Strap yourselves in, old chums. Batman goes retro and digital, and this is one Bat Channel you’ll want to tune into at the same time every week.
So much has been said about digital comics being the future of the industry, and this new release might be the best evidence of that to date. While Batman ’66, the launch title of DC2, isn’t the first comic to use the digital medium to enhance the reading experience, it is definitely one of the most fun and intuitive interactive comics to hit the market. While the majority of digital comics merely replicate the printed matter, albeit with the ability to progress individual panels, this new initiative takes original DC Comics and layers the artwork and sequences to provide something truly engaging.
The vibe of the 1960s Batman television series is a perfect fit for this new line, divorcing itself from the über serious mainstream lines and instantly creating a sense of familiar for new or casual readers. Jeff Parker has previously taken a similar approach to the Man of Steel in the excellent digital first series Adventures of Superman, distilling the iconic character down to its purest and most familiar form. This is exactly what Batman ’66 does, as Parker accurately captures the language of that quaint series, somehow without mocking or making it hokey.
As millionaire Bruce Wayne and his youthful ward Dick Grayson attend the Lady Gotham Award ceremony, a biplane carrying the riddler, who merely releases an anaesthetic gas as part of his criminal masterplan. This prompts the dynamic duo into action, and action ensues. It’s a simple story by modern standards, but that is the very joy of it. It predates a time when the Joker was capable of murdering Robin, and Batman wasn’t making contingency plans for taking down Superman.
The 1960s Batman is most closely associated with its pop art style, and Jonathan Case mirrors this look. Like Mike Allred’s work, who has appropriately provided the cover art to the printed versions of the story, the simple designs are enhanced by bright expressive colours and a plethora of Ben-Day dots. Yet it has an entirely modern sheen to it as well, deconstructing the artistic style in the same way that Parker has pared down the story elements. It allows the comic to do it’s neatest trick in creating something that almost looks as though it has three dimensions. Images and words are layered on the base image at the prompting of the user. Movement is also achieved through some clever transitions, to the extent that we often don’t know what is happening until the panel is upon us. This is something that a static page can’t control, and the ability to discover story elements at one’s own pace is going to be a very big drawcard on more dramatic pieces. The ‘POWS!’ and ‘BAMS!’ are a bit of a giddy thrill either way.
If digital comics are to succeed in cutting through the digital morass and captivating mainstream audiences, there needs to be more of them like Batman ’66. Like DC Nation has done for animated fare, this comic provides a lighthearted and easily accessible version of a familiar character that will be sure to please audiences of all ages. Whether it is nostalgia you crave or a chance to turn Batman’s permanent frown upside-down, it is difficult to not have a giant goofy grin on your face while swiping your way through this innovative taste of the future of comics.
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