Back in 1966, the Batman series was an overnight sensation on ABC. Starring Adam West and Burt Ward as the caped crusaders, the series ran for three seasons and 120 episodes. Kids tuned in to watch the action while parents enjoyed the show’s campy satire.
Another big attraction for viewers was the array of colorful villains. The Batman comic books have always had plenty of crazy villains but the TV series took it to a new level, often attracting big name celebrities to play the parts. Many of the stars have said that they agreed to do the show at the request of their children or grandchildren who were big fans.
While villains like Riddler (Frank Gorshin, John Astin), Joker (Cesar Romero), Catwoman (Julie Newmar, Earth Kitt), Penguin (Burgess Meredith), Egghead (Vincent Price), Mr. Freeze (George Sanders, Otto Preminger, Eli Wallach) and King Tut (Victor Buono) made multiple appearances, many villains only appeared once or twice.
Some lesser-seen villains include Zelda the Great (Anne Baxter), The Mad Hatter (David Wayne), Bookworm (Roddy McDowall), Ma Parker (Shelley Winters), Black Widow (Tallulah Bankhead), Shame (Cliff Robertson), Siren (Joan Collins), Louie the Lilac (Milton Berle), False Face (Malachi Throne), The Clock King (Walter Slezak), The Archer (Art Carney), and Marsha, Queen of Diamonds (Carolyn Jones). Most of these characters were created specifically for the show and haven’t appeared in the comics, before or since.
After the series folded, West and Ward reprised their roles as Batman and Robin a few times, mostly for some animation work and a pair of live-action specials. The only actor to reprise his role as a villain was Gorshin in one of the previously mentioned 1970s specials.
In recent years, the Batman character has become much more serious and the stories have become much darker in tone. Many current Batman fans have expressed disdain for the 1960s show and its campy tone. Still, many have great affection for the series and its place in Batman history.
The latest animated series, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, has a few fans of the old-style hero onboard. Batman’s appearance and the tone of Brave and the Bold are very reminiscent of the 1950s comics and the 1960s series. In a recent episode, the producers even included a direct homage to the distinct villains of the West/Ward show.
In episode five, titled “Day of The Dark Knight,” there’s a prison break that begins at the 03:35 minute mark. A number of criminals attempt escape before being captured by the caped crusader and guest hero of the week, Green Arrow (classic style). If you look closely, you’ll notice that most of the criminals are villains that haven’t been seen since the 1960s series.
Here’s the video of the entire episode. Watch closely and you’ll see Louie the Lilac (03:34); Marsha, Queen of Diamonds (04:43); The Siren (04:43); Mad Hatter (04:45); The Archer (04:47); Bookworm (04:49); Clock King (04:52); King Tut (04:55); Ma Parker (04:57); Black Widow (04:57); Shame (05:00); False Face (05:02); and Egghead (05:06).
If they pass by too quickly, we’ve included a partial visual aide below. Good to know they’re still around after over 40 years — and resting comfortably in Gotham Penitentiary.