Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Holy Sis Boom Bah, Batman," Indeed!

Actress/singer/songwriter Donna Loren is a pop culture princess. Her credits are collection of 1960s pop pleasures: appearances on SHINDIG, THE MONKEES, DR. KILDARE, GOMER PYLE, USMC, THE MILTON BERLE SHOW and as a performer in such swingin’ films as PAJAMA PARTY, MUSCLE BEACH PARTY and the ultra-classic BEACH BLANKET BINGO, not to mention her time as the one and only Dr. Pepper Girl.

But our interests here lay in her performance in the legendary 1966-68 BATMAN TV series, as Susie the Cheerleader. How many other actresses can claim to have been not only a moll of the Joker but also the target of his deadly desires? Donna Loren can and receives her due credit in my upcoming book, “Gotham City 14 Miles,” due out this December.

We checked in with the beautiful Ms. Loren for a brief Q&A on her own visit to Gotham in 1966’s “The Joker Goes to School/He Meets His Match, the Grisly Ghoul.”

Jim: Ms. Loren, How did you get the part of Susie the Cheerleader and do you remember how you felt when you were cast?

Donna Loren: At that point in my career I interviewed with William Dozier and I was hired. He liked the way I read for the part because I camped it up. It always feels good when you put an effort in and are rewarded although I did not know until my first day on the set how big a hit it was.

Jim: What was it like being on the set of BATMAN during filming? Was it different than other 1960s shows you were involved with?

Donna: SHINDIG, THE MONKEES, DR. KILDARE; all had one thing in common with BATMAN: they were hits and I was privileged to be on them.

Jim: You interacted with both Adam West and Burt Ward - what were they like at that time? Do you remember how you felt acting with them while they were in costume?

Donna: Actually, I only saw them in costume when we were rehearsing and shooting each scene. I was impressed by Adam West’s chivalry. What a gentleman!

Jim: You also worked alongside Cesar Romero as the Joker - what was he like? It’s said he was able to take catnaps anywhere at any time - do you remember this or any other anecdotes about working with him on the show?

Donna: Caesar Romero was a pro. A veteran actor and gallant performer, his laugh was intoxicating. Even through his mask of white and wig of green he was handsome and stately. He did have a bit of a breathing problem and always swigged on his supply of oxygen.

Jim: Do you remember any of your other co-stars or even the production team? Anything that sticks out about them - or even any props or sets you worked with?

Donna: My most challenging day was learning the "cheer". I started early in the morning on a concrete floor practicing a train rhythm which taxed my muscles, so it was Bengay to the rescue.

Jim: How do you look back at your role on BATMAN today? Do your fans still mention it you?

Donna: It is thrilling to be a part of pop culture and BATMAN, since the character has crossed over into several generations and is still strong. Fans do love it and whenever a sequel comes out or a rerun on TV appears, "Susie" is resurrected. HOLY SIS BOOM BAH, BATMAN!!!


Many warm and sincere thanks to Donna for taking the time for a quick walk down Bat-Memory Lane. Be sure to visit her official site,, and pick up her new CD “Love it Away.”

And if you just can't get enough of Donna, check out Sam Tweedle's own check-in with the Dr. Pepper Girl:

Pop Culture Addict

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


For the past year I've been working on a project that qualifies as an extreme "labor of love" - I'm compiling and editing a book of essays about the 1966-68 BATMAN TV series.

GOTHAM CITY 14 MILES, due out December 2010 from Sequart Publications, spotlights 14 essays from various writers (myself included) that strive to take a new, fresh look at one of the most cherished - yet reviled - TV series of all time. Personally, I've loved the show almost my entire life and it made me the Batman - and comic book - fan that I am today. And yet others hate it. Loathe it. Why? The show deserves a new forum for discussion and examination and GOTHAM CITY 14 MILES, if I've done my job, will be that forum.

This isn't a love-fest, mind you; there are more than a few critical opinions in the book. I like to say that GOTHAM CITY 14 MILES is for people who love the show...and hate it. What I hope is that by the end of the book the reader may walk away with a few new opinions about BATMAN '66 and its current standing in pop culture.

