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POW! BAM! ZONK! Adam West: A Generation's Crusader

By Patrick McNair Jun 12, 2017 - 6:45 PM print

On 9th June 2017, the world lost a beloved pop culture icon. For a generation of children, Adam West WAS Batman. The Batman TV show was a cartoon brought to life, with over the top characters, comic cliffhangers and a hero that strove to protect the citizens of his city. After a career as a radio presenter, West began acting in 1959, appearing in films like The Young Philadelphians and TV series like The Outer Limits , Perry Mason and The Detectives . It was producer William Dozier that gave West his most famous role as the Caped Crusader after seeing him in a series of commercials as the James Bond-like spy, Captain Q.

From 1966-1968, Batman was reinvigorated after creatively subpar comics had left the character floundering in B-movie sci-fi plots a decade prior. Batman, along with his young charge, Robin (played by Burt Ward) fought a rotating cast of villains that included Caesar Romero as the Joker, Burgess Meredith as the Penguin and Julie Newmar as Catwoman. The show debuted on ABC on 12th January 1966. Episodes would be usually split up into two parters; the end of the first episode would see the villain of that week gaining the upper hand on Batman, ending on a cliffhanger, with the resolution provided the next night. With tongue firmly in cheek, the series was a hit, as fans tuned in twice a week to see the Dynamic Duo of Batman and Robin, along with Chief O'Hara and Commissioner Gordon fight crime and restore justice to Gotham City. After a few years, ratings dropped significantly and ABC cancelled the show. Rival network NBC stepped in to produce a potential fourth season, however, the sets had already been struck and NBC did not want to rebuild them, citing cost issues. After the show’s cancellation, West found himself severely typecast and leading roles in films like The Girl Who Knew Too Much did little to shake off the Batman image. Struggling to find work, West was reduced to making appearances at car shows as the Dark Knight, while voicing the character in a number of animated shows. An episode of Batman: The Animated Series , titled "Beware the Great Ghost", featured West as a washed-up actor, who once played a popular superhero, serving as an inspiration for a young Bruce Wayne. His other most notable role as a voice actor was in Family Guy as Mayor Adam West, a fictional version of himself, who was the Mayor of Quahog. With the recurring role on Family Guy , West found new life as a voice actor, finally stepping out of the shadow of the Bat, gaining solid voice-over work in cartoons and video games.

I'll always remember sitting down to watch Batman on weekday afternoons as a young boy. The action packed show was tremendous fun for a five year old and still holds fond memories for me today. Do yourself a favour and pick up the Batman box set. Despite its campy tone, the show has great charm and is played with a sincere earnestness not seen in many TV series today. Adam West left an indelible mark on pop culture, influencing many of today's comic book writers, directors and fans like myself, who discovered Batman many decades after it aired. Thank you for the memories old chum.

In the distance, a villain hatches a dastardly plot on Gotham City as the Dynamic Duo speed off in the Batmobile to save the day. "Atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed!"

Adam West (1928-2017)


Adam West (1928-2017)

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