Adam West Has Passed Away
Veteran actor Adam West passed away Friday night at the age of 88. He is best known for his performance as Batman in the 1960’s ABC show.
The Bright Knight
In 1966, ABC debuted a new television show based on the popular Batman comic books. Batman occupied a prime Friday night time slot and took full advantage of the advent of color television. As a result, it was a bona fide hit. At the center of the show’s success was its star, Adam West. West began his screen acting career in earnest with The Young Philadelphians starring Paul Newman. His career continued with featuring roles in television and movies as well as a recurring role as Captain Quik, the spokesperson for Nestle’s Quik. Surprisingly, his turn as Captain Quik drew the attention of Batman producer William Dozier.
Following the shoot of a spaghetti Western in Europe, West met with Dozier and accepted the role of Batman. Dozier masterminded the campy tone of the caped crusader’s television exploits and the tongue in cheek comedy drew West to the part. Over the next three years, West’s Batman, and Burt Ward’s Robin delighted audiences and spawned a feature film. The show took a comedic approach to an often dark character and bucked against the conventions of its comic book counterpart. Unfortunately, the show became too expensive to produce. Over the next few decades, West struggled to find work due to unfair typecasting.
Adam West’s Post-Batman Career
In 1991, Conan O’Brien and Robert Smigel developed a television series with West called Lookwell. Lookwell focused on a washed-up television actor with a ceremonial deputization in his local police force. However, Lookwell believed his ceremonial deputization gave him authority to act as a full-fledged police officer. Sadly, the show never made it past the pilot. The pilot is brilliant and available on YouTube. After Lookwell failed to receive a series order, West struggled to find work again.
But, in 1997, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane wrote an episode of Johnny Bravo titled Johnny Meets Adam West. In the episode, West played an eccentric version of himself. This began a friendship between West and MacFarlane. And, in the twelfth episode of season 2 of Family Guy, Adam West made his first appearance as the mayor of Quahog. The character was wildly popular and became a staple of the series. Also, West found a new career as a voice actor across many animated series and commercials. He even reprised his role as Batman in a 2016 animated movie titled Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders. The film reunited West with Burt Ward as Robin and Julie Numar as Catwoman.
In a statement released to the actor’s official Facebook page, West’s family announced his death after a “short, but brave battle with leukemia.” Fans across the internet mourned the loss of their first Batman. And, if you’ll indulge me, I would like to do the same. I have fond memories of watching re-runs of Batman on SyFy alongside re-runs of The Incredible Hulk television series. Thus began my lifelong love of Batman.
In 2011, I attended my first comic book convention, Stan Lee’s Comikaze. Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Numar were listed as attendees and I ordered a Blu-ray of the 1966 Batman film. On our first day of the show, Adam West and Burt Ward held signings and I was fortunate enough to meet and converse with both of them. I thanked them for being Batman and Robin, and they thanked me for being a fan. But, Adam West thanked me in the most Batman way possible. I said “Thank you for the signature. And thank you for being Batman.” Mr. West smiled and said “We just wore the tights and climbed the ropes. You guys made us the real heroes.” and he fist bumped me.
On that day, Adam West became a personal hero of mine. Even though the role of Batman cost him countless roles over the years, he embraced it with open arms. And he treated his fans with grace and appreciation, appearing at conventions until he no longer could. Also, he was a hilarious comedic performer with impeccable, deadpan timing. Goodbye, Batman. We’ll keep plenty of shark repellant on hand in your absence.