Kevin Smith, Ralph Garman dive into ‘Batman ’66 Meets the Green Hornet’

May 20, 2014 | 2:37 p.m.
bmgh1 cover Kevin Smith, Ralph Garman dive into Batman 66 Meets the Green Hornet

The cover from "Batman '66 Meets the Green Hornet," featuring a story from Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman, art by Ty Templeton and a cover by Alex Ross. (Alex Ross/DC Entertainment)

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Bruce Wayne runs into an old friend in "Batman '66 Meets the Green Hornet." (Ty Templeton/DC Entertainment)

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Bruce Wayne makes a veiled attack at Britt Reid's alter ego in "Batman '66 Meets the Green Hornet." (Ty Templeton/DC Entertainment)

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Bruce Wayne and Britt Reid make excuses for a hasty exit in "Batman '66 Meets the Green Hornet." (Ty Templeton/DC Entertainment)

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Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, as portrayed by Adam West and Burt Ward, in"Batman '66 Meets the Green Hornet." (Ty Templeton/DC Entertainment)

Long before superhero teams became a box-office staple, there was Batman and the Green Hornet.

When the two heroes, along with their respective sidekicks Robin and Kato, teamed up in the second season of the “Batman” television series in the two-part episode “A Piece of the Action” and “Batman’s Satisfaction,” it marked the first time two masked avengers had joined forces on screen.

To commemorate the landmark moment, DC is launching “Batman ’66 Meets the Green Hornet,” a 12-part series premiering in digital form this week. Batman super-fans director Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman (“The Joe Schmo Show,” “Family Guy”) were tapped to pen the tale.

Smith is no stranger to crafting a Batman story, having worked on the limited series “Batman: Cacophony,” which ran from 2008 to 2009 and the six-issue mini-series “The Widening Gyre” in 2010. He and Garman frequently collaborate on all things pop culture and Batman, as the pair co-host the “Hollywood Babble-On” podcast on Smith’s “SModcast” channel and Garman often joins Smith on his “Fatman on Batman” show.

Judging by the exclusive preview pages, the pair’s signature wit is on display. When Bruce Wayne and Britt Reid first run into each other on a train, the old schoolmates immediately begin hotly contesting the aesthetics of their alter egos’ costumes. Later the pair struggle to make excuses to flee the scene and change into their crime-fighting gear.

The series, which hits stores June 4, will continue the successful run of the “Batman ’66” title, which began last year and features the Adam West version of the Caped Crusader taking on the classic rogues gallery from the television series, which ran from 1966 to 1968.

Hero Complex talked with Smith and Garman about “selling out” on Batman, avoiding irony and great moments in Bat-fandom.

Why is the ’60s television series “Batman” so important to both of you?

Garman: I’m a huge fan of the 1966 show. This was my first Batman and still sort of my favorite Batman. Kevin’s been much more wide-reaching with his scope of the character and I love the character in all the different versions, but this one has always been first and foremost. For me, this was a dream gig.

Smith: I’ve got something of a prodigal son thing going on with “Batman ’66,” because that was my very first Batman and I sold out on that Batman when I got back into comic books. I was reading Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns” and then soon after they were making Tim Burton’s “Batman,” so I was part of that generation that was like, “Oh, that old campy Batman ruined it man, this is dark Batman and he’s back!” Which, it’s spellbinding to think that we believed in 1989 that Tim Burton’s “Batman” was “dark Batman,” but still, we would sit there and be like, “Oh, that old campy stuff, Adam West, it’s an embarrassment.” But there’s a great comic book writer and artist named Matt Wagner. He’s one of the greatest talents in comics. And he was talking about including the term “chum” in a [Batman] book he wanted to do. And DC kind of kicked back at it, going, “Yeah, we don’t want anyone thinking about the old TV show anymore so we don’t want you to have him call someone ‘chum.’ ” And I was going “Oh yeah, that’s right, who wants to think about that old Batman?” And Matt Wagner said, “Don’t do that dude, don’t sell out on your Batman. That was your first Batman. The only reason you know about hard-ass Batman is because you fell in love with the other Batman. With smiling Batman, with Batman on TV.” He was like, “Be a man, stand up for your Batman.” Which is the weirdest thing you could say to somebody about pop culture, “Be a man, own up to your Batman.” (laughs)

There’s a bit of a paradox there.

Smith: But he was right and when I got lectured by one of the greats, I was like, “You’re right, man.” So I went out there like an apostle, telling everyone, “Quit selling out on Batman!”

