To celebrate Batman’s 80th Anniversary, Phil explores Adam West and Burt Ward’s triumphant return as Gotham’s Dynamic Duo
There have been many incarnations of Bob Kane’s iconic Dark Knight on screen. Michael Keaton portrayed a fantastically dark and broody Batman during the late eighties and early nineties; Christian Bale redefined the darkness for a delightfully contemporary Dark Knight and Kevin Conroy provided the voice for the single greatest incarnation of the character ever made in Batman: The Animated Series. But even Kevin Conroy’s definitive Batman cannot hold a candle to MY BATMAN.
To commemorate Batman’s 80th Anniversary, we here at The Future of the Force are sharing our favourite moments, memories and adventures of the Dark Knight and despite the brilliance of Batman: The Animated Series pleading with me to showcase the best episodes of what I regard to be the best Batman of ALL TIME, the return of the bright knight is too strong to ignore.
In 1966, Adam West slipped into the bright blue cape and cowl and delivered what will always be regarded as the most iconic version of Batman ever to be put on film. Alongside his co-star Burt Ward, the caped crusaders sprang into action, defending Gotham City from a gallery of colourful rogues in all their sixties camp glory. With a thump here and a whack there the dynamic duo dispatched villains for three thrilling seasons and cemented their status as pillars of pop culture. Much in the same vein as the original series of Star Trek, Batman: The Classic Series with its modest budget was goofy, cheesy, camp and colourful. But it was these elements that caught lightning in a bottle and catapulted Adam West and Burt Ward to stardom.
Fast forward four decades and in 2016, Adam West and Burt Ward slipped into the figurative tights once again to make a triumphant return to the screen in an all-new animated movie titled Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders. The movie was an absolute triumph and introduced the dynamic duo to a whole new generation of Bat-fans. The amalgamation of sixties Batman and contemporary animation delivered an expansive story which afforded the bright knight a repertoire far grander than the original series could ever allow. In fact, after dusting off the classic Batmobile and pursuing The Joker, Riddler, Penguin and Catwoman through the streets of Gotham the Caped Crusaders found themselves jetting off into space in the all-new Bat-Rocket!
Who would have thought Adam West’s Batman would ever embark on an adventure in space!
Alongside Adam West and Burt Ward, Julie Newmar returned to lend her voice to her feline alter ego, Catwoman who aligned herself with noteworthy “sound-alike” versions of The Joker, The Penguin and The Riddler. The comedy aspects that were so prolific during the original series were maintained in stunning fashion and offered many a tongue-in-cheek gag which left bat-fans of all ages tickled. Check out the trailer below.
It was a pure joy to see Adam West return to the character that defined his entire career. The major detraction of portraying such a high-profile character was the unwarranted typecasting he endured following his original tenure as Batman, but Adam West embraced every aspect of his bright knight persona and carried the legacy on his broad shoulders for well over forty years.
The release of Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders came at a time when Batman: The Classic Series was enjoying a renaissance. The series’ recent release on Blu-Ray sent fans on a nostalgia-fuelled walk down memory lane which triggered an insatiable thirst for more content which arrived in the form of an all-new Batman ’66 comic strip, Funko Pop! Figurines and a fantastic range of 3.75″ action figures.
Following the success of Return of the Caped Crusaders, Warner Bros. Animation commissioned a sequel which was designed to right a wrong of the past and pit the dynamic duo against a foe they never had the chance to confront in the original series. Voiced by the great William Shatner, Harvey Dent was transformed into his supervillain alter ego for the ultimate showdown with Adam West and Burt Ward in the aptly titled Batman Vs. Two-Face. Sadly, the movie proved to be Adam West’s parting gift to the fans. The actor passed away suddenly just after completing work on the project, but he left behind a legacy that has stood the test of time.
The character of Batman has been reinvented time and time again, and yet the essence of Bob Kane’s brilliance remains unchanged. Whichever incarnation is YOUR BATMAN, the character has stood the test of time because unlike the other superpowered heroes in DC Comics, Bruce Wayne is just like us. He’s human. He shares our flaws, our strengths, our weaknesses and our values. Adam West and his interpretation of the character represents the best of us. He was my introduction to this awesome character and despite Kevin Conroy getting my vote as the greatest Batman of all time, Adam West will always be MY BATMAN.
Happy Birthday, Dark Knight. May your legacy last for another eighty years and beyond!
To the Batmobile!
Batman: The Classic Series, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman Vs. Two-Face are all available to buy on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital NOW!
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