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Batman in the 1960s – Part Two

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Welcome to the Ant Hill! It’s atomic batteries to power and turbines to speed for Part Two of our look at Batman merchandise of the 1960s! While everyone watched the show and read the comics, the hardcore Bat-fans showed their support for the Caped Crusader by dressing the part. Many leapt out of bed and into action in these scratchy-looking pajamas.

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These appear to be hand-made, but research shows they are an authentic, store-bought item. Standards were simply lower back then; children would suffer for another decade until Underoos arrived to revolutionize superhero sleepwear.

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Once you ditched the itchy pajamas, you needed to cover your shame — why not with tiny upsetting shorts? DC was pretty fast and loose when it came to licensing their characters, and items like this show their judgement was questionable at times. Also, that is one seriously off-model Batman.

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Uh, Bruce, Superman called — he doesn’t care how you got them, he just wants his pants back. Preferably washed.

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Cool shirt. It showed you were a serious Bat-fan, as well as performing the important function of  drawing attention away from your horrible shorts. I love this “bootleg” design; it reminds me of the iron-on transfers given away in snack products of the era. This aesthetic is still cool decades later, only now they charge you $15 for it at Hot Topic.

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Next up, the Official Batman Sneaker by Randy.  Man, even the box is cooler than my shoes! And dig that crazy flicker-ring! You really got your money’s worth back then.

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Remember, kids: the first rule of Randy Batman Club is that you don’t talk about Randy Batman Club. Also, don’t wear badges cut out of the bottom of a shoe box unless you’re looking to get your ass kicked around the playground.

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The shoes themselves are pretty nice. They’re slip-ons, which is useful for the crime fighter on the go. The basic black is a plus since you can wear them to formal events. If you’re hitting the town, you’ll also need one of these:

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Yes, folks, you heard right — official. Those other guys with the fake Batman ties are just embarrassing themselves. This is the real deal, accept no substitutes. And don’t get any pie on it or Alfred will kill you. Try one of these — turns out all the rich guys use ’em:

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Just because they’re busy protecting Gotham doesn’t mean the Dynamic Duo can’t also protect you from stains. These are pretty nifty and in surprisingly good shape for being 50-year-old baby bibs.

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Be “Just like your favorite hero!” and shop for your crime-fighting apparel at the local drug store. Pick up grandma’s medicine while you’re down there and you can keep the change from this quarter. Shame on you, Louis Marx & Co. You know your goofy product has nothing to do with Batman, and yet here you are trying to trick little kids into handing over their hard-earned nickles. There’s even a shot of Robin tweaking his own mask to mislead the easily swayed. Still, an independent study conducted just now by me concludes this mask makes most chicks at least 10% hotter. That’s gotta be worth 39 cents.

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In the first part of this article we examined the strange phenomena of toy manufacturers depicting Batman using guns — somehow I missed this the first time around or I would have tossed it in. Batman certainly looks ready to (note his wriggling arm). Is he finally going to frag the Joker? Is he having a stroke? You be the judge!

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Okay, now this is the good stuff here — Plastigoop for your Thingmaker. You need this.

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Man, if I had one of these, the only reason to leave the house would be to buy more Plastigoop. While I never had this particular version, I have fond memories of the Thingmaker machine. Playing with one was a visceral, almost ritualistic experience: mixing the goo, cooling the metal tray, and almost always burning myself while pulling black shiny plastic out of the still-hot molds. Good times.

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The US of A wasn’t the only nation swept up in Bat-Mania — it was a world-wide phenomena, as evidenced in Germany’s Fledermaus-marionette. Now, I know these days folks prefer their Batmen armored, but, personally, I think this is the way to go. Nothing strikes fear into the heart of the cowardly and superstitious like craft-store felt.

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I know the figure was manufactured in Germany, but this guy has a very French quality to me. He looks like he should speak in a reedy Parisian tone: “Zoot Allors! Un homme très rude a sa main dans mon cul !” Oui.

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This is the Mexican equivalent of a Bazooka Joe comic — a heck of a lot more exciting, if you ask me!

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The Japanese had some very interesting ideas about Batman. Their take on the Caped Crusader is so weird, I’m actually going to save it for a future article. In the meantime, enjoy this “inventive” version of the Batmobile. Dig Batman’s li’l arms!

