The world mourns today the man many remember as their first Batman, Adam West, as his family reported that he died at the age of 88.
I was born much too late to watch the 1960s ABC Batman series while it was in its original run, but as a kid, I never missed an opportunity to watch a rerun. It was rare that a day passed by where the show wasn’t airing.
The show was undeniably campy, as West’s Bruce Wayne/Batman was a caring father figure and mentor to his ward, Dick Grayson and a fearless fighter of those who opposed the law. With every wacky death trap set by his colorful villains and every ZAP! BAM! BOOM! as Batman, Robin and later Batgirl used to knock out their foes’ minions, kids were given a bright and colorful hero they could look up to – a far cry from the grim and angry Batman that would be prevalent in later decades.
For a kid who moved on from comic books a bit after GI Joe and Transformers and He-man became popular, the reruns of Adam West’s performance as Batman kept me interested in the comic book heroes.
The goofiness of Adam West’s Batman can be summed up entirely in one gif:
Sometimes, you just can’t get rid of a bomb.
Despite only running for three seasons – with 120 episodes! – Adam West’s performance as the Caped Crusader defined the live-action perception of Batman for the better part of two decades, until Tim Burton put Michael Keaton in the Batsuit in 1989. And Adam West embraced the fact that he was so entwined with the character. In addition to voicing the character in several animated series, West did many appearances putting on the Bat-ears. He even suited up to confront professional wrestling bad guy Jerry “The King” Lawler.
As Batman’s popularity began to surge after the 1989 feature film, West’s prominence as fandom’s sole Batman started to fade, but West was never far from the character. He even voiced the role of The Grey Ghost for Batman: The Animated Series and Thomas Wayne – Bruce Wayne’s father – in an episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
While he was best known for his portrayal of Batman, West was an accomplished actor who had roles in many other movies and TV shows. Probably his best-known role outside of Batman, though, is the recurring character of Mayor Adam West on The Family Guy.
West was away from the role of Batman for a long time, but recently recorded a new animated movie, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, teaming up with members of the 1960s TV series. A sequel – with William Shatner voicing Two-Face, was announced for release later this year.