Ask any child who came of age in the 1960s who their first small screen hero was, and there’s a good chance the answer is either Adam West or Patrick Macnee. Batman, the classic 1966 series that defined the Caped Crusader for an entire generation, and The Avengers, the British adventure featuring the exquisitely dressed John Steed and his partner Emma Peel, may have been produced on opposite sides of the pond, but they jointly serve as the two reigning examples of sixties-set action. Both featured well bred leading men who fought extravagant evildoers. Both boasted a variety of fighting styles and gadgets. Both had leading women with a much emulated sense of style. Neither took themselves too seriously or lost sight of having fun. And yet for as much as they shared, the two shows have never intersected…until now.
BATMAN ’66 MEETS STEED AND MRS. PEEL is the newest Batman ’66 digital first miniseries and presents the first meet-up between the heroes and villains of Adam West’s Batman and the “spy-fi” classic, The Avengers. Written by Ian Edginton and drawn by Matthew Dow Smith, with covers by Michael Allred, it’s a quirky, colorful romp that’s should leave fans of either series grinning. We recently spoke with the creative team about bringing these two worlds together, which of the two sets of heroes had a better sense of style and how they went about staging the ultimate catfight between Selina Kyle and Emma Peel.
First and foremost, how fun has it been to bring these two iconic sets of characters and worlds together?
Ian Edginton: It’s just awesome, really. It’s a dream come true. I grew up with both sets of characters and know them pretty much inside and out, so putting them together adds a new dynamic. You’ve got lots of new adventures and humor that can come out of the interplay. It’s just been a hoot. It’s been nothing but fun to do. I wish every job was like this. It’s not felt like working.
Though maybe I shouldn’t say that out loud!
Matthew Dow Smith: I’m sort of famously grumpy about crossovers. They’re tricky in that you’re often putting two things together that wouldn’t necessarily exist in the same universe. Yet, this is one of those situations where it’s just an absolutely perfect match. These two worlds are so similar to each other. They were both on TV at the same time and they had very similar takes on a fun adventure story. So it’s really a completely natural meeting of two properties.
Ian, was the Adam West Batman series shown in England?
Ian: It was shown, I think, a couple of years after it aired in the U.S. I was born in ’63, so I didn’t see it when it first came out in ’66. But it was repeated quite a lot, especially during the school holiday. In the morning the TV companies would gather together whatever kid-friendly shows they could, so there would be Ray Harryhausen movies and the old Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon serials. But the centerpiece, the thing we all stopped whatever we were doing to watch, was Batman. Then we’d all run outside and we’d all play Batman. There’s a photo of me at about age five dressed in my little short trousers and sandals and a Batman cape. I loved that cape to death! When I was growing up, I badgered my parents for the Mego Batman and Robin figures. It’s ground into my DNA.
The show has been repeated pretty much on and off indefinitely. It’s still around and there’s still an audience for it.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced so far?
Ian: It’s not actually been that much of a challenge. I want to say, “Oh, it was difficult and we burned the midnight oil!” But each property’s in its own little circle. Each of the shows has its own set of rules. But it’s like a Venn diagram, and the big portion of those two circles overlap. That’s the area that we played in. The Avengers can be dark in its own surreal way. They don’t shy away from death and showing bodies, but of course, with Batman that’s not going to be the case. So we find a center ground where we can meet up, and it’s the humor that’s actually the center ground. It’s the dialog exchanges and the scenes—things can be quite scary and edge-of-the-seat, but the humor anchors it along with the interplay between the two teams. That’s what we built on. I think that’s what makes it work.
Matthew: Drawing the Batcave as a kid is a lot easier when you don’t have to worry about perspective or being on model. Now, it’s a lot more complicated! But it’s always an interesting challenge to translate the visual look of a TV show to a comic book. These two have such a strong sense of place and style, that it’s actually a lot of fun to try to capture.
But the sense of place and that style are pretty different between the two shows. Batman always seemed more colorful and over-the-top to me, while I remember Avengers being a lot more stylish and sexy. Do you think those styles blend well together visually?
Matthew: I think they blend just fine. On both the shows, the sets don’t really look like real places. They sort of intentionally look like sets. Both shows are like that. That’s actually a really helpful element. The Batman show was stylish in its own American way in much the same way that The Avengers was stylish in its own very specific British way. We have a fantastic colorist on this project, Jordie Bellaire, whom I work with a lot. She’s given everything this great, colorful pop art look that binds everything together in a really interesting way.
Much like in the previous Batman ’66 series, the classic British Avengers TV series is not as well known out here in the States. Do you feel like this comic works as a good introduction to John Steed and Emma Peel?
Ian: Yes. The characters never really had a huge backstory on the TV show. I think they made some of it up as they went along, but the indication is that they do work for a kind of covert agency within the British government. But it’s not like James Bond. It’s never trumpeted. They are basically surreal adventurers. So you don’t need to know much in the way of backstory to jump in and enjoy our story. It’s established in the first issue that they’re looking after this heiress and watching her back, and that’s all you really need to know. It builds from there.
The first chapter finds Mrs. Peel facing off against Catwoman, which is so perfect and makes so much sense, I wonder why it’s taken this long for us to see it. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Ian: Bruce Wayne is escorting a British heiress industrialist to a diamond exhibition and of course, Catwoman comes in and says, “Oh, the weather is so hot, I just need some ice.” She wants to steal all of the diamonds.
Bruce hasn’t got his costume, he’s off-duty, so to speak. Robin and Alfred are in the Batcave, clearing up what bats leave behind. They can’t rush out, and so we initially think that it’s Batgirl who intervenes, but it’s not—it’s Mrs. Peel in her catsuit. So we have the introduction between Catwoman and Mrs. Peel, and they have a tussle. I don’t want to go into it too much. You just need to see what it looks like.
When I told everyone that I’m working on this project, the first thing they all said was that I have to have Catwoman meet Mrs. Peel. So that’s got to be a given. I agree!
Matt: The really interesting thing about drawing that scene wasn’t drawing the fight, it was drawing the sort of aftermath and trying to capture the attitude of Emma Peel. That very sort of sly, jokey thing that she does, which was really tough! It was a lot harder than I would have thought.
The other fun part about it was actually drawing Catwoman’s henchmen in their ridiculous little “cat hats.” It was just a lot of fun. You’re looking at these pages going, “I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do this!”
BATMAN '66 MEETS STEED AND MRS. PEEL #1 by Ian Edginton and Matthew Dow Smith is now available digitally via the DC Comics App, the DC Digital Comic Store, iBooks, comiXology.com, Google Play, Kindle Store, Nook Store, and iVerse ComicsPlus. Look for the first issue to be available in print this July!