November 08, 2014


 (CBS, February 12-May 28, 1977)

Filmation Associates, DC Comics

Adam West – Batman/Bruce Wayne
Burt Ward – Robin/Dick Grayson
Melendy Britt – Batgirl/Barbara Gordon, Catwoman/Selina Kyle
Lou Scheimer – Bat-Mite, Batcomputer, Clayface/Matt Hagen (1st time)

Lennie Weinrib – Commissioner James GordonJokerPenguin/Oswald Cobblepott, Mr. Freeze/Victor Friese, Electro, ChameleonZarbor, Clayface/Matt Hagen, Moonman/Scott Rogers, Professor Bubbles, Sweet Tooth

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

Almost a decade after The Adventures of Batman aired as part of the The Batman/Superman Hour, Batman returned to Filmation’s hands for his second solo cartoon in The New Adventures of Batman. Until that point, he was only appearing in Hanna-Barbera’s Super Friends franchise with other members of DC Comics’ Justice League. With both shows on at the same time, it became the first time that a single character appeared in two programs on rival networks concurrently.

Bat-Mite and Batgirl join Batman and Robin.

Filmation essentially created a sequel to two shows in one. The new show utilized the same character models from their previous one reflecting the art style of comic artist Dick Sprang while updating them slightly to reflect advancements in animation during the decade between; including rotoscoping various stock actions such as running, jumping and swinging to make them appear fluid. The most distinguishing feature of the series was the fact that the “R” on Robin’s chest had its colors inverted. 

Sweet Tooth: the original candy crusher.

However, new elements also tied it into the live-action Batman series. The major connection was the casting of Adam West and Burt Ward in the roles of Batman and Robin, respectively. Olan Soule and Casey Kasem, who had originated the animated roles for Filmation, were currently under contract with Hanna-Barbera for Super Friends. Additionally, the entrance to the Batcave was shown as being two poles hidden behind a bookcase in Wayne Manor, whereas in the original cartoon just cut to the inside of the cave via a bat-graphic. Coming at a time when the Batman comics were undergoing a revitalization to bring the character back to his darker roots, the series stood out as being decidedly lighter and fun in tone. However, while the show itself may have had elements of the camp Batman was known for, West and Ward played their roles comparatively straighter than they had previously. 

The ultimate obsessed fanboy.

Picking up the comedy slack for the dynamic duo, as well as fulfilling Filmation’s penchant for diminutive comical characters, was the inclusion of a new character to animation: Bat-Mite (Lou Scheimer, utilizing a harmonizer to achieve his impish pitch). Bat-Mite first appeared in Detective Comics #267 (1959) by Bill FingerSheldon Moldoff and Charles Paris at a time when DC’s comics were taking a more science-fiction approach. He was a child-like imp from the 5th dimension that considered himself Batman’s biggest fan, and therefore always appeared in his own version of Batman’s costume. His advanced technology gave him the appearance of having near-limitless powers. Much like in the comics, Bat-Mite would constantly appear on the show desiring to help Batman on his cases, but usually ended up causing problems and chaos with his mischievous ways.

Incoming Bat-Message morality lesson, Bat-Fans!

Another holdover from the Batman era was the inclusion of Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl (Melendy Britt). Like the previous series, she was the city’s District Attorney rather than the librarian as she was portrayed on Batman and in the comics. Her character model was also updated to cover her neck with her costume, whereas the previous show featured it exposed. Her father, police commissioner James Gordon (Lennie Weinrib) also returned, but this time with the white hair and mustache he had in the comics. Noticeably absent was Bruce Wayne’s faithful butler and father figure, Alfred Pennyworth, making this the only Batman adaptation not to future the character. Present, however, was Filmation’s customary morality lesson in the last minute of the show dubbed a “Bat-Message.”

Penguin, Clayface, Catwoman and Joker.

Like the previous series, the villains were a combination of established Batman foes and ones created specifically for the show. Catwoman (Britt), The Joker, Mr. Freeze and The Penguin (all played by Weinrib) all made appearances, joined by Sweet Tooth, a sweets-themed villain; Dr. Devious, a diminutive mad scientist; Zarbor, an evil version of Bat-Mite; and Chameleon, Devious’ android who could turn into vehicles and metal objects (all also Weinrib). Catwoman would receive a new costume exclusive the show with a better cat-theme design, while Penguin lost his trademarked cigarette due to newly enacted rules in children’s television. Because of their use in Super Friends, Scarecrow and the Riddler were unable to appear on the show; however, Riddler did make an appearance in the opening titles (albeit in a pink costume) and was referenced to in an episode. Making his animated debut was Clayface, aka Matt Hagen (Scheimer at first, then Weinrib), who needed to take a special formula to gain shape-shifting powers.

Comic book ad for The Batman/Tarzan Adventure Hour.

