Today I’m going to write about a series of paperbacks published by Signet Books in 1966 relating to ABC’s Batman. I haven’t read any of these, nor do I own any of them, but Carl was kind enough to scan the covers to two of them for me. Signet, an imprint of publisher New American Library, has long been associated with media tie-ins, although primarily film. Signet has published novelizations of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Where the Boys Are, Basic Instinct and On Golden Pond, to name just a few. Signet also published two novels based on The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. (the first of which I reviewed here) as well as two books based on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.
More recently, Signet has published novels based on Diagnosis Murder and Monk (all written by Lee Goldberg). In other words, in 1966 it wasn’t unusual for Signet to acquire the rights to publish books based on Batman. What I find unusual is the content of many of the books.
Batman was incredibly popular right out of the gate. Plenty of toys and collectibles were released in the months and years after it premiered in January of 1966. In the past I’ve written about Batman trading cards and other random memorabilia. Signet, in March of 1966, published Batman, subtitled “The BEST of the ORIGINAL BATMAN–the Caped Crusader’s greatest adventures.” Inside were black-and-white reprints of stories from Batman comic books. The back cover declared that “The editors of Signet searched the secret files of BATMAN–files dating back to the early 1950’s–to bring you THE FIRST ADVENTURES… THE VERY BEST ADVENTURES… of the Caped Crusaders Against Crime BATMAN and THE BOY WONDER, ROBIN.”
Obviously, the front and back covers were designed to replicate the tone of the television series. But fans of Batman who purchased this book were probably in for a disappointment. The television Batman was completely unrelated to the comic book Batman. And yet, the book must have sold because Signet published two additional volumes, Batman vs. The Joker and Batman vs. The Penguin in May of 1966.
Signet also published one original tie-in novel, Batman vs. 3 Villains of Doom, in April of 1966. It was written by scriptwriter, comic book writer and novelist William Woolfolk using the pen name Winston Lyon. Woolfolk, who died in 2003, actually wrote for DC’s Batman comic book (an obituary from The New York Times can be found here). In August of 1966, Signet published a novelization of Batman the movie, also written by Woolfolk, also under the pen name Winston Lyon.
Easily the strangest Batman tie-in published by Signet was Bill Adler’s Funniest Fan Letters To Batman, which came out in August of 1966. It was a collection of actual fan letters written to Batman. Whether the letters were addressed to DC Comics or ABC, I can’t say. Bill Adler edited quite a few books like this, including Kids’ Letters to President Kennedy, Kids’ Letters to President Reagan, Letters to Smokey Bear and Love Letters to the Monkees, and the popularity of Batman meant there were plenty of letters being written.
Here’s a list of the six Signet paperbacks. Note that only Batman vs. The Joker and Batman vs. The Penguin were actually numbered.
|(1.)||Batman (Comic Reprints)||Mar 1966||N/A|
|(2.)||Batman vs. 3 Villains of Doom (Novel)||Apr 1966||Winston Lyon|
|3.||Batman vs. The Joker (Comic Reprints)||May 1966||N/A|
|4.||Batman vs. The Penguin (Comic Reprints)||May 1966||N/A|
|Other Signet Paperbacks|
|—||Batman vs. The Fearsome Foursome (Film Novelization)||Aug 1966||Winston Lyon|
|—||Bill Adler’s Funniest Fan Letters to Batman (Compilation)||Aug 1966||N/A|
One of these days I might try to get my hands on a copy of Batman vs. 3 Villains of Doom, the one true Batman tie-in novel.