RIP Adam West, Beloved Batman

Adam West 1928-2017

Nerds like me love to brag about how long they’ve been on the Batman bandwagon, but if you’re my age, don’t fucking kid yourselves: Adam West was your first Batman. Before I could read, I was watching the 1966 Batman TV show. It was my first obsession. It wasn’t camp. It’s wasn’t cheese. It wasn’t retro. It was Batman.

There aren’t enough hours in the goddamn day to watch all the TV shows based on comics today, but back then, there was only one show in town and it didn’t matter that it was twenty years old. The Batman TV series got me into comics, but for millions of others who never cracked a comic book in their whole life, Adam West personified what a superhero was for a quarter of a century. And even though it was only in production for two years, the Batman TV series was the biggest bridge between mainstream and geek culture, and Adam West was driving.

Yes, Adam West was more than Batman. An incredibly funny, earnest, likable and talented human being by all accounts. But if you give a shit about Batman – and I do – let’s remember that DC didn’t do a whole lot with the character off the page for about fifty fucking years. There were Batman serials, cartoons, and commercials, but the only shit we remember, the only material that holds up and is worth revisiting, has Adam West in it. It’s not a coincidence.  

Comic book culture is everywhere these days but for the majority of my life it absolutely wasn’t, and getting there was a slow burn. Growing up, no station in my area re-ran the 70s Wonder Woman or Hulk shows, and Marvel couldn’t make a movie worth watching despite years of effort. Christopher Reeves’ Superman and Tim Burton’s Batman reignited the public’s desire for onscreen superheroes, yet those milestones are separated by more than a decade. But for every single agonizing drought in-between, there was always Adam West, carrying the Bat-Torch for costumed heroics somewhere on your dial.

For a little 80s kid without cable, you did your best to stomach all the syndicated sitcoms, talk shows, and other garbage, but Batman ‘66 served as a daily reminder that someone out there was interested in making something expressly for me, and I should probably go out there and find more of it. I’ve watched Batman ‘66 as a wide-eyed child and as a cynical adult and the show is still never not fun. And since I just heard a little kid younger than 10 in my local comic shop humming “Na-Na-Na-Na-Na-Na-Na-Nah” I’m confident it will remain that way.

Batman is literally everywhere these days. Easily one of the most recognizable characters in the history of fiction, blah, blah, blah. But because I never get tired of saying it: Adam West defined the character for the majority of the planet, for almost three decades, and nobody will ever get to do that again. Even if it wasn’t exactly on purpose, West was a champion of comic book culture, and we couldn’t have asked for a person more charming. You better believe Adam West will be missed, but even better, he will be remembered for fucking ever, crystallized as a one the greatest characters of all-time. You rule, Mr. West! I’m sorry I never got a chance to meet you.

Grab the entire remastered Batman 1966 series Blu-ray on Amazon

 

8 thoughts on “RIP Adam West, Beloved Batman

  1. I first learned who he was through Johnny Bravo. His episodes were my favorite as a kid and they were written by Seth Macfarlane! Then I discovered Batman ’66 in reruns. It always upset me, even as a kid, when people would make fun of or write off that show as if it were made by accident. Nothing that comedically brilliant just happens, especially with that consistency. They were making one of the most hilarious and subversive shows on TV and they did it on purpose. Batman ’66 is a masterpiece.

  2. A big part of me becoming a Batman fan was from watching the Animated Series and the 66 movie a LOT as a kid. My neighbours had an extensive movie collection, one of which was that movie on VHS and, living in an era where Burton and Schumacher were the ones behind Batman, it seemed like a fascinating relic to me. When we moved away, they gave me that as a sort of “goodbye present.” I’ve seen that movie countless times, and was so excited when the Adam & Burt: Return to the Batcave TV movie aired. Unfortunately, I have not seen as much of the show itself as I would like, only catching random episodes as they aired on Teletoon Retro here in Canada in the early 2010s, but I plan to rectify that. Adam West was a hugely important part of the Batman legacy, and I’m glad people got over the supposed “darkness” of the Burton movies enough to recognize West’s work as great while he was still alive. Batman, you will be sorely missed, but Rest in Peace, you deserve it.

  3. My dad got me into the 60s Batman when I was a kid as I was a huge fan of Burton Batman. I adored the 60s show for how fun it was, how the fighting was so cartoony and I would always hope to see Batgirl drive by in the opening credits of the episode. I digged Adam West for taking it so seriously and obviously having such a good time. Lots of love to his family

  4. I remember watching the Batman 66 series on one of the 5 stations we got in Toledo, OH back in the late 70s. I loved the show and still do to this day. Mr. west you will be missed.

