Sunday, June 11, 2017
Tribute: Adam West (1928-2017)
A few short weeks ago, we lost Roger Moore -- the 007, James Bond, for Generation X (my generation).
Yesterday, the world lost another bright light: Adam West (1928-2017), the Batman for Generation X.
The loss is a tremendous one.
I grew up, throughout the seventies, watching Adam West's Batman (1966-1968) in reruns. As strange is it may sound, that series -- and West's work in it -- proved one of the foundational texts of my young life, along with Star Trek, Star Wars, Space:1999 and the Bond films.
Although we know Batman today as "The Dark Knight," Adam West, significantly, termed his version of the character "The Bright Knight."
It's a telling moniker.
West's incarnation of the character inhabited a comic book world of color and action, but not, notably, of angst or gloom. He had the same tragic beginning (the death of parents) we associate with his character, but West's Batman turned towards light, not towards darkness.
As a child, I appreciate the heroism and dependability of West's Caped Crusader. He was a rock solid hero, and the defender of justice. He was a hero in every sense of the world...and he had all the best gadgets.
As an adult, I saw how West was able to play Batman seriously, and yet was "in the know" about the the tongue-in-cheek nature of these particular adventures. His Batman worked on two levels simultaneously; for children and their parents. He was both an action hero, and a comedian. His performances were so impressive because they always allowed for both interpretations simultaneously, depending on the age of the viewer.
Adam West went on to portray Batman in voice-work throughout the decades, most notably in the many Filmation Batman series of the 1970's.
As a result of his association with the beloved character, West forever became associated with superheroes in general. He guest starred on an episode of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman in the 1990's, and was a super-villain, Breathtaker, in several episodes of Black Scorpion (2001).
Mr. West had a wonderful sense of humor about himself and his career. He did voice-over work for The Simpsons, Futurama, Scooby Doo, and Family Guy, and hosted a Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1988-1999) marathon, even when one of his less-than-stellar movies, Zombie Nightmare (1986) was riffed.
Beyond superheroes, Mr. West had other high-points in his career involving the science fiction genre. He starred in Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964), for example, and also in one of my favorite episodes of The Outer Limits: "The Invisible Enemy."
It is so difficult to lose an icon like Adam West. His Batman was a father-figure, in a very real sense, and someone who seemed like he would always be there for us.
Even in this time of loss, we can remember that the performances of Adam West will continue to be there for our generation, and for generations yet to come.