of "comic book urban myth" surrounds this issue of Batman -- a myth perpetuated in a recent interview by Infantino himself.

"Bill Dozier was at an airport," according to Infantino, “and he saw one of my covers on Batman. He got interested, he called the company and boom -- the TV show came." But in reality, the TV version of Batman began far earlier than that. And it started not at an airport, but inside the sensual confines of Hugh Hefner's Chicago Playboy mansion (pictured below, with December 1964 Playmate of the .month Jo Collins).

It seems Hef was throwing a party to screen the old Batman movie serial, which had recently been re-released to art film houses across the country. Among the guests in attendance that night at Hef’s Chi-town pad were an executive from ABC Television, as well as Bob Kane. Kane, along with Bill Finger, had created Batman in Detective Comics #27, and Kane also had a hand in writing the Batman serial being screened that night.

"The Batman" was made in 1943 on a small budget. It's far from a classic movie, but it did make a classic contribution to Batman's world: The "Bat's Cave" was introduced for the first time ever in this serial! And so was the idea that the entrance to the Bat Cave .was hidden behind a grandfather clock (pictured left, Bruce Wayne exits the Bat Cave via the clock).

The creation of the Bat Cave was a historic and supremely important bit of Bat-lore, but the rest of the serial is far from historic. It's not completely awful, considering when it was made, but it's hardly a top quality film. The plot is rife with WWII propaganda (Our heroes vs. evil "Japs"), the characterizations are superficial, and the acting is passable at best. Pictured below are Batman and Robin (Lewis Wilson and Douglas Croft) interrogating a recently-captured criminal in the sparsely-decorated Batcave, with the help of a disintegrator ray gun.
The serial's narrator is a somber, overly serious fellow who doesn't seem to notice that the events he is describing .are completely absurd. Click the link on the right to see the first few moments of the .serial's initial chapter, "The Electrical Brain," and you'll hear the narrator introduce, in the gravest possible tones, "Batman! Clad in the somber costume which has struck terror into the heart of many a swaggering denizen of the underworld... Batman!"

But in spite of the serials' many deficiencies -- or actually, BECAUSE of them -- the guests at Hef's screening party loved the flick. It was so bad, it was good. Hysterical! Pure camp! The serial was a killer.

And it gave the ABC executive an idea. The “Superman” TV series starring George Reeves (pictured below right) had been a big success and run for .several seasons -- why not give Batman the television treatment as well, but make the show as campy as the 1943 serial!

What did Bob Kane think of the idea? Naturally, he loved it. He even suggested that each episode of the show end with a cliffhanger, just like the old serial chapters did. The show would even replicate the somber voice of the serial’s pompous narrator. And, as it turned out, the Batman TV show’s narrator was also the show’s Executive Producer -- a man named William Dozier. The story of how Dozier got the Batman gig at ABC is something of a television/comic book legend.
The Man Who Produced Batman

After the idea to do a Batman TV series reached Douglas Cramer, ABC Vice President in Charge of New Program Development, he brought it to Edgar Scherick, President of ABC Television. “Batman could operate on two levels,” Cramer told Scherick.” For adults it would be high humor, for kids, high adventure.” Scherick agreed, and ABC began looking around for the right man to produce the show.

The right man turned out to be actor/producer William Dozier, pictured below right. Born February 13, 1908 in Omaha, Nebraska (he passed away on April 23, 1991), Dozier had .previously worked on Playhouse 90, Dennis the Menace, .Donna Reed, and Hazel.
TRIVIA FUN-FACTS: Dozier's acting can be seen in his guest appearances on "Love, American Style" and "Eight Is Enough," and in the Richard Gere film "American Gigolo" (1980), where he plays Michelle's lawyer.

Early in 1965, ABC contacted Dozier, who flew from Hollywood to New York to meet with the ABC execs. At that meeting, he accepted the job producing Batman. But there was just one small problem: He had no idea who the character was. Dozier, God help the man, had never read a comic book in his entire life, and had never even heard of Batman!

“After the meeting,” Dozier recalls, “I scurried around and bought maybe seven or eight different vintage copies of the Batman comic books, and felt like a fool doing it. I read them -- if that is the word -- and asked myself ‘What do I do with this?’ I thought they were crazy. I really thought they were crazy if they were going to try to put this on television. Then I had the simple idea of overdoing it, of making it so square and so serious that adults would find it amusing. I knew kids would go for the derring-do, the adventure, but the trick would be to find adults who would either watch it with their kids -- or to hell with the kids, and watch it anyway.”

Which books did Dozier buy on that fateful day? You might think that because Dozier has since passed away, and because memories fade after four decades, there's no way we will ever know. You might think that, reader, but you'd be wrong. Because I, Robby Reed, the creator of this blog and author of this article, have discovered not only which comics Dozier bought on that fateful day, but how three of these books formed the entire basis of the Batman TV show. Reader, are you ready to learn the REAL Secret Origin of the Batman TV show? There's only one way to find out...