Sunday, July 2, 2017

Interview: John S. Drew of The Batcave Podcast

2017 is a busy year for Batman. In May, Hulu released the documentary Batman & BillIn November. the Caped Crusader will appear in the film Justice League. On June 9 a beloved figure in the Batman universe, Adam West, passed away at the age of 88. John S. Drew of the podcast and blog, The Batcave, answered a few questions regarding his podcast and Adam West. The Batcave focuses primarily on West’s Batman that was broadcast on ABC from 1966 to 1968. 

The Batcave podcast focuses on the Adam West-era television show Batman. Why did you decide to build a podcast around this incarnation of the Dark Knight?

At the point I started the podcast, there were plenty of podcasts that dealt with other incarnations of Batman.  There were ones dealing with the movies or the comics or even the DCAU, but nothing being said, save or the odd tribute episode on a pop culture podcast, about the '66 series. When I started it, I wasn’t even sure what the point of the podcast was. After a few episodes, I thought it was to defend my love for the series. Many fans of the show loved it as kids, but fell away as they grew older, only coming back to it recently due to nostalgia.  I never lost my love and childlike wonder for the show.  As time has gone on, I have come to realize that I never had to defend my love.  If you don’t get it, that’s fine.  I can’t entirely understand any obsession with the truly dark version of Batman.  But in the end, it’s still Batman as he has the same mission.  He just goes about it in different ways.  
Cesar Romero as The Joker

Any version of Batman is greater than just Gotham’s hero and is almost equally about the villains and surrounding characters. The early series contained some of the most famous supporting roles in television. Who do you think is the greatest character in the television series outside of Batman?

I know most fans point to Frank Gorshin’s Riddler as his first appearance set the stage for the rest of the series, but I have always felt that Cesar Romero’s Joker, just as with the comics and movies, has always been the perfect foil for Batman.  He ties the Penguin for the most appearances and I felt that most of his stories were consistently good. While I never got the feeling of the Holmes/Moriarty element that we see in other versions of Batman, I still felt he was the most dynamic of the villains.

Adam West as Batman
Adam West passed away on June 9. In your episode “From The Files Of The Batcomputer #33 – A Tribute To Adam West” it is clear that he meant a great deal to you and your guests on the show. What did Adam West mean to you?
Despite all the talking I’ve done about his passing, I’m still trying to work out exactly what he meant to me.  A day hasn’t gone by since his passing I haven’t had a thought about him, not just in watching Batman, but of the man himself. Like my never wavering appreciation of the '66 series, I felt the same way about Adam West.  If I saw he was going to appear in a movie or television show, even if it was one I never watched, I made it a point to see it.  I enjoyed all his performances, including some of his less memorable ones such Zombie Nightmare.
I think what I take away from Adam’s life experience is that no matter how low you are, you keep your head up and give everything your best.  God only knows what he went through in those lean years when all people could see was Batman, but it never affected his work ethic or his ability to be a personable, charming individual.  I take that with me as I move on with my life experience and for that, I thank him.

What is his legacy amongst all of those who have played Batman?

After everything I said about his various roles, in the end, he will best be remembered as Batman.  The thing is, not one other actor to play the role will be able to have that said about him.  You can say you enjoyed Christian Bale or Michael Keaton as Batman, but there aren’t many who claim that either of them or any of the others are their Batman.  We will always say that about Adam West.  He was Batman. The other actors just played the part.


There are many different phases of Batman that have been made into movies, cartoons, and television series. How do you think the Batman television show measures up against the other films and series?

With few exceptions, I think the television series inspired or spoke to many of the shows and movies that followed.  I plan on covering the Burton movies on the podcast because I feel that as much as they liked to think they were presenting a more realistic Batman, I feel they were poking as much fun at the concept as the series did.  In fact, the trajectory of the movies matches that of the TV series.  The only series that really shies away from the TV series is the Nolan movies, which I must admit, I haven’t seen them all as there’s no joy in them as one can find with any other version following the '66 series.


The tone of Batman has evolved over time. Ranging from the campier initial run of Batman to the dramatic edge of the Christopher Nolan trilogy. Do you think that Batman will ever return to a mood as light as the original series?
A few years back, I started a thread on the Batcave Podcast Facebook page to cast a modern-day version of the ‘66 series.  The cartoon The Brave and the Bold proves that it can be done and still have its moments of seriousness.  Heck, I loved the recent Return of the Caped Crusaders as it managed to capture the feel of the ‘66 series with a more modern approach to storytelling.  
I think it’s possible, but I can’t imagine it happening on a live action scale as the audience is so locked into the “Dark Knight” and DC certainly will not want to tarnish the image of their money maker.

You have been involved with podcasts for quite some time. Has the podcast landscape changed and, if so, how?

The landscape has changed in that the field is crowded, making it difficult to get your voice out there.  I will admit, I also find it frustrating that podcasting has become the means for many who already have the means to express themselves to make their sphere of attention larger.  It makes it all the more harder for the podcaster who has been at it for years toget the attention of the general audience when say, the Chris Hardwicks of the world are also out there gabbling along with us.


Are there any particular challenges to hosting a podcast about a show that preceded your own by 50 years?
The biggest challenge is the Monday morning quarterbacking I sometimes do when critiquing the show.  I was particularly hard on the program in the first season.  I think that had to do with my whole justifying my love for the show and at the same time saying, “I get it, it’s goofy.”  I relaxed when we entered the second season.  I had to or else I was going to lose my audience as I’d be complaining about everything. And then I was reassuring the audience as well as myself as we approached the third season.  
I needn’t have worried.  The show is great, even certain elements of the third season.  It’s a fun show and I needed to have fun with it, while still pointing out the obvious flaws.  I thought the show would end with the end of the series reviews, but we’re still continuing with reviews of the ‘68 Filmation cartoon and The Green Hornet series.  We’re planning on reviewing the Filmation ‘77 series, Lookwell, Adam’s turn as Batman on the Superfriends, Scooby-Doo, various episodes of The Brave and the Bold and looks at elements of the ‘66 series we didn’t go into detail about.
And, of course, there’s the upcoming Two-Face animated feature where we’ll hear Adam as Batman and Bruce Wayne one final time.  It’s going to be bittersweet.

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