An Appreciation of Batman & Adam West
“To the Batmobile…” • “Atomic Batteries to Power, Turbines To Speed!” • “Roger, Ready to Move Out!” • “Tune In Tomorrow… Same Bat-Time, Same Bat-Channel!”
Week after week, children of the mid-1960s held their collective breaths on Wednesday nights, anticipating those words and that “the worst is yet to come!” But that anxiety soon slipped into slumber and then on to school - where Recess played out Bat-fight re-enactments and afternoon bells Bat-signaled an imaginary race to the Batmobile, the Batcave and home to “Wayne Manor.”
There, parental guidance and suppertime sustenance couldn’t make way fast enough for that moment when we could finally tune ourselves back in front of our sometimes blurry window to the world and collectively exhale in a burst of relief, as the Dynamic Duo would escape our previous nightmare and save the day that we just dreaded. Deep inside, we knew they would. They had to. After all, they’re Batman & Robin (& Batgirl, too!)
There were many, many talented and creative people ultimately involved with bringing Bob Kane & Bill Finger’s creations to life in the form of the 1966 Batman TV series. The ingredients were in abundance. There was the catchy music, spectacular vehicles and gadgets, colorful costumes, flashing graphics, outlandish plots, outstanding actors playing outstanding heroes & villains, deceptively clever humor and most importantly, engrained lessons in morality - and occasional grammar. (You’re welcome.) And the primary teacher of those lessons was the actor who wore the cape & cowl of the titular character: Mr. Adam West.
Many other actors have played The Batman since and before 1966. Yet, in the annals of American pop culture, none have made quite the same impact (POW!) nor have created the same, lasting endurance, as did Adam West and his portrayal of the Caped Crusader. This is not to say that others’ interpretations of the Dark Knight aren’t worthy of note – they are. But what makes the assertion ring true is that Adam West became the focal point of a unique cultural explosion that embraced his version of Batman and for which, unlike his successors, he fully embraced as an actor, albeit to subsequent detriment (and eventual salvation.) All of this happened at a very tumultuous estuary in our nation’s history and all other Batmen who followed still hear the echoes of it. Batman 101: Without West, there’d be no “the rest.”
Adam West undoubtedly paid a high price, career-wise by playing a character like Batman. Indeed, following the cancellation of the series, he couldn’t escape the Bat-traps of real life that faced him, no matter what tools were in his utility belt. He was hopelessly typecast and it wouldn’t be until the coming of age & power of the generation that idolized him, that he would finally gain the true recognition and re-employment for which the Hollywood of his hey-day had cruelly denied. He could also finally re-embrace, with pride, the legend of the Bright Knight.
Imagination fueling fascination, igniting aspiration. That is just a part of the summary effect that Batman has had on so many of us and for it to mean so much as to be writing about it 50 years later, speaks volumes that go beyond the bookcase in the study at Wayne Manor.
Adam West’s Batman went on to become a citizen of the world who still teaches those lessons of morality (and grammar) to this day. In a way, that may seem “campy” to some. But if you peel back those thin layers, the essence of who Batman is and what he represents is right there and best reflected by an actor from Walla Walla, Washington who left us last week with an enduring legacy - which is this:
Batman isn’t Bruce Wayne. Batman is Adam West!
Rest In Peace, Adam West.
Long Live Batman.
We Need Him Now!
Visit & Like - https://www.facebook.com/batfanman66
God bless all of you who gave your comments on the internet. From Wally to others, it's just been incredible reading all this. Don't see too many modern tv or movie stars who would get this kind of attention.
(It doesn't help that the Frank Miller Batman really made West's version "uncool" for many people and those few of us who loved the show had to put up with the negativity of those who just didn't "get it")