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BONUS REVIEW - BATMAN '66: THE LOST EPISODE

Batman '66: The Lost Episode
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: November 19, 2014

Synopsis: During the original Batman television series run, legendary science-fiction writer Harlan Ellison turned in an outline for a story that would have introduced Two-Face. The story never made it to air, and Two-Face never entered the TV show’s Rogues Gallery. Now, “The Two-Way Crimes of Two-Face” is adapted to comics by two comic book legends: writer Len Wein and artist José Luis Garcia-Lopez. Also included in this special edition are Ellison’s original prose story outline and the complete, original pencils by Garcia-Lopez.


Batman '66: The Lost Episode Comic Review
By Otaku-sempai

Before the review starts, I find some context is needed to emphasize the importance of this special Batman '66 comic release, courtesy of the DC Editorial Staff:

Back in the 1960s, with the 'Batman' television series soon to hit the air, writer Harlan Ellison approached executive producer William Dozier with a story featuring Two-Face, a member of the Caped Crusader's comic book rogues gallery. Like the Joker, Catwoman and the Penguin, Two-Face's origins went all the way back to the early 1940s. The Two-Face story was green-lit but never made it on to the air (A more complete accounting of events can be read in Volume 5 of Mr. Ellison's 'Brain Movies' anthology series).

The fact that this story was never produced was unfortunate for two reasons. For one, viewers would have had an undoubtedly great episode of Batman written by Harlan Ellison, whose "The City on the Edge of Forever" is frequently regarded as the greatest episode of 'Star Trek,' another television series of that decade. For another, this would have introduced the character of Two-Face into the lineup of classic 'Batman' TV villains. Fans love to speculate which actor of the period might have played the disfigured District Attorney turned psychopathic bad guy, Harvey Dent. Instead, the casting remains simply a fun game of "just imagine" that dedicated Batman fans continue to play.

That original treatment by Mr. Ellison for "The Two-Way Crimes of Two-Face" has been adapted into comics form by veteran comic-book writer Len Wein and legendary penciller José Luis Garcia-Lopez, with inks by Joe Prado, colors by Alex Sinclair, lettering by Wes Abbott, and a cover by Alex Ross (variant cover by Garcia-Lopez, Prado and Sinclair). The resulting tale was published in late 2014 as a done-in-one Batman '66 80-page special.

Batman '66: The Lost Episode includes: the 30-page adaptation of Harlan Ellison's original story; José Luis Garcia-Lopez's complete pencils for same (with introduction); a 4-page "Two-Face Sketchbook" by Garcia-Lopez and thirteen pages dedicated to Mr. Ellison's complete, original treatment for "The Two-Way Crimes of Two-Face". The last two pages include an ad for the Batman television series limited-edition Blu-ray collection and a house ad for DC All Access featuring Meredith and David Finch's Wonder Woman. The inside front and back covers are ads.

Is the story worth it? Hell, yes! Ellison and Wein deliver a fun romp through the Gotham City of the Batman television show, though the camp is dialed down a bit to reflect the tragic circumstances of Harvey Dent's transformation into the duplicitous Two-Face. Bruce truly wants to be able to help his old friend, but must make stopping Two-Face's crime spree his priority. The focus is squarely on Batman, Robin and Harvey, though we do get one nice scene with Bruce and Dick interacting with Aunt Harriet, who is concerned that they may be coming down with the flu.

Two-Face's origin, told in flashback, is left pretty much intact from his original comic-book appearance. His disfigurement is suitable macabre and likely the reason why the story never made it to air. The story structure closely follows Mr. Ellison's original outline, though there are a few minor differences. A montage of Two-Face's crimes has been shortened to keep the story moving; the machine gun that Harvey produces in the original treatment is (appropriately) changed to a sawed-off double-barreled shotgun. A minor artistic gaffe occurs when Robin is described as slipping on shotgun pellets but is shown to be losing his balance on bullet casings. However, over-all the art is very nice. José Luis Garcia-Lopez knows his stuff; his pages are dynamic and lovely to behold. His Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson owe more to the late '60s and '70s depictions of the characters than to Adam West and Burt Ward, but I can easily forgive him that. This was produced well before William Shatner was cast as the voice of Harvey Dent in the Batman vs. Two-Face animated movie (which is unconnected to this film), but I could definitely see Mr. Shatner as a possible actor for this version of Two-Face if Ellison's treatment had gone on to be filmed. Alex Sinclair's colors are bright, but not overly garish. The cover by Alex Ross is beautiful and a bit sombre. Garcia-Lopez's variant cover is more dynamic.

Batman '66: The Lost Episode has been reprinted (with all of its extra features) in Volume 4 of the Batman '66 trade collection series, available from DC Comics, which also collects issues 17-22 of the titular former monthly comic book series.

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