It’s somewhat difficult to believe today, but comedian and movie star Jerry Lewis headlined his own DC comic book for about twenty years, the first half-dozen in conjunction with his then-partner, Dean Martin. Amazingly, more copies of Jerry Lewis were being sold and consumed than of the Atom or Hawkman or the Doom Patrol, all of whom lost their titles in the late 1960s while the master of mirth continued ever-onward. Famously, in its final years, the JERRY LEWIS comic would occasionally take forays into the mainstream DC universe (or at least close to it) allowing its title star and his cast to interact with the most popular DC heroes of the day. There were four such stories produced over a period of as many years, and we’ll cover them all here eventually. So let’s start with the first one.
In 1966, Batman was everywhere. The explosive success of ABC’s twice-a-week live action color program had caused a wave of Batmania to sweep the nation. Consequently, DC moved to plater the Caped Crusader onto as many covers as possible, so as to capitalize on the sudden boom in sales. And JERRY LEWIS was no exception. That said, writer Arnold Drake and artist Bob Oksner delivered a pretty on-target send-up of the entire phenomenon. (For no particular reason, Drake includes a credit box that pokes fun at the credits in a Stan Lee marvel book. But since DC never credited the letterer or the colorist, Drake simply makes up weird pseudonyms for them.)
ADDITION: a few people pointed out that I am mistaken about those lettering and coloring credits, including longtime lettered Clem Robins. Both Stan Quill and Tom Nicolosi were actual creators with many DC credits to their names, albeit typically anonymous ones.
Inspired by the Batman TV show, Jerry and his nephew Renfrew assume the identities of costumed heroes themselves: Ratman and Rotten, the Boy Blunder. Their first foe is a criminal committing a series of daring thefts, the Kangaroo.
With no training and no skills to speak of, Jerry and Renfrew are no match for even a comedy super-villain, and are knocked around a bit. But rescue comes in teh form of a worn out Batman and Robin. The pair is exhausted because they’ve spent the entire night helping out assorted other imitators who were likewise inspired by their television series to fight crime. As can be seen in the 1/3 ad that closes out this page, Batman’s form had come to dominate even JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA covers–including the issue being advertised, a collection of reprints of early JLA stories that the Masked Manhunter barely appears in.
The Dynamic Duo is also totally over criminals who insist on taunting them by leaving half-baked clues and riddles as to their next crimes.
Apparently, editor Murray Boltinoff hadn’t been paying too much attention to either the show or the comics helmed by fellow editor Julie Schwartz, as he depicts Batman and Robin driving around in the vintage Batmobile they used during teh 1950s rather than teh sportier models that had been in use since teh Schwartz revamp in 1964.
And Batman is no longer allowed to get angry (or curse) since he’s become a role model, which is cramping his crime-fighting style.
The Kangaroo is hoping to gain acceptance from his peer group in the American Society of Costumed Villains, which is what hsi crime spree has all been in the service of.
Due to rights issues, none of these JERRY LEWIS stories has ever been reprinted, so the originals are worth tracking down. Still to come: Jerry meets Superman, the Flash and the non-powered Wonder Woman!