‘Zowie!’ Collectibles

Batman and Robin were plastered on everything.

Following are excerpts from “Zowie! The TV Superhero Craze in ’60s Pop Culture” by Mark Voger ($43.95, TwoMorrows Publishing, ships July 31).

Collage of Batman-related merch (left) and detail of Batman Pez dispenser (right). © DC Comics Inc.

It’s … Batmabilia!

In 1966, you couldn’t walk into a store without seeing Batman and Robin plastered on something. If it was a supermarket, you’d see Batman bread, Batman cola and Batman jelly. If it was a department store, you’d see Batman model kits, Batman board games and Batman play sets. If it was a pharmacy, you’d see Batman comic books, Batman paperbacks and Batman-related cover stories on the magazine rack. If it was a toy store — well, forget it, old chum. They may as well have renamed it The Batman Store.

Wrote Joe Desris in “Batman: The Silver Age Newspaper Comics Vol. 1”: “An insatiable market for Batman merchandise single-handedly ushered in a new era of comic and superhero licensing and promotion.” Wrote Josh and Gordon Javna in their 1988 book “60s!”: “In 1966, the show’s first year on the air, more than 60 manufacturers made more than 500 Batman products and sold more than $60 million worth of them! It astounded everybody.”

How could it not? There was a deluge of masks, puppets, model kits, lunch boxes, trading cards, pins, board games and accessories popularized by the TV show such as bat-utility belts, bat-phones, bat-walkie talkies, and bat-weapons. Manufacturers slotted Batman into existing formats like Pez candy dispensers and View-Master reels. Colorforms’ low-tech-but-versatile Batman and Robin Cartoon Kit sure was goofy. So what? It still qualified as a Batman toy.

© The Green Hornet Inc.; © World Distributors; © Green Duck Co.; © GPI; © Lakeside Toys

And … Hornetabilia!

Owing to his TV association with Batman, the Green Hornet inspired more merch than most of his contemporary masked avengers save for You Know Who. GH’s sweet ride, the Black Beauty, was rendered by Aurora, Corgi and Remco. Donruss put out Hornet trading cards. Remco put out Green Hornet Wrist Radios and Black Beauty dashboard toys. Green Duck Co. (makers of campaign buttons, est. 1906) put out Hornet “pinback” buttons. There were also GPI’s 3-inch “Varie-Vue” Flicker Disks; Mattel’s Green Hornet wallets; and Lakeside Toys’ bendable 6-inch Hornet figures. (Lakeside also put out — can you guess? — Gumby and Pokey figures.)

© Louis Marx & Co.; © Topps; © CHP Products; characters © Marvel Comics Inc.

Marvel-ous merch!

Though many Marvel Comics heroes were relative newcomers — Batman was born in ’39, Spider-Man in ’62 — Marvel received a bump, merch-wise, from the trend. Marx put out beautifully sculpted figures of Hulk, Daredevil, Iron Man, Thor, et al. Marx also rolled out charming tin vehicles including a Spidey-driven tin car and a Thor-driven trike. The period also saw CHP’s Marvel Mini-Books available (purchased via vending machines); Topps’ Marvel Flyers; and “Merry Marvel Marching Society” ephemera such as stationery and cut-out gag cards.

Batman knockoffs!

Ever hear of Super Bat or Batichica? A Batman knockoff side hustle thrived during Batmania. From left above: Argentina’s Batichica; a “jiggler” from 1973; a sad guy in red leotards with oven mitts; and, from Japan, a transparent ripoff of Batman and Robin called — you will love this — Space Flyman and Punch Boy. Who needs to pay for a license when Batichica’s on the case?

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