Prior to the 1989 Tim Burton Batman film starring Michael Keaton I was unfamiliar with the Caped Crusader. Surprisingly my only prior exposure to one of the world’s most iconic super heroes was through an action figure I had received as a Christmas present in the late 80’s. At the time I was convinced that Batman was a bad guy for no reason other than his attire struck me as quite fearsome. His costume was designed to strike terror into the hearts of criminals whom he reasons are “a superstitious cowardly lot” so apparently that doesn’t say much about me. Like most of the world I was swept up into the Batmania frenzy in 1989 and after the movie was a box office smash Batman began appearing everywhere.
In 1990 KPLR 11, a local independent station in my hometown started airing promotions for a Batman show they were going to start airing that fall. The ads showed a Batman clad in grey and blue climbing vertically up walls with some kid in pointy green shoes. I voiced my disdain for this silly looking show. “Batman wears black! That’s not the real Batman!” I would tell my parents, who suggested that I give the show a try. Apparently they had watched this imposter Batman when they were kids and as they reminisced about the show you could see a glow on their faces and a twinkle of fond nostalgia in their eyes. Despite having written the series off before it hit the fall schedule my parents insisted that I should watch it and that I would like it.
I’ll never forget the first time I tuned in. I missed the KPLR premier because of errands we needed to run, but the next day my mom sat with me on the living room couch and we watched back to back episodes after school; Fine Feathered Finks and The Penguin’s a Jinx. This was my introduction to the classic 1966 Batman TV show (in color) and my parents were right; I thought it was one of the greatest things I had ever seen. I was blown away by the colors, the dialogue, the action, and the Batmobile which was a star in it’s own right. As I sit here writing this 27 years later I still consider it one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen. Over the next several years KPLR continued to air the 1966 Batman series with back to back episodes every weekday afternoon and I would eagerly watch. The show left an indelible impression on me and millions of others.
Adam West did a magnificent job of portraying this unique version of the masked vigilante and in the hearts of many around the world he remains the true definitive Batman. The show was a masterpiece; coming across as a great action adventure through a child’s eyes and as a comedy through the eyes of an adult. It was truly a one of a kind program that could be enjoyed by the entire family on different levels and Adam West’s impeccable delivery and impressive presence are largely responsible for the show’s enduring success. Something that I feel should not be discounted or overlooked is Adam West’s version of Bruce Wayne in the series. Clad in a tuxedo and delivering his lines with his unique pacing and annunciation I believe that Adam West played the finest Bruce Wayne of them all.
Decades later he would poke fun at himself voicing Mayor Adam West in the popular animated series Family Guy. By this point West’s legacy was already cemented but this role further endeared him in the hearts of viewers as the audience had a large cross over appeal with fans of the 1966 Batman series. In the process West did such an excellent job of voicing the lunatic mayor that an entirely new fan base emerged and researched his prior work.
West passed away on June 9, 2017 at age 88 after a short battle with Leukemia. Within minutes of the news an outpouring of support and grief hit the wires as news agencies, celebrities, and fans across the globe reflected on their many memories of West and summed up his incredible career. Although he is now lost to us his wit, charisma, and likable personality will continue to entertain people for years to come through his timeless works. It’s difficult to believe that it’s been 27 years since my introduction to Adam West and the iconic Batman series and over 50 years since it’s original airing. With father time finally winning it’s battle as it does with everyone I think it’s only fitting that I wrap this up with a quote from Adam West himself as the Caped Crusader. “How little do we know of time, Alfred. A one-syllable word, a noun. Yesterday’s laughter, tomorrow’s tears.”