It’s time to activate the Bat Signal one last time for the original Batman
The loss of a cinematic icon is a profound loss. One that has become all too familiar in recent times. Screen greats like Carrie Fisher, Roger Moore, Bill Paxton and Kenny Baker have all passed in recent memory and now we add another renowned icon to the solemn register.
The legendary Adam West.
The actor received worldwide acclaim in the late sixties, and delivered a performance of epic proportions with his portrayal of the comic book Caped Crusader, Batman. His incarnation was the first of its kind. His suave portrayal of Bruce Wayne was heralded by the devoted fan base, but it was when he slipped into the classic grey and blue figure hugging tights that his personality came to the forefront.
The sixties Batman was written as a camp action hero whose material was deliberately tailored for the audience of the era and not to be taken too seriously, but West’s noteworthy performance gave the incarnation a level of credibility that only grew in popularity. In fact, only Star Trek: The Original Series can boast a similar relationship with the fans. West’s debonair vocals afforded his Batman a characteristic of a super intelligent crime fighter, one that served as the perfect partner for the inexperienced sidekick Dick Grayson, who became the boy wonder, Robin.
Adam West gave the character a gravitas that would stand the test of time and go on to be as popular today as it ever was, even withstanding the notorious Batusi dance that saw the Caped Crusader boogie to the popular free love inspired music of the sixties. Instead of shying away from the embarrassing sequence, Adam West embraced it and offered the world an incredibly cringe worthy dance that resonated with the fans like never before.
The sequence is still heralded today and is regarded as a defining moment for both the character and the actor respectively. It would serve as the bedrock for his longevity in our modern culture and afforded him guest starring roles on long running television shows like Family Guy, The Simpsons and Batman: The Animated Series.
In the aftermath of Batman’s first big screen outing in 1989, Warner Bros. commissioned an all-new animated series designed to bridge the gap between Adam West’s incarnation and the darker version depicted in Tim Burton’s reboot. The dark tone of the movie was maintained in stunning fashion but boasted a traditional costume based solely on the famous Adam West grey tights. As soon as the series was established as a firm fan favourite, Adam West was invited back into the fold and came on board for a guest starring role as the Grey Ghost. A character that would serve as the very inspiration for the personification of the Dark Knight himself. Not only was the Grey Ghost heralded as the inspiration for the Batman character, but he was rewarded with the accolade of being the stimulus for Bruce Wayne’s resurgence in the aftermath of his parent’s death.
His overwhelming popularity would go on to encourage Warner Bros. to reunite the surviving original stars for the nostalgic animated movie Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders that arrived in the latter half of 2016. Adam West, Burt Ward and the original Catwoman, Julie Newmar, all returned to reprise their roles and afforded the fans a humorous, fun and witty romp that ticked all the boxes. It’s popularity only served to cement Adam West’s legacy and a sequel was quickly commissioned in the form of Batman Vs Two-Face.
Unfortunately, the much-loved actor passed away during filming after a brief battle with leukemia and leaves behind six children. However, I am pleased to report that the great man himself did indeed finish work on the project and we can now look forward to Batman Vs Two-Face arriving on DVD and Blu-Ray very soon.
It is with a heavy heart we commit his incarnation of Batman to our collective memory, but his legacy will never fade. His adored original Batman now serves as the template that all others aspire to emulate. His performance may not be the most accurate of comic book adaptations, but Adam West has earned just appreciation for bringing his camp, fun, quirky and respectable Batman to our screens.
Thank you for the memories Adam West. You were a generation’s first introduction into the DC Universe and Hollywood is a darker place without you…but your legacy will outlive us all.
I will forever be grateful for your performance as my first Batman. It was the springboard for my love of comic book movies and has had a profound influence on my life in ways I cannot express. The release of Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders was a defining moment for me. Having seen every single Batman movie on the big screen, I can honestly admit to having never enjoyed one as much as I enjoyed Return of the Caped Crusaders. For nostalgia purposes alone, it was a very special movie that will always have a special place in my heart.
At a time when the world needed a hero, Adam West answered the call.
The Bat signal has been activated for the very last time…
So, for old times sake…to the Batmobile!!