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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #404

Welcome to the four hundred and fourth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous four hundred and three. This week, it is a special theme week! All legends relating to the Batman TV series from the 1960s! Discover the role that the Playboy Mansion had in the creation of the Batman series! Learn what other comic character ABC considered before Batman (and who they then made a pilot for after Batman’s success)! Finally, find out the strange reason behind the famous Batman cliffhangers!

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: The Playboy Club played a major role in Batman getting his own TV series.

STATUS: True

One of the interesting aspects of the Baby Boom generation is that wherever they land in their age, that’s the age that suddenly companies burst out of nowhere to respond to this vast new consumer base. For instance, right now, as Baby Boomers are getting into their late 60s, there has been a sort of mini-boom in the world of funerals (morbid, I know, but hey, like I said, whatever age the Baby Boomers are, that’s the age people have to learn to gear their products for).

So in the mid-1960s, when Baby Boomers were going to college, there was a mini-boom in college films. You know, stuff like the Rocky Horror Picture Show is today. Sort of quirky stuff that college students can go watch late at night over the weekend.

One of these films debuted in 1965. It consisted of splicing together all the 1943 Batman serials and release the film as “An Evening With Batman and Robin,” with college students going to watch the film ironically (although I’m sure some went non-ironically)…

The films became popular and soon began playing elsewhere, including the famed Playboy Club in Chicago (there was a failed TV series about that club last TV season). While playing there, ABC executive Yale Udoff was in attendance and he was amazed at the response by the (mostly young adult) audience. He called his bosses as he knew that they had already been examining the idea of doing a TV show based on a comic character, and he strongly recommended they adapt Batman.

They agreed. Obviously, you can differ over HOW much of an impact Udoff’s recommendation had in the final decision, but it is still neat to see how the Playboy Club gave Batman an assist.
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Check out some Entertainment Urban Legends Revealed!

Did Waldo (of Where’s Waldo Fame) Appear In Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto?

Was Maya Rudolph Referenced in the Song “Loving You”?

Was Roger Moore Really Ian Fleming’s First Choice to Play James Bond?

Did 60 Minutes Gain Its Famous Time Slot Due to an FCC Regulation?
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COMIC LEGEND: ABC originally considered a Dick Tracy TV series and even did a pilot for a Dick Tracy show once Batman became a hit.

STATUS: True

As noted in the earlier legend, before ABC decided on making a TV series based on Batman, they were thinking in general terms about a TV show based on a comic book character period (ABC had their eye on the 7:30 PM time slot, so early enough for kids to watch). After all, while Batman was a famous comic book character at the time of the mid-1960s, he was not NEARLY as famous as other comic characters. It was the TV series that really cemented Batman’s popularity.

When ABC did a poll of probable viewers to see what comic characters they’d like to see, here is how they shook out, according to William Dozier, executive producer of the Batman TV series:

They had Superman, Dick Tracy, Batman, Green Hornet, and Little Orphan Annie. Superman was the number one choice; Dick Tracy was the number two choice, Batman three, Green Hornet four, and Little Orphan Annie five. They couldn’t get the rights to Superman, not because of the old George Reeves series, because their rights had long since evaporated, but because there was a Broadway show called It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman, and that is what stopped them. They couldn’t get Dick Tracy, because Chester Gould was in some kind of peripheral negotiations with NBC, which never came to anything.

So that, combined with Udoff’s strong recommendation, led to ABC executives Harve Bennett and Edgar J. Scherick going with the series.

Once Batman was a smash hit, though…

Dozier was given another shot at Dick Tracy.

He recalled:

After ‘Batman’ went on, everybody wanted to do the same kind of show. I made a deal with Chester Gould to do the pilot for ‘Dick Tracy.’ I didn’t think it was very good. I had very little stomach for trying to copy ‘Batman.’

Here’s the title card for the Dick Tracy pilot from 1967…

It starred Ray MacDonnell as Dick Tracy…

It did not get picked up.

