Adam West, Iconic TV Star Of 'Batman', Dies At 88
Adam West, the first actor to bring Batman to international fame, died on Friday at age 88 in Los Angeles. According to Variety, "A rep said that he died after a short battle with leukemia."
His family released a statement, "Our dad always saw himself as The Bright Knight and aspired to make a positive impact on his fans' lives. He was and always will be our hero."
The 1960s TV adaptation of the comic book superhero was a campy take on Bruce Wayne and Batman, with bright Technicolor costumes and sets, cliffhangers galore, comic book words like "POW" and "BIFF" during fight scenes, and dancing:
In 2006, West said, "The tone of our first show, by Lorenzo Semple Jr., was one of absurdity and tongue in cheek to the point that I found it irresistible. I think they recognized that in me from what they’d seen me do before. I understood the material and brought something to it.... You can’t play Batman in a serious, square-jawed, straight-ahead way without giving the audience the sense that there’s something behind that mask waiting to get out, that he’s a little crazed, he’s strange."
Variety notes, "West’s portrayal of the superhero and his alter ego, Bruce Wayne, ultimately made it hard for him to get other roles, and while he continued to work throughout his career, options remained limited because of his association with the character." According to the Hollywood Reporter, "The actor struggled to find work after the campy superhero series was canceled, but he rebounded with voiceover gigs, including one as the mayor of Quahog on 'Family Guy.'"
Even though the show only lasted three seasons, from 1966 to 1968, it aired twice a week—meaning 120 episodes (all on DVD now) went into syndication, making West the only Batman many children knew while growing up.
Holy heartbreak Batman. Adam West was a big part of my childhood. We were acquaintances in my adulthood. A wonderful man who will b missed.— Jamie Lee Curtis (@jamieleecurtis) June 10, 2017
Rest in Peace Adam West. We met once in 1987 and I was too embarrassed and too foolishly "cool" to tell you what you meant to my childhood.— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) June 10, 2017
That is, until the movie adaptations and later animated series that explored a darker subtext of the comic (which West wasn't a fan of).
Variety had asked West what the role meant to him: “Money. Some years ago I made an agreement with Batman. There was a time when Batman really kept me from getting some pretty good roles, and I was asked to do what I figured were important features. However, Batman was there, and very few people would take a chance on me walking on to the screen. And they’d be taking people away from the story. So I decided that since so many people love Batman, I might as well love it too. Why not? So I began to reengage myself with Batman. And I saw the comedy. I saw the love people had for it, and I just embraced it."
West's role on Family Guy was as Mayor Adam West:
Burt Ward, who played Robin, said in a statement, "I am devastated at the loss of one my very dearest friends. Adam and I had a special friendship for more than 50 years. We shared some of the most fun times of our lives together. Our families have deep love and respect for each other. This is a terribly unexpected loss of my lifelong friend. I will forever miss him. There are several fine actors who have portrayed Batman in films. In my eyes, there was only one real Batman that is and always will be Adam West. He was truly the Bright Night.”
At a 2014 Comic Con, West told the crowd, "I look around and I see the adults — I see you grew up with me, and you believe in the adventure. I never believed this would happen, that I would be up here with illustrious people like yourselves. I’m so grateful! I’m the luckiest actor in the world, folks, to have you still hanging around."
The 1960s Batman movie is now streaming on Netflix.