Saturday, June 10, 2017

Farewell to Adam West

   Sad news today, as we hear of the passing of actor Adam West, 88, who achieved lasting fame as Batman in the beloved ABC-TV show in the 1960s.

   One of the keys to the success of any show or movie is finding the rights actor to play the part, and on the Batman TV show, they hit the jackpot, with perfect casting for the show's lead, for the ongoing characters, and a long list of guest villains - but the most important was the Caped Crusader.

   It was an odd role - a "campy" take on the hero, very different from most shows of its kind, but it worked - young viewers could enjoy it for the jokes and the action, the vivid colors and crazy props - and adults could enjoy it for its tongue-in-cheek humor, its fast pacing and artistic camera work. 

   Put simply: the show was a lot of fun - and West managed to walk that delicate line between playing it straight, being an action hero, and delivering laughs.

   It was a role that made West a star - but it was also a curse, because he would struggle for years to step out from the shadow of Batman. His own sense of humor saved him, as he embraced fandom and his legacy. He built a lasting career poking fun at his own image, and the fans loved him for it.

   Of course, many fans loathe the campy '60s Batman (there was a time in the '70s when I agreed) - for the still-felt impact on comics as being for children, and the whole "Zap! Pow! Comics!" shorthand still being used by the media.

   But it did bring comics into the mainstream, and demonstrated that comics characters could be popular with the general public, although it would only be sporadic success until the "modern era" of superhero films.

    But as a kid, and later as an adult, I loved West's portrayal. It was such a thrill to see this comic book character brought to life on TV. When I saw the feature film at our local theater in the late '60s, the crowd cheered loudly when Batman first appeared on the screen - we loved him!

   We still do. There have been many fine actors who've put on the costume, but to most of us, they're just the latest guy in line - there's really just one Batman.

   As the actor once said, his portrayal of Batman was: "Pure West."


Mr. Brooks said...

My love of superheroes started with CBS' THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN and ABC's BATMAN. I was lucky to meet Mr. West and get a picture and autograph (along with Burt "Robin" Ward). He autographed my copy of "BATMAN From the 30's to the 70's". Like you said, "Pure West".

Gonna go watch the MAVERICK episode "Pappy" then "Beware The Grey Ghost".

Chuck said...

Yes, the Superman TV show was the beginning (though I only saw it in reruns) - it was a bit stiff and mostly lacked cool villains, but I loved it. Batman was way over the top, but I was a huge fan - it was more comedic than I wanted, but it was easy to forgive.

Anonymous said...

Chuck, that was a wonderful tribute.
Thank you.


Dwayne said...

I think I'm about the same age as you Chuck. I'm 56, which means in 1966 I was all of 6 years old and in first grade. One of my first possessions of memory: the Batman lunchbox. Then again, everything in 1966 had Batman on it. For those not there, it's hard to imagine Bat-mania and how it swept the country.

Here's the first riddle I learned as a kid:
Q: Where's the first place Batman goes when he wakes up in the morning?
A: The Batroom.

RIP Adam West.

I'll end with this... same Bat-Time, same Bat-Channel!

Mr. Brooks said...

IMO the episodes that first showed The Riddler, The Penguin, Mr. Freeze, The Joker, Catwoman, and the Mad Hatter were the BEST. The "camp" had yet taken 100% hold yet. The story, acting, and action was top drawer. Plus, the Joker episode gave us the best Bat-Fight.

And Frank Gorshin's Riddler was incredibly cool.