So much has changed over the last 30 years. We digest content in such a different way than ever before. One of the things that is truly a product of a bygone past is Saturday morning cartoons. If you read my bio here you will see they have always been a big part of my life. I never really stopped watching them, and if you are reading this you probably have a healthy love for them also. Another of the thing that has changed so much in the modern world is media marketing. In the digital age we get direct release trailers and people flock to watch them. It really has never been easier to sell to a mainstream audience, particularly something “superhero”. But back in the 1970s, there was no YouTube, Facebook or Twitter to showcase your latest and greatest to a potential audience or specifically to younger audiences. All kinds of short, 30 minute, one time programming promoting new shows or even movies would be produced to give audiences that little taste that is so easily available today. And that’s where this gem comes into the story.
During several years during the 1970’s, ABC would air a “Sneak Peek” television special to showcase the new season of shows about to begin. Most of these were fairly uneventful; except in 1973. It actually marked the first time a live action Batman and Superman appeared on screen together. The ’73 special was hosted by comedy team Jack Burns and Avery Schreiber. Both of them were TV regulars of the day and had an ongoing series together on ABC at the time.
The show had several guests including Yogi Bear, Lassie, Rick Springfield, Goober from the Andy Griffith Show; a Mel Blanc voiced Bugs Bunny, Chuck Woolery (yes, early Wheel of Fortune Chuck Woolery) as the Man of Steel and the classic ’66 series Batman. We should take a moment to appreciate Chuck Woolery as Superman. If you are of the age that you remember him from his days on Wheel of Fortune or Love Connection, this is simply gold. The moment Batman appears you immediately go “I don’t think that’s Adam West”, because it isn’t. The voice appears to be an imitation, a decent effort but it doesn’t have Adam’s flare for the dramatic. Here is where it starts to get interesting. There is no concrete information on WHO that masked Batman is. None of the known cast has an entry on IMDB for the appearance on the show; the show doesn’t exist in their database. And the rest of the internet is simply full of speculation, but no substance.
One historic note on this program: the reason that Batman and Superman are guests is because ABC was about to launch “Superfriends”. This was a brand new show at the time and was being promoted hard by ABC. The program broadcast a segment from the first broadcast episode “The Power Pirate” showcasing Superman, Aquaman, and Batman & Robin. This was the first time the Superfriends show was revealed to a national audience in any form.
I have a sneaking suspicion only one man knows the answer to who is behind that mask, and that’s Mr. West himself. From this fan’s perspective, that’s HIS suit. I can’t imagine he was happy about being cut out of representing the image he put so much work into creating. Just a few years later, he did the Legends of Superheroes and was stupendous!! (It’s a guilty pleasure). So maybe he will clue us in, Adam…Mr. West, is that you? And if not, do you know who it is? Can you end this mystery that is over 40 years old and tell us…who is that masked Bat-man?!?