Sunday, August 12, 2012

Animated World of DC Comics: Bat-Mite's TV debut ('The Pest", 1977)

The New Adventures of Batman bowed on CBS in February 1977 as a mid-season replacement. One major difference from the previous Bat-toons produced by Filmation, aside from live-action stars Adam West & Burt Ward brought in as the voices of Batman & Robin, was the debut of Bat-Mite, a imp from another dimension who was to the Caped Crusaders what Mr. Mxyzptlk was to Superman, a pest, except that Bat-Mite was the diametric opposite of Mxyzptlk. Whereas Mxyzptlk was pulling malicious pranks to get Superman's attention, Bat-Mite idolized Batman and wanted to join his team. He just couldn't take no for an answer.

To keep him around on a regular basis, head writers Chuck Menville & Len Janson gave him a schoolboy crush on Batgirl (Melendy Britt, replacing Jane Webb). However, the series opener, "The Pest", while marking Len Weinrib's debut as the voice of the Joker and Commissioner Gordon, also shines the spotlight on Bat-Mite, who wasn't appearing in the comics all that often by this point.

In effect, Bat-Mite was used to represent the curious younger viewers who shared his desire to be more helpful, though I'd imagine if the writers had been paying attention to comics of the day, they'd realize that Robin himself had developed an interest in Batgirl, which became an on-again, off-again plot device in the books for several years. I can just figure there were millions of teenage boys who felt the same way......!

Rating: A-.


magicdog said...

The main problem I had with this incarnation was Bat Mite. Yes, it's true he did represent that pest who often did more harm than good despite good intentions but he just grated on me so!

However, I couldn't blame him for crushing on Barbara Gordon/Batgirl! If Filmation and the network had allowed it, it would have been a big step to have allowed Dick & Barbara to date. The target audience wasn't supposed to know about such things back then. We didn't see that until TNBA in the 90s.

One thing I noticed about this incarnation of Barbara was that she wasn't a librarian (as she was originally) but a District Attorney! I suppose it was to show that women could take on tougher roles in society rather than traditional ones, but as an adult, I realized there's no way even Babs could have had time to be a DA and Batgirl! Librarians didn't usually put in quite as many hours.

I loved having the orignal live action B&R voicing the characters! It fit so perfectly!

hobbyfan said...

It was also made necessary by the fact that Olan Soule & Casey Kasem were now at Hanna-Barbera (Super Friends), after having done the '68 series. And, as you know, West would follow the trail to H-B in '84.

I'm going to have to find an episode with Babs as the DA, or at least an assistant. In the comics, she had gotten into politics and was in Congress!