A new dynamic duo is embracing the old-school adventures of Batman and Green Hornet.
Filmmaker and comic-book writer Kevin Smith teams with fellow Bat-fan, comedian and KROQ radio personality Ralph Garman, for a DC Comics/Dynamite Entertainment crossover comic book set in the groovy days of the superheroes' 1960s TV shows. Batman '66 Meets the Green Hornet launches as a 12-part, digital-first biweekly series beginning May 21, and will debut in comic shops as a print comic on June 4.
"It's like getting to be 5 years old again and tell stories that you would have made up while watching the show as a kid," says Smith, 43. "To be able to do it, man, it really does bring it full circle in a bucket-list kind of fashion."
Both writers are known for their irreverence, but Smith and Garman are devoted to honoring the straight crime drama of the Green Hornet series, as well as the inherent camp and twisted sensibility of the '60s Batman show. Van Williams played the Green Hornet (and his alter ego, newspaper publisher Britt Reid) and Bruce Lee was his karate-kicking sidekick, Kato; In TV's Batman, Adam West was the Caped Crusader (millionaire Bruce Wayne under the mask, of course) and Burt Ward played Robin.
Teaming with artist Ty Templeton, Smith and Garman are treating the story like a missing "lost" sequel to the 1967 Batman two-parter that brought the Hornet and Kato to Gotham City to foil a counterfeit-stamp ring run by the mustachioed, pink-suited villain Colonel Gumm (Roger C. Carmel).
The series borrows the backstory hinted at in the show, that Bruce Wayne and Britt Reid knew each other when they were younger and went to school together, and they have a rivalry. Also, because the Green Hornet's city was never mentioned in the Batman show, the metropolis remains nameless in the new comic.
Because they didn't have rights to the likeness of Carmel from the show, Garman figured out a way for Gumm to still be that same character — now General Gumm — but "disfigure his face in a way that's very comic book but something they probably couldn't have gotten away with on the show itself," Smith says.
Smith has written several Batman comics as well as the script for a Green Hornet movie (which was ultimately turned into a Dynamite series). He says watching the old Batman show in the '70s in syndication was his entry point for both heroes.
Garman, 49, goes back even further with the series. He says he remembers his parents telling him that they would scoot his high chair right beside the TV to watch it as a little tyke, "and the first song out of my mouth was, 'Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na' " from the catchy Batman theme.
"I have been preparing for this particular gig my entire life," says Garman, who adds that his mother even sewed an Adam West Bat-costume for him.
"He still has it — like, adult size," Smith quips.
Smith and Garman have been doing the weekly pop-culture podcast Hollywood Babble-On for three years, but they were friends long before. They found themselves kindred spirits when it came to the old Batman show, which took a lot of heat in the late '80s and early '90s, according to Smith.
"After the Tim Burton 1989 Batman movie, nobody wanted to talk about the Adam West version of Batman," he says.
"Except me," replies Garman, who has a "massive" collection of '60s-era Batman merchandise. "I have never strayed far from this character being right in the center of my heart."
Smith admits there is a secret agenda at play: to have such a cool comic that it may one day be considered for a straight-to-DVD animated feature, since all of the principals except Lee are still alive. "Adam still sounds like Adam. Hopefully that's somewhere in the cards down the road, if the comic book connects the way we think it will."
The beauty of the '60s show for Smith was that, like Rocky and Bullwinkle, it appealed to both children and adults. And he feels the new comic is so colorful and poppy that it'll appeal to 6-year-olds now just as it did for 6-year-old Kevin Smith.
Garman says it's more accessible to kids than any other Batman comic on the market. "This is a straightforward hero who does the right thing because it's the right thing to do, and Robin always learns an important lesson."
However, Smith feels the new comic is really for those who had moms make them costumes so they could be Adam West or Van Williams in the backyard.
"Let's be honest," he says. "The core audience is adults like us, people who loved that show and grew up watching it and always dreamed of, 'Oh, imagine if they had done one more season, there might have been another crossover with the Green Hornet and Kato.' And so we got to do that."