Adam West was much more than the star of a campy 1960s superhero television show but not to me.
In 1989 my favorite baseball team won the World Series and my favorite superhero was the titular character in one of the year’s biggest films but, as an eight-year-old, I wasn’t allowed to see Batman in the theaters. Because of the recent spat of “Batmania”, though, a local television station began airing marathons of the 1966 camp classic Batman shows, often for 24 hours at a time. My father, who had watched the show on its original release dates at roughly the same age, watched them with me and even an eight-year-old knew they were a little bit stupid.
Now, as an adult, I realize just how bad they were. Was it intentional? Was it always supposed to be a comedy? Who’s to say. A part of me believes that it was always the intent and another part of me thinks it was a bit of revisionist history that has become the standard. Regardless, Adam West and his portrayal of the Caped Crusader have become iconic, for better or worse, for generations of Batman fans.
So this morning, while scanning my Twitter feed, I was taken aback by the news of Adam West passing. I read the eulogies that told of his struggle to overcome the stigma of the Batman series and honored the body of work he had created over decades in the business but, deep down, I was just sad that Batman had died.
There has been a great deal of criticism when it comes to the Batman television show. Despite becoming an iconic fixture of American culture, a very fair point could be made that it did damage to the quality of print comics for years to follow and that it reinforced a stereotype that comic books were silly things for children to read, a stereotype that had largely been overcome thanks to Batman in print. And while all of that may be true to at least some degree, it was also the gateway to Gotham City for many lifelong fans of Batman and, for that, we owe Adam West and that Batman series a debt of gratitude. Despite the show being 20 years off the air by the time I was watching it, it was an important part of my childhood and a memory that my father and I can share together.
I don’t know Adam West from other films and I don’t particularly like Family Guy, a show with which he provided a voice, but I love Batman and I love it in large part because of the early Saturday morning marathons of Adam West’s Batman. For that, I thank him and for all of his work and life, I salute him and wish that he rest in peace.