Will the Real Batman Please Stand Up?

On the 50th anniversary of the iconic 'Batman' TV show, Burt Ward (aka 'Robin') shares his thoughts

You can thank Christopher Nolan. Actually, you can thank Frank Miller. Bob Kane’s original “Batman” was little more than the latest entry in the burgeoning comic book pantheon of the early 20th century, fighting crime with a colorful backdrop, alongside a colorful sidekick, whiling away the days as his millionaire playboy alter ego, Bruce Wayne.

Then along came Miller, who, in the 1980s, re-envisioned Batman as “The Dark Knight,” and introduced comic-book lovers to a decidedly darker version of the popular “caped crusader.”

Filmmaker Tim Burton had some fun with him by that decade’s end, keeping some of Kane’s touches intact — but then director Nolan restored him to Miller glory, in gory detail, with a trilogy that changed superhero movies forever.

Burton had clearly given a nod to the Batman of the 1960s TV series, where Kane’s creation got turned up several notches, with all that “pow” and “bam” and “boom.” So, really, there have been two Batmans: the “pow” and “boom” one — and the doom and gloom one.

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The TV series is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and what better way to do it than with a new animated film featuring voice-work from the iconic show’s stars? Yep, Adam West and Burt Ward reunited for the project, along with Catwoman Julie Newmar. The DVD’s a hit, and Ward — who spoke with LifeZette — knows why.

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Here are excerpts from an interview with the actor better known as Robin ever since the ’60s:

Question: With these characters more popular than ever, both on television (FOX’s “Gotham” series) and in film (Ben Affleck’s Batman just made his debut) — the guys from the old TV show making a comeback is quite a surprise.
Answer: Yes, “Batman: Return of the Caped Crusader” — a brand-new, feature-length movie from Warner Bros., animated, with our voices. It has gotten the most spectacular reviews imaginable. It’s been so well-received Warner Bros. is making another animated feature, coming out next year, with Two-Face being played by William Shatner. Here’s the two most iconic television shows of the ’60s, “Batman” and “Star Trek,” and those actors are working together today!

Q: And this is the Batman and Robin from the iconic series — no riffing on the later, brooding Batman, correct?
A: Absolutely not. Look, Warner Bros. knows what it’s doing. So many of the Batman movies have been fantastic. Look at the lines to get into them. And DC knows what it’s doing. They always have. Fans know which Batman they’re going to get with us — I mean, there’s DC with a “Batman ’66” comic book in stores right now, too.

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And coming out this month, Adam [West] and I, with Julie Newmar, each recorded 300 lines for a new pinball machine that will show in HD our TV show right in the machine. Plus it’s going to project the Bat signal on the wall behind the machine! There’s a place for both versions of Batman.

Q: Were you surprised by the direction Batman took in later years?
A: Not really. Not at first. When Robin did finally show up in one of the big movies, I recall being very curious, and I thought they had the same amount of fun we had doing the series [Chris O’Donnell played the boy wonder in both “Batman Forever” and “Batman & Robin,” the latter being George Clooney’s infamous turn]. The later films [Nolan’s trilogy] reflected a Batman made popular in comic books in the late ’80s, and fans seemed to want that. They loved it! And he has always been a character made for the shadows.

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Q: Do you feel the films spoke to audiences that were feeling like the world had gotten so ugly it needed a hero to fight in a world that ugly?
A: Again, Warner Bros. knows what it’s doing. I’m not really a dark, brooding kind of guy. My goodness — my wife and I run a nonprofit for rescue dogs! But it IS a different world than the one I made “Batman” during — a darker, scarier one. And I think it all comes around. Fans want our version back right now, not only to be nostalgic, but to escape.

Q: I think that’s true.
A: It’s pretty spectacular. We have so many fans who grew up watching our show, and now they’ve got kids and they have them watching the show. We’ve got so many loving fans out there and we’re just thrilled. This has been a wonderful ride for everybody.

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