Adam West, forever known to many as Batman and whose name is synonymous with taking your most famous role and parodying it, has passed away. He was 88.
Image: Adam West as Batman (20th Century Fox/WB)
Born in 1928 in Walla Walla, Washington, West was eventually drafted into the United States army where he acted as an announcer on American Forces Network television. Prior to Batman, West appeared in a number of TV Westerns, “The Invisible Enemy” episode of The Outer Limits, and had a supporting part in The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor.
All of that paled in comparison to Batman, which premiered in 1966, and was a cultural phenomenon. It is iconic both as a symbol of the ’60s and as one of the most influential versions of the caped crusader. West himself was inextricably linked to the character for the rest of his life.
And while West did end up typecast because of the part, he later embraced it, reprising his role as Batman, playing parodies of Batman, or playing parodies of an actor who had one iconic superhero role. He kept the legacy alive for a whole new generation through voice work. He voiced a superhero who turned out to just be an older actor in Kim Possible and who just happened to be named “Timothy North.” He’s famously the the deranged mayor of Quahog, Adam West.
Famously, he voiced Simon Trent, an unemployed and broke former actor famous for his costumed crimefighter the Grey Ghost in Batman: The Animated Series. The episode “Beware the Grey Ghost” even includes Bruce Wayne remembering watching the show as a child and being inspired. In a meta-moment, Trent saves Batman’s life in costume and Trent’s heroism in the episode spawns a resurgent interest in his old TV show.
West still has one last turn as Batman left: he’ll voice the character in the follow-up to the Batman ’66 animated movie Return of the Caped Crusaders. Titled Batman vs. Two-Face, and with William Shatner as Two-Face, it’s due out this year.
In every interaction I had with him, West was a genial storyteller who had no reason to be as nice as he was. It’s honestly devastating that he lost his battle with leukaemia.
“Our dad always saw himself as The Bright Knight, and aspired to make a positive impact on his fans’ lives. He was and always will be our hero,” says his family’s statement. And it feels very true.