The handsome new collection
Batman in the Sixties is a history-minded volume. It is dedicated to Batman's creator, Bob Kane, who died last year, half a century after first sketching a bat-winged hero. It is introduced by Adam West, the star of the campy '60s TV series ( Same bat-time! Same bat-channel! ). There are brief biographies of the pencilers, inkers, and writers who created and refined Batman and other characters a pantheon including such names as Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, Gardner Fox, and Frank Robbins. The 17 adventures chronicled between these 223 pages cover the tumultuous decade of the 1960s, during which the caped crusader changed almost as much as his country did. Interspersed between the stories are historical asides about the ongoing evolution of Batman's and Robin's costumes, their paraphernalia (utility belts, bat-vehicles), and even a cross-section of the Batcave.
When the 1960s began, Batman was still square-jawed and Robin baby-faced. Their colleagues included an entire chiropteran family Batwoman, Batgirl (a feeble early version), and even the Bat-Mite, an annoying imp from another dimension. Their opponents included aliens, robots, and of course the always colorful Penguin, Joker, Riddler, and Catwoman.
During the decade, an infusion of young blood into the industry gave Batman a much-needed revitalization. The stories became more sophisticated. Most of the Bat-family vanished. Stories began to concern Bruce Wayne and his relationship with Dick Grayson. Antagonists, as in the early days of Batman, tended toward the more realistic end of the villainous spectrum gangsters, crooked politicians. By 1970, Dick was going off to college and Bruce and Alfred were closing up the Batcave and moving into downtown Gotham City.
The TV series emphasized Batman's outrageous aspects. After its cancellation, artists and writers toned the hero down, making him again a creature of the night and bringing him back to social issues. The recent series of Batman movies raised the camp quotient anew. No doubt soon the comic book artists will again swing the pendulum the other way. Even superheroes have to have an image adjustment now and then. ¦Michael Sims writes about super heroes in his book Darwin's Orchestra (Henry Holt).