The New Adventures of Batman began on CBS on February 2, 1977 and ran for a single season. Unlike the previous series, DC writers weren’t involved with the scripting duties. It was written in-house by Len Janson, Chuck Menville, Mark Fink, Arthur H. Nadel, Bill Danch, and Jim Ryan, with music by Ray Ellis and Norm Prescott (as Yvette Blais and Jeff Michael, respectively). In the following years, it aired as reruns paired with other Filmation programs. It was seen with Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle as part of The Batman/Tarzan Adventure Hour (which initially planned to have West and Ward appear in live-action wraparound segments) and was joined by the Super 7 in an extended ninety-minute block called Tarzan and the Super 7 until 1980. Beginning in 1980, New Adventures moved to NBC with Super 7 (sans Tarzan) in a block called Batman and the Super 7. In Japan, the series was broadcast with a different opening utilizing more clips from the show and an all-new theme song.

West and Ward would return to portray their characters in live-action one last time in Legends of the Superheroes: two one-hour specials produced by Hanna-Barbera for NBC in 1979 loosely based on their Super Friends franchise. While those would prove to be the last outing for Ward until two direct-to-video animated movies based on the live series in 2016 and 2017 and a cameo in the 2019 Crisis on Infinite Earths television event, West would go on to replace Soule as Batman in the last two versions of Super Friends. Homage to the series would be paid in The New Batman Adventures episode “Legends of the Dark Knight,” which utilized the same character designs and style for a segment. The Bat-computer’s bat-shaped design served as the inspiration for the Batwave in The Batman. The villain Sweet Tooth also went on to make an appearance on Batman: The Brave and the Bold, as well as in Team Starkid’s musical “Holy Musical B@man!” Brave and the Bold would become the new frequent home of Bat-Mite, voiced by Paul Reubens, following additional comic appearances and a semi-cameo in Batman: the Animated Series episode “Deep Freeze”, voiced by Pat Fraley.

The DVD cover.

In 2007, Warner Home Video released the complete series to DVD with a bonus retrospective detailing the creation of the series. The episode “The Pest” was included on the compilation DVD Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1970s Volume 1 in 2009, and again in the entire compilation collection in 2018. Also in 2018, the series was re-released as a double-feature with Filmation’s first series, The New Adventures of Superman. 2024 saw the release of action figures inspired by the show from McFarlane Toys. They included Batman, Joker, Gordon with Bat-Mite, Batgirl, Robin with his miscolored “R” and even Riddler in his pink outfit.

“The Pest” (2/12/77) – Joker disguises himself as the inventor of a hydrogen-powered car in order to steal it.

“The Moonman” (2/19/77) – Astronaut Scott Rogers is infected by space waves that turn him into the Moonman during a full moon.

“Trouble Identity”(2/26/77) – Catwoman disguises herself as Batgirl in order to frame her for the theft of a machine that changes trash into fabric.

“A Sweet Joke on Gotham City” (3/5/77) – Sweet Tooth holds Gotham City’s water supply ransom by transforming it into chocolate syrup.

“The Bermuda Rectangle” (3/12/77) – Professor Bubbles captures ships carrying weapon pieces he can use to take over the world.

“Bite-Sized” (3/19/77) – Electro shrinks Batman and Robin and uses mind-control to have them steal for him.

“Reading, Writing & Wronging” (3/26/77) – Penguin starts a school to teach teens to steal for him, leading to the theft of Batman’s utility belt.

“The Chameleon” (4/2/77) – A shape-shifting android plans to shut down Gotham’s lunar/solar collector.

“He Who Laughs Last” (4/9/77) – Joker escapes from prison and leaves a series of clues for Batman linked to his various crimes.

“The Deep Freeze” (4/16/77) – To prove himself Batman’s most powerful foe, Mr. Freeze steals a nuclear submarine to commit crimes around the world.

“Dead Ringers” (4/23/77) – Clayface hires a circus acrobat to pose as Batman and Robin and steal an oil-locating device.

“Curses! Oiled Again!” (4/30/77) – Catwoman and Clayface hold the city’s oil supply for ransom.

“Birds of a Feather Fool Around Together” (5/7/77) – Penguin uses his crime-slime to turn people evil, including Batman and Robin.

“Have an Evil Day (1)” (5/14/77) – Clayface, Joker, Catwoman and Penguin attack the city and Zarbor uses the distraction to steal all of Earth’s nuclear power plants.

“Have an Evil Day (2)” (5/21/77) – Batman and Robin track Zarbor back to his home planet and attempt to retrieve the power plants.

“This Looks Like A Job For Bat-Mite!” (5/28/77) – Zarbor uses a mind-ray to turn Batman and Robin into the Crime Crusaders, leaving Bat-Mite to save the day.

Originally posted in 2014. Updated in 2024.

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