If you’re a Batman fan but need a break from today's grim and gritty stories of the Dark Knight, then have we got a show for you... In 1977, Filmation and DC Comics -- who'd previously joined forces to create Batman's first animated adventures for 1968's The Batman/Superman Hour -- reunited for a follow-up series. The New Adventures of Batman reunited Adam West and Burt Ward, whose live-action portrayals of the Dynamic Duo had lit the spark for Batmania a decade earlier. The new show, like the original 1966 Batman series, featured Batgirl, as well as villains like the Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, and Mr. Freeze. But this time there was an extra ingredient -- the screen debut of Bat-Mite, the fifth-dimensional, super-powered imp first introduced in 1959's Detective Comics #267 (who'd later feature in classic Batman: The Brave and the Bold episodes like "Legends of the Dark Mite!")
The series has its fair share of gems for harcore Batman fans, but here are five that stand out...
The first episode of the series features Batman and Robin going up against the Joker, but it’s clear he’s not the biggest source of their troubles. Bat-Mite constantly gets in the Dynamic Duo’s way, causing Batman to ask, “Whose side is he on anyway?" There’s a moment where the Joker ties up Robin and Bat-Mite in a warehouse rigged to explode -- a full decade before he did the same thing to Jason Todd in the classic “Death in the Family” comic storyline! It’s fun to hear the usually stoic Adam West lose his temper at Bat-Mite, and when you watch this episode you can’t help but blame him. There’s also a charming scene of Bruce and Dick playing the pioneering video game Pong at Wayne Manor. A fun way to start the series!
In one of the campiest episodes of the series, Batman, Robin and Batgirl go up against the candy-themed villain Sweet Tooth! Sweet Tooth, a villain created for the cartoon, has a candy weapon for every occasion. He traps the Batboat in marshmallow, then says “Can’t have a sundae without nuts” as he shoots nuts at it. His first crime is changing Gotham’s water supply to…chocolate syrup! Dick Grayson dons buck teeth and a pillow fat suit to infiltrate Sweet Tooth’s gang in a moment guaranteed to make you smile ear to ear. With gimmicks like these, it’s a wonder Sweet Tooth hasn’t made it to the comics yet.
In addition to returning villains like the Joker, The New Adventures of Batman also features Clayface’s first screen appearance. In this episode, Clayface teams up with Catwoman to steal Gotham City’s oil. The cartoon made good use of Clayface’s powers, as he transforms into a snake and constricts around the Batman. This episode also features a Catmobile for Catwoman, complete with its own tail to swat away other cars. If you think that’s something, wait until you see her cat-shaped submarine! Fans of Bat-Mite will be amused by this episode's stinger, in which he dresses up in a fancy suit hoping to take Batgirl out on a date. This episode also sees Adam West's Batman mocking Bat-Mite with his impression of him…a moment that’s worth the price of admission!
In this episode, Mr. Freeze and his henchman Frost attempt to steal a nuclear submarine. It’s not the ideal time for Robin to go against this frosty foe, since he’s currently fighting a cold. Poor Dick Grayson can’t seem to catch a break this episode, as Mr. Freeze puts him in a block of ice and takes him along on their heist just for fun. The banter between Freeze and Frost is a highlight of the episode, making them villains you love to hate.
In another fun episode, the Penguin and Joker compete to become president of YUC (the Yearly Underworld Convention). The Penguin pledges to use his new crime slime to turn the Dynamic Duo evil. Bat-Mite, as usual, gets in the way and winds up getting himself and Penguin blasted by the crime slime. Penguin becomes a teleporting pest to Batman and Robin, while Bat-Mite turns to a life of a crime. As if the episode couldn’t get any zanier, Batman and Robin fake being evil in order to fool their foe. Have you ever heard Adam West as Batman pretend to be evil? It’s one of the greatest performances he’s ever given. As a bonus touch, in this episode we learn that Bruce and Dick bowl with pins that have their enemies’ heads on them.