Saturday, June 10, 2017

Adam West: God Rest His Soul

Photo by Alan Light

My feelings about Adam West mirror those which many people go through regarding their parents: adoration to embarrassment to appreciation.

Some of my earliest television  memories were of watching the old Batman show.  The bright colors and dynamic style immediately made an impression on my young senses.  I remember my older brother and I would safety-pin towels around our necks and play as Batman and Robin because of that show.  Adam West was, in my young mind, the epitome of a hero: brave, true, and virtuous with that unmistakeable voice that carried with it absolute resolution.

For a long time the show wasn't on TV.  And then when I was older one of the local stations announced it would air the Batman movie that West starred in from 1966.  I was so excited that I set up the VCR and made it an event.  I remember sitting there on the couch in my family room in front of the TV and being... disappointed.  I found that this show that had been such a big piece of my childhood had become silly and obnoxious in my mind.  The lines made no sense: "The crime was done at sea.  'Sea!" Don't you see?  'C' for Catwoman!"  And that stalwart personality that West gave to Batman seemed ironic and cheesy.

By this time I had graduated to actual comic book reading and my take on the Dark Knight was nothing like the show any more.  In fact, after some digging I found how the original Batman as designed by Bob Kane (and later I discovered Bill Finger) was much closer to the darker Michael Keaton Batman than the bright and cheery Adam West.  I also learned that in the 1950's comic books had become the scapegoat for a lot of social ills among the young.  So DC bleached away all of the darkness and made incredibly campy comics.  The Adam West Batman was an outgrowth of that.  As a teenager, I saw this as a betrayal of the "real" character and would often deride and make fun of West and his portrayal of the Caped Crusader.

But as I have gotten older, a new sense of appreciation has come over me.  This especially hit me when I watch my nieces and nephew rediscover the Adam West Batman.  I watch their eyes light up the way my young eyes did at the color pop and visual spectacle.  It made me realize how important those early Batman viewings were to my young imagination and how it planted the seeds of my love of superheroes.

From what I gather, West was a man who appreciated his fans and treated them well.  He had been divorced twice, but his third wife married him after the show went off the air and they remained together until his death 47 years later.  West died surrounded by his family after a brief battle with leukemia.

Adam West was a special part of not only my childhood but so many others who remember him fondly.  Many of us could do worse than that legacy.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.  May his soul and all of the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.  Amen.

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