Whether you grew up during the '60s or discovered the classic Batman TV series via re-run and Netflix, everybody has fond memories of it. From the classic theme tune to the onomatopoeic words that popped up during the fight scenes — and the inspirational life-lessions we learned from our beloved #Batman — viewers have connected with Adam West's Caped Crusader for the better part of 50 years.
The legendary actor was one of the first to bring the famous #DC superhero to life on-screen, defining the character for generations. That's what makes his death at age 88 from leukemia so tough on fans. Having grown up watching re-runs of the classic TV series, I for one felt a great deal of sadness when learning of West's passing.
While most Batman fans are familiar with the West series in some capacity, much of the younger generation only know of the show for its campy tone and typical "to be continued" #TV tropes. But West's Batman was so much more than that — and while he was technically the third actor to don the cowl, he was the first actor to bring the character to life.
As we continue to mourn the loss of one of TV's greatest icons, let's take a look back at West's accomplishments and why his Batman will forever remain the greatest version of the character.
Adam West's 'Batman' Saved The Comics From Cancelation
By the 1960s, Batman comics had been around for the better part of 30 years — and their popularity had begun to wane. By 1966, comic sales were so low that the Batman character and his comic adventures were extremely close to cancelation.
However, according to Batman co-creator Bob Kane, the debut of the TV series led to an increase in comic sales and, as a result, the show ultimately saved the comics from being canceled. In fact, due to the overwhelming success of the series, the Batman comics incorporated many elements of the show into their stories, most notably the campy tone.
Whether you love Adam West's campy version of Batman or not, there's no denying that, without him, younger fans today might never have heard of Batman and, as a result we would've missed out on the later films that saw the likes of Michael Keaton, Christian Bale and Ben Affleck play the Caped Crusader.
'The Bright Knight'
In today's world, the character of Batman strikes fear into the hearts of Gotham's criminals and wastes no time in serving up some justice on a silver platter. However, West made it clear several years ago that he disliked the modern tone of the Batman movies because, due to their adult nature, children couldn't watch them. As a strong believer in "The Bright Knight," West was proud that his Batman was the complete opposite of the Dark Knights of the modern era.
Looking back, West had a point; the current wave of DCEU films have received a lot of flack for their bleak tone, dark direction and strong violence. Ben Affleck's Batman even kills his enemies. There's no doubt that storytelling has come a long way since the 1960s, and modern crime films need to use violence in an effort to present themselves as real, but some would argue that we need to remember why superheroes and comic books were invented in the first place: as a form of escapism.
The real world has enough crime and corruption for us all, so perhaps there is no need to go overboard in film and TV. The best thing about West's version of Batman is that he didn't take himself too seriously. In fact, the tongue-in-cheek tone of the character was what drew West to the show in the first place:
“The tone of our first show, by Lorenzo Semple Jr., was one of absurdity and tongue in cheek to the point that I found it irresistible... I think they recognized that in me from what they’d seen me do before. I understood the material and brought something to it."
From the classic "Batusi" dance to the utility belt that just happened to develop an extra pouch with the exact gadget the hero required for his current investigation, West's Batman could kick ass but he could also laugh at himself too. In fact, West said that he played Batman "for the laughs":
“in order to do [that], one had to never think it was funny. You just had to pull on that cowl and believe that no one would recognize you.”
There's no denying that while we loved having a laugh with the hilarious Caped Crusader, West embodied Batman at the time — and, in many people's eyes, he still is the quintessential version of the character.
West's Batman Was An Inspiration To Fans Around The World
The Batman character is and always will be a crimefighter. However, the recent versions of Batman on film have done little to inspire moviegoers to be better people. While catching a bad guy was his primary goal, West's Batman never failed to make us laugh or educate us on the dangers of not buckling our seatbelt. Much like Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman, West's Batman was a role model to younger viewers.
The classic series and its subsequent feature film would show Batman overcoming obstacles, fighting his way out of impossible situations and defeating the bad guy. This, among other reasons, is why so many children identify with the show: because it's inspirational and gives us hope that, no matter how bleak a situation can get, there is always hope in overcoming our antagonist — whether it be internal or external. Adam West was a pioneer superhero, and he certainly inspired me to be a better person.
Bob Kane and Bill Finger may have created the Caped Crusader, but it was Adam West who brought the character to life for millions of fans around the world — and for that he will never be forgotten. So, when you feel sad that West is no longer with us, just remember that if it weren't for his portrayal of the character, we may have grown up not knowing what or who Batman is.
The tongue-in-cheek Batman may be a far cry from the watchful protector of the DCEU, but Adam West is the not only the Batman we all needed, he was the one that we deserved too. Rest easy, old chum.
Did you grow up with the Batman TV series? Share your memories of Adam West's Batman in the comment section below.