There are few things more glorious in superhero comics right now than the Batman ’66/Wonder Woman ’77 mash-up series. But its last few chapters, despite featuring the amazing Burt Ward Robin’s evolution from Boy Wonder to disco goddamn Nightwing, have also taken a fascinatingly dark turn.
Image: DC Comics. Art by David Hahn, Karl Kesel, and Madpencil
Batman ’66/Wonder Woman ’77 — by Marc Andreyko, Jeff Parker, David Hahn, Karl Kesel and Madpencil — has actually done an amazing job of leveraging the history behind the classic Wonder Woman TV show to tell a story across several different time periods. The original ’70s TV show was originally set in World War II, before its second and third seasons transitioned to its then-present day setting. This comic has used that range to tell a story beginning with Bruce Wayne’s childhood during the war (where he witnessed Wonder Woman in action for the first time), to a Batman and Wonder Woman team-up in Batman ’66‘s swinging ’60s, to, most recently, a story set in 1977.
But a lot has changed in between Diana’s last encounter with the dynamic duo. Although she’s remained a superhero, Batman has retired — and just as he did in the comics, the Boy Wonder has graduated from Robin to Nightwing, as Wonder Woman quickly discovers while on the case of a smuggling ring that brings her to Gotham City once more.
Diana eventually reunites with Bruce to discover why he hung up his cowl, and it’s actually quite a grim discovery — as Batman continued to fight, his foes began to get more and more dangerous. And as Dick moved on to go to university, and Barbara left crimefighting to care for her ailing father (and eventually become GCPD commissioner in his stead), Bruce was left alone to face a world where his biggest foes were getting crueller and crueller. That boiled over when the Joker discovered his identity, invaded Wayne Manor, and terrified Alfred into suffering a heart attack… which seemingly led to Batman killing the Joker in his ensuing rage.
Some fans may bristle at the thought of the camp fun of Batman ’66 devolving into the traditionally darker storytelling the comics and future adaptations did, but it’s a fascinating direction that leverages the unique style of the old show to do something a bit different with these interpretations of the characters — something neither the show or its own digital comic could truly do, and which was only possible thanks to the conceit of Diana’s longevity and her own show’s timeskip.
That doesn’t mean Batman ’66/Wonder Woman ’77 is without its sense of camp, though — did I mention the fact Burt Ward is running around as Disco Nightwing already? Diana’s team-up with the older Dick (who now counts Catwoman as an ally, to boot) leads to a plot in the latest new chapter that brings both Ra’s al Ghul and his daughter Talia to Gotham City in search of Lazarus pits. And if you ever wanted to see what a ’70s League of Shadows looks like, well…
Hell yeah evil disco dancers.
Hell yeah, evil disco dancers fighting Wonder Woman and Nightwing. Despite the dark turn this book has put on the campiest incarnation of the Dark Knight, Batman ’66/Wonder Woman ’77 is still having an absolute ton of fun — and the fact it can do that and deliver a compelling look at Adam West’s Bruce Wayne beyond his life in the mask is pretty amazing.
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