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