Local writer and graphic novelist Gabe Soria loves issue No. 13 of the “Batman 66” comic book series from D.C. Comics — partly because Soria wrote the story, illustrated by renowned New York artist Dean Haspiel.
“Batman 66 is a retro series,” Soria said. “It’s based on the iconic TV show, much loved for its irreverent campy take on the character, with no allegiance to the other Batman comics.”
The classic Batman TV series, starring Adam West as Batman, ran for three seasons from 1966 to 1968. Soria’s retro Batman is an almost comedic character, and his dialog conjures Adam West’s measured voice.
“I’ve been waiting to write in that voice for years,” Soria said.
“I watched so much of that show as a kid. The dialog is wonderful.
“The Adam West Batman, his speech patterns are as distinctive as Captain Kirk’s.”
While staying mostly true to the TV show about Batman and Robin, Soria’s story soon takes a meta-twist.
While scaling a 20-story building, the caped crusaders see a billboard for a new, modern TV show inspired by their own Gotham celebrity — except this TV doppelganger resembles more the colorless, gritty Batman of today’s Hollywood directors and comics illustrators.
“From what I have heard about it,” said Bruce Wayne’s Aunt Harriet as she sits down on the couch to watch this toughguy TV Batman, “it seems very lurid.”
In the end though, Aunt Harriet loves the show — as does the rest of Gotham.
The menacingly modern TV Batman wears a face full of stubble and throws his prey out 10-story windows.
Feeling misrepresented as “a thug” on TV” Batman takes Robin to go reason with the show’s producer, only to find out a secret. “A TV producer and a master criminal?” Soria’s Batman exclaims. “Twice as evil!”
“If you know Gabe, he’s a cheeky guy,” Haspiel said via phone from New York.
“That comes through in his writing. His stories are meaningful but they have levity.”
Haspiel is an Emmy-winning former collaborator with American Splendor curmudgeon Harvey Pekar, who has done superhero work for both D.C. and Marvel. The memorable HBO comedy “Bored to Death” featured a comics-drawing character loosely based on Haspiel, played by Zack Galifinakis.
“I’d never really looked at heroes in this dark and gritty way, but now it’s become the norm,” Haspiel said.
“Meeting Gabe was somewhat kismet because I was trying to tell a lighter side to superhero adventure,” Haspiel said, “and Gabe was thinking we could make that kind of commentary in Batman. Why not have fun with this dark side of Batman?”
Soria, 41, grew up in Los Angeles and moved to several cities before settling in New Orleans with his wife and son in 1996.
He wrote the award-winning vampire graphic novel with Jessica Abel, “Life Sucks,” published in 2008.
Issue 13 of “Batman 66” is the duo’s second comic collaboration, the first was in 2004.
Soria says to expect more of his take on Batman soon.
“I have a couple more scripts that have been given the thumbs up, and lots more Batman stories I am pitching,” said Soria, happy to be adding to the lore of a famous character he so clearly loves.