  5. Loved Batman 66, my little sister and I used used to chant “BIFF BIFF BIFF!” waiting for that one sound effect to pop up cartoonishly on the screen whenever there was a fight. She was pretty sad about his passing and was the one who told me. Adam made these two little latchkey black kids in the atlanta suburbs enjoy those weird summers between playing with toys and watching waaay too much tv.

  6. I might have been born in 1987, but I STILL grew up watching Adam West’s Batman. It must have aired on CBS, or one of the main channels, during school hours or something because I have memories watching it quite a lot… along with my recorded VHS’s of the Star Wars trilogy and Beetlejuice.

    My point is that some of my earliest memories were watching Adam West be Batman, and even when people would shit-talk his Batman show, I never did because in the end, what made him Batman was the same he was in the comics- detective and defender of the people of Gotham.

    So like Robin Williams, and ALLLL of the deaths last year, this one is pretty sad. But thankfully, he made it to old age and was lucid enough to be entertaining until the very end. A true performer and showman. RIP.

  7. I was born in 1973 and Adam West was my Batman as a child. I had MEGO action figures my mom bought from Kresge’s (a local Cleveland store like Woolworth’s). I used to reenact the rerun episodes with my toys. In the late ’70s and even early ’80s the only thing we had superhero related was reruns of Batman and the Super Friends Saturday morning cartoons. I didn’t have a lot of comic books, but I had Batman thanks to Adam West.

    I got to meet Adam West a little more than a couple decades ago at a small comic book convention in Columbus, OH. He was doing photos and signings with Frank Gorshin (The Riddler). Adam was running late from lunch and my buddy and I were first in line to talk to Adam. Frank Gorshin walks in and for the first time I was a bit starstruck as the Riddler was one of my favorite all-time villains. I had the courage and talked to Frank. He was so friendly and approachable. Of course I said to him the cheesiest of all lines, “Mr Gorshin, I just wanted to tell you I’m a big fan.”, but immediately his charm broke the ice and my buddy and I just started having a conversation with him as we were still waiting for Adam to come back from lunch. I asked Frank if the stories were true if Jim Carrey personally reached out to him for tips on how to play the Riddler because Jim said he did in a few interviews to promote Batman Forever. Frank had rebunked the stories, but said he was flattered that Jim even mentioned him. Then without hesitation, he asked if we wanted a photo with him? He didn’t ask for money. He didn’t demand I buy merchandise. He simply wanted to make lasting impression to a couple of fans. After one picture from my disposable camera (this was before cellphones), Frank went on to say, “take another, that one was probably terrible.” Frank was just such a nice guy. I was sad on the day he passed.

    Well Adam West finally got back from lunch and I was the first person in line. But the sad thing was there wasn’t really any lines period. It’s very common today for a major Hollywood star to play a superhero one moment, and go off and do many more movies afterward. Stars like Adam West and Clayton Moore (The Lone Ranger) hit it big with one role and once the show was cancelled, they couldn’t get any work. So they ended up doing anything for cash like make appearances at an opening of a new mall or super market. And 20 years ago there wasn’t San Diego Comic Con or NYCC. There were only small cons in hotel hallways and ballrooms.

    So here I was about to talk to Adam West in a small con at a hotel in Columbus, OH. Adam’s handler had everything set up for him and I was first in line. I walked up to the table and Adam said, “Hello, how are you today?” in his iconic Adam West voice that had the perfect infection on the important syllables. Because there wasn’t really a line behind me, I actually just got to spend a few minutes with him. I asked him about his recent appearance on Howard Stern with his daughter, Nina. Adam chuckled and said, “I’m probably never taking her on the show again.” If you didn’t hear the interview, Howard was more interested in asking Nina her sexual experiences . I had time time for one more topic and I brought up how much I loved hearing his voice in the episode “Beware the Grey Ghost” from Batman: The Animated Series. I told him it I loved it because it was such a powerful episode. I asked him what he thought of the character. He said, “I think Warner Bros. is telling me something about my career.”

    It was super cool to meet Adam and Frank. I did buy a photo for Adam to sign and it was only $25. It’s amazing how crazy prices have skyrocketed to meet celebrities at cons, especially for how much they are paid just to make appearances. And maybe $25 twenty years ago was worth more, but it was totally worth meeting Batman in person.

    I still have the autograph and picture framed. They are hanging up on the walls of my Batcave. I wish I could post pictures of my Batcave here. I have areas dedicated to The Animated Series, the movies, the super friends, and of course, Adam West.

    Rest In Peace, Old Chum!

  8. It’s amazing how lasting his legacy has been. Even someone born in the late 90’s like me knows about him (without ever watching Batman) because of his time on Fairly Odd Parents playing a parody character, Cat Man

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