July 26, 2014


(CBS, September 14, 1968-January 4, 1969)

Filmation Associates, Ducovny Productions, National Periodical Publications

Casey KasemRobin/Dick Grayson, Chief O’Hara, Mayor, various
Jane WebbBatgirl/Barbara Gordon, Catwoman/Selina Kyle, various
Ted KnightCommissioner James Gordon, Penguin/Oswald Cobblepott, Mr. Freeze/Victor Fries, Scarecrow/Jonathan Crane, Mad Hatter/Jervis Tetch, Tweedledum/Dumfree Tweed, Tweedledee/Deever Tweed, Simon the Pieman, Dollman/Darrel Dane, Judge, Narrator
Larry Storch - Joker

For the history of Batman, check out the post here.

Batman, Robin and Batgirl make their animated debut.

Nearly 30 years after his debut in the pages of DC Comics, Batman finally made his first appearance in animated form in 1968’s The Batman/Superman Hour. However, this wasn’t always the intent.

The 1966 live-action series saved Batman and made him popular again.
Beginning as the half-hour The New Adventures of Superman in 1966, the show’s success sparked Filmation to produce another show based on a DC character. They chose Aquaman and added his half-hour program alongside Superman’s second season to create The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure.  Filmation began work on several pilots for the next season, including Metamorpho, Wonder Woman and Plastic Man. Those plans were ultimately changed when ABC suddenly achieved a massive hit with their live-action Batman series starring Adam West and Burt Ward. Batman was now not only part of the public consciousness, but that success saved the character from being killed off in the comics after experiencing a steady decline in sales.

The Filmation Batmobile utilized a simplistic design easy to animate.
Upon learning ABC hadn’t secured the animation rights to the character along with the live-action, head of daytime programming Fred Silverman quickly snatched them up for CBS and had Filmation get right to work on adapting the character into their next animated series. As a result, all other new DC Comics shows in the works were scrapped to put a full focus on developing a Batman animated series. As the decision came virtually at the last minute, Filmation also pulled additional animators from other projects in order to make the show ready for the 1968 season. Aquaman was broken off into his own half-hour and Batman joined Superman for the renamed The Batman/Superman Hour. Independently, the show was known as The Adventures of Batman.

New villain Simon the Pieman.
The Adventures of Batman debuted on CBS on September 14, 1968. As with their Superman series, Filmation’s Batman episodes were broken up into three segments each. Each episode contained two adventures: one told in two parts and one complete one to fill up each segment of an episode. Olan Soule and Casey Kasem were cast as the dynamic duo, and Ted Knight assumed the role of the show’s narrator, as well as most of the villain and supporting roles. While the majority of the villains were from the comics or had appeared on the live show, the series created two new ones: Simon the Pieman and the Judge. Although the series had its campy moments, it wasn’t quite as campy as its live-action counterpart and played as more straightforward Batman adventures. The series was written by comicbook writer George Kashdan, Dennis Marks, William J. Keenan, Oscar Bensol, Bob Haney (co-creator of Metamorpho) and Bill Butler, with music by John Gart.

The coming of Batgirl! Detective Comics #359.

Also making her first appearance in animation was Batgirl (Jane Webb). The live Batman producers had asked then-editor Julius Schwartz for a new female character to include on the show to attract female viewers. Carmine Infantino provided the design for what would become the new Batgirl; usurping the name from an earlier character Schwartz had removed from the comics. At the suggestion of the live series’ executive producer William Dozier, she became Barbara Gordon, the daughter of police commissioner James Gordon (Neil Hamilton on the live show). She appeared in Batman’s third season portrayed by Yvonne Craig, while she debuted in the comics in Detective Comics #359, 1967, in a story by Gardner Fox. However, unlike the librarian she was usually portrayed as, in the cartoon she worked for the District Attorney’s office. Chief O’Hara (Kasem) was also featured, based on his appearance in Batman.

Joker, Riddler and Penguin.
The show ran for a single season as Batman’s popularity began to wane once again, leading to the cancellation of ABC’s show (although NBC was willing to create a fourth season, the decision came too late and the sets had already been destroyed). For the 1969 season, the cartoon was repackaged into a 30-minute format without the Superman segments and called Batman with Robin the Boy Wonder. In 1970, Filmation produced three shorts that aired on Sesame Street teaching children to cross the street safely, special concepts, and clean and dirty. Gerald S. Lesser, head of Children’s Television Workshop, explained that “some celebrities such as Batman and Robin are enlisted because of their unassailable authority with four-year-olds.”

