Adam West was always one of those actors who was there popping in and out of my life, entertaining me since I was old enough to remember. Two of the main reasons why I formed such a humongous obsession with superheroes and comic books were because of “The Super Friends” and the Adam West version of “Batman.” Adam West had the classic movie idol looks with the chiseled features and swept back brown hair, and for such a very long time he was Batman. By day he was, of course, a millionaire and playboy known as Bruce Wayne who hung out with his ward Dick Grayson, but by night he’d slide down the pole alongside his sidekick and transform in to Batman. Batman was a crime fighter who wore spandex and a cape and cowl that bore penciled in eyebrows.
As Batman, West played the character with mystique and character, approaching every line of dialogue with a sense of drama and skepticism. Every time he was Batman he didn’t just fight bad guys, he investigated every single nook and cranny of a crime scene. Adam West’s Batman was one of my very first introductions to the superhero world as the local station in my city, WPIX, often played syndicated episodes of the famed sixties series. My brother and me were about five years old at the time and would watch every single episode every day after school. A few afternoons we even watched it with my big cousin in his room, sitting on baited breath as Batman and Robin battled Mr. Freeze or The Riddler. Adam West was a very talented actor with an immense presence, and though he on occasion mocked and or derided for being known mainly as Batman, you have to admire how he eventually embraced it all. West, in his later years, garnered such a large sense of self-awareness and didn’t mind having fun and making a second career out of his reputation as a TV star. He made fun appearances in “The Simpsons,” and had a very funny side role as himself in “Family Guy.” Knowing he’s no longer going to be popping up to inject some form of eccentricity or lunacy is going to be heartbreaking, but West certainly proved that he would leave a hole with his absence. Over the years with the new generation of comic book fans, West’s show and fame regained a brand new momentum, and I wonder if that brought joy to his heart.
Say what you want about the show, but there’s never been anything like it, and there never will be. Adam West was a very talented actor with an immense presence, and though he on occasion mocked and or derided for being known mainly as Batman, you have to admire how he eventually embraced it all. Adam West didn’t just play Batman, but helped influence a legion of followers that would grow up to form an obsession with comic books and or superheroes. One of his most significant roles that perfectly encapsulate his legacy was in “Batman the Animated Series.”
In his episode, Bruce Wayne reflects on his favorite movie serials known as “The Gray Ghost,” a dark superhero who fought crime and took on bad guys. When Bruce realizes the newest villain is copying his childhood movies, he tracks down the former actor who played the Gray Ghost, who is voiced by none other than Adam West. We’re shown that Batman’s own version of a dark knight influenced him to fight crime, much in the way Adam West’s Batman brought generations of young audiences in to the fore front of Batman and Robin.
In a way the role was also a form of therapy for West whose character was a fictional hero played an actor who spent years after the end of the series looking for roles. Once he failed, he began selling props from his show to make ends meet, hoping for a new start in his career. Perhaps it was reflective on the actual West post- Batman. While Batman’s suit from the surreal sixties series is iconic in and of itself, West’s performance gives it life and nuance. From his expressive eyes and high cheek bones, Batman was still a very competent superhero, despite the direction the series took in the midst of the sixties psychedelic aesthetic. West brought smiles to the faces of many thanks to his talent, good nature, self awareness and ability to embrace his legacy.
It’ll be sad to know he’s not around to charm us, and entertain us anymore. But his legacy as a hard working actor and (many will argue) the most memorable live action Batman of all time, he’ll live forever in our hearts.
Rest in Peace, Mr. West.