Adam West, the original, iconic TV Batman, died on Friday in Los Angeles. He was 88. Originally published in April 2016 in our Heroes-themed special edition guest edited by Mark Millar, below we reproduce a piece by John Gordon Sinclair in celebration of the American actor.
Actor Adam West, the world’s longest serving Batman, was arguably the best Caped Crusader to date. He appeared in more than 120 episodes of the TV series from 1966 to 1968, in charge of one of the world’s great iconic creations. Kids tuned in every week for the “next exciting episode” and followed his adventures from early black and white into glorious Technicolor.
Some of Hollywood’s greatest actors – Cesar Romero, Vincent Price and Eli Wallach – appeared alongside its most glamorous femmes fatales – Lee Meriwether and Julie Newmar – who appeared as Catwoman. The likes of Otto Preminger and Joan Collins made an appearance in the show.
In the mid-to-late 1960s hundreds of thousands of kids around the world woke up on Christmas Day to the smell of plastic from their Batman outfits and spent the coming days firing little red rockets from the back of Corgi Batmobiles whilst fanning their batcape out behind them as they sped after imaginary bad guys.
The influence of the show was such that some of these children would go on – even as adults – to dream of stores selling rare specimens of batmobilia, a dream so vivid that when they awoke they would check under their beds in the hope that these toys had somehow magically transported themselves from dream to reality. I know this to be true because I was and still am one of those dreamers.
Admittedly, Adam West’s Batman lived in a more innocent age. His tenure as Gotham City’s guardian happened at a time when the struggle was simple – between good and evil – and the outcome was never in doubt.
These days (sadly) access to information and world events is instantaneous, and as a result the world appears an altogether more frightening and less innocent place. The idea that a multi-millionaire would use his spare time to fight crime to the benefit of society has been CGI’d out of existence, along with any wit, humour and plotline.
It’s obvious the creative forces behind the latest generic blockbuster – designed to fill cinemas around the world whilst managing to offend no one – are governed by accountants. Audiences’ expectations are far more sophisticated in terms of the technology on display – but what has been lost, that has suffered at the hands of this technology, is the craft of storytelling. Batman’s latest venture pits him against Superman. It’s a fight no one I know who is a fan of the Caped Crusader ever wanted to see, and is a perfect application of the adage ‘if you’ve nothing to say, say nothing’.
When money is your driver don’t expect to arrive at a destination worth visiting. It would appear that Batman’s biggest battle now is between storytellers and accountants. It’s a fight between creativity and commerce. If Adam West’s Caped Crusader were involved the outcome would be in no doubt.
Main illustration: Rob Doyle