Remembering Adam West
Adam West is gone.
Like a lot of people, my first exposure to Adam West, and to the Batman, was from the famous Bill Dozier Batman series. Those reruns that aired at 7pm every night on UPN were the highlights of my day. Watching the series with my dad was a nightly ritual, and the cliffhanger episodes were torture for my small four year old mind. The feature film that was made in between the first and second season was a movie I rented so often that my parents eventually broke down and bought me a copy, which I then watched so much that they had to buy ANOTHER copy. I was enthralled with Batman at an early age, and it was all thanks to Adam West’s gloriously earnest and eager take on the Caped Crusader.
It wasn’t until years later that I got the chance to see Mr. West and thank him in person. It was 2011 and I was heading to Wizard World Boston for Jetpack Comics. This being my first major convention for the store, I was pretty psyched to check out the guests that were going to be there (if I’m being honest, I was probably too psyched to work the booth). Knowing that Adam West and Burt Ward were there as one of the guests only added to that excitement, mainly because I had a special gift idea in mind. With the help of my mom, I was able to grab an old Batman book that detailed every episode of the original show, and was planning on getting West’s autograph for my Dad as a birthday gift. The ultimate plan! Not only would I get to meet Adam West (and have bragging rights over my dad), but I’d be able to surprise my dad with a gift that would remind him not only of the two of us watching the show together, but also him watching the show as a kid when it was first on (pretty brilliant on my part if I say so myself).
After waiting for about 90 minutes, Mr. West came out, and I got my chance. I’d like to say that I was extremely cool and chatted him up with ease. But of course, that’s not the case. After a few moments, I was able to stammer up some words, and tell him, “you know, one of the reasons why I’m such a big Batman fan was because I used to watch the old show with dad as a kid. This book is his, and if you could sign it to him, it would be a great birthday present for him”.
As he took the book from my hand, he paused, looked right at me with a cocked an eyebrow, and with that classic West inflection said “…”old show”?” Of course I was mortified, thinking I had just royally pissed of Adam West, but before I could explain he winked at me, gave me a fist bump, and said “thank you”.
That to me was Adam West. He would joke around with you, and take some small (real or not) offense to any joke made towards Batman, but he was always in on the joke. That’s what makes his Batman so great. He played it completely straight but with a small wink to let you know “I realize how ridiculous this is, but just go with it”. That show lived and died based on who was underneath that mask, and if it was anyone other than Adam West, it wouldn’t have had the impact that it had today.
And what an impact it was. Yeah, we all groan whenever we see a newspaper article with “Bam! Pow!” in it, but let’s face it, what other comic book based property had the reach of the Bill Dozier Batman series? Long before we had the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the Nolan Dark Knight Trilogy, the Adam West series was THE bridge for the mainstream and comics. For many, Adam West IS Batman, plain and simple. And while he may have resented the role for a few years after he finished it, in the last three decades he became a beacon of positivity and an ambassador for comics and nerd culture second only to Stan Lee. There’s no other way around it.
While a lot of Batman actors and properties focus on the ’Dark Knight” aspect of the character, there’s only one that I think best personifies the lighter”Caped Crusader” aspect. Adam West may not have been your favorite Batman, but he was definitely your first.
Rest in Peace, Mr. West. Thank you.