Batman 1960's TV show: Why campy?

I am not a Batman expert. I mostly only know the movies and the TV series. I have pretty much never read the comic itself.

I was wondering why the 1960s Batman TV series was done campy rather than straight. Did this reflect the Batman comics of the time? I thought the original comic was pretty dark, similar to the recent Batman Begins movie.

Was it more in response to 60s popular culture? (I was an infant at the time and don’t remember much about the 60s).

Or was it just an idea that seemed good at the time?

I have to say I never liked the TV show which I saw in reruns in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I probably at the time would have preferred a more straightforward approach, like the Superman TV show from the 1950s.

Batman, being a “law & order” type character was viewed as pro-establishment.

Anti-establishmentarianism was the “in thing” just then.

The producer (William Dozier) had never read Batman before ABC tapped him to make the show.

So, he picked up some Batman books, and read them. He saw the concept as ridiculous, and thought there was no way anyone other than a child would take it seriously.

So, he decided to play up the ridiculousness so that adults could laugh at it, while children could still enjoy the action.

Obviously, it wasn’t neccessary, but it certainly worked well.

(Source, an interview with Dozier in a TV show about the Batman series that aired on either Biography or BookTV a couple weeks ago. Backed up by this wikipedia article.)

Well, not really. Popular culture was changing and it was obvious something was going on, but 1966 was just too early to be anti-establishment on television.

But Pop culture - and Pop Art and Op Art and Swinging London and mini-skirts - was happening in 1966. Comics were mostly a laughing stock. Marvel was just really getting up speed in 1966 and only a few understood the revolution Stan Lee was making. Certainly DC wasn’t doing anything remotely campy or countercultural in their titles. Most comics fans hated the camp interpretation of Batman.

It was just an Adult’s idea of how to appeal to Youth, and one of the very few - like the Monkees, which also launched that year - that worked. Making fun of what used to be taken seriously was a large element of Camp (cue Susan Sontag) and mocking the square-jawed superhero, as Lichtenstein was going in the art world, seemed like the right idea at the right time. As it was.

It was only a couple of years later, when the real counterculture took root and comics became serious objects of affection, that the camp Batman died forever.

I’m at this very moment sat here watching a History channel thing on Superman. And I think Bosda got it right. They were both considered out of date and quaint but the people who were doing the writing at the time.

For what it’s worth I loved it when I was a kid… But then I was the only 1st grader who knew what “campy” was :stuck_out_tongue: .

What’s the distinction you’re drawing between being anti-establishment and mocking what used to be taken seriously?

I would have thought the latter is a subtype of the former.


Heck, except for the pop art graphics, Batman wasn’t even that novel a concept. Both Get Smart and F Troop had gone on the air earlier. Both were parodies of a format that at least verged on camp, both featured a completely serious lead character surrounded by comic villains.

So it was partly a reaction to contemporary culture, partly an idea that seemed to work pretty well at the time.

I wonder if alot of people who enjoyed (and enjoy) these shows sort of… well… saw themselves this way.


From the wikipedia link:

“Where as ABC and Fox were expecting a hip and fun, yet still serious, adventure show…”

I’m picturing it, and, I think I like it!


More from wikipedia:

“The lyrics to the theme consist of ten cries of ‘Batman!’, which were originally thought to be sung by a female chorus; however, Adam West’s book ‘Back to the Batcave’ reveals the ‘voices’ to actually be instrumental, rather than vocal.”


No, Tengi has it right. Dozier has said many times that he thought Batman was a stupid concept, so they’d play it for laughts. Nothing antiestablishment intended.

The show was nothing like the comic at the time; Batman comics were always serious (even when things were a bit silly), and fanboys of the 60s hated the show.

Nope. Not even close. The latter is just an element of old things always appearing funny. The former is a distinct political statement. Anti-establishment can be funny but seldom is.

Oh come on. Sure they never got as flat-out goofy as the TV show but the sort of Bug Eyed Monster-type stories that were coming out post-Wertham can’t be considered serious.

But this wasn’t 1955, it was 1965, the era of the “New Look” Batman, an attempt to modernize the character for the Marvel-competitor era. The BEM plots were years in the past and totally discarded by this time. Whatever was happening in the tv show was hugely different from what was happening in the comics and it caused lots of problems for DC when people bought the stuff thinking it would be like the tv Batman. They even killed off Alfred - and then had to bring him back. Sure it got silly at times - remember how silly Marvel often was? - but not Bat-Mite silly. Wrong era.

I was eight when the show came out in 1966 and I thought it was the coolest thing since sliced bread. Imagine my surprise when I saw reruns during college and finally started getting all the campy jokes contained within.

I see. I misunderstood the sense and scope of “used to” in your original post.


They were played completely straight. Batman may have found himself facing Martians, but they were treated like real menaces and they gave him real problems. It may look jokey today, but – other than Robin’s wisecracks – they were played straight.

The “New Look” Batman came out at about the same time as the TV show and, as Exapno points out, created conflicts. Alfred had died (and I don’t think they originally intended to bring him back, though his death turned into one of the first actual story arcs), but they had added Aunt Harriet (I think the idea was to have someone in Wayne Manor who wasn’t privy to Bruce Wayne’s secrets) and had changed his uniform, removing the yellow oval surrounding the bat on his chest.

Get Smart and F Troop were parodies of a genre, not undermining one of the mainstays of the genre. The Woody Allen movie Casino Royale is a far better example, though not as successful as the series. Neither F Troop nor Get Smart were campy in any way. They were straight sitcoms.

I had stopped reading comics by this time, but the ones from earlier in the '60s were definitely played straight, but had run out of ideas. Comics back then had nowhere near the respectibility they do today, so I doubt comics readers were considered to be the audience.

Did Aunt Harret show up first in the comics or in the show? I had always heard she was in the show to refute the gay lovenest aspects of the Bat Cave.

Yeah, I think I would have preferred it to the show as it was but you and I seem to be in the minority.