You can see a clip from the pilot at the great website TV Obscurities here.

Amusingly enough, while she did not appear in the pilot itself, a young Eve Plumb was cast for the show as Bonnie Braids…

Imagine if Dick Tracy had been a hit! Jan Brady might have been a WHOLE lot different!

Thanks to PB210 for the suggestion! Thanks to Joel Eisner for the Dozier quotes! Thanks to TV Obscurities for the pilot clip!
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Check out some classic Comic Book Legends Revealed related to the Batman TV series!

Did Batman’s Shark Repellent debut in the 1966 Batman film?

Learn how four years after the Batman TV series finished, Yvonne Craig played Batgirl one more time in a public service announcement about equal rights for women!

Was the musical “It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman” inspired by the success of the Batman TV series?

Was Alfred made thin because of the 1960s Batman TV Show?

Did the phrase “grim and gritty” first appear in connection with Batman…on the 1960s Batman TV series!?!
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COMIC LEGEND: Airing two Batman episodes a week in the style of an old-time serial was part of the original plan for the Batman series.

STATUS: False

One of the coolest parts of the Batman TV series was the way that they would do two episodes a week. One on Wednesdays at 7:30 and one on Thursdays at 7:30 PM (by the way, this was towards the end of the existence of the 7:30 PM time slot. For an extensive piece on why said time slot no longer exists, check out this TV Legends Revealed).

The first episode would end with a cliffhanger, just like the aforementioned Batman serials…

And the second episode the following night would complete the story.

This logically would dictate that the show was designed this way. However, that was not the case. Batman was originally developed to debut as a fall show in September 1966, but ABC’s 1965-1966 schedule was so awful that they were forced to push Batman into production far earlier than intended.

The original intent from the producers was to have Batman as a one-hour series, so the first few episodes were shot as one-hour episodes (Here is Dozier on the point “It wasn’t planned for two nights originally, we shot them as one hour shows”). However, ABC only needed to plug half hour spots (a LOT of them. They canceled FIVE of their fall half hour shows), so Batman was broken up into two half hour spots and the cliffhanger concept was born.

Here is the break in the first episode, which was one of the episodes that was originally only filmed as a one-hour episode. Note that they had not even come up with the “Bat-Time/Bat-Channel” bit yet!

Necessity is certainly the mother of invention!

For the record, the two shows Batman replaced were the final season of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (it had finally gone into color for its fourteenth season) and the second night of the musical variety series Shindig! (Shindig! used to air on Thursdays and Saturdays but the ratings dictated a cut back to just one episode a week).
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Check out the latest edition of my weekly Movie/TV Legends Revealed Column at Spinoff Online: How did a He-Man sequel and a Spider-Man film end up as the cult classic Jean-Claude Van Damme film Cyborg?
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Okay, that’s it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comics Database for this week’s covers! And thanks to Brandon Hanvey for the Comic Book Legends Revealed logo!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!

Here’s my new book, Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent? The cover is by Kevin Hopgood (the fellow who designed War Machine’s armor).

If you want to order a copy, ordering it here gives me a referral fee.

Follow Comics Should Be Good on Twitter and on Facebook (also, feel free to share Comic Book Legends Revealed on our Facebook page!). If we hit 3,000 likes on Facebook you’ll get a bonus edition of Comic Book Legends the week after we hit 3,000 likes! So go like us on Facebook to get that extra Comic Book Legends Revealed! Not only will you get updates when new blog posts show up on both Twitter and Facebook, but you’ll get original content from me, as well!

Also, be sure to check out my website, Urban Legends Revealed, where I look into urban legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can find here, at urbanlegendsrevealed.com.

Here’s my book of Comic Book Legends (130 legends – half of them are re-worked classic legends I’ve featured on the blog and half of them are legends never published on the blog!).