Over on the GC14M Facebook page, I've been revealing the book's chapters - and their respective writers - one-a-week, to build some excitement for the December release. Here's what's been revealed so far:

Mile Marker #1: "Bats in Their Belfries – The Proliferation of 'Batmania'" - by Robert Greenberger. Bob's essay covers the genesis of the show and the explosion - and quirky substance - of Batmania. From the show's popularity to the spinoff products and beyond, he characterizes this particular form of insanity that gripped the country - the world! - from 1966 to 1968.

Mile Marker #2 - "Batman – From Comics Page to TV Screen" by Peter Sanderson. The prolific comic historian and archivist delves deep into BATMAN '66's comic book roots, detailing all the published stories that inspired episodes and offering speculation and insight on other comic book aspects of the show.

Mile Marker #3 - "Such a Character – A Dissection and Examination of Two Sub-Species of Chiroptera homo sapiens" by Jim Beard. Comics historian and writer Beard sets up criteria to identify the "true" Batman and compares and contrasts the Adam West interpretation to the original 1939 Dark Knight - the results of which may surprise you.

Mile Marker #4 - "Notes on Bat-Camp" by Tim Callahan. Prolific essayist and comics historian Callahan address Susan Sontag - the infamous definer of "Camp" - in a series of incisive and often-hilarious notes, in an effort to answer that ages-old question: "Was BATMAN '66 truly Camp?"

Mile Marker #5 - "Aunt Harriet’s Film Decency League" by Becky Beard. Musician and raconteur Beard explores the amazing caliber of guest-actors the show attracted with a collection of brief biographies of friends and fiends - with a few insightful comments along the way.

Mile Marker #6 - "POW! – Batman’s Visual Punch" - by Bill Walko. Graphic designer and pop historian Walko looks into the impact of the show's vibrant visual design, highlighting such memorable facets as the unique camera shots, the use of color, the animated beginning and creative costuming.

Mile Marker #7 - "Known Super-Criminals Still at Large" by Chuck Dixon. Fan-favorite Batman scribe Dixon opens the cell door on a crafty coterie of crazy criminals, comparing and contrasting TV versions with their comic book progenitors - many of which he wrote himself. Dixon also calls out a few favorites among Batman's on-screen arch-enemies, a few also-rans and even some could-have-beens.

Mile Marker #8 - "May I Have This Batdance?" by Michael Miller. The Editor-in-Chief of Toledo Free Press spins a few platters in a musical look at BATMAN 66's sounds and songs. Miller not only examines the famous theme-music's undeniable impact but also its inspiration for a bevy of bat-spinoffs and confounding crooners.

Monday, May 24, 2010

'GO HERO' Interview

Well, they say the good things in life are worth waiting for - this is an interview I conducted with GO HERO's head honcho Steve Forde back in 2008. That's right: 2008. For reasons that are still beyond me, it was sat on by a venerable and supposedly honorable 'news' website that had promised to post it and never did. With all the hub-bub recently over Go Hero's new Shadow figure and other cool new releases, I remembered I still had this. The news is old, I guess, but maybe it will offer a unique look into Steve's mind two years ago - or maybe it will just be fun. You decide! And apologies to Steve!

Jim Beard – 7/8/08

Go Hero! – Interview with Steve Forde

While perusing the crowded aisles of vendors at this year’s Wizard World Chicago con I stumbled upon a small oasis in the midst of the chaos. There I found a neat little table occupied with some of the nicest 1/6 scale action figures I’ve ever seen – and the man behind them, both literally and figuratively. That would be Steve Forde and his company, Go Hero!

Steve and I got into a fantastic conversation about the Buck Rogers figures he was showing, what he went through to get them made, and our own shared admiration for all things pulp. After only a few minutes of talk I knew this was a venture that deserved more attention and I knew that readers of Super-Articulate would enjoy Steve’s journey as much as I did.

