Top Ten Villains from the 1960s Batman Television Show

To the Batcave!


On Wednesday, January 12, 1966, the world of television was changed forever. Adam West and Burt Ward starred as Batman and Robin, making their prime time debut in a series unlike anything else that had ever appeared on television. During the first two seasons, each story was shown as a two-part episode which aired on Wednesdays and Thursday nights. It was visually attractive with a wide variety of cool-looking equipment—the Batmobile and the Batcave were very stylish for the times. It was also unashamedly camp, with fight scenes emphasized through the use of comic-style sound effects. Each time Batman or Robin threw a punch, “KAPOW” or “SPLATT” or “BONK” appeared on the screen. At the end of Wednesday’s episodes, Batman was always caught in a deadly trap, and we were advised to “tune in tomorrow—same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.”

Batman became an instant success because it appealed to audiences on several levels. It had the action and suspense any child who ever spent 12¢ on a comic loved, with several plots based on Batman and Detective comics from the 1950’s. Penguin, the Joker, the Riddler, Catwoman and Mr. Freeze all made the jump from comics to the small screen. They were joined by clever villains created especially for the series, including King Tut, Bookworm, Marsha the Queen of Diamonds and Egghead. Every villain’s diabolical plot incorporated a wildly imaginative trap for Batman and Robin. What kid wouldn’t be thrilled with seeing Batman escape from a 12,000 degree furnace, a slot machine wired to an electric chair, or a giant magnifying glass poised to capture the sun’s rays? How can we forget the threat of two chickens fed nothing but onions for two weeks? When their eggs were cracked open, tear gas was released!

It was also replete with manic, over-the-top performances from some of the finest character actors in Hollywood at the time. Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin, Burgess Meredith, Julie Newmar and Vincent Price made regular appearances on the show. Joan Collins, Cliff Robertson, Van Johnson, Art Carney, and Carolyn Jones also were cast as villains. The main foes returned often, but a host of others appeared only once or twice, each offering something unique and quirky to this fun, special show. Even Sammy Davis Jr. and other celebrities in cameo roles frequently leaned out from windows for a quick chat with Batman and Robin, scaling the side of a building with their Batropes. Everyone wanted to guest star on Batman. It was a Hollywood status symbol.

These are my top ten Batman foes. Included in this list are my favorite one-shot villains—adversaries I always wanted to see return.


Heroes and Villains

The Caped Crusader
The Caped Crusader
Boy Wonder
Boy Wonder
Cowled Crimebuster
Cowled Crimebuster
The action begins!
The action begins!
A riddle a day...
A riddle a day...
Clown Prince of Crime
Clown Prince of Crime
The Purrr-fect Villainess
The Purrr-fect Villainess
A cagey bird
A cagey bird
Still searching for his Queen
Still searching for his Queen
Tonight's forecast:  a freeze is coming!
Tonight's forecast: a freeze is coming!
An egg-cellent opponent
An egg-cellent opponent
Do not ask for whom the bell tolls...
Do not ask for whom the bell tolls...
This guy was so bad, it took Batman and Green Hornet to stop him!
This guy was so bad, it took Batman and Green Hornet to stop him!
Chandell and his brother Harry
Chandell and his brother Harry
The Green Hornet and Kato
The Green Hornet and Kato

Holy Houdini, Batman!


1. The Riddler (Frank Gorshin in five appearances, John Astin in one appearance). Frank Gorshin’s manic portrayal of the Riddler made him my favorite of Batman’s foes (his crazed laughter won me over). The Riddler inexplicably gave Batman a chance to thwart him by leaving riddles as clues to his crimes. His schemes included a search for the “lost treasure of the Incas,” the creation of a silent film about Batman, and criminal control of prize fighting in Gotham City.

