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'To the Batpoles': A tribute to Adam West's Batman, Bruce Wayne

Cary Ashby • Jun 13, 2017 at 9:00 AM

The late Adam West played Batman on TV for only three seasons and one feature film in the late 1960s, but it’s a role to which he will be forever linked. 

West died Friday at age 88.

What do you say when a part of your childhood is gone? In my case, I must say a simple thanks.

As a boy, besides seeing Batman in a comic book or his image plastered on a product or toy, West's Batman and the TV show was my first in-depth exposure to the Caped Crusader. I wouldn’t be as hooked on Batman if it weren’t for West and the character’s impact on my childhood.

For countless fans, millionaire Bruce Wayne and Batman stop and end with Adam West.

West took his roles seriously; he delivered his lines in an earnest fashion and exuberantly jumped into the fight scenes. His sincere performances are instrumental to what makes the TV series so hysterical.

His Wayne and Batman are men of supreme intelligence — often to the point of being ludicrous — but then again, that was the point of the show.

West’s handsome Wayne is a debonair, cultured man who always wants the best for his ward, Dick Grayson (Burt Ward). A ladies man no doubt, Wayne was grounded enough to let his sweet yet naive Aunt Harriet live in “stately Wayne Manor.”

West called his take on Batman “the Bright Knight.”

The Caped Crusader never skirts danger, but is always concerned about the safety of the citizens of Gotham City. Batman and Robin jumped into a fight when the time called for it, but at the end of the day (or two-part episode, as the first two seasons were presented) Batman seeks reform for the even the most dastardly of his Rogue Gallery of Villains.

“My Batman” is far more grim and complex than West's, yet far less brutal than Ben Affleck’s and not nearly as neurotic or distant as Michael Keaton’s. When it comes right down to it, the heart of “my Batman” resonates with what West brought to the character — an intelligent, highly trained brawler who looks out for the weak and downtrodden. 

Decades after his three seasons on “Batman,” fans still came out in droves to see him in person.

I witnessed this at the 2016 Motor City Comic Con, when West made a rare combined convention appearance with Ward. The crowd remained too thick and the lines too long for me to even have a half-a-chance at capturing a decent photo. And the prices that Team West wanted for his signed photographs were too rich for my blood.

My daughters, ages 8 and 13, love to binge-watch the “Batman” series with me. My teenager “gets” the silliness, but she gets wrapped up in the high-energy episodes just as much as her younger sister does. (And Burt Ward has become her first celebrity crush — like Julie Newmar was one of mine.)

So, thanks, Adam West.

Thanks for your important part in the legacy of the Batman character. Thanks for entertaining me, introducing me to the world of a superhero I adore and the bonding moments and laughter I've shared with my daughters watching your show.

Follow Reflector staff writer Cary Ashby on Twitter at @Cary_reporter and on Facebook at "Cary Ashby — reporter & comic book blogger." He writes the Cary’s Comics Craze blog at caryscomicscraze.blogspot.com.

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