Today is the 40th Anniversary of the first airing of William Dozier's "Batman" television series. Like most good-humored Americans, I love the show. Why, without it, I might not be a comic book fan at all!
My mother still tells of plopping toddler me down in front of the tv when it was on and watching me move my arms in imitation of the opening sequence. Which she can stop doing any day now. Thanks, Mother... .
Anyway, I've been asked to comment on the show's anniversary. I could go on for hours, days, about its fabulousness. But I won't. Why?
Because, had I not been a toddler at the time or if the show premiered now, I would have hated it. Hated it.
As a comic book fan, I would rail on my blog about it endlessly. An opportunity to show the public the potential of comic books wasted, nay,
into a searing parody of comic's worst flaws and cliches! Superman, maybe, Aquaman, sure, but ... but .. BATMAN!?!?!? Secular sacrilege!
The people behind the show, everyone associated with it should be punished, should be jailed. Vile criminals!
Naturally, I would have been completely right. And completely wrong. My dog always knows what it wants ("Daddy, may I eat that squirrel?"), but it doesn't always know what's best ("No; no squirrel."). I'm like that, too ... .
When we become enamored of a myth, it's usually with one or two versions of it. Anything that doesn't match those is, from our perspective, akin to sacrilege. But myths are stronger and more flexible than we are (that's part of the reason they last, and we don't).
Myths can be weakened by too many versions or versions that stray too far from their core. But often they are simply broadened, strengthened, expanded. Variants may be abhorrent to us, depending on how narrowly we view the myth or how well it's already suited to our purposes.
"Batnipples"? "David Banner"? "Organic webspinners?" "Metalskinned Doom"? "Black Pete Ross"? "Barefoot Joker"? "Lionel Luthor?" Ah, there's always something that's going to tick us off about another medium's adaptation of our favorite comic book myths.
The same is true within the comics themselves. Peter David's Aquaman, for example, is his, not mine, and I have every reason to believe that Busiek's won't be either. I have every reason to rail against them. And I will. Still, without PAD, there would be no Koryak, and he (as reintroduced by Arcudi) is very much part of what I think of as "my Aquaman". Funny how that works.
Every time there's a new version of a myth, there's room for an innovation, some change that might be an improvement, if it winds up adhering to the mythic core. Just as "what were once vices are now habits", so too, what were once violations of the myth can become essential elements of it. Kryptonite, Alfred, the Kents being alive, Koryak, the Magic Lasso, the Mad Hatter's mind control, the Red Hood -- the list is endless of things we now consider "core elements" of our comic book myths that we might have opposed (and strongly) if we had been around when they were introduced.
As I've mentioned before, I don't think of myths (comic book or otherwise) as the products of "Intelligent Design" by any a creator, but as the result of a conceptual "Evolution" of the character's original idea. As evolutionary products, myths encounter "adverse conditions" like shifting writers, adaption for other media, and broader editorial mandates. How they grow and adapt to those conditions is what makes them fitter for continued survival.
For myths, in the long-term, what works, remains. What doesn't, fades (and the examples of that are numerous, too). "Irrevocable" changes have included the elimination of all Kryptonite, Aquaman's hook, and the deaths of Alfred, Hal Jordan, and Ollie Queen. Didn't stick, did they?
At least, this is what I'll keep telling myself during "Sword of Atlantis"...