Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman have co-anchored the hit podcast “Hollywood Babble-on” since 2010, but starting May 21 they’ll be doing something they’ve never done together: write a comic book.
Not only that, but the pair will be bringing together the 1966 TV version of Batman, made famous by Adam West, and the legacy character Green Hornet for an all-ages adventure that will run digital-only over twelve issues, bi-weekly.
In advance of the issue’s release, we hopped on the phone with Smith and Garman to talk about the genesis of the project, how they refrain from cursing in the book… And just how the “Batman ’66″ costume differs from the recently revealed Batfleck costume:
MTV News: How did you guys get hooked up with this mini-series? What was the genesis?
Kevin Smith: Yeah, I had a little something to do with the origin of it, I was there for the spark. I had worked on some DC books back in the past. I did a run on “Green Arrow,” I did two “Batman” mini-series, one called “Batman: Cacophony,” and one called “Batman: The Widening Gyre.”
So I’d be there for a bit doing stuff, but also this failed “Green Hornet” movie I had made for Miramax got made into a comic book series by Dynamite. Nick, the guy who runs Dynamite was like, “Hey man, DC is interested in doing a Green Hornet/Batman crossover. Would you want to write it?” And I was like, “Oh, of course.”
Because I assumed he was talking about modern day Batman, because I had written modern-day Green Hornet. Mostly. The old Green Hornet was in the script as well. But when the deal came through, he said, “Oh, it’s for Batman ’66. They want to do it digitally and then cross over to paper. So it’s the ‘Batman ’66′ Batman, and that Green Hornet.”
I said, “Oh, look, can I bring in my friend who I do ‘Hollywood Babylon’ with? This dude Ralph Garman, he has forgotten more than most cats know about this world of Batman. This particular iteration of Batman. I’d be way more comfortable if I was doing it with him.”
So they said, “absolutely,” and I brought Ralph in and that’s when that thing took off, because, believe me, my imagination is already limited, we know that, we’ve seen 20 years of that on film and in comic books. But this is a moment where I could have really dropped the ball, because there hasn’t been a s**t-ton of new “Batman ’66″ content that’s been produced over the past 30 years.
Thank god I went into it with a guy who was as well versed in that lore as Ralph. He became the engine, man. I went from being Batman on this project, to being Robin.
MTV: This is the first Batman project you’re going to do that doesn’t have villain Onomatopoeia in it, are we going to get a shout-out to him at all?
Smith: I don’t know. There’s Onomatopoeia in the world of “Batman ’66″ anyway, but no, there’s no tease like that.
But what I did see recently blew my heart back, man. DC Nation did a cartoon on Cartoon Network, a little short, about Green Arrow and Canary, and they were fighting Onomatopoeia-bots, and I was like, “Wow, that’s crazy!” They took that character and turned him into a robot. When they beat the last one, Onomatopoeia got out and started sneaking away.
It’s my favorite thing that has happened all year, man. That’s that character, that dopey character we created. They legitimized him, it was kind of cool. But he won’t be in this series, I promise you.
MTV: So what’s the difference between the character of Batman in “Batman ’66,” versus the other times you’ve written him? And is there something that connects them?
Ralph Garman: It was a simpler time, and Batman’s motivations were not as grim as they are now. They’re still the same origin. His parents were murdered, and he fights crime, but here he does the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. It’s pretty black and white. He’s a good guy, and they’re the bad guys.
It’s fun to play with a guy who’s that straightforward and square, and dedicated. Like the show itself, you can have fun with it.
Smith: He comes from an era where people trusted the cops and the politicians, so you can get away with doing squeaky clean, golden age comic book stories. Which the “Batman ’66″ series was. They didn’t just invent the notion of a Batman who walked in broad daylight, they had already gotten there in the comic books.
And rather than take the incarnation of Batman where he’s darker, a vigilante, or even the take where he had guns at one point… In terms of doing the TV show, they picked one that the creator of the show, Bill Dozier, was like, “Well, this is what I would do. He’s colorful, it’s funny, they’ve got costumes and stuff. Who takes this stuff seriously, anyway?”
So they picked an era of comics that absolutely existed, but put that writ large on the screen. In an era when you were questioning authority, you’re reaching the place post-Vietnam. You can’t tell stories like that anymore in the comic book universe, unless you’re like, “We jumped in a f**king time machine, and The Watcher put us there!”
It’s nice to tell that story all squaresville, set in the time period so it makes absolute sense, and it feels right. You couldn’t do it any other way. You couldn’t do it any other way. You couldn’t be like, “Commissioner Gordon’s on the graft, and Chief O’Hara is getting head in the alley! He’s f**king hookers and taking money from small store owners.”
