Farewell, old chum.
With Adam West’s death Friday at 88, Batman fans the world over are mourning the loss of the not-so-dark knight, who played the television series’ title character throughout its run from 1966 to 1968, leaving an indelible, explosive “POW!” on the hearts and minds of many comics fans.
It was by no means the most intense or serious Batman we’ve ever seen, but that was its charm. West played it straight — as stoic as possible — while the world of this candy-colored Gotham swirled around him and Robin sidekick Burt Ward.
At Comic-Con in 2014, I had a chance to sit down with West to discuss the restoration and upcoming release of all 120 episodes of the series on Blu-ray. He never lost the twinkle and charm that made his show so memorable.
Asked if he had much to do with the creation of the new boxed set, West deadpanned: “Yes, yes I played Batman.” You can watch the video here:
“We set a tone of zaniness, humor, comedy, and satire for the adults. And yet the kids could be entertained and they would believe it all,” West explained. That’s no doubt why the show endures to this day and will live long beyond him.
“There are new memories all the time, but I don’t watch them all that many times,” West told us back then. “I think with the new Blu-ray DVD package, all 120 episodes, from Gorshin to Gabor, I’ll probably watch. Evidentially the visual is stunning. We were the first show on in color, twice a week. They really scrubbed it up beautifully.”
He gave credit where it was due, specifically to two deceased castmates. “The villains, of course, had a lot to do with the success of the show,” he said, singling out Burgess Meredith as the Penguin and Frank Gorshin’s green unitard-clad Riddler.
“Frank, I think, was my favorite. The Riddler. You say live-wire, and Frank really was. He brought a certain manic intensity to the role, which I enjoyed and loved to play off,” West recalled. “ The same with Burgess Meridith as Penguin. Waah waah waah. Blowing smoke in my face under the cowl. It was wonderful to use that.”
We also discussed a hidden legacy of the show: the actor Josh Brolin. His father, James, played an armored car guard in one episode and met Josh’s mother, Jane Cameron, on the set — meaning Batman was historic in a trans-dimensional way: Josh Brolin is currently playing Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. In a way, a DC Comics series was responsible for the existence of Marvel Studios’ greatest villain.
“Well, we were a very romantic set,” West said.
The cape and cowl helped, he acknowledged. “Sometimes I’ll climb into my Bat-jammies and try to get lucky,” he joked.
As we say goodbye to Batman, it’s worth remembering that West had a tremendous heart as well. One of his last tweets was this image, passing Batman off to another generation.
This past fall, 6-year-old Jacob Hall died in a school shooting at Townville Elementary School. His family held a funeral where mourners dressed as the late little boy’s favorite thing: superheroes. When West read about this, he sent out his own bat signal to the family.
That’s what good guys do.