Adam West, our beloved Batman of the 1960s TV show died on Friday, June 9, 2017. According to his representative, West suffered through a short battle with leukemia and died at home surrounded by family. He was 88 years old.
West had an active career from the 1950s to today, but is always remembered first as Batman. West along with Burt Ward as Dick Grayson/Robin, debuted in Batman on January 12, 1966. The Dynamic Duo entertained comics fans and families for three seasons and one movie, battling the vile villains of Gotham City. Not only were the crimefighters champions of the city, Batman regularly paused to lecture Robin – and, by extension, kids at home – on things like honesty, wearing seat belts, doing homework, and eating healthy foods.
While the tone of the show was pure camp, West was always brave, resourceful, and gallant as the superhero. The show was delightfully silly, but West’s earnest portrayal of Batman made the stakes of their situation serious and exciting.
Adam West was born William West Anderson in Seattle on September 19, 1928. He spent his early days on the family’s ranch in Walla Walla, WA, with his father, a wheat farmer, and his mother, a concert pianist and opera singer. When his parents divorced during his teen years, West moved with his mother and younger brother to Seattle.
After high school he attended Whitman College where he was a member of the debate team and an athlete in swimming, water polo, skiing, and track. He earned a degree in English literature in 1951 then did post-graduate work at Stanford and served in the U.S. Army where he helped to launch military TV stations.
His acting career began in the mid-1950s as a presenter on El Kini Popo Show, after he moved to Hawaii with a college friend. While working as an island tour guide he met a Hollywood producer which led to a contract with Warner Bros. Studios. It was then that he adopted the stage name Adam West.
A few TV and uncredited appearances in the mid- to late 1950s was followed by his first credited feature film was The Young Philadelphians with Paul Newman. He appeared in several films and TV shows over the next few years, including Sugarfoot, Colt .45, 77 Sunset Strip, Maverick, Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, Bonanza, The Rifleman, starred in The Detectives in 1961-1962, Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, Soldier in the Rain, Robinson Crusoe on Mars, and Mara of the Wilderness.
Batman was his biggest break. The producers wanted a bit of satire for Batman to counter his prim and proper alter ego Bruce Wayne. West’s talent for tongue in cheek comedy, along with athleticism, made him perfect for the part. West and Ward became household names as the show became an extraordinary hit. Following the first season, West and Ward starred in the feature length film version of Batman going against popular villains the Riddler, Penguin, and Catwoman.
Since Batman was such a career defining role, West struggled to overcome typecasting. While continuing his acting career, mostly in guest starring roles, he made guest appearances at county fairs and other events as Batman. He also voiced the Caped Crusader for a few animated programs, including The New Adventures of Batman and SuperFriends: The Legendary Super Powers Show.
Roles in the 1970s were in The Girl Who Knew Too Much, The Marriage of a Young Stockbroker, This Is the Life, The Specialist, and Shazam!. In the ’80s he was in Warp Speed, One Dark Night, Laverne & Shirley, The Love Boat, The Last Precinct, Zombie Nightmare, and Mad About You. Through the ’90s he was in Danger Theatre, Tales from the Crypt, The Adventures of Pete & Pete, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and voiced in The Secret Files of the SpyDogs.
West saw a resurgence of popularity after the 1989 Tim Burton Batman film, which led to several appearances, live and animated, as himself over the next 20 years. He voiced Mayor Grange in The Batman show from 2004 to 2006, voiced himself in The Fairly OddParents, and from 2000 to 2017 he voiced Mayor Adam West on Family Guy. In 2016 he and Ward paired with former Batman TV series guest star Julie Newmar, to voice their 1960s characters in the animated feature, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders. His final project was voicing Batman for Batman vs. Two-Face.
West also spent plenty of time on the convention circuit meeting fans. Primarily Batman lovers, with plenty of Family Guy fans, waited in long lines at every show, to meet West. Even in his latest days he still had the voice and humor of his 1960s character while meeting fans of all ages. West also entertained fans during panels, answering questions alongside Ward, as fans excitedly met the TV hero.
“From the heights of Batmania in the 1960s to his most recent convention appearances, Adam West took playing Batman as a serious responsibility. That may seem like an incongruous statement considering how campy the TV series was, but he transcended that and found a way to connect with his many, many fans across literally generations of viewers. After being typecast for far too long, it’s been a joy to see his talent get wider appreciation in recent times. Although I’m saddened by his passing, he left us a great legacy to enjoy, and we can take solace in that,” said Steve Geppi, President and CEO of Diamond Comic Distributors.
“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,” a statement from his family said. Previews World.