You don’t need to do that, because it wouldn’t make sense in “Batman ’66.”
MTV: You started to touch on this, but you guys — and I mean this in the best way — aren’t known for keeping it clean. When you’re doing something like this, how much do you have to rein in your natural impulses?
Garman: It’s not hard at all, because you have a world that already exists. You’ve got the series of the template, and there are elements of that show that you absolutely have to adhere to, in order to make it feel right as a reader. You want this to play like it’s a lost episode from the ’67 season.
You just use that as your guide, you don’t get too far off course.
Smith: Don’t get me wrong, I love dirty, and frank, and vulgar and stuff… Not for the sake of being dirty or vulgar, but just because of freedom of speech, and I don’t believe in couching things politely.
That all said, it’s nice to be able to show off a different ability every once in a while, where you’re like, “Oh, I can work clean!” When you go on TV, you can’t be like, “Liam Neeson’s c**k is sooo huge!” You can, in a very polite way, but we can’t do what we do on our podcast out in the open, in decent society anyway. So when it comes to something like this, it wasn’t like, “Let’s do it, but we’ll put a d**k on Robin!”
We were like, “Let’s play the ball where it lays.” In doing so, not only do we honor something we love and keep it f**king pure, and not s**t all over it for the sake of a cheap laugh; but we’re also showing some people who might say, “All they do is f**king d**k humor!” that we could actually do something different. So it’s a nice feather in your cap.
MTV: Kevin, I know you had seen the Ben Affleck as Batman picture early, but now that the official one is out there, are you kicking yourself that you can’t go back and scribble the new costume over the pages of “Batman ’66?”
Smith: I wish, man! All you have to do to see Ben in the costume is turn to the pages of Frank Miller’s seminal “Dark Knight Returns,” where Batman’s beating the s**t out of the Joker in the Tunnel of Love? That’s what the suit looks like.
There’s a lot of people talking about how monochrome it was, saying, “Oh, it is like Christian Bale’s because it’s all one color. That’s not the case. Look, Zack put up a monochrome picture. It’s a black and white photo. I saw a lot of people on the Internet saying, “It’s all one color, what’s the big deal?”
Having seen the actually seen the original photo in color, not that one, but the first picture — like, when I saw that picture go online I had never seen it before, I said, “Oh, that’s bad-ass.” But I knew what it looked like because of a different picture he showed me, it was all in color, lit under studio lights. But you could see everything.
I’m seen some pictures online where people have taken the Batmobile image, and blown it up, gone into the detail. Some people have color corrected it if you will. It is spellbinding. There are some people grousing, but that costume is the smart way to go. Number one, it’s a crowd favorite, a big fan favorite. Anyone who knows “Dark Knight Returns,” and that’s a lot of people at this point thanks for the work being out for years, and also the cartoon movie, that’s the Batman costume we’ve always dreamed about seeing in cinema.
So knowing that it’s color-coded correctly, some cats going, “I hear it’s blue,” I’d be all for that, but it’s not. The one I saw looks like in “Dark Knight Returns.” That’s why I hugged Zack Snyder, I was like, “Oh my god, dude, you gave me that suit — I’m gonna see that suit on screen before I die.” I know I live in the First World, so that’s a pretty low goal to have for a lot of people, but for me that was huge. I don’t live very healthy. I never thought I’d see that Batsuit on screen, and now we’ve seen the image of it.
And to top it all off, the man who wore the suit? I know him. I’ve seen his balls. I know that guy, it’s crazy.
Garman: I think Zack should go back and change the costume to look more like Adam West! [Laughs]
MTV: Before I let you guys go, any final thoughts about the comic? Things fans of yours can look forward to?
Garman: Whether they’re fans of ours or not, and of this iteration of this character, they’re going to have a blast. They’re going to get a fun ride because the book is fun, and the art is amazing. It’s going to be a fun read from a different era, that a lot of people are going to enjoy on a lot of different levels.
Smith: And also those covers, dude. I don’t have to sell the Alex Ross covers. Alex Ross always does amazing work. You can tell the stuff he’s more passionate about than others… This clearly was one of those projects. He must love “Batman ’66,” because he delivered some of the best work I’ve ever seen him do. I’m in the process of trying to buy the artwork to give to Mr. Ralph Garman, because, I’m like, “You deserve these covers, buddy.”
The Digital First miniseries “Batman ’66 Meets The Green Hornet” will be available via the DC Comics app, Readdcentertainment.com, iBookstore, comiXology.com, Kindle Store, Nook Store, Google Play starting May 21.
Cover art by Alex Ross, all other art by Ty Templeton.