R.I.P. – ADAM “Batman” WEST

I awoke this morning to the news on my alarm clock radio: “The actor who played Batman in the 1960s has died.  Adam West passed away last night after a short battle with leukemia.  He was 88.”

Adam West was always “my” Batman, just as William Shatner was always “my” Starfleet captain.  The two shows, Batman and Star Trek, were kind of joined at the hip.  They both premiered in 1966 and ran for three seasons (on different networks–Batman was on ABC).  Both series were created just as color television was becoming widely available…and both series made ample use of a vivid palette and bright hues because of this fact.  The shows shared many notable guest stars, including Yvonne Craig, Julie Newmar, Lee Merriwether, Frank Gorshin, Grace Lee Whitney, and Joan Collins.  (Betcha didn’t know about those last two!  Take a look–there were actually 13 famous actor crossovers between the two concurrent series.)

And of course, the two shows each featured a leading man with a unique (some might say “over the top”) style of acting.  William Shatner was known…for…his…dramatic…


But Glen Weldon, author of the book The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture, made this comment about Adam West’s delivery of this lines:

“He inserts pauses that are not merely pregnant but two weeks overdue. Those pauses were of course a deliberate choice — he wanted the viewer to see Batman’s intellectual processes, the way he thought through a puzzle and excitedly seized upon the answer.”

It was campy and dazzling all at the same time.  But it just felt right…from both actors.  I can’t imagine anyone else doing as much, er, justice to those two roles.  Despite the Vietnam War, civil rights, assassinations, riots, and social upheaval, the 1960s were still a simpler time—at least on network television (and at the time, there was nothing other than network television if you watched TV).  And these two men helped define it.

As a child of the 70’s, I watched both shows repeatedly.  And these two characters, played so ironically by these two actors, helped to shape me as a person.  I saw role models who were brave and strong, willing to stand up to the bad guys and fight for what was right—whether it was with a phaser, a batarang, or just their wits…always with their wits.  They were human, of course, but also something more.  They had a moral compass that was unshakable.  They knew what was right, and there was no gray area.

As I said, a simpler time.  Two decades later, their franchises would evolve with other captains and darker knights.  But Adam West always saw himself as a Bright Knight, a version of Batman untainted by the dark turn the character took in later years.

While I loved the Michael Keaton and Christian Bale interpretations of the characters (the jury’s still out on Affleck…and the less said about Kilmer and Clooney, the better), there will always be a special place in my heart for Adam West.  His voice will always be unmistakable.  And really, what other actor would have done stuff like this—week after week after week—for three years?

C’mon–admit it!  It was brilliant comedy.

I was so heartened to see Adam West’s career continue in later years on shows like Family Guy, despite some unavoidable typecasting.  But he embraced it all, and his fans, in a way that William Shatner only did after a decade of resisting and trying to deny the inevitable truth that he would always be Captain Kirk.

But Adam West was and always will be Batman…a special kind of Batman that carved out his own special batcave in our hearts and minds.  As he goes off to answer that great bat signal in the sky, I can only say this:

Farewell, old chum.

13 thoughts on “R.I.P. – ADAM “Batman” WEST”

  1. Oh, come now, Jonathan…every true Bat Fan knows Joan Collins played The Siren on an episode of Batman…but Grace Lee Whitney? Now, that one escapes me…and damned if I can remember ever seeing her on “Batman” (although I know lots of actors and actresses at the time played various characters on so many TV shows, just as many sets were often recycled between shows, as well 😉 )

    Adam West was a true comedic genius who will be sadly missed.


  2. What? No!! R.I.P. Mr. Adam West – This is sad. I really liked him as a silly, campy Batman… :/

  3. The Sadness is almost unbearable. For those of us who grew up in the 60s and 70s, although the cinema has given others, very good in theirs, it was he who gave us many joys in childhood and we waited week after week the outcome of situations that astonished those who were children, Rest in peace, Batman.

  4. It seems oddly fitting that on the week that we find out “POWERLESS” is cancelled, we hear this tragic news. I was so pleased to hear his voice as Bruce Wayne again.

  5. His death represents the end of the 60s full cast for shows I used to enjoy after school in re-reruns, placing Batman alongside the others that no longer have their full cast: Wild, Wild West; Hogan’s Heroes; Get Smart; Gilligan’s Island, Family Affair, Brady Bunch, Partridge Family & Star Trek. It’s like when John Lennon was murdered and everyone realised then that there would be no Beatles reunion. That’s how I feel, except in my case my feeling is for a whole era of shows I have been wanting to cry about for so long and can no longer hold back my tears in hope. His passing between the two new animated Batman DVDs – The Return of the Caped Crusaders, and the upcoming Batman vs Two-Face with William Shatner – leaves me in the same place as the sudden death of Carrie Fisher left me over Christmas: feeling jilted at the altar – left in the middle of a relationship to wonder, why? Apparently, Mr. West was diagnosed with stage 4 Leukemia on the 8th and dead on the 9th. Dave Stevens, of Rocketeer fame, suffered with the same disease for years and it was notorious for fatiguing him and pushing back his work deadlines. He died at 52 (3 days after Gary Gygax). I can only imagine how Mr. West must have soldiered on, at 88, right until the end. And I believe that strength, that fortitude, is where Batman truly lives. Batman is not Frank Miller’s tortured soul creation, relentlessly brooding and ever fighting a spawning rogues gallery. Batman is the persevering person; standing up for what is right and just; believing he can make a difference; and dedicating all his resources to the cause of the greater good. America needs this Bright Knight now more than ever. And because Adam West brought this to the character of Batman he portrayed on weekly TV, and later this Batman embodied him as he accepted this into his real life, America has lost a great American – and the world has lost The Batman we really would be best to aspire to be. Farewell, Old Chum.

      1. You’re welcome. I immediately thought about the social commentary Roddenberry incorporated into Star Trek when “Trust in Bob” explained the same elements within Batman. It makes a fitting “envelope” to have Shatner work with West, finally. Too bad there won’t be more such collaborations. Since they were the two principals of their shows, I am really interested in their interaction in the film – especially if they recorded their dialogue together where both could play off each other in the room. Reportedly, Shatner has displayed a good sense of humour on the set of his films and West was reportedly tossed from an orgy for clowning around with Frank Gorshin. No mentioned what else was displayed. This would be a good place to link Gorshin in “Man Of The Century” (1999) where he played a deranged S&M maniac if I could find the scene online. Funny as all get go.

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