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No discussion of retro Bat-merch would be complete without a look at the grand-daddy of superhero action figures — Ideal’s Captain Action! In the 1960s, the Captain was your one-stop shop for superheroics. His gimmick was different “uniform sets,” which allowed the doll to assume various licensed identities such as the Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet. DC Comics was represented by sets featuring Batman, Robin, Superman, and Aquaman. Like all proper superheroes, the good Captain soon acquired a kid sidekick, which allowed ideal to release Robin, as well as Aqualad and Superboy.

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The costume sets were very popular in their time and remain fondly remembered. In fact, in the last year Captain Action has returned to toy stores with an entirely new Batman costume, but only time will tell if the new version lives up to its predecessor’s legendary status.

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Records were a thing back then. If you enjoyed the slightest measure of fame, you had to cash in by making a record — I’m pretty sure it was a law. Adam West did it first, recording the truly bizarre “Miranda.” Over a TV-style music cue, a generic narrator breathlessly asks “Will tonight be the night Bruce reveals himself to the magnificent Miranda?” Wait — reveals himself? Bruce? What the Hell?!? What follows is 2:49 seconds of pain and confusion as Adam “Bruce” tunelessly seduces a mystery gal who wants him to take off his mask. His efforts at romance are continuously thwarted by “Boy Genius,” his clueless sidekick. You can hear this train wreck in it’s entirety on Youtube, but I warn you, this song will sit on your head until you cry.

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TV’s Robin went into the studio with none other than Frank Zappa to produce the song “Boy Wonder, I Love You.” It’s hard to say what fans of the TV show thought of Zappa’s mutant doo-wop parody then, but it’s a fun listen now. The song’s lyrics come in the form of a fan letter, written by someone obviously very taken with the young crime-fighter. Ward’s campy read shows he was all too aware of what he was saying and when he concludes his recitation of the mock letter with “I hope you know this is a girl writing…” you just gotta laugh. I know Zappa must have. Also on Youtube.

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The villains got in on the act as well. Sadly, Caesar Romero took the high road and didn’t put out any Joker product. Ditto for Eartha Kitt who’d already had an impressive recording career. However, Frank Gorshin giddily cashed in with the Mel Torme-penned “The Riddler.” It’s a catchy little tune with Gorshin admirably staying in character despite the miserable quips he was forced to read. What else can I say about this record other than it’s mercifully brief?

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Burgess Meredith didn’t sing, but his performance was featured on the 45 rpm record “The Capture” b/w “The Escape.” Great quivering icebergs, indeed!

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Neil Hefti’s popular popular BATMAN theme has been recorded hundreds of times by acts as diverse as Jan & Dean, Sun Ra and his Arkestra, The Jam, The Ventures, and The Who. It also gave dozens of imitators a chance to get in on the Bat-action. Heck, I could do an entire article showcasing the knockoffs, ripoffs, and weird imitations released back then, but I won’t. After all, this isn’t one of those creepy record collector websites — it’s a creepy toy collector website.

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At any rate, as long as a version of Mr. Hefti’s song appeared somewhere on the record, the all-important name BATMAN could be used on your album’s cover. That translated to $$$, no matter who the musicians on the record were. Although, if you were willing to dress like the guys above, it really helped. These records came thick and fast for the better part of a year, so even a casual collector could amass a pretty unusual collection fairly quickly. Stuff like this:

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Truly terrifying. But at least we know what Conan O’Brien was up to in the 1960s. If you wanna know more, check out this ginchy article: http://www.60sgaragebands.com/scenesthings/songsinspiredbybatman.html

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Here’s an example of a toy maker going to extremes to convince us their run-of-the-mill novelty product is in some way associated with the Batman franchise. I certainly went to extremes searching the ‘net for an image to prove it was, but alas, these do not appear to be in continuity. In a world where the Joker is running around wearing his torn-off face as a mask, I find myself yearning for the good old days when the Clown was at least good for laugh. Speaking of masks…

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Good Gravy! Now here’s something to spice up your nightmares. The giant red lips and Betty Boop hairstyle are distressing enough, but the off-center eye-holes and bizarre abrasions on his cheeks make this a perfect 10 on the Creep-O-Meter. Here kid, take ALL the candy! Just don’t come any closer!

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Lots of these great pics can be found over at The Batcave Trophy Room! Thanks to Jon for sharing!  — http://batcavetrophyroom.blogspot.com/

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