Adam West (1928-2017)
“Atomic batteries to power! Turbines to speed!”
Despite the literally dozen of movies and over 100 television roles (some as short-lived as a single episode), Adam West will be known, for better or worse, as TV’s Batman. When most people over 30 hear his name, there is only one image that comes to mind — one dressed in that iconic cape and cowl. Perhaps, that singular fame bothered him. But, for the rest of us, it is that very typecasting that set him firmly into our childhoods and our fond memories to come.
When I was four years old in 1972, my first memories of television were of Batman. Not the animated version I would soon discover as part of the Super Friends, but the live-action show — at this point, in syndication. That year, I had amassed every toy connected to the program that I could find: Bat-utility-belt, Batcave playset, action figures of the Dynamic Duo and primary villains, the Batmobile, you name it. Before the show would come on, I could be found in my makeshift Batman costume, running around the room, jumping off furniture, practicing my fight moves, cape fluttering behind me, and getting pumped up for the set of 30-minute episodes airing on WLVI TV-56 that afternoon. I lived for this show as if there was no other.
Batman was the quintessential superhero to me simply because he wasn’t a superhero. He was a mortal man who had the smarts (and the money) to construct this technologically-aided antihero, someone who knew how to solve the problem without otherworldly powers. That brought him closer to me. And I imagined (even naively) that doing the same thing was well within my abilities. You know, when I became a grown-up and maybe got a job or something.
It would be over 15 years later when I would meet the comic book incarnation of the Caped Crusader, and I certainly got a lot out of that portrayal. But, it will never measure up to the flashy, colorful, goofy, and overblown TV antics of Gotham’s criminal underworld and the two masked vigilantes who seemed to be the only ones capable of fixing things. Oh, and Batgirl too, I suppose.
He might have had only one notable role, but it was a role that mattered. A posthumous thanks to Mr. West for introducing me to Batman. His justice is my justice.
So long, old chum.