Batman memories

You probably saw somewhere earlier today that it’s the 50th anniversary of the premiere episode of the Batman TV show. As it happens, I saw that episode when it first aired. I don’t have any specific memory of the show itself, but I do have specific memories of what happened in my family before and after the show.

I watched the show with my mom. My dad had decided not to watch, and we couldn’t convince him otherwise. In some ways, he was right—it was a very silly show and silly wasn’t his thing. But the next day he came home from work determined to watch the second episode, which was on that very night because ABC ran two episodes per week, on Wednesdays and Thursdays, during the show’s first two seasons.

What changed his mind? FOMO. Everyone he worked with had seen the first episode, and they talked about it all day. He couldn’t stand to be out of the loop. Holy peer pressure, Batman!

In other Batman news, I spent a good chunk of my lunch hour today scrolling through a Batman-related Tumblr: A Collection of Bat-Labels. It’s a series of stills from the TV show in which you see ridiculous labels on doorways, shelves, buildings, and (mostly) pieces of Bat-equipment. Merlin Mann reblogged one of the entries at Kung Fu Grippe, and now I need to see them all. So far, this one is probably my favorite, but it’s hard to choose.

Costume change lever

Image from A Collection of Bat-Labels.

Apart from being funny on their own, the labels were poking fun at the habit Batman comic books had of adding labels to drawings of the Batcave—an idea that Jack Kirby stole repurposed for the Baxter Building in many of the early issues of the Fantastic Four.

I wanted to add an example here of some artwork from an old Batman comic showing these labels. I remembered that there was a giant penny in the Batcave’s trophy room, so I did an image search on “Batman giant penny,” which led me to this lovely example from 1968.


Image from Bully’s Comics.

What was really weird, though, was that the page this image came from is devoted to a particular issue of Batman that I know I read back when I was a little kid. In one of the stories, Robin’s been kidnapped by a criminal mastermind, and in order to get him back safely, Batman signs a pledge not to set foot in Gotham City for a week. The mastermind plans to use that week to rob all the wealth out of Gotham, but Batman continually thwarts him from a sort of super-sized Batcopter that hovers over the city.

Near the end of the week, Batman is finally forced to land on the roof of a building to stop the mastermind. Although he’s been caught, the mastermind is happy that he’s managed to get the honorable Batman to break his pledge. But it turns out that the building they’re on is a post office, which, Batman explains, is the territory of the US federal government and therefore not part of Gotham City. The city is saved and he didn’t break his pledge!

I thought this was bullshit when I was eight years old, and I still think it’s bullshit. Whenever I hear someone going on about the Dark Knight and how cool Batman is, I think of this story and how Batman comes off as just an annoying niggler. The TV show was right to poke fun at him.