adam west tribute

Adam West, the iconic actor best known for playing Batman in the ’60s television series and the 1966 film, passed away on June 9, 2017 after a battle with leukemia. He was 88 years old.

Rather than write a traditional obituary, the /Film crew has gathered together to pay tribute to one of the titans of pop culture, an actor who helped define one of the most popular characters of all time. West may be gone, but he will never be forgotten.

Adam West was the first version of Batman I ever saw. I was born before Tim Burton’s ’89 film became a sensation, and since my family owned the 1966 Batman: The Movie on VHS, many of my childhood days were spent watching and rewatching the adventures of the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder go head to head against The Penguin, The Riddler, The Joker, and Catwoman. I didn’t even know the ’66 show existed at that time, so I enjoyed the movie as a kid does: taken at face value, completely unaware of any of its pop art influences or its characters’ comic book roots.

And there, in the center of it all, was West’s Batman, a cunning and occasionally goofy presence who exuded what I thought at the time was the perfect combination of physical prowess, intelligence, and charisma. He was able to deliver the most insane lines without the slightest hint of irony, and the way he played everything completely straight convinced me that there were real stakes involved even the most ridiculous situation. How many actors could utter the line, “Some days, you just can’t get rid of a bomb!” with a straight face, and truly sell it?

In the world of animation, West’s voice work left a memorable impression on me when he voiced an old-school hero named “The Gray Ghost” in a particularly meta episode of Batman: The Animated Series. And I realize that liking Family Guy is sort of an uncool thing to do these days, but I watched (and greatly enjoyed) that show all the way up until just a year or two ago, and West’s appearances as Quohog’s wildly eccentric mayor served as a highlight. His delivery elevated mediocre material, and made funny lines even funnier.

My tastes shifted to darker versions of Batman as I got older, but I never lost my appreciation for his “Bright Knight” portrayal of the character. In every aspect of his career, West always felt to me like he was in on the joke. He was one of a kind. Rest in peace, sir. (Ben Pearson)

As a child of the ’90s, my first Batman was Michael Keaton, and it’s what made me fall in love with The Dark Knight. Therefore, my first reaction upon seeing the classic 1966 TV series Batman was laughter. I couldn’t believe that the superhero that I had just fallen in love with was portrayed in such a cheesy way. But as I got older, I realized that Batman wasn’t cheesy simply because it was dated. This presentation of Batman was intentionally goofy, playing up the silliness of the proceedings, leaning into comedy knowingly with tongue firmly in cheek.

From then on, I had a love for this version of Batman played by Adam West. The dialogue full of double entendre and puns, the strange Bat-gadgets that were always oddly specific to the danger at-hand, and the villains were hamming it up at every possible turn. This was a groovy Batman series in the same vein as classic James Bond, and it was thoroughly entertaining. Adam West somehow managed to be cool in the middle of all this wackiness, his trademark voice and cadence bringing a certain suaveness to both Bruce Wayne and Batman. Somehow Adam West became a sex symbol despite being in one of the silliest outfits the Dark Knight has ever worn.

Though Adam West never really escaped his legacy as the first actor to make Batman popular on screen, he took it all in stride. Much like the series, he leaned into his status as the cheesy Batman and played it up for laughs. Whether it was countless cameos on film and TV over the years or voicing an insane, weird version of himself as the mayor of Quahog on Family Guy, Adam West was a guy who always knew who he was, and we all loved him for it.

Adam West’s passing over the weekend initially made me sad, but as I scrolled through images, tweets and articles paying tribute to the actor, I couldn’t help but smile as I remembered all the absurdity he brought into our lives over the years. It’s a gift to be the kind of performer who immediately makes an audience smile when they appear. Adam West shared that gift with all of us, and he will be sorely missed. (Ethan Anderton)

Adam West’s Batman was kind.

That’s what stands out to me in an era where the Dark Knight of Gotham City is typically portrayed as a dark, brooding vigilante who isn’t above getting his hands metaphorically dirty and his gauntlets literally bloody to cleanse his streets of crime. But the beauty of Batman has always been his malleability – every writer, artist, and actor has their own unique take on the world’s greatest detective. More so than any other DC comic book superhero, Bruce Wayne can be gently bent into any position required. Batman can be a hundred different things to a hundred different people.

And Adam West’s Batman, the star of the classic ’60s TV series and its spin-off movie, was kind. And cool. And fatherly. And wise. And determined. And yes, even sexy. In a landscape of bright colors, cackling villains, and hilariously goofy plots that defied logic and reason and the laws of the natural world (all by design, of course), he was an anchor that existed at a crossroads of contradiction. He was cool, a product of the ’60s as psychedelic and wild as any other slice of pop art from the time. But he was also traditional, an old school superhero with a rigid moral compass who solved problems with his wits and fists. He was a friend to all law-abiding citizens.

In one of the most rightfully famous moments of West’s tenure as the character, Batman desperately attempts to get rid of a ticking time bomb. He runs to the end of a dock and prepares to toss the explosive device into the water, only to realize that doing so would doom a handful of ducks. While I love moody, violent Batman as much as the next guy, this will always be my Batman: a hero so good and noble and pure that he won’t even risk the lives of ducks. He will save as many lives as possible.

It’s hard to call the death of West a tragedy. He was 88 years old and widely beloved by millions of people, young and old. He had a long and healthy career post-Batman, usually as a voice actor, but there’s a reason his most famous role is his best and most iconic. Despite the goofiness of the show around him, despite his silly costume, despite the impossible dialogue that comes out of his mouth, West played Batman without a wink. He become the comedic straight man to an entire universe. He became the funniest character on the series by refusing to acknowledge that he was in a comedy. The ’60s Batman series is the most sincere comic book property of all time and West was its beautiful beating heart. (Jacob Hall)

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