Let's face it: Not all of us cut our detective baby teeth on Sherlock Holmes. Most eight-year-olds are just not yet possessing the mental wiring to fully comprehend or appreciate the greatest detective the world has ever known, nor should they be. And even as adults some of us still need a more ele . . . but I digress.
Thanks to some rights issues that were finally settled a year or so ago, I finally got around to re-acquainting myself with my first favorite detective this past week, a character so absolutely silly that it's almost impossible to place him next to Sherlock Holmes in anyone's detection Hall of Fame. And yet, there he was, so prominent in my past, the detective whose fandom I was a full-fledged member of back in 1966, a full decade before I dove headfirst into the great sea of Holmes.
Was "1966" enough of a clue?
Yes, before I was a Sherlockian, I was a Batfan. Not a fan the grim, dark, gutteral-voiced guy we know today -- no, a fan of the Adam West incarnation of Batman, who called his teen-aged Watson "old chum" and who had the best announcer voice of the 1960s narrating his every cliff-hanging adventure.
The most remembered parts of 1966 ABC Batman may be the "BIFF! POW!" fight scenes, but at the core of each story was Batman's detective work. The very beginning of the series has a Sherlock Holmes-like start, as the heads of the Gotham City Police Department all stare at a clue from the Riddler, and Commissioner Gordon is asking each of his men, one by one, if they can solve it. None of them can. So Gordon goes to call in the city's highest authority in detection: the man at the other end of the light-up red phone, the Batman.
Sixties TV Batman is more consulting detective than vigilante justice warrior. He goes to crime scenes in broad daylight to look up clues. He listens to recordings at police headquarters to recognize background sounds. He tests evidence in his personal crime lab. With his brightly colored surroundings and clearly-lettered signs identifying each device or switch, Sixties Batman feels a lot like a "Playskool" version of a consulting detective, but a consulting detective he most certainly is.
Going back and watching those old episodes after decades away was like finding a missing puzzle piece for me. Whether or not it would have come about anyway, my later love of Sherlock Holmes was surely set up to some degree by this cartoonish detective version of Batman. "What, you say his headquarters is Batcaver Street? I'm on board!" (Okay, maybe that's pushing it. But the beats of both sets of tales are close enough to make one wonder.)
One last odd little coincidence to think about: Sixties TV Batman has 120 episodes in it's Canon . . . 120 episodes that tended to be two-parters, as I remember it, making it very close to a 60 episode Canon. Not a bad number at all.
We never know the exact mental formula that turns us into Sherlockians. And not that many of us have the ABC Batman series figuring in our formative years (though now that it's available on DVD, we can start running experiments on available children, right?), the fact that it seems to owe more to Sherlock Holmes than Zorro, despite the costume, is a very curious thing.