“I never needed to say I was Batman. I just showed up.”–Adam West in an episode of “The Big Bang Theory
This is a post I’ve been dreading even though I knew I’d have to do it eventually. With the news last week, I knew I’d have to make a tribute to Adam West. This was a person I would have to make a tribute post for because he was an important part of my childhood.
When I was in fourth grade, a new TV network started in New Orleans, WNOL-38. (It eventually was bought out by Fox and currently the WB/CW network) For its first two years, it was your basic channel that had syndicated reruns. One of these was the Batman TV series from the 1960’s starring Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin.
It was this show that introduced me to Batman, the Dark Knight. Each weekend, they would air both parts of the original episode back to back. Each week had a great old movie star or TV personality guest star as the villain. There were famous comic book villains such as the Riddler (Frank Gorshin), the Joker (Caesar Romero) or Catwoman (Julie Newar, Lee Meriwether, and Eartha Kitt) . The show even had its own villains like King Tut (Victor Buono) and Egghead (Vincent Price). It was fun and action-packed. I loved how the fights always had sound effects printed on the screen, just like a comic book.
Adam West’s Batman has been both admired and attacked. Some fans still think his Batman is an insult to the hero, but I disagree. To quote Christian Bale’s version of Batman, he’s “the hero [we] need, not the hero [we] deserve. If we need a more serious Batman, we have Christian Bale or Val Kilmer. If we need a more light-hearted Batman, we have Adam West. Adam West’s Batman could be seen as a counter-culture to the rebellious culture of the time, a reaction to it rather than tearing it down.
Adam West’s Batman is one I wish we saw more often. I think these days, we’ve forgotten that superheroes are supposed to be fun. We think that because we want them to be accepted as part of our culture, Batman and his peers can’t be silly. In fact, Batman is so dark these days, it’s as if the sun never shines on Gotham City. But during Adam West’s time it did. This is why Batman: The Animated Series is my favorite version of Batman. It balanced both the silly side of Batman with the serious side.
Adam West also helped pass the torch on to other portrayals, particularly in the animated versions. In both Batman: the Animated Series and Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Adam West voiced two crimefighters who inspired the creation of Batman: the Gray Ghost and the Phantom Stranger. I loved these episodes, in fact I think they’re among the best episodes of the shows. Kevin Conroy and Diedrich Bader both played well with Adam West.
I will miss you, Adam West. Thank you for introducing me to such a great superhero.