William West Anderson, known to the world as Adam West, was an American actor whose career touched lives for over seventy years. He is best known for portraying Batman in the 1966 Batman TV Series on ABC.
It was producer William Dozier who cast West in the iconic role of Bruce Wayne and his counterpart Batman in the TV series after seeing him play a spy named Captain Q in a Nestlé Quik commercial, proving that a hero can come from anywhere and be anyone.
The Batman TV show ran on ABC from 1966 to 1968. It lasted for 120 episodes over 3 seasons. During the hiatus of the first season the feature-length film version was released.
After his prominent role as the Caped Crusader, West went back to film trying to break the type-cast of the campy superhero and starred in The Girl Who Knew Too Much in 1969. He played a shady tough guy with a killer’s instinct. However; he was still seen by the public largely as a heroic figure and the film was mostly unsuccessful at the box office due in some part to this fact.
Unknown to most fans, West was even offered the role of James Bond for the film Diamonds Are Forever in 1970. West did not accept the role declaring that he believed 007 should always be played by a British actor.
Over the next several decades he continued to star in films, TV shows, and did voice-over work. He even made a living between roles doing personal appearances as Batman for public-service announcements and fan events.
Over the years, West often returned to voice the characters of Bruce Wayne and Batman. He did so in the animated series The New Adventures of Batman, The Batman/Tarzan Adventure Hour, Tarzan and the Super 7, Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show, and The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians.
In 1979, West reprised his iconic role and once again donned the cape and cowl for the TV special Legends of the Superheroes.
West made such a lasting contribution to the character that in 1985, DC Comics named West as an honoree in their 50th anniversary Fifty Who Made DC Great for his work on the Batman series.
West had even been considered by Tim Burton to play Thomas Wayne in Batman in 1989 before that idea was scrapped. Even though he was still considered Batman by most, West never appeared in any of the theatrically released Batman films, even in cameo.
West would later make a voice-over appearance in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series in 1992, but not as Batman. Kevin Conroy was voicing Batman at the time so they offered him a role as Simon Trent. Trent was a down and out actor who used to play a superhero called The Gray Ghost on TV. However, once the show was over Trent was now type-cast and had trouble finding a steady job.
The producers were originally going to reject that episode as they felt it echoed Adam West’s career and was mean spirited. To their astonishment, West jumped at the chance to voice this type of character. In tribute, the character of Batman was written to have a shrine of collectables dedicated to The Gray Ghost in the BatCave.
West would later have a recurring role as the voice of Mayor Grange in the WB animated series The Batman. He went on to voice Thomas Wayne in an episode of the cartoon series Batman: The Brave and the Bold and in the same series, he played Batman’s prototype robot, named Protobot.
He would voice Batman again in the computer animated short film Batman: New Times and for the last time in Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders.
Sadly, On June 9, 2017, after nearly seven decades of bringing the world happiness and heroics; West died in Los Angeles, California after a battle with Leukemia at the age of 88.
He wasn’t the first to voice or portray Batman and he wasn’t the last. To most of us he was our first Batman. To those who grew up with him, he is and will always be our Batman. To many more he is the definitive Batman.
Batman is the hero that Gotham deserved but didn’t need. Adam West was the hero we needed but didn’t deserve.
Just like Batman, Adam’s legacy will live on forever in the hearts of boys and girls all over the world with hope in their hearts and a burning desire to see justice prevail.
In the end, he died as he had lived: fighting the good fight. I believe in my heart that the light at the end of his tunnel was a Bat-Signal from Heaven.
Adam West is an icon, a hero, and a legend.
He will be remembered…for he is Batman.