Holy nostalgia Batman! Back in 2014, DC and Dynamite Entertainment joined forces to create one of the most fun and energetic comic book crossovers in years: Batman ‘66 Meets the Green Hornet. Written by Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman, and illustrated by Ty Templeton, this 6-issue miniseries was a blast for me when it came out and as such was well-worth revisiting.
Set in the same universe as the iconic Adam West tv series, the story features Batman and Robin on a mission to recover ancient artifacts from the nefarious General Gumm. Gumm uses a specially designed adhesive to stick his opponents to walls, moving trains, and the occasional giant crockpot (it’s the ability to write sentences like this that makes me love comics). Gumm teams up with the Joker in order to secure the loot and ensure that the Caped Crusaders do not interfere with their plans.
Yet in the midst of all this, the dynamic crime fighting duo encounter their neighboring outlaws: the vigilante Green Hornet and his youthful sidekick Kato. What follows is a series of adventures that are as zany and delightfully ridiculous as the original show.
The resurgence of the Adam West series began in 2013 when Jeff Parker’s Batman ‘66 comic made its debut. Blending unabashed nostalgia with new stories made for an enticing read for both younger readers and longtime Bat-fans. My Dad is a bonafide sports enthusiast, but even he grew up watching this series and the Adventures of Superman show starring George Reeves.
Since Batman ‘66 Meets the Green Hornet, these versions of the Caped Crusaders have appeared in crossover comics with other classic TV characters like The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman. Yet this book is the one that paved the way for the others. And there was no better writing duo to take it on than the guys from the beloved Fat Man on Batman podcast.
As much as I love Smith’s films and shows like Comic Book Men, I had trouble with his earlier comics work simply because of the excessive dialogue taking up too much of the pages in them. I couldn’t get into his Green Arrow run for this reason, which is annoying because he had such a great understanding of the character. I just couldn’t get past the sheer number of panels on each page and the incredibly dense storytelling. Here however, his relentlessly quippy exchanges between the characters works tremendously well. When Green Hornet does something suspicious, Batman whips out an old proverb he has memorized to guide Robin in the ways of justice. Or if the Caped Crusaders find themselves trapped by Gumm and Joker, the numerous variations of “Golly gee Batman” that stem from Robin’s mouth will bring a smile to any reader. Smith shares a creative wavelength with Garman here in a manner not unlike the chemistry between him and Jay Mewes in their films.
Likewise, Templeton’s pencils and Tony Avina’s colors coincide perfectly with the zaniness of this universe. With the main Batman ‘66 comic, there’s a different artist for each issue. It works, but for this series the creative consistency is one of its greatest strengths. It also goes without saying that the covers by the great Alex Ross should be on display at an art museum, along with everything else he’s drawn. Heck, I even had the one for issue #1 as my Twitter profile pic for a while.
It’s difficult to make a comic in this day and age that’s just pure fun. Beyond that it’s hard to make it good, and not simply a rehash of an old era. Yet Smith and company succeed on both levels with this book. With the new year upon us, and the next Presidential administration being as wacky and unpredictable as the Joker himself (hehe), it’s a great time for comic lovers to pick up this trade and experience all of its wonderful ridiculousness.
A few gems from the book:
-Batman using the BAT-BEAM to blast his way through a wall covered in General Gumm’s glue
-Robin and Kato being forced into a cage fight by Gumm and Joker and threatened with a shark if they refuse
-Robin exclaiming “Holy Annie Oakley!” when Green Hornet destroys a batarang with his Hornet sting
-Robin noting how peculiar it is for a criminal like Kato to quote Confucius, and Batman responding: “Good catch Robin. Yes, he’s surprisingly well-read for an underworld ruffian.”