The cover is by artist Mickey Duzyj. He did a great job on it…(click to enlarge)…

If you’d like to order it, you can use the following code if you’d like to send me a bit of a referral fee…

Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed

See you all next week!

27 Comments

I had no idea it was originally an hour-long show. Most interesting.

Shouldn’t the link have directed us to a “file not found” page?

“How are you going to be serious about a guy who runs a newspaper in the daytime and goes out at night and hunts criminals?”

This quote, as a reference to ‘Dick Tracy’, confuses me. What am I missing?

I gotta say, Jay Blood does look just like Junior!

He’s referring to his Green Hornet series, mentioned in the same paragraph.

Sorry, Sean, he was referring to his other TV series, the Green Hornet. I’ll just get rid of that part of the quote if it is too confusing.

what ever happened to bonnie braids anyway ? there was junior and dick tracys other son, and now his grand daughter, but no mention of bonnie braids.

I’m not trying to be snarky or a wise-ass but what is ‘ironic’ about college kids seeing a movie? I hope I’m not being too dense here!

Anyhow another great article! I had thought that Batman was shown at the playboy mansion at one of Hef’s parties where Dozier first became familiar with the comics and not the Chicago Playboy club? It makes more sense that an executive would be at a supper club for business.

I’m not trying to be snarky or a wise-ass but what is ‘ironic’ about college kids seeing a movie? I hope I’m not being too dense here!

The serials weren’t being shown because they were good films, they were shown in a sort of “Hey, look at these goofy old serials” sort of thing. Hence, watching it ironically.

I had thought that Batman was shown at the playboy mansion at one of Hef’s parties where Dozier first became familiar with the comics and not the Chicago Playboy club? It makes more sense that an executive would be at a supper club for business.

No, it was Udoff in Chicago at the Playboy Club (sounds like a winning move in Clue! :)). Udoff wasn’t there in a business capacity, he was just struck by how much everyone was enjoying the film, so it occurred to him that there was some real merit to a Batman TV series.

Hey Brian
In your first legend you said “The Playboy Mansion played a major role in Batman getting his own TV series.” But the article goes on to explain the role of the “Playboy Club”. Can you clarify. Were they one and the same?

Just a typo, ed! Thanks for the pick-up, I fixed it!

Amazing that the Dick Tracy pilot hasn’t made it to the web – I have to assume no copy of it exists.

Both the Bill Dozier Batgirl and Wonder Woman pilots have escape to the public tho – look them if you want to laugh and cringe, respectively.

Man with No Face

February 1, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Of course, Dozier did go on to do his #4 choice, “The Green Hornet,” as a half-hour series for ABC in the fall of 1966 (with Bruce Lee as Kato). And the success of “Batman” spurred imitations from the other two networks, “Captain Nice” from NBC and “Mr. Terrific” on CBS, in January of 1967.

(I’m sure most people on this board know all that. But for those who may not have…)

Wow, I had in fact never heard of that Mister Terrific series. But I guess that’s fair play.

(And yeah, I gather it was a different Mr. Terrific. But I will have my amusements, dangit.)

Was Bonnie Braids an actual Chester Gould character? I don’t remember her so I assumed she was added for the show.
In fairness, the first Batman serial isn’t bad, though like most serials, it ain’t great art. And the anti-Japanese WW II racism is horrible.

Oh yeah, there’s some cringeworthy racist narration in that Batman serial.

Bonnie Braidfs was Tracy’s biological daughter with Tess Truehart. She was introduced in the 1950s, and had a memorable story as a newborn wherein she was kidnapped by a villainess named Crewy Lou, but seems to have largely vanished from the strip since Gould’s retirement. The Crewy Lou story was reprinted in The Dick Tracy Casebook collection that came out in the 1990s.

