Adam West, the gray-stockinged star of the 1960s Batman TV show, has died at the age of 88.
“Our dad always saw himself as The Bright Knight and aspired to make a positive impact on his fans’ lives. He was and always will be our hero,” his family said in a statement. West died peacefully in his home Friday night after a battle with leukemia, and is survived by his wife Marcelle, six children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
West first caught the eye of the Batman show’s producer after he appeared as a different kind of caped crusader in a series of commercials for Nestle’s Quik.
“You can’t play Batman in a serious, square-jawed, straight-ahead way without giving the audience the sense that there’s something behind that mask waiting to get out, that he’s a little crazed, he’s strange,” West later told the Archive of American Television. He and his co-star Burt Ward added a manic, hilarious energy to the Batman and Robin characters on Batman, which ran for three seasons from 1966 to 1968. The show championed such noble causes as drinking milk, eating your vegetables, and always wearing a seatbelt.
After Batman was cancelled, West struggled to find more onscreen work, making several guest appearances on television but never finding another role as high-profile as the one that had made him famous. Reportedly, he was disappointed when Tim Burton did not tap him to reprise the character in 1989’s Batman. He eventually settled comfortably into a second career as a voice actor after accepting a job to voice the mayer of Quahog on Family Guy—a character also named Adam West.
“The only thing I thought is that it would be the end of me, and it was for a bit,” he said during an appearance at Comic-Con in 2014, where he discussed the end of Batman. “But then I realized that what we created in the show. . . we created this zany, lovable world.
“I look around and I see the adults—I see you grew up with me, and you believe in the adventure. I never believed this would happen, that I would be up here with illustrious people like yourselves. I’m so grateful! I’m the luckiest actor in the world, folks, to have you still hanging around.”
Say what you will about Batman over the years, we all knew him first as played by West, something that still stands 50 years later today. West, Burt Ward, and Catwoman, Julie Newmar, got together last year to voice an animated movie for the 50th anniversary of the classic 1966 series, and it's actually pretty good. I'm glad West got to make the film.
Here's to you, Caped Crusader.