Batman as a radio drama

As a kid, my favorite TV show was the Batman 1966-1968 comedy-drama series, with Adam West as the Caped Crusader and Burt Ward as the Boy Wonder. And of course, the gallery of criminals and rogues (with some rogues being played by more than one person at a time).

It was campy, it was fun, it was exciting. I will not lie.

I also have a long enjoyment of the Batman films – dig the Tim Burton films, can kinda skip the Joel Schumacher set, the Christopher Nolan trilogy are masterpieces.

I also was a fan of Batman: The Animated Series, which took the show away from camp and comedy, and brought it into deep thought and action.

So when I heard that HBO Max had produced a ten-episode series of Batman audio dramas, I had to check them out.

Here’s the first episode.

Okay. Now here’s the thing. In order for me to enjoy it, I had to close my eyes and let my mind fill in all the pertinent details, sort of how one would enjoy a 1940’s or 1950’s radio drama that played on the Philco. And there’s some great storytelling and sound patterns and pacing in this show, do not get me wrong. It’s enjoyable for what it is.

I’m just thinking that, in terms of radio drama, it’s all over the place.

The first episode features what appears to be a meta-reference to listening to a radio drive-time morning show that gets interrupted, similar to the Mercury Theater of the Air’s War of the Worlds broadcast. There’s also a narrator that emotes every single sentence with metaphor and colorful, purple prosaic pose, almost as if I’m listening to an episode of Broadway is My Beat.

Also, the narrator seems to need to fill in all the details, when it would be more acceptable to have the characters explain what’s going on, a standard technique in radio broadcasts. In one section, for example, the narrator describes Batman as breaking up a hostage situation in this manner. “A sudden split second of opportunity into which a Batarang flies, it slices through the Gotham night and lodges itself in the open fuse box.”

Now, they could have had the villain say something like, “Hey, what’s that flying through the air? It’s going to hit the fuse box! Wait, that’s a Batarang! That can only mean one thing… no, he can’t be here. Not him. Not the Caped Crusader. No, not now!” Or something like that. You know, bring in some influence from The Shadow or maybe The Green Hornet or the like.

What we have in each 30+ minute episode is essentially a Batman-themed battle, along with some side battles by several of Batman’s arch-enemies, whom we hope will interact with the Vigilante by Night in future episodes. I mean, the show’s a fun listen, and maybe I’ve just been listening to too many “Radio Classics” on SiriusXM 148 to expect that this program would follow suit. But it’s fun in its own right.

I should note that there’s a massive collection of current and ex-Saturday Night Live talent on this show. Chris Parnell does the narration, while Kenan Thompson is Commissioner Gordon; Bobby Moynihan plays the Penguin, and Melissa Villasenor is Robin (so they’re going with the Cassie Sandsmark version of Robin? Wow…). And when he’s not playing Uatu The Watcher on What If..?, Jeffrey Wright is now the new voice of Batman.

Batman: The Audio Adventures is on HBO Max, and some episodes are also available on YouTube.