2. The Joker (Cesar Romero in nine appearances). Romero made a convincing Joker, despite the fact you could see his moustache beneath the white face paint (Romero refused to shave for the role). Plots involving the Joker were among the weirdest of all. His criminal schemes included terrorizing Gotham City in a flying saucer; stealing the abilities of a surfing champion with a “Surfing Experience and Ability Transferometer and Vigor Reverser;” forming an art school for millionaires in order to kidnap them; creating a utility belt to equal Batman’s; and, initiating a counterfeit currency operation by planting robots as bank tellers!

3. The Catwoman (Julie Newmar in six appearances, Eartha Kitt in two appearances). The beautiful Julie Newmar fittingly gave Catwoman a lithe, graceful presence. Catwoman sought to steal the voices of pop singers Chad and Jeremy (remember them?); kidnapped a rich insomniac named J. Pauline Spaghetti; brainwashed Robin to help rob a mint (this episode guest-starred Leslie Gore as “Pussycat”); and, attended college to gain access to rare gems. Catwoman had a crush on Batman and once even proposed to him. “But what about Robin?” Batman asked. “We’ll kill him,” Catwoman replied with a shrug.

4. The Penguin (Burgess Meredith in seven appearances). Penguin had some pretty cool schemes; he ran for mayor of Gotham City, created a movie studio, opened a restaurant for the wealthy (they wrote their own menus, and Penguin forged their handwriting on checks); he tried to marry the Commissioner’s daughter (secretly Batgirl) to gain immunity from the law; and, he schemed to fix a horse race. Burgess Meredith didn’t smoke, and the Penguin’s odd quack came from Meredith’s efforts to keep from coughing on-camera while the Penguin smoked.

5. King Tut (Victor Buono in five appearances). I didn’t like King Tut as a kid, but when I saw the show in reruns, I realized what a fabulous, outrageous character he was! Tut tried to take over Gotham City because he thought it was a modern-day version of Ancient Thebes; he revived scarabs in amber beads to create a drug that paralyzed the will; he posed as a public servant to predict crimes; and, he drilled under Wayne Manor in search of the “Nilanium,” the hardest metal known to man.

6. Mr. Freeze (George Sanders/Otto Preminger/Eli Wallach in one appearance each). Each actor played Mr. Freeze in a different manner, but as a kid I preferred George Sanders. Freeze stole diamonds (ice) and kidnapped a baseball player named Paul Diamante (diamond in Spanish); he kidnapped Miss Iceland during a beauty pageant and intended her to be his bride; and, he kidnapped a scientist with a formula to create “instant ice” (uh…..frozen water, right?).

7. Egghead (Vincent Price in three appearances). His made up words “egg-cellent,” “egg-scruitiating,” etc. gave him a comic appeal I enjoyed. Egghead’s schemes were among the craziest of all! He took control of Gotham City by purchasing it from a Mohican Indian; he stole 500 pounds of caviar donated by the Czar of Samarkand; and, he attempted to hatch a fossilized dinosaur egg (Batman was hiding inside, cleverly disguised as a dinosaur).

8. Bookworm (Roddy McDowall in one appearance). McDowall played this deadly geek to perfection, complete with thick glasses and a reading lamp attached to his hat. Bookworm drove around in a “Bookmobile” and initiated book-themed crimes. Famous quotations offered clues to his schemes.

9. Colonel Gumm (Roger C. Carmel in one appearance). This guy was so bad it took Batman and the Green Hornet to stop him. Gumm ran a counterfeit stamp operation and when confronted, he turned the Green Hornet into a giant stamp! I must confess: a major reason this episode appealed to me was the appearance of the Green Hornet and Kato.

10. Chandell/Fingers (Liberace in one appearance). Liberace played Chandell, the world-famous concert pianist who led a second life as the nefarious Fingers. He hoped to marry Bruce Wayne’s Aunt Harriet, kill Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson and become sole heir to the Wayne fortune. As a rich man, he could pay off Harry, an evil twin brother who was blackmailing him. What parent would name their twin sons Chandell and Harry?


Tune in tomorrow...