If you read only one interview today - read on! The 25th century awaits!

Jim Beard – Steve, what's your background as a genre fan? What's influenced your past and current projects with Go Hero?

Steve Forde - I grew up on a steady diet of robots, superheroes, and monsters. My literal first word was Batman! I cannot count the hours spent with Star Wars audio tapes (pre VHS), Godzilla movies, and Adam West "climbing" up the side of a building! My older brothers also imparted to me a love for Speed Racer and Ultraman as well!

So in my adult years I started Go Hero as a platform for me to create my own characters. In the process of developing Plutia (ploo-sha), a film and toy line about the daughter of a 30s style Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers type character, I heavily researched the original sources of retro sci-fi. In so doing, I rediscovered my affection for retro Buck Rogers.

JB – I just realized your initials are “S.F.”! Too cool! So, how did Go Hero get its start?

SF - Like a million other artists / designers, I have ideas for characters. Maybe 20% of those designers will make a drawing and really try to show it to the world. But at the time I was among only about 25 other companies / designers were willing and able to make an actual toy. Making a toy is a different level of commitment, not just a sculpture, but producing an original design in toy form and taking it to market - it shows that you are

My first character was Mechabot ( It was a 60s-70s Japanese style, 8.5" vinyl robot, with 12 points of articulation. People really responded well and I was actually in discussion for cartoons, comics and film within days of debuting it. To my surprise and delight, we sold out of the first version in 1 day and it won toy of the year from a affiliate - Toy Toons.

In the next couple of years the offshoot of Designer Toys really bloomed. I think of it like birth of "grunge" music in Seattle. There were a handful of people all doing something interesting and we sort of banded together at SDCC for the first Cultyard. Then came books, magazines, and a lot more toys. I pursued a lot of development rabbit trails and slowly released Tentikill: the Sea Monster, Yira: Dragon of Doom, and a reissue of Zagora.

JB - What if any action figures of the past or present have inspired your own

SF - I love vintage Bullmark Japanese vinyl and enjoy seeing a Godzilla figures that look very little like the film incarnations. That to me is similar to the modern toy designers. When a company or artist interprets the character and that interpretation becomes fused in the mind of a child with the actual character they saw on the show or film. I think that is cool that a single designer can have the same effect as a corporate committee.

I am also a collector of Medicom RAH figures. Medicom understood detail and proportion before others caught on. Hot Toys has become a force as well, their attention to detail is exquisite. I remember buying the 12" McFarlane style Spiderman and then Sideshow announced they were distributing and I could buy it for less! It was a good day, even though I lost about $50.

There was also a company called Toys McCoy who made an Indiana Jones figure that had incredible detail. It amazed me to see a company create something when there was no new media to speak of. It seemed they just wanted to pay tribute to a great character and not about just making any figure, but exploring how far they could go with their craft. My wife had a difficult time when I preordered that at about $300. She however understands now.

JB – Ha! If only all spouse understood… How did you choose Buck Rogers (and the 1930s-40s) to start your pulp odyssey?

SF - There are moments in pop culture when styles leap forward and there are actual people behind those leaps. I like Sound Garden, who came from Led Zeppelin - the original innovators. In the same way, the world loves Star Wars in large part because of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. Many of the designs are distilled, timeless, influential, and still hold up to this day. Buck's chest emblem leads to Iron Man's chest emblem. The embellishments on the helmet are similar to Gatchaman. The visor is Cyclops from X-men. We all love great hero designs and so many of them started with Buck Rogers.

Go back and look at those designs by Calkins and the Flash Gordon serials and you will never look at Star Wars the same way. One day it dawned on me that no one had yet made an accurate version of these characters. I conferred with members of my unofficial board of directors Mark Nagata (Max Toy Co) and Patrick Ma (Rocketworld) and they confirmed my thoughts. I knew I had to do it!

JB - Can you tell us a bit about what you went through to get the permissions for Buck Rogers and for your Buster Crabbe figure?

