This year is Batman’s 75th anniversary. Bob Kane and Bill Finger created the character in 1939 and introduced him in Detective Comics #27. Since that first appearance, Batman — and his alter ego, Bruce Wayne — have gone through a lot of changes. If you’re a Batman fan, then you know that today he’s one serious superhero. Whether it’s in comic books, video games, or movies, he seems to be all business, all the time. And that business is taking down really bad bad guys and stopping really complex plots to destroy Gotham City.
But the Dark Knight wasn’t always so, well, dark. He always fought crime, but Bats found time to do other things, too. Like face off with the Joker in a surf contest! That’s right: Batman and his arch nemesis the Clown Prince of Crime duked it out while hanging ten. The battle happened on TV during the third and final season of the colorful, campy, super fun Batman TV series that aired on ABC from 1966-1968. You might not know the show, one, because it’s old, but, two, because it has never been available on DVD or Blu-Ray. Until now.
Batman: The Complete Television Series is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray, which gives us the perfect opportunity to take a look back at a less gloomy period of Batman’s past — when he battled evildoers as well as played sports!
Disclaimer: This footage is NOT from the recently released Batman TV series set. The Blu-Ray episodes look spectacular, not like they were recorded off TV, which this clip clearly was. But it is a peek at Batman’s bodacious board battle with the Joker. Why did they have a surf off, you ask? The Joker wants to become a world-class surfer and he has to kidnap someone or something like that. Really it’s just an excuse to put two legendary characters in board shorts and into the ocean. And for Batman to use his trusty Bat Shark Repellant spray. (Also it was the ‘60s. Surfing was huge!)
But it’s actually not the first time Batman surfed. Way back in 1948, Batman, Robin, and Superman went searching for wicked waves on the cover of World’s Finest Comics #36. It looks like Robin is the better surfer, but Batman seems to be doing OK for himself:
World’s Finest Comics also found Batman and company playing all sorts of other sports through the 1940s and ‘50s. From basketball to skiing to rock climbing, the Dark Knight was sure able to show off how good an athlete he is:
As a superhero, Batman knows how to throw a punch. So of course he would show up in a boxing ring from time to time. Over his career, Batman has boxed aliens, pros, and even other heroes:
Batman got a chance to land a hook on the 1966 TV show, too. The gloves went on (over the gloves?) in the second episode of the third season when Batman faced the Riddler to stop the master of puzzles from taking over all the prize fighting in Gotham. Again, this video is NOT from the current Batman set:
The sport Batman played the most, though, was baseball. He took the field at least twice on the covers of World’s Finest Comics. But he never actually played the game inside the books. The covers where just an excuse to put our heroes in fun situations:
The Dark Knight did play, though, in the pages of DC Super-Stars. In 1976, Batman and his fellow Justice Leaguers faced off against some of their biggest bad guys in an epic baseball game. (Read all about it, and see a stats breakdown, here.)
That game was recreated for the Batman-led cartoon The Brave and the Bold from 2011. It’s pretty fun, and, of course, it’s up to Batman and his awesome skills at the plate to save the day for the good guys:
Since then, Batman hasn’t had much of a chance to show off his athletic abilities. He’s too busy fending off the Court of Owls and a faceless Joker and a seemingly endless number of retcons and universe-spanning crises. But here’s hoping that sooner or later Bats get a chance to blow off some steam on the gridiron or at the rink. He is one of the best athletes in the DC Universe, after all:
Screenshots and box art: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Covers: DC Comics, via The World’s Finest Blog, Comics 101, The Comic Treadmill