VCU’s 1960s-era ‘Batman’ paintings to be showcased in exhibit on superheroes in New York City

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"Olga's Lair"

Three set design paintings from the 1960s “Batman” TV series and movie that are held by VCU Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives will be put on display this fall as part of an upcoming exhibition, “Superheroes in Gotham,” at the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library in New York City.

The paintings, by artist Leslie Thomas, will be featured alongside such comic book treasures as original drawings by Steve Ditko of Spider-Man’s first appearance in “Amazing Fantasy” (No. 15, 1962), a copy of “Action Comics No. 1” (Superman’s first appearance), and an original Batmobile from the 1966 “Batman” TV series.

“We are delighted to be exhibiting Leslie Thomas’ set paintings for the ‘Batman’ television series (1966-1968) and the film ‘Batman’ (1966) in the upcoming exhibition, 'Superheroes in Gotham,’” said Nina Nazionale, director of library operations for the New-York Historical Society. “These captivating images underline how much work, by so many different creative people, goes into producing television series and films. They are also vivid reminders of the colors, designs and fashion of the late 1960s.”

These captivating images underline how much work, by so many different creative people, goes into producing television series and films.

The paintings being loaned to the New-York Historical Society are among 38 “Batman” set design paintings donated to VCU Libraries’ Comic Arts Collection in 2005 by David Anderson, D.D.S., an alumnus of VCU’s School of Dentistry.

The collection, which is housed at James Branch Cabell Library, includes more than 50,000 comic books; the papers and drawings of political cartoonists and related manuscript collections; reference books and journals; science fiction, fantasy and comics-related fanzines; and original newspaper comic strip art. The collection also serves as the repository for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards Archives.

Cindy Jackson, library specialist for comic arts, said VCU is honored that its “Batman” paintings are being featured as part of the exhibition.

“I think this is amazing opportunity for VCU Libraries to showcase some of the one-of-a-kind pieces that we have in the Comic Arts Collection to a whole new audience that might not be aware of us,” she said.

The colorful paintings are emblematic of the campy 1960s-era “Batman” TV series and movie starring Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin.

“The paintings capture the color and styling of pop culture aesthetic of the mid-1960s that are such a part of the enduring appeal of the show and the movie,” she said. “That period in Batman history is remembered more fondly because of the show because Batman comics — and most comics in general — had lost their way after the introduction of the Comics Code Authority [an industry effort to self-regulate content in response to government pressure] a decade before.”

 "Louie the Lilac's Oil Vat Cellar"
"Louie the Lilac's Oil Vat Cellar"

The three set design paintings that will be featured are:

  • “Louie the Lilac’s Oil Vat Cellar,” which was painted for “Louie, The Lilac,” season 3, episode 7 of the “Batman” TV series, which aired on Oct. 26, 1967. The interior view of the villain Louie the Lilac’s oil vat cellar shows Batgirl trapped and in a trance inside of a ‘l’huil de Lilac’ glass booth surrounded by oil vats, a musk oil drum, XXX marked containers, and perfume-making equipment.

  • “Olga’s Lair,” a pre-production set design for “The Ogg and I,” season 3, episode 8 of the “Batman” TV series, which aired on Nov. 2, 1967. The painting shows the lavishly decorated lair of Egghead’s accomplice, Olga, Queen of the Bessarovian Cossacks, with Commissioner Gordon trapped in a cage set on a square platform. Batman and Robin can be seen peeking out of the top of a giant Samovar of Genghis Khan.

  • “Int: Penguin Sub,” a set design painting from the 1966 “Batman” movie that depicts the interior view of Penguin’s submarine. At the center, The Joker peers through a periscope. In the background, portholes and doors can been seen leading to the individual quarters of The Joker, Penguin, The Riddler and Catwoman.
Detail from "Int: Penguin Sub"
Detail from "Int: Penguin Sub"


The “Superheroes in Gotham” exhibition will be held from Oct. 9, 2015, through Feb. 21, 2016, at the New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West at Richard Gilder Way in New York City.




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