The Batman television show lasted only three seasons. Ratings fell during the second season when suspense gave way to comedy (a formula that victimized Lost in Space, as well). The first season balanced action and intrigue with the show’s camp aspects to the delight of parents and kids alike. When suspense was sacrificed for jokes—no matter how clever—the episodes suffered. The third season introduced Yvonne Craig as Batgirl, but the lithe, beautiful actress was unable to save a series beset by a dwindling budget and lost viewers. This madcap show was still ingeniously clever, but no one was watching anymore. Minerva’s (Zsa Zsa Gabor) attempt to rob Gotham City millionaires using her Deepest Secret Extractor was the last plot the Caped Crusaders foiled on network television. The show ended March 14, 1968 and we would never again be encouraged to….

Tune in next week—same Bat-time, same Bat-Channel!


A deadly choice....

Who is the best Batman villain of all?

  • Riddler
  • Joker
  • Catwoman
  • Penguin
  • King Tut
  • Mr. Freeze
  • Egghead
  • Other
See results without voting

DC Comics merchandise from Amazon.com

Comments 42 comments

Ghost Whisper 77 profile image

Ghost Whisper 77 6 years ago from The U.S. Government protects Nazi War Criminals

Holy batmobile Batman! Mike loves his villians!!!!

I once went to work as Catwoman...meeooooooooooow. he he he

Have a good night!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Yup, I do love my Bat-villains!!

Ghosty in the Catwoman suit??? hmmmmmmmmmmm.........


Ghost Whisper 77 profile image

Ghost Whisper 77 6 years ago from The U.S. Government protects Nazi War Criminals

You betcha! I made great money that night to feed my kiddos! lol You do what cha gotta do..but many people loved the catwoman....You know who always freaked me out as a kid? The joker. Seriously..he scared me. he he he


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Ghosty, I always thought Joker and Mr. Freeze were the scariest of them. Joker had the weird look, and Freeze lacked the comic/cartoonish appearance.

Riddler and Catwoman were my favorites.


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US

Can I be Catwoman?? Can I proposed, oh no, where is my BATMAN first???/ Hmm, Thanks for this hub now I know about villains and the year that was 1966, Thank you, Maita


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Okay, we need to find a Batman so Maita can be Catwoman and propose.... I am sure plenty of guys would jump at the chance. Thanks for reading, Maita!


Ghost Whisper 77 profile image

Ghost Whisper 77 6 years ago from The U.S. Government protects Nazi War Criminals

I just love Maita! She would make such a cute CATWOMAN...okay ...I guess there will be two CATWOMEN than...fine by me..what will you be Mike?


Uninvited Writer profile image

Uninvited Writer 6 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

I was such a fan of that show back in the day. Even though she was only Catwoman twice, Eartha Kitt's is the portrayal I remember most.

I remember being upset as a kid once when Batman and Robin were tied to the subway tracks and wondering how they could possibly escape :)


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

Criminy! Yikes! Zowie! Terrific hub.


mbwalz profile image

mbwalz 6 years ago from Maine

As a girl in the 60's with few awesome heroes, I just loved Bat Girl!! I used to make my Barbies into her!!

Thanks for the stroll down memory lane.

Na na na na na na na, BATMAN!!!!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Ghosty, if you and Maita both get to be Catwoman, can I be Batman? If I have to be a bad guy, I want to be the Riddler.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Uninvited Writer, I liked Eatha Kitt's portrayal, also. I thought her voice was wonderful. She handled the "cat" dialogue purrr-fectly (pun intended). I always enjoyed the traps Batman and Robin were placed in--a lot of them were tremendously clever. The show really was brilliant in its own hokey way.

Well, thanks for reading, it's much appreciated.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Holy Gratitude Paradize7! Thanks for reading!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

mbwalz, thanks for your comments. I'm glad I could bring back some fond memories. My G.I. Joe became superheroes, also.

