July 12, 2016

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All-Ages or Small-Ages #15 (Batman '66 by Jeff Parker, )



See all of the past entries of All-Ages or Small-Ages here.

There are a wide array of all-ages comics out there from the classic Archie comics, through the  Sonic the Hedgehog and Disney, all the way to the original properties such as Lumberjanes. You might look at one of these books and think that, as an adult, it doesn’t have much to offer you. As someone who has discovered a deep fondness for titles such as this, I’ve been surprised by how rich and complex the stories can be. All-Ages or Small-Ages? is a feature that takes a look at the books that fall under this banner and attempts to analyse whether or not their assigned label is apt; is it a book that you can read along with your children?

Batman ‘66 has been running digitally since 2013 with a print version following the year after. Inspired by the infamous Adam West helmed series from the late 1960s, it has a more campy structure and divisive approach to storytelling. With a new villain appearing in each portion of story, it pushes forward unrelenting, not stopping to check on past continuity. While this may be a jarring transition for people coming into this series from the deep continuity and heavy melodrama of the contemporary Batman universe, there’s a pure sense of enjoyment here that deserves a chance.


While this series has humour in spades, it doesn’t emerge in the form of explicit jokes. You’ll be left feeling incredulous as to how these characters can behave in the way that they do but that, as I understand it, is a quality that carries over from the original television production. Situations that would usually be considered serious plot points are immediately discarded and people will take even the most unexpected reveals at face value. All of this is an intended part of the charm and while that results in a product that doesn’t delve into the morals and far-reaching consequences of everything, it doesn’t need to.

This delightfully blasé approach to consequences carries across to the sense of overall continuity in the series. As many products aimed at younger audiences do, we are always returned to the status quo at the end of the story after the villain has been captured. However, instead of feeling formulaic, Parker keeps providing a fresh perspective on the resolution to each story. While, yes, we do know that the villain is going to end up heading to Arkham Asylum at the end of the story, you never quite know how it’s going to happen.

As someone who doesn’t have a lot of motivation to delve into the 80 years of the mainstream Batman comics, I can rally behind the “Greatest Hits” approach that this series takes. As previously mentioned, with a new hero or villain appearing in every story, there’s a real sense that Parker is giving a tour of this universe and everything that it has to offer. You’re provided with enough information to understand each character’s shtick and their relationship to the titular character and then you’re thrown right into it. It feels far more satisfying than you might expect from a one-off all-ages story and most definitely whets your appetite for more.


Seeing the amount of extraordinary artistic talent on this series surprised me. With those phenomenal Mike Allred covers, you might think that the art inside couldn’t possibly measure up; it unquestionably meets, if not exceeds, that qualitative expectation. Jonathan Case, writer and artist of the superb The New Deal from late 2015, provides the bulk of the art in this first volume and does a tremendous job at setting the ongoing tone. With a visual grounding in real and visually iconic actors, this series could have been off to a rough patch from the very beginning, but, with such a superb team attached, West’s Batman is immediately recognisable.

Many artists, when drawing an all-ages property, are confined to a specific house style that prevents them from providing their own artistic spin; often simplistic and exaggerated, it can turn a lot of people off. Case, however, couldn’t be confined by any of these boundaries. You can see the expressiveness and attention to detail that existed within The New Deal, making each of the characters very personable and incredibly easy to picture in live action. Motion follows effortlessly from panel to panel and from page to page to make a product that allows you to easily picture as unfolding on screen.

Colleen Coover, of Bandette fame, draws half of one issue starring Batgirl and Catwoman and, even though she isn’t working in her famous stylised watercolours, stands out as someone that you need to know about. There’s an energy and an excitement to her storytelling that keeps you energised and upbeat for the entire duration of her, painfully brief, contribution. When a story is attempting to pinpoint the deliberately over-the-top energy that comes from the combination of an old-fashioned TV show and a piece of children’s media, this quality is vital.

Although I have no experience with the source material beyond its vague cultural influences, this comic appears to remain true to the original series, at least in the form that I understand it to take. You don’t need to know what happened to these characters in the past and the series has a definitively serialised format. However, the story still retains its sense of weight thanks to the strong scripting from Parker and the unbelievably talented artists attached to it. This was probably a foregone conclusion to anybody actually familiar with this series, so I can happily announce that this series undeniably appeals to an older audience.
Let me know if there's a comic that you think I should be checking out. I'm always on the look-out for some more hidden All-Ages gold. Contact me at mark@thegreengorcrow.com or head over to check out the podcast that I co-host You Know What I Like...? on SoundCloud.