Remembering Adam West
In January 1966, I was seven years old and thrilled beyond belief when Batman debuted on ABC. I was fairly new to comics but was already drawn to the Caped Crusader and bought every wacky thing about the live-action series.
West had the right vocal tone, the right demeanor so his ultra-straight portrayal worked for my generation while teens and adults could snicker all they wanted. He and Burt Ward were Batman and Robin as far as I was concerned.
Over time, West found his acting career seriously impaired by his connection with the cape and cowl. Much has been made of the Star Trek cast being pigeonholed but West had it far worse considering the white hot fame Batmania gave him.
As a result, he reprised the part for animation, did cheesy things like The Happy Hooker goes to Hollywood and tons of personal appearances. He even put the costume on for those two horrible Legends of the Superheroes NBC shows.
Over time, he managed to mix voicing Batman with other guest work until he was of an age to spoof his persona, as did so many of his peers. He was Captain Rick Wright on the underappreciated The Last Precinct in 1986.
Then an interesting thing happened. My generation grew up, came of age, and began working in entertainment, delighted to provide roles to their childhood hero. West winked at his crimefighting past or somber intonation on everything from Rugrats to The Adventures of Peter & Pete to Murphy Brown to, of course, The Big Bang Theory.
He would good-naturedly return to Gotham City in a variety of vocal parts that honored his contributions. Coupled with his autobiography and a ton of personal appearances, people got to know him a bit better and he finally seemed comfortable with his place in the pop culture firmament.
Thankfully, he completed work on Batman vs. Two-Face, pitting him against William Shatner, his 1960s contemporary and one of the few to fully understand what West went through professionally. In one of those “almost”, they had starred in a pilot for Alexander the Great in 1964 and had that gone to series, two of the decade’s largest icons would have been played by other actors. Maybe it all worked out for the best.
This year he and Burt Ward were making a farewell tour of cons and I was deeply looking forward to finally having a chance to meet and interview him in August. No doubt we will be honoring his memory at TerrifiCon (and elsewhere) but this missed opportunity has to be one of the largest in my life.