Mike


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

Thanks for jogging the memories. Frank Gorshin was a great entertainer as well as the rest.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Micky, thanks for reading. Frank Gorshin was terrific and probably my favorite. Most of these folks were surprising good in their roles, which was a key element to the success of this show.

Thanks again.


hypnodude profile image

hypnodude 6 years ago from Italy

I saw the series in Italy some years later when I was a lot younger than now, and Joker was the scariest. You're right, when they went for the funny side the magic was lost. Nevertheless everyone remembers Batman and Robin, the reason behind the success of the movies. Together with comics of course. The Dark Knight is the greatest hero, well ,together with Superman. :) Great hub Mike.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

hypnodude, thanks for reading. Everyone does remember this classic show which was so clever for its day. Joker was indeed the most frightening--the rest of them tended to be more odd than scary. I agree with you completely, the movies would have been the success they were without this landmark show.

Thanks again for reading.


ChristyJC profile image

ChristyJC 6 years ago from Texas

POW! You did it again! What a fun hub! Great job!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Holy Popcorn, Christy, thanks for reading! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Mike


bat115 profile image

bat115 6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

I voted for Catwoman but it was hard to really decide as I am a huge Batman fan and love all the villains that terrorize Gotham. Top 3 from the 60s show for me would have to be Catwoman, Joker & The Riddler.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

bat115, thanks for your comments. Glad to hear you're a fan of the Caped Crusader. I have followed Batman since I was a kid reading the comics. I agree with your top three villains from the show: Catwoman was cool and gorgeous, Joker was manic and scary, Riddler was manic and clever.

Thanks again.

Mike


Zac828 profile image

Zac828 6 years ago from England

What a great hub and a great tribute to a wonderful series; it was recently aired here in the UK on weekday mornings during school holidays and my 3 year old son loved it. Julie Newmar, oh yes, who could forget her and I too remember Sammy Davis Jr appearing at the window. Brilliant, thanks for letting the memories flood back.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Zac, thanks for reading. Batman was a great show for kids and adults--it was so very clever. Not only did Sammy Davis Jr. poke his head out the window, but so did Jerry Lewis, Dick Clark, Werner Klemperer (Col. Klink from Hogan's Heroes), Ted Cassidy as Lurch from the Addams Family, and even Santa Claus.

And yes, it appears from the folks that have taken the poll so far that Julie Newmar was a very popular villain.

Thanks for reading and I appreciate your comments.


lyricsingray 6 years ago

Mike, this was just fantastic and no doubt a ton of work - learned lots and I thank you for a fun and interesting hub my friend

Kimberly


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Kim, thank you for the kind words. I will admit this hub was a fair amount of work, but it was worth it--Batman was such a fun show and researching it brought back a lot of great childhood memories. Thanks for reading!

Mike


Cheeky Girl profile image

Cheeky Girl 6 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

Wow, I wasn't even born when this show came on tv, but I have seen all the episodes in Uk. This is so camp and funny. It really was an iconic show. Why change the formula from suspense to comedy only to see it fail? "If a thing ain't broke - don't fix it! Obviously a fiendish plot to kill off the Bat Heroes!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Cheeky Girl, thanks for reading. Those first season episodes that combined suspense with the laughs were truly great, and I used to wonder why they switched to comedy, also. I have no real idea, of course, but I even suspected that when the Batman show changed its focus, it might not have even been a conscious decision--one show might have emphasized the comedy more, then another, then another until finally the suspense is completely gone and comedy was all that was left.

I suspect a plot, also! Maybe the Joker was behind all the jokes!!!

Joker--jokes--ah, well, I tried to be funny.

Thanks again for reading.

Mike


shazwellyn profile image

shazwellyn 6 years ago from Great Britain

My favourite is the Riddler. Of course your usual brilliant way of hubbing. Well done my dear friend x


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Shaz, thanks for reading! I always loved the job Frank Gorshin did as the Riddler. That laugh of his was just so crazed!

Thank you for your kind words, and have a great day!