SF - This is a long story that starts with a Gun. In my own research I went to purchase an Atomic Disintegrator on Ebay. It is by all counts the best ray gun of all time. It represents the best in design and function. They would show up and consistently sell for nearly $200 for ones that were not even fully working. I could not believe that after 70 years it was never reissued. I thought, "This has to be done." Others had tried and it did not happen and I have a knack for pulling together difficult projects.

I called the Daisy gun corporation - who put me in touch with their Museum. They were all for the idea, but I had to get permission from the Buck Rogers' people - whoever they were. I found the name of the people who owned Buck - The Dille Family Trust. Myself and Mark Nagata went on Google and Wikipedia. I found the name Flint Dille, grandson of the original owner, and some contact info. I cold-called him. He loved the idea of bringing the gun back, but he wanted to make sure it was done right. Quickly the project included 1:6 scale figures and all was a "go".

Little did I know that Flint Dille was an influential role in many other properties that I love including Transformers cartoons, G.I. Joe cartoons, and various movie based video games. I popped in my Transformers DVD, and there is the guy I am working with. As if that were not enough his sister started T.S.R. This family was royalty in my mind. The next time we spoke, I think my voice cracked and I felt 12 years old. I have since regained my composure and they continue to be a delight to work with.

Once I committed to the 1:6 scale arena, it was the natural choice to do what came next in Sci-Fi - Flash Gordon. But not just any version of Flash. I wanted to create the version based on Larry "Buster" Crabbe. Buster Crabbe was the Harrison Ford of the day. He was the first action hero – starring as Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Tarzan, in westerns and as himself in his very own comic books! Again, no one had done real justice to him in this 1:6 scale realm.

I contacted Hearst (King Features) and they would not touch it because of the age of the serials, it would be too problematic to do the project. Unless...I got permission from the Crabbe family. And so...

I found a biography written about him and contacted the author who put me in touch. I spoke to Mr. Crabbe's son and daughter. It was like a lucid dream hearing the voice of his son Cuffy Crabbe, who sounded exactly like him. They also are a delight to work with, loved the idea, and off we went.

JB – That’s an incredible story, Steve. Other than the licensing saga, what have been the most challenging aspects of creating these figures?

SF - Time management. I know people want them, and I know I can make them, especially working with great licensors and my partners D2D ( former BBI and Hot Toys designers. This has been 9 months in the making and somehow I am still trying to keep the lights on while this is developing. So it is a lot of 18 hour days. The other good thing is the projects have evolved. We are developing our own 1:6 scale bodies and the sound device to really show we are innovators. But innovations take time. This is truly a labor of love and I am honored to be entrusted with these international icons.

JB – As I can imagine you are! Can you tell us a bit about the audio feature of the figures?

SF - Essentially we have developed a 1 Gig MP3 player that fits in the abdomen of the 1:6 scale figure. With it you can listen to the old Buck Rogers radio shows, control volume, fast forward, rewind. And it has a USB to connect to the web and download more files. It will be perfect for Buck and other media driven characters.

JB – Here’s the important part, Steve - when and how can people get these figures?

SF - The figures will first be available on our website - And we are in talks for distribution.

JB – You’ve already had a full course of adventures, but what does the future hold for you, as far as projects, dreams, etc?

SF - Well, along with the theme of iconic innovators - we are working with Bluewater Production to bring collectibles based on their titles including the Ray Harryhausen Presents series.

We are developing:
Sinbad w/ Humunculos 1:6 Scale Figures,
Cyclops w/ Club 1:6 Scale Figures
Skeleton Warriors 1:6 Scale Figures
Perseus w/ Bubo 1:6 Scale Figures
Apparel and MORE!!!

We are in development on some other retro characters as well as original properties. We will be showing the Perseus at SDCC in a few weeks along with a Buck limited edition mini-gun exclusive. And that is just the beginning!

JB – Whew! More than I imagined! Thanks for all the good words and works, Steve, and we’ll keep checking in with you as things progress – Happy Skies!