Devastating news out of Los Angeles today, Adam West — the actor most famous for starring in the title role on the 1960s Batman television series — has died at the age of 88 following a battle with leukemia. First gaining attention thanks to a supporting role in the Paul Newman classic The Young Philadelphians, West became a global superstar when he donned the Caped Crusader’s cowl for three seasons of Batman that originally aired from 1966 to 1968. During this time, his sardonic and campy take on Batman won legions of fans young and old, and the world was swept up in Batmania. Despite some battles with typecasting that led to him taking roles in which challenged the public’s perception of him, West never truly left Batmman behind thanks to the convention circuit and a string of voiceover roles as the character (most recently last year’s excellent Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders). West’s later years also saw him having some good-natured fun at his own expense, whether it be in Conan O’Brien’s failed pilot Lookwell, or on The Simpsons and Family Guy (where he played the town’s mayor).
Given how prevalent comic book culture is these days, it’s easy to overlook that this wasn’t always the case. Adam West helped bring comic books into mainstream pop culture — even if later Batman-related projects railed against the comedic portrayal of the character that he defined. It’s somewhat fitting that the last years of West’s life saw the 1966 Batman series experience a new wave of appreciation and critical re-evaluation thanks to its long-awaited debut on home video. It seems that West’s Batman had the last laugh after all, and somehow that feels right.
There are some actors who inadvertently become icons, West was one of the figures. But it was a role that he relished, and he has had countless interactions with fans from several generations — all of whom looked up to him as a hero both in and out of the cape. Perhaps that is his greatest legacy.
We encourage you to share your memories of West and the Batman series below as we all attempt to process this incredible loss to pop culture.