Mike


sabrebIade profile image

sabrebIade 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

You know I looooved Julie Newmar as Catwoman (I'll spare you the "she was purrfect" line here).

But Frank Gorshin was amazing as the Riddler. The way that laugh would start as a little jerk, then get louder till he totally freaked out, then in the next second he was totally calm as if nothing had happened.

Did you know he was nominated for an Emmy for the Riddler?


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

sabreblade, thanks for reading. You're absolutely correct, Frank Gorshin truly was amazing as the Riddler, and the laugh was a big part of it. In the Batman movies, I thought Jim Carrey did a pretty good job as the Riddler, but he didn't have the laugh.

And no, I wasn't aware that Frank Gorshin was nominated for an Emmy, but in his own way I think he was quite deserving of the honor.

Thanks again for your comments, Sabreblade. You're always welcome here.

Mike


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 6 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Not bad look at the Batman television show. Of course when it comes to costumed and masked heroics Superman, the Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet, at least on television, predate Batman.

Superman was the first costumed hero to actually appear in color on television.I will also mention here the Batman movie serials that were made way before the television series. Also there was at least one Superman movie serial and at least two Green Hornet movie serials as well as a Shazam movie serial, Rocketman King of the Rocket Men and also the Lone Ranger movie serial. Quite a few costumed heroes also had their time on radio including Superman, the Shadow (Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!),the Lone Ranger, and the Green Hornet.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Rod, thanks for your comments. I was aware of the other heroes on the small screen predating Batman, but only saw the Superman television show personally. My mother was a fan of the Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet, and she sometimes told me about their early exploits. When one goes back to the movie serials or the radio, I am forced to rely completely on what my parents listened to or saw at the theaters.

There is a rich legacy of costumed heroes in the movies and television that so often gets overlooked. We might find the stuff my mother watched at the movies and on television to be primitive by today's computer-enhanced standards, but you are certainly correct in pointing out that costumed heroes were in Hollywood long before Hugh Jackman made his debut as Wolverine.

Thanks again for your wonderful comments--you really know your heroes!

Mike


rasenstars1 profile image

rasenstars1 6 years ago

Batastick, fantastic article. I really enjoyed this article.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Rasenstars, thanks for reading. I'm glad you enjoyed this hub.

Mike


Stevennix2001 profile image

Stevennix2001 5 years ago

Pretty impressive list. Although I didn't know Mr. Freeze ever made an appearance on the show, as I must've missed those episodes. Anyways, pretty interesting hub. It's a shame the show was canceled so early during it's time. Then again, I prefer Nolan's gritty realistic approach myself. Anyways, thanks for the great read.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Hi, Steve. Yup, Mr. Freeze appeared three times on the TV show, played by three different characters. The first appearance was my favorite. I wished the show had lasted longer also, even though its camp nature eventually lost its appeal.

Thanks for stopping by.

Mike


brimancandy profile image

brimancandy 5 years ago from Northern Michigan

I don't remember bookworm or egghead, but they sure sound interesting. My favorites were always the Joker and the Riddler. The penguin was cool sometimes, but, that was only when I watched it as a kid.

Every time I watch it now, all I do is laugh. I swear Robin's costume almost looks like he's wearing under-roos! If you don't know what those are, it was matching underwear sets for boys. LOL!! nothing light fighting crime in your jamies!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Brimancandy, thanks for reading. I was around eight years old when the show made its debut, and I enjoyed the action. When I saw reruns as an adult, I enjoyed the camp comedy that was so well done. There was really something for everyone in this odd little action/adventure/comedy, and that was a big part of its success.

I agree--seeing Robin's costume is pretty amusing, and Burt Ward did a good job of ignoring how ridiculous he looked.

Thanks again.

Mike


collegedad profile image

collegedad 4 years ago from The Upper Peninsula

Now that takes me back. I can remember watching Batman & Robin in my PJ's on Saturday mornings. Thanks!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 4 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Thanks for stopping by, collegedad.

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