When I first found out about Adam West’s death, I couldn’t help but be sad. Childhood idols grow old and pass away. With their passing, a sense of our own innocence shrivels and is lost, forcing us to confront our own mortality once again. As the day went on, I read articles and listened to old interviews with and about the “Quintessential” Batman, the one I grew up with, the one most of my generation considers “our first Batman.”
Adam presented in those interviews as a jovial, good-natured professional actor who claimed to have never struggled with the type-casting inherent in playing the tongue-in-cheek version of Batman. Adam referred to himself as the “day” knight when he recalled the discussions he had with show producers in the beginning of the Batman TV series. He stated that the show was originally designed to be a superhero comedy for adults.
All over Facebook and Twitter, many of my peers recorded their impressions and well wishes to the West family, friends, and fans. They communicated the effect he had on their lives. Many called him their “first” Batman or referred to him as the “original,” as if to imply that of all the actors who have played Batman in our lifetime, he was the best. I would not make that claim. There were some serious actors that have given life to the role: Ben Affleck, Christian Bale, George Clooney, Val Kilmer, and Michael Keaton. Regardless of how I feel about individual performances, I respect the iconic nature of the role and the shoes they tried to fill. Whatever the case, for many, Adam West was the definitive Batman.
It bears mentioning that Adam West performed other roles. He was Mayor Adam West on the Family Guy for 111 episodes over the course of 16 seasons, a caricature of himself that he said was very similar to who he was in real-life. He also did dozens of cameos on established series like the Big Bang Theory, George Lopez, the Drew Carey Show, Pacific Blue, the Love Boat, and others. He did a lot of voice-over work as well not just for the Family Guy and Batman: the Animated Series. I remember him in Rugrats, the Simpsons, and Spongebob Squarepants. Finally, he built his acting chops while doing several spaghetti westerns in Europe, which he credits as having kept him fresh doing new and innovative storylines.
When I mentioned to my son that Adam West had died and that EvilGeekCult should tweet an acknowledgment of his passing, he suggested that we do a Sunday post dedicated to him, instead. He also stated that Adam West probably meant more to me than to him, which is true, so that I should probably write it.
I think it’s a generational thing. Nowadays, superheroes are prevalent all over television, books, movies, and Netflix. Name a platform and each is dominated by Superheroes. Back in the 70’s, Batman was on television every day after school. We would watch his adventures with the Boy Wonder while we did our homework and it didn’t matter that the dialogue was campy and that the stories were contrived. It didn’t matter that the villains were one-dimensional and that the fight scenes had the comic book impact balloons going, “Fwap!” “Biff!” and “Kapow!” Batman ushered us out of our primary years and brought us into middle school and the discovery of other superheroes like the Superfriends, Spiderman, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He helped us through the awkward years and he does that still through the darker renditions of Batman.
Adam West was a childhood idol and a little of my inner geek is quelled by his passing. However, I’m glad that those 120 episodes of the Batman TV show still exist to encourage others to follow the geek path.
Best of Mayor Adam West posted by Sebastian Targaryen