December 28, 2023

#08-370: Batman

Two heroes: Batman and Robin; and three villains Penguin, Riddler, and Joker (top)

Note: The show Batman brought a whole new idea to the superhero genre: heroes could be funny!

Get Ready: Do you like superheroes? If so, who's your favorite? If not, why not?

I have written of the first live-action superhero we knew: Superman, who was on TV beginning in 1952. Although the show was quite popular, it ended under a cloud, when the star, George Reeves, was deemed to have committed suicide in 1959. (The case remains unclear to this day.)

This may have cast a pall over the "superhero" mystique, and it wasn't until 1966 that the next popular superhero came along. That show, which ran for three seasons, was Batman.

The show took the fairly somber, dark character described in the comic books and turned him into the star of a campy TV comedy. Lead actor Adam West, who played Bruce Wayne (a millionaire playboy when not in Batman's tights) was almost never able to find significant roles thereafter, nor was Burt Ward, who played his ward and sidekick Robin, AKA Dick Grayson. Robin is known for his exclamations: "Holy [blank], Batman!" where the word in the blank is a humorous reference to the plot.

The "dynamic duo" lives in the fictional Gotham City, assisted by Wayne's paternal butler Alfred. The Gotham police, including Commissioner Gordon and Chief O'Hara, use a special line (the Batphone) or flash an image of a bat into the sky (the "Bat Signal") when they need help. This summons Wayne, who goes down to the Batcave below his mansion, gets into the Batmobile with Robin, and speeds to the scene. (In 2013 the original Batmobile from the show was auctioned--for 4.2 million dollars!) It's important to note that Batman has no actual superpowers: just the best technology his vast fortune can buy.

In the first half of each double episode, Batman and Robin lose a fight and end up captive in an impossible situation. This is called a "cliffhanger." In the second half, they find an unlikely way out of the "impossible" situation, and near the end of the episode have another fight with the villain--which they invariably win. The fights are illustrated with comic-book-style lettering of onomatopoeia, sounds such as "POW!" and "BAM!"

But the best part of the show, in my mind, is always the villains. Originally created for the printed page, the Joker, the Riddler, the Penguin, Catwoman, and others translate hilariously into live action. Though nefarious, they still make me laugh.


Practice: Match the term to its definition:

Term Definition
  1. auctioned
  2. campy
  3. deemed
  4. dynamic
  5. nefarious
  6. onomatopoeia
  7. pall
  8. paternal
  9. sidekick
  10. somber
  1. like a father
  2. silly; humorously exaggerated
  3. serious
  4. a dark atmosphere
  5. sold for the highest offer
  6. words that sound like sounds (bang! hiss!)
  7. energetic; exciting
  8. a kind of helper
  9. evil
  10. decided to be

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for December 28, 2023

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. e; 2. b; 3. j; 4. g; 5. i; 6. f; 7. d; 8. a; 9. h; 10. c