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Sometimes, Batman gets a bad rap. Sure, he’s obviously the coolest superhero out there, but for the most part, we know him as a gruff, brooding loner who doesn’t seem to care much for anything outside of, you know, eradicating crime in Gotham or whatever.
But that’s just because for the last 25 years or so, that’s exactly how the Caped Crusader’s been portrayed. Ever since Frank Miller’s seminal graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns, we’ve reveled in thematically dark stories making Batman out to be the not-so-nice guy we’ve come to know and love. And the movies followed suit. Say what you want about Christian Bale’s Batman voice -- you loved watching him play the damaged lone wolf as much as we did.
But Batman wasn’t always that way. In the '60s, Adam West played him to be a bit of a goofball, sure, but he was the most upstanding and optimistic version of the character we’ve ever seen. And because of that, we hope Burt Ward’s Robin appreciated the good thing he had going, living rent-free in stately Wayne Manor with the coolest surrogate dad you could ask for.
In fact, here are five reasons we think '60s Batman is perhaps one of the best father figures in all of superhero-dom (yes, we realize that’s not a word).
1. He Was a Provider
Sure, we realize Bruce Wayne isn’t a millionaire (he was a millionaire in the '60s, not a billionaire like he is now) because he spent long nights at the office or picked up extra shifts working on the docks. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth -- the Wayne family fortune not only supported his extravagant lifestyle, but it also supported his ... um ... nocturnal activities.
But Bruce Wayne was never the playboy he led the public to believe he was. He always made sure the trust fund was flush enough to make sure Dick Grayson (a.k.a. Robin) had everything he needed, Alfred was well compensated for his service and considerable discretion, and sweet Aunt Margaret had what she needed to keep her busy social life afloat.
In The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce Wayne loses every cent he had. Of course, some of that came from some sneaky corporate subterfuge. But the Bruce Wayne of the '60s was such an efficient planner and a provider that his de facto family literally wanted for nothing. Trust fund or not, that only comes from a someone with knack for mindful spending and smart budgeting. Never a bad quality in a father.
2. He Valued Education
In between his many missions as Batman’s sidekick Robin, viewers often saw Dick Grayson doing the same things: 1) wearing sweaters 2) studying, mostly algebra. Just because he spent his nights (and many of his days) fighting crime while wearing tiny green under briefs and no pants never meant he could just slough off his responsibility as a (20-something-year-old) student at Woodrow Roosevelt High School.
Bruce Wayne made a point to encourage Dick to strive for excellence in his studies in many instances in the TV series. He wanted the best for Dick and knew that a good education was in his best interest. How did he know that? He’s Bruce Wayne! You don’t get to be the World’s Greatest Detective without hitting the books yourself.
So not only does Batman place a lot of importance on education, he also walked the walk. He’s a learned guy himself. So he can push the kids to study hard and he can help them do it if need be.
3. Bat-Family Togetherness
Pretty much every modern version of Batman we’ve seen prefers to go it alone. He’s a big bag of mental health, this guy. And in the comics, he’s even got this extended family of sidekicks -- a handful of Robins, a Nightwing, a Red Hood, and a few Batgirls -- and he still would rather leave them back in the Batcave while he takes down the Joker all by his lonesome.
Not '60s Batman. For him, crime-fighting was a group activity. Every time he ran to the study, answered the glowing red Batphone, lifted the head on that faux Shakespeare statue, and slid down the Batpole to the cave below, Robin was always by his side.
And the same was true when he was topside, not in costume. Bruce Wayne was rarely seen alone. He spent most of his time hanging out with Dick Grayson, Alfred, and Aunt Harriet, having a grand old time.
Kids need their father figures around and that includes 20-year-old actors being passed off as crime-fighting teenagers. And '60s Batman seemed to know that, as he made sure to include his stand-in family in pretty much all of his activities.
4. Safety First
Batman and Robin are crimefighters. It’s a dangerous gig, by nature. But what do Batman and Robin do every time they jump in the Batmobile? They buckle their seatb-- oh ... wait. They never once buckled their seatbelts. Ok, just look past that for the moment ...
How about that time in Batman: The Movie when Batman let Robin fly the Batcopter while he climbed down a rope ladder to fight a shark? Actually ... that was pretty dangerous too. Skip that.
Once every episode or two, Batman and Robin had to climb a building. Hmm, that already sounds just super unsafe.
Ok, come to think of it, '60s Batman was into just as much dangerous stuff as modern Batman. Should kids should never look up to him for that. They could wind up ... seriously injured.
That’s our bad. Sorry.
5. He Was a Good Friend
No matter what kind of goofball supervillainy threat Batman and Robin had to take on, no matter what manner of cliffhanger deathtrap some bad guy put them in (and then inexplicably walked away to allow them to escape), he always referred to his yellow-caped sidekick the same way: “Chum.”
Sure, it sounds weird. It’s one of those terms that really doesn’t make sense anymore. But you gotta look at it in context. That was like Batman calling Robin “buddy” or “pal.” He was never afraid or ashamed to call Robin what he was: his friend.
And isn’t that what we all want in our father figures? A guy who provides for us, encourages us to be our best, makes time for family, puts us in life-threatening situations, and just wants to be our friend?
So there you have it. Looking for a solid figure for the kids who also just so happens to be a superhero? Look no further than '60s Batman: