Sunday, June 11, 2017

Adam West,Batman and me

Adam West passed away today at the age of 88.
West was,of course,most famous for his 1966 portrayal of Batman,but he had become notable in recent years for his voice-over work on Family Guy as himself as "mayor" of the fictional town of Quahog.

I've written before about the importance of those 1960's shows that were in syndication to a kid living in a rural area like me.
The three most important to me were The Wild Wild West (although that was shown less and less due to the "violent" content in the feel good 70's) and as I noted in the past-Batman and Star Trek.
Batman-the television show was played for camp and it succeeded,mostly because the characters played it so straight that kids didn't take it for comedy and yet adults could enjoy it for the hidden meanings and between the lines reading.

There were several architects for the success of Batman,but for all the writing,guest stars and gimmicks,the main reason for that show still being watched fifty years after its run is Adam West.
West's Batman is the most kid-friendly of the Batman's (Batmen?),but is able to play it in a way that made his Batman perhaps the only one that is always good for a smile or a laugh.
It's the performance of West in a role that could have meant the end of his career (although he took his lumps for a while after the show was canceled) that holds up all of these years later.
His Batman is campy,that's true,but it's played with underlying heart and caring that manages to show that you don't always have to get in the dirt with villains.
West did get stereotyped with Batman,which so many actors then and now are often afraid of being with certain roles,but he managed to make many fans happy during the 70's and 80's and did it in a way that continued to pay his bills and take care of his family-he hit the road doing events like state and county fairs,auto shows and memorabilia shows,where people that wanted to meet West/Batman (with the show still in syndication,there was never a shortage of children wanting to see "Batman" years after it left network television).
This included this memorable visit to Memphis for their local wrestling show for a appearance with/against Jerry "the King" Lawler.
I never knew about this until recently,but notice West being very careful to not use the name Batman during this entire skit,although he does mention other DC characters along with Spiderman,who is a Marvel comic character.
West also voiced Batman quite often in various animation projects,most recently in a DC comics straight to DVD Batman movie with Burt Ward returning to voice Robin as well.

What really makes me smile when watching Batman isn't just the enjoyment of the show or the comic that read for years or even the toys from the show from my childhood,it's the memories.
Remember what I wrote earlier about the importance of television growing up in the country?
Well,I have so many memories of watching Batman and just as many of "playing" Batman as a child,mainly with my brother,but occasionally others.
You see during much of Batman's heyday in my childhood,we lived in an large older house that was formerly a church.
This meant tons of hideaways,crawl spaces and nooks and crannies for kids to find and play in and when playing something like Batman,there were plenty of spots to allow imaginations to run wild.
I remember my mom making Shane and I masks and capes to run in around in and kids being kids with the villains always foiled (it might have helped that they were usually invisible),we were always the winners in the end.

Just as important as the  "live action" was the toys.
The Mego action figures were such an important part of my childhood with again the line of "World's Greatest Super Heroes" that included both DC and Marvel characters in the same toyline (Imagine that happening today!) along with Star Trek figures as well.
Shane and I had both the Batcave and the U.S.S.Enterprise "play sets" and both showed the wear and tear of constant play.
The Batman figure didn't really look like West (Mainly because if it did,they'd have to pay him!),but it was still "him". as he fought the Joker,Penguin and Riddler (all three of those characters had figures made,but just as with Adam West,none of the three looked like the actors that portrayed them) to victory after victory.

Such good memories from childhood and the stars that were such a big deal from those times are slowly passing away as I age,of which Adam West was always one of those.
I'll wrap up with the most memorable scene to me,which admittedly is a silly one to select.
You couldn't count the amount of times that I quoted "Bruce Wayne" from the scene below with Cherie,who by now knows what's coming and rolls her eyes and of course,my partner in arms-Ryan.
You see,in many ways,Ryan's love of tv and obscure things comes from me from all those times watching them as he grew.
Batman in the 90's and his childhood was just as big of a part then as mine in the 70's and I bet he knows nearly as much about the Batman series as I do.
Combine Batman with 1960's pop stars (again,right up my alley) Chad and Jeremy and you have a memorable episode alone,even before its final scene.
"Every era has its music,art-manner of speech"-
Indeed they do,Mr .West.
Indeed they do.

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