The cover from "Batman '66 Meets the Green Hornet," featuring a story from Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman, art by Ty Templeton and a cover by Alex Ross. (Alex Ross/DC Entertainment)

The cover from “Batman ’66 Meets the Green Hornet,” featuring a story from Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman, art by Ty Templeton and a cover by Alex Ross. (Alex Ross/DC Entertainment)

You both have a serious appreciation for the show, but a big part of that Batman for people is the irony or kitsch factor. Does that factor into how you craft the story?

Garman: The goal is to shoot for the first season of the show when Lorenzo Semple Jr. had the reins, and for the 1966 feature film as well, because they really showed how to strike that balance: You play it straight. You play it as if it’s the most serious thing in the world and out of that seriousness, maybe over-seriousness, that’s where any sense of humor or fun comes from. You don’t play it broad, you don’t play it for the jokes, you just play it as if this guy is a hero and he does all the right things for all the right reasons. And he’s square and he’s solid and he’s true and you know, in the current climate, politically and socially, that automatically makes it a little funny, so you really don’t have to stretch to find that balance, you just have to play it straight.

Smith: The only thing you have to do is kind of fight the urge of like, “Let’s make a double entendre,” because they didn’t really do that that much, man. That’s certainly not what that TV show ever did, so why would we do it in the book? You know, like Ralph said, they played it kind of straight.

You’ve said that this series will appeal to old fans who grew up watching the show. Is part of the appeal of this project also that it could convert new fans or people who don’t even really know about this version of Batman?

Smith: Hell, yeah, and this iteration of the character is so kid-friendly as well. As kids have seen over the last five, even 10 years, there are many Batmans with many different faces. The one they see in the movies, the one they see in the cartoons, the one that they see in the video game that they play to death. So now there’s a chance for kids to read a Batman comic that’s kid-safe, that’s kid-friendly. You don’t have to explain to your kid, “Well, this is what a hooker is.” So it is kind of a door into a Batman that a kid could appreciate. That’s how I fell in love with Batman; as a 5-year-old kid with this iteration. So, why couldn’t it capture another kid’s imagination?

Garman: And I think “Batman: The Brave and Bold” proved there’s an audience for a lighter Batman too, especially for kids.

Smith: Oh, so true, so true. I mean that is lighter Batman, essentially. You’re right, I hadn’t even thought of that, Ralph. I’m like “Oh, look at us, we’re like the first men on the moon, bringing Batman back to kids!” And it’s like, “The kids know Batman.”

It’s easy to see how much of an influence Batman had on you both. But growing up, what was your relationship like with the Green Hornet?

Garman: That two-parter [Batman TV episode] was huge for me. Kevin often says this, it’s the first time we ever saw two superheroes share a screen, you know?

Smith: It was like our Avengers, man

Garman: And it really introduced me to the Green Hornet. Being passionate about the series, I went out and sought out all the bootlegs of that one season of the Green Hornet because I wanted to know more about that character and Bruce Lee (who played Kato) was so magnetic in it, it just had so much to offer.

Smith: I just knew him from the two-parter. You know, you always respected it because you’re like, “Bruce Lee’s in it and he’s got his own car.” Even if you didn’t watch the entire run of the Green Hornet, you knew the Black Beauty. It’s like one of the Top 10 television cars and superhero – or masked avenger – cars of all time. So, years later man, when they had the idea for a Green Hornet movie at Miramax at one point and Harvey [Weinstein] was like, “Do you want to write and direct the Green Hornet?” I was like, “Oh, heaven’s yes,” so I’d had some involvement with it there as well. Then that movie didn’t happen and Seth Rogen went and made his of course, but that script got turned into a comic book with Dynamite, so this gig happened with “Batman ’66,” through Dynamite.

Ralph, you went to your wedding in a 1966 replica Batmobile. Is that correct?

Garman: That is absolutely true. I was chauffeured to my wedding by Batman.

Would you say that that was your most extreme fan moment?

Garman: Well, I helped Adam West get his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And for me, that was the most gratifying and also the most surreal moment of my life. I said, “If my 8-year-old self could talk to me right now, he’d say, ‘All right, you’re done. You don’t need to do anything else. You can just lay down now.’ ”

Kevin, what about you?

Smith: Now if I say anything … you know what I’m saying? (laughter) He helped Batman get a star on the Walk of Fame, you know? Like, I was gonna say, “I saw Tim Burton’s ‘Batman’ eight times in the theater in one day!” That’s nothing compared to what Ralph did.

That’s true. You gotta know when to fold them.

Smith: Or you gotta realize when you’re Robin and not Batman.

— Justin Sullivan |@LATHeroComplex

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