Tuesday, January 16, 2007


In the midst of all my football mania, I forgot a landmark historical date last week. January 12, 2006, marked the fortieth anniversary of the premiere episode of the Batman television show. For a generation of kids born in the 60s, this show had a huge influence and haunts our brains to this day. Although I only have vague memories of watching the show when it originally aired in prime time, Batman was the first super hero I was aware of, and I continued to watch every episode over and over in syndication during the 70s. By the early 70s, I had also learned to read and devoured Batman comic books.

Whether it was a reaction to the camp craze that had run its course or simply a reflection of the changing times, the Batman who appeared in the 70s comics was a very different mammal from the character on tv. Robin was shipped off to college, Bruce Wayne ditched Wayne Manor for a penthouse in the Wayne Foundation Building, and Batman had returned to the dark creature of the night just as he had been in the early days of the comic. The stories had an edgy, pseudo-realism as Batman took on drug dealers and mafia-style crime bosses. Even the old super-villains like the Joker were transformed into disturbing socio-paths. To me, it was like a four-color version of The French Connection, only Popeye Doyle wore tights and pointy ears. While I loved this incarnation of Batman in the comics, I also enjoyed the satirical fun of the old tv show. I never saw the two versions of Batman as an either-or option; they were two interpretations of the same character, merged seamlessly in my childhood mind.

It’s little wonder that I would attempt to create custom action figure versions of the Batman tv show icons later in life. Actually, none of this would’ve come about if Dale Van Slyke hadn’t been selling terrific resin head sculpts of the actors. His 1/6th scale likenesses of Adam West as Batman, Frank Gorshin as The Riddler, and Caesar Romero as The Joker are uncanny. Also, Rauty sells costumes to match Batman and the Riddler, so I was halfway there. My Adam West Batman consists of head, gloves, and boots by Dale, and the outfit and belt by Rauty. All I had to do was lop off the head of an action figure, glue the resin version on the figure, and paint it to look like the television Batman. Voila!

The Riddler followed a similar process, although I had to create the question marks on the suit myself. I used stick-on letters for the question marks on the legs, but in order to get the question mark on his chest to look just like the one on the show, I asked my talented wife to recreate a replica in Photoshop and I printed it out on sticker paper to apply to the costume.

Just for fun, I decided to outfit the Riddler with a Big Ben Distillery Total Dehydrator like the one in the Batman feature film. I started with an oxygen tank from a fireman figure that I had, then fashioned the rest of it from odds and ends including the cap off a lip balm tube, a piece of a syringe, copper wire, and bits cut off of other action figure accessories.

To create the Joker costume, I found on eBay a white tuxedo custom-made for a Ken doll. I dyed the suit a reddish-purple color like the way it appeared on the program and drew the stripes on his pants by hand (the lines were funky and uneven on the show anyway). The lapels aren’t the same as on the show, but it was the best I could do with the material. I also dyed a white shirt to the green color on the show and made a bow tie from yarn.

Robin doesn’t have a resin head, but instead is wearing a Burt Ward-style mask along the lines of the Captain Action masks (again, created by Dale Van Slyke). The suit is a vintage Action Boy Robin outfit, although I created my own belt to more accurately match the one on the show. The belt is black felt with a Velcro fastener on the back, and the gold buckle and capsules were made with a thick gold paint I found at the hobby store which dries in three-dimensional clumps. The gloves, boots, and cape were courtesy of Wes McCue at Classic Plastick. The outfit was originally meant to go on an Action Boy figure, but I found another 8-inch figure in the toy store that was more muscular and looked better squeezed into the stretchy polyester.

So there you have it: My Batman tv show action figures.

Now if they would only clear up the licensing issues and release the old episodes on DVD!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, Neal! I'm a producer for a new pawn show currently filming in Chicago. I'm desperately seeking info on what appears to be custom painted Batman resin figures. Please contact me at joan@jtrp.net. THANKS!!