J1 fans, a dark hour has befallen the comic world and geek community. Actor Adam West has passed away. He has played many roles over his seven-decade career but he will be best remembered for portraying one of the most iconic characters in comics—Batman. Born September 19, 1928, Adam West’s (real name William West Anderson) career began when he picked for a role as a sidekick on a children’s show, El Kini Popo Show, which West later took over as host. After moving his family to Hollywood from Hawaii, he changed his name to “Adam West” and began appearing in several television roles. He guest-starred in several westerns including Sugarfoot, Colt .45 and Lawman. West has even made guest appearances on “Perry Mason”, “Outer Limits”, “The Rifleman” and “The Outlaws is Coming”, the last feature film starring the Three Stooges. After seeing Adam West perform as the James Bond-like spy Captain Q in a Nestle Quik commercial, producer William Dozier cast him as Bruce Wayne and his alter ego, Batman. The campy, action series based on DC Comics’ superhero debuted January 12, 1966. Along with West cast as Batman, Burt Ward portrayed his sidekick Robin. The show is known for its campy style, upbeat theme, and intentionally humorous, simplistic morality which was aimed at its largely teenage audience. These little messages told the importance of seat belt safety, doing homework, eating vegetables and drinking milk. (That’s right, Adam West was doing PSAs long before 80’s cartoons!) Proof that CW is not the first to crossover superhero shows, Van Williams and Bruce Lee appeared on Batman as Green Hornet and Kato. Likewise, West and Ward were seen as Batman and Robin in the background climbing a building in a Green Hornet episode.
The legacy of the series would continue to live on as it has had a profound impact on pop culture. After the Batman series, Adam West, Burt Ward and Yvonne Craig were typecast, with finding himself unable to escape the reputation of a hammy, camp actor. His first post-Batman role was in the 1969 film “The Girl Who Knew Too Much” where he portrayed tough guy Johnny Cain. Sadly, the film was a flop. Adam West would reunite with Burt Ward for future projects. They reprised their roles for Hanna-Barbera’s two Legends of the Superheroes, were joined by Yvonne Craig (Batgirl), Lee Meriwether (Catwoman) and Vincent Price in celebrity editions of “Family Feud.” West reprised his role as Batman for the final two seasons of Super Friends. However, Adam West soon came to accept his role as an iconic actor and embraced his Batman role. He made a living making guest appearnces dressed as the Caped Crusader. He was paid tribute in “Batman: The Animated Series” where portrayed the Grey Ghost, the childhood hero of Bruce Wayne (voiced by Bat-fan favorite Kevin Conroy) whom West voiced. This opened the door for a new generation of fans to experience his work. He would later have a recurring role as Gotham City’s Mayor Grange in “The Batman” series and he played Thomas Wayne in an episode from “Batman: The Brave and the Bold.” Beforehand, West was considered to play Thomas Wayne in Tim Burton’s “Batman” film. He has never appeared in any of the films post-1960s Batman franchise. The actor did vocally reprise his role as Batman for the CGI short film “Batman: New Time” with Mark Hamill as the Joker, a role he plays in the “Batman: The Animated Series.”
Adam West’s status as a pop culture icon led to him making numerous appearances as himself in several television series. Among them include Murphy Brown, NewsRadio, The Adventures of Pete and Pete, the Drew Carey Show, George Lopez Show and 30 Rock. Adam West was joined by Burt Ward in 2003 for the TV movie “Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt”, alongside Frank Gorshin (Riddler), Julie Newmar and Lee Meriwether (who both played Catwoman respectively). Besides Batman, West is also known for his distinctive voice which has granted him several voiceover roles, mostly fictional versions of himself. His appearances include the Simpsons, Futurama, Kim Possible, Johnny Bravo and Fairly Oddparents. The most well-known version of his alternate self is as Mayor Adam West on Seth MacFarlane’s “Family Guy” series, which brought new popularity for West following his Batman days. As lead writer, Seth MacFarlane made certain that there were no tie-ins or references to Batman. For an episode of Spongebob Squarepants, Adam West and Burt Ward teamed up again to portray young versions of the show’s superhero duo Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy. Ironically, the characters are hybrid versions of Batman and Robin and Aquaman and Aqualad. West would take up Batman once more for Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham in 2014.
Adam West has cemented himself as an iconic actor among the comic book community and DC fans everywhere with a legacy that will live forever. He has made several appearances at comic book conventions, most notably Wizard World. Burt Ward would join him sometimes to greet and meet the fans who have come to love him over the years from all ages and backgrounds. There is no doubt that Adam West is beloved by all of his fans, be they Batman fans or Adam West fans. He has been immortalized in pop culture and will never be forgotten.
Adam West as Simon Trent aka the Grey Ghost in Batman: The Animated Series
Best Batman discussion on Big Bang Theory
The Best of Mayor Adam We(st)!
Farewell, Ol’ Chum.