9th June 2017. It’s a day that’s going to be remembered by many across the globe, but for all the wrong reasons. It’s the day that the world said goodbye to the legend that was Adam West. After a short battle with leukaemia, he passed away peacefully at his home in the evening of 9th June surrounded by his family, aged 88.
I remember reading the news the following day on Facebook after it had been announced by his family. I’m not one normally to be affected by the passing of celebrities and while naturally it is saddening to see those who have been an influence on us during our childhood, death comes to us all and as those we have seen on television and in movies over the years age I’ve come to accept that those we have loved on screen won’t live forever.
However, there are those whose work meant more to me. Who played such a great part in my life that even just the mere thought of what they did brought a smile to my face and no matter what their age when they passed away left a gap almost as if I lost a family member. Leonard Nimoy, Carrie Fisher, and now Adam West. West had similarities to many who were in prominent roles in major TV shows and while he had ample credits to his name prior to Batman, it was the Caped Crusader which turned him into a global household name and while it was a blessing, it turned into a curse for many years. As with others like him, he couldn’t escape the grip and it followed him for years leaving him struggling to find work until he embraced the love that fans truly had for the character.
There was something special and arguably unique about his Batman. It was definitely a show of its time, but also had a timeless appeal. The instantly recognisable characters were all there including the familiar Bat-villains, but there was something special about the series. It didn’t take itself too seriously but you could see in every episode that the cast were having fun filming the show. From the wildly inventive gadgets, the bright costumes, the weekly guest stars… every part of the show came together and who could ever forget the iconic Batmobile. But all of that counted for nothing without Adam West’s perfect delivery of both Batman and Bruce Wayne’s dialogue and actions. The tone at which he managed to deliver some of the shows comedic lines in such a serious, deadpan manner was one of the true highlights for me and is why I can still to this day watch the series over and over again.
I know I’m not alone in that respect and it’s why the series is still loved over 50 years after it first aired. Three seasons, one movie, and an animated spin-off series followed all keeping the Dynamic Duo in our hearts but even that wasn’t enough. Time passed and we still wanted more but apart from re-runs we weren’t allowed to watch Batman – MY Batman – in our homes thanks to legal wranglings between Fox and Warner (thankfully sorted now). Movies followed with Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and more but none ever came close. They may have followed the more serious tone adopted by the comics of the era but they stopped being fun and for me that was what Batman was all about.
DC gave us an all new comic that kept the series going even more (Batman ’66), even LEGO brought us a wonderful recreation of the famous Batcave and finally last year, Adam West was reunited with Burt Ward for an animated movie, Return Of The Caped Crusaders. We’ve seen television shows and movies last for the same amount of time before (Doctor Who and Star Trek, for example), but none where the same lead actor has been involved from start to finish and it’s the strength of Adam West that made it all possible. The word “legend” is thrown about casually these days when talking about celebrities, too easily and often undeservingly but there’s no denying that Adam West was that and a whole lot more besides.
To not only create such a well loved character globally, but to have acknowledged and embraced the fans who have shared the passion for the series for so long and to have been willing to take time to interact with them on a level far greater than most of his peers would have was a sign of true greatness but also humility.
For many he was THE Batman and Adam West. To his family he was a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. To everyone, he will be greatly missed.
Adam West RIP, 1928 – 2017