“In the Sixties, there would be the three B’s; Bond, Batman and The Beatles” Adam West.
In the space of just a few weeks, I’ve lost two childhood heroes, James Bond (Sir Roger Moore) and now Batman. Much like Roger Moore, Adam West isn’t likely to be at the top of many people’s lists for playing a popular character, but it’s hard to argue he’ll be the most fondly remembered. His Batman was one for a certain era, full of colour and camp. West was always proud to acknowledge that all the other Batmen were Dark Knights, whilst he was The Bright Knight.
Despite growing up with Michael Keaton and Tim Burton’s gothic take on Batman complete with “moulded rubber”, it would be West’s Batman that I would rush home from school to catch the reruns on Channel 4. The dated effects, wonky sets and cliffhanger set-pieces – “tune in, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel” – all had a certain charm, spearheaded by West and his measured, dead-pan delivery.
Along with Christopher Walken and William Shatner, West’s voice is often parodied or homaged. Whilst Big Daddy from Kick Ass was a knowing parody of Batman’s violent vigilante side, Nicolas Cage, in a genius move, gave the character West’s stilted delivery as his voice.
At university, probably around the same time Christian Bale was growling at criminals in Batman Begins, I rediscovered West’s Batman through the 1966 TV movie. The film is a great celebration of the series with all the best villains, ridiculous Bat-gadgets (including the infamous Shark Repellant Bat Spray) and some genius West one-liners, “They may be drinkers, Robin, but they’re also human beings!” The film is bat-shit mental, tongue in cheek and far too long but I can’t help revisit it from time to time.
West kept himself busy with conventions, voice work and guest appearances over the years, but Seth gave him a career boost by casting him as a recurring character in Family Guy – Mayor Adam West! West is portrayed as a paranoid nut case, though still oddly lovable. He has many standout moments in the show, which work due to West’s sense of humour and self-deprecation.
Many who knew him have commented on how charming, warm and generous he was – a true gentleman by all accounts.
Rest in peace, Bright Knight, and thanks for all the memories.