Adam West, who became famous for his poker-faced portrayal of Batman in the campy 1960s TV series, has died after a battle with leukemia, his family announced via social media Saturday. He was 88.
“Our beloved AW passed away last night,” West’s family said on the actor’s official Twitter account Saturday. “He was the greatest. We’ll miss him like crazy. We know you’ll miss him too.”
West, possessed of a deep, rumbling voice and a finely chiseled face, was a perfect choice to portray the Caped Crusader in the 1966-68 TV series. (A feature film version of the show was released in 1966 as well.) He was equally comfortable as Batman’s alter ego in the series, the ascot-wearing, slightly smug millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne.
Before his Batman fame, West had a limited feature-film career and appeared primarily in episodic television roles, on such shows as The Outer Limits and Overland Trail. He was thus something of a fresh face behind the cowl of Batman. The series, conceived by producer William Dozier, was intended to be a swinging-’60s version of super-heroism, a winking parody in contrast to the stalwart straightforwardness of the George Reeves-Superman series. West and his costar Burt Ward, who played Robin, went along with the jokes, rarely cracking smiles, which increased the effectiveness of the show’s put-on quality.
After Batman left the air, West turned down the role of James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever, saying he thought the role should go to a British actor. As his attempts to elude Bat-typecasting diminished, West continued to appear as Batman in public appearances and wrote a 1994 autobiography titled Back to the Batcave. He also provided the voice of Batman in numerous cartoons.
In 1991, West starred in the TV pilot Lookwell, a highly regarded script by Conan O’Brien and Robert Smigel that was never picked up by a network, but which enabled West to star as a fantasy version of himself — a former TV action star who tries to solve crimes in real life. Indeed, West became an expert in playing variations on himself, in cartoons ranging from Family Guy (as “Mayor Adam West”) to The Fairly OddParents (as Catman).