Bonnie Braids was born in 1951, in the back of a police car. (Tracy first heard his daughter’s cry via 2-way wrist radio.) Other than a 1951 story in which she was kidnapped and nearly killed, Bonnie never did much besides hang around with Tess. She rarely appeared after the 1950s except in a Max Allan Collins story in which an adult Bonnie is shown as a teacher on an Indian reservation.

As for her unusual name, Bonnie was born with long hair that a nurse braided.

Thanks. I think I have that collection, I’ll go check for the story.

Bonne Braids appeared as late as 2009.

To follow up on the Green Hornet:

” I had very little stomach for trying to copy ‘Batman.’ I did try not to copy it, but I tried to duplicate it with ‘Green Hornet.’ How are you going to be serious about a guy who runs a newspaper in the daytime and goes out at night and hunts criminals? How can you be funny with it? It just fell in the middle. It was neither serious nor funny.”

http://tothebatpoles.blogspot.com/2011/09/bat-beginnings-first-season.html

Count Karnstein, a Yuku member, noting the difference in approach between the two shows, pointed out, those Batman comic books in the previous 25 decades, had, aside from a box sidekick in pixie shoes and shaved legs:

“had giant pennies and stuffed dinosaurs, was wearing caveman, zebra, and rainbow
costumes, teamed up with Bat-Mite, split in two, melded with Superman, fought a
living #2 pencil, drowned in giant gravy boats and menaced by giant sized water
pistols, tennis rackets, and all sorts of insane absurdities long before the
Batman movie or tv show were released….Dozier was bringing the characters to the
screen in the manner in which they had been portrayed in the comics. Was there
ever a silly, absurd, ridiculous Green Hornet comic book? If so, it’s escaped my
attention for the better part of 40 years. Did we ever see a Caveman Green
Hornet or a Green Hornet in a rainbox/zebra/dayglo red suit? Did we ever see
Green Hornet being drowned in a giant gravy boat or being chased by aliens and
dinosaurs? Was there ever an Ace the Green Hornet Dog? How about a
Hornet-Mite?

No? I didn’t think so. There’s your answer. It’s literally that simple. Dozier was taking characters and putting them on the screen. Green Hornet was always played straight and serious in the comics/strips/radio, so he was done that way for tv. Batman was as absurd, silly, goofy, and ridiculous as anything else that has ever appeared in comics, and so that’s how he appeared on-screen”.

Wow, deja deja deja deja vu.

Glad to see some things dont change, as this college student still enjoys watching the Batman serial ironically.

Commander Benson

February 1, 2013 at 10:15 pm

“Wow, I had in fact never heard of that Mister Terrific series. But I guess that’s fair play.

(And yeah, I gather it was a different Mr. Terrific. But I will have my amusements, dangit.)”

Here’s where you can find an article covering both CBS’s Mister Terrific and NBC’s Captain Nice.

http://captaincomics.ning.com/profiles/blogs/deck-log-entry-129-look-it-s

Some hack wrote it, so I can’t vouch for the quality of the writing, but it should tell you all you’d want to know about those two television series.

This show,was an instent smash! It was all the kids talked about the next day at school. It greatly affected as well, the back issue comic prices,The month before, the first apperence of the batman tv show,Detective 27 was still going as low as 25 bucks I beleave, By mid 1968, 500 bucks.

I was able to see the original Dick Tracy pilot on YouTube in its entirety (before it was pulled down). It wasn’t bad…in fact it was okay!

Lance Roger Axt
The AudioComics Company

Doesn’t anyone know what irony means and how to use it? And “because” falls into that category.

ParanoidObsessive

February 5, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Doesn’t anyone know what irony means and how to use it?

Like it or not, contextual usage has pretty much changed (or at least added to) the meaning of that word in recent times. Which is hard to really rail against, considering that’s how language has evolved for thousands of years (hell, English as a whole is a bastard hybrid mish-mash of multiple other languages, so notions of linguistic “purity” are laughable at best).

The only “pure” use of the term by the original meaning is generally only used in literary discussion at this point.

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