Jim Beard Talks Oooff! Boff! Splatt!

I was eight months old on January 12th, 1966. I didn’t watch the premiere of Batman that chilly evening—we lived in Toledo, Ohio—but somehow, I “saw” it, and it set the course for my life from that moment on.

There’s no doubt in my mind my father had the show on that Wednesday night. He was a Batman fan as a kid, growing up in the 1940s and 1950s, and I can’t imagine him not tuning it in in 1966. There were two other kids in the house then, my older brother and sister, four and five years old respectively, and while they weren’t necessarily devotees of comic books and the like, it’s also hard to imagine kids that age not watching Batman.

Me? I was probably sleeping at 7:30 pm, or at least burping and rolling over. Who knows? Maybe I was in the living room when “Batman IN COLOR” flashed on the screen. I’d like to think I was. How else would I have become such a fan myself of the Caped Crusader?

Well, for one thing, there was a lot of Bat-stuff around the house back when I was growing up. There were a few comics leftover from my father’s childhood, as well as a few then-current “New Look” Bat-books; there were a puzzle, a card game, coloring books, a Switch-N-Go set, and a Magic Magnetic Gotham City, just to name a few things. Add to all that the DNA I inherited and, well, any wonder I am how I am?

My first real memories of the TV show are from the first syndication run (although, technically, I was almost three years old the night it ended, March 14th, 1968), and to my young mind, it was on all the time. I was never left wanting back then; I could turn the TV on at nearly any time of the day or evening and Batman would be there—or so it seemed.

And I loved it. I loved everything about it; the colors, the action, the good guys, and the bad guys. And, like almost everyone who watched it as a kid, I believed it. I distinctly remember the first time I ever heard someone remark about how fake the fights looked, and me, with the superiority of a child, remonstrated them for their lack of vision…in other words, I told ‘em they were blind. What do you mean fake? Those Bat-fights were real, dummy!

As I grew up and the show became harder to see—syndication wasn’t always reliable as television channels grew in number and the foibles of area broadcasts came into play—but that was okay because Batman was always playing in my head anyway. I never forgot anything about it, and when I was able to visit with it from time to time, it was like an old friend at the door, smiling and very, very welcome.

In 1986, I entered into a new phase of my love affair with the show, though I didn’t know it at the time. I worked at a bookstore then, and one day I spotted a new book on the shelves: Joel Eisner’s The Official Batman Batbook. An epiphany? Angels blowing trumpets? Winning the lottery? Yeah, something like that, because it was that day that I started wrapping my brain around the idea of people publishing books about “obscure” TV shows.

You see where this is going?

I wasn’t yet a write then, nor an editor or publisher, but I think that’s when the seeds were planted for my own foray into talking about Batman through the medium of publishing.

After Joel’s book—which I loved and proceeded to read into tatters—there was virtually nothing else on the show. Probably a lot of that has to do with the fact that it took about fifty years for it to be released on home-viewing strata. Plus, it was widely considered a joke, something to be embarrassed about; Frank Miller had a lot to do with that, him with his 1986 The Dark Knight Returns, and then of course there was that big-budget “serious” feature film in 1989. I dug in my heels, firm in my belief that all kinds of Batmans can exist at the same time, but it was still a while before I threw up my hands in frustration and did something about the dreams that were brewing on the backburner in my brain.

In 2010, I created an edited a book called Gotham City 14 Miles. Its subtitle was 14 Essays on Why the 1960s Batman TV Series Matters. When I went around promoting the book, I minced no words in telling everyone I could that it came into existence because, for my money, there just weren’t enough books on the subject. There were, maybe, conservatively, two. How could that be? I set about doing something about the obvious gaffe.

People seemed to like Gotham City 14 Miles, and it felt good to fill the gap I saw in the publishing business. Then, in 2020, I did it again.

I won’t belabor this blog with the Secret Origin of the Subterranean Blue Grotto books—you can find that in my introductions to the tomes, but I did want to say, in a roundabout way, that sometimes people do things because they want something, and that thing just isn’t around to be had. My Batman books exist because they didn’t exist before I brought them into existence. Dreams do happen, but sometimes you have to push them into the waking world.

I’ve had a blast doing these books. I am so thrilled to be able to finish the trilogy with the publication of Oooff! Boff! Splatt! I am also equal parts relieved and glad it’s done and done. I hope everyone’s been enjoying them as much as I’ve enjoyed assembling them.

Thanks to everyone who had a hand in them. I couldn’t have done it without you all.

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