Batman and Robin meet Scooby and the gang.

By 1972, DC had left Filmation to begin a long association with rival studio Hanna-Barbera. That year, Batman and Robin teamed-up with their flagship franchise, Scooby-Doo, for two episodes of The New Scooby-Doo Movies before joining the Justice League as part of the Super Friends franchise. Soule and Kasem both reprised their roles. Batman would return home to Filmation in 1977 for The New Adventures of Batman with West and Ward reprising their respective roles from the live series. Simon the Pieman also eventually returned to animation in an appearance on the campy throwback series, Batman: the Brave and the Bold.

DVD case.

In 1985 and again in 1996, Warner Home Video released five episodes to VHS as part of the “Super Powers” video collection that was re-released in 1996. In 1993, Warner released a four-volume VHS collection with four episodes each tape in Australia. In 2008, episodes were released as digital downloads on iTunes and for streaming on Amazon Video. In 2014, Warner released the complete series to DVD.

“My Crime is Your Crime / A Bird Out of Hand” (9/14/68) – Batman and Robin arrest Joker and Penguin for crimes they didn’t commit. / Penguin suddenly becomes a crime fighter.

“The Cool, Cruel Mr. Freeze / The Joke’s on Robin” (9/21/68) – Mr. Freeze ransoms the city for $1 billion. / A rescue leaves Robin without his acrobatic skills thanks to Joker.

“How Many Herring in a Wheelbarrow? / In Again, Out Again Penguin” (9/28/68) – Joker uses stolen technology to make a solar mirror he can use as a laser. / An incarcerated Penguin commits crimes and manages to pin them on Batman.

“The Nine Lives of Batman / Long John Joker” (10/5/68) – Catwoman uses a radioactive gas on Batman to discover his secret identity. / Joker makes a pirate movie to cover his search for lost loot.

“Bubi, Bubi, Who’s Got the Ruby / 1001 Faces of the Riddler” (10/12/68) – Penguin and Catwoman are after the same ruby, and Bruce Wayne is taken captive. / Riddler becomes a disguise expert.

“The Big Birthday Caper / Two Penguins Too Many” (10/19/68) – Riddler and Penguin use a birthday party to try and expose Batman. / Real penguins help Penguin and Joker.

“Partners in Peril / The Underworld Underground Caper” (10/26/68) – Joker, Penguin and Riddler stage a deadly contest to one-up each other for control of Gotham. / Riddler and Catwoman use an underground drill in their crimes.

“Hizzoner the Joker / Freeze’s Frozen Vikings” (11/2/68) – Joker wins the race for mayor of Gotham. / Mr. Freeze uses a Viking hoax to commit thefts.

“The Crime Computer / The Great Scarecrow Scare” (11/9/68) – Penguin uses a computer to outwit Batman. / Scarecrow steals a painting and captures Batgirl.

“A Game of Cat and Mouse / Beware of Living Dolls” (11/16/68) – Catwoman steals the Crown Jewels. / Dollman uses dolls to commit crimes.

“Will the Real Robin Please Stand Up? / He Who Swipes the Ice, Goes to the Cooler” (11/23/68) – Catwoman uses an amnesiac boy who resembles Robin. / Mr. Freeze’s diamond heist goes wrong.

“Simon the Pieman / A Mad, Mad Tea Party” (11/30/68) – Simon and his men take out the criminal competition and steal valuables under the guise of a carnival. / Mad Hatter creates a Wonderland-themed gang to steal an antique teapot.

“From Catwoman with Love / Perilous Playthings” (12/7/68) – Catwoman gives Batman a cat for Valentine’s Day that broadcasts traceable radio waves. / Catwoman crashes a production of Tom Thumb in Toyland and uses the toys against Batman.

“A Perfidious Pieman is Simon / Cool, Cruel Christmas Caper” (12/14/68) – Simon steals four million Turkish coins. / Mr. Freeze dresses up as Santa Claus.

“The Fiendishly Frigid Fraud / Enter the Judge” (12/21/68) – Crashing ice meteors allow Mr. Freeze to stage a massive hoax. / A criminal escapes disguised as a judge and begins crashing trials to recruit henchmen.

“The Jigsaw Jeopardy / Wrath of the Riddler” (12/28/68) – Riddler plans to blow up Gotham’s art gallery. / Riddler hides out in a construction site.

“It Takes Two to Make a Team / Opera Buffa” (1/4/69) – Joker, Penguin and Riddler plan to make Robin jealous of Batgirl and break-up the team. / Joker is haunted by the ghost of Batman.