On the 11th of June 2017, we all lost a hero. Adam West was one of the most iconic and fantastic versions of the Batman. Starting in 1966 and ending in 1968, his TV series Batman was the epitome of campy and zany; from the iconic shark repellent to the BAM, POW and ZOK bursting up on our screens.
It’s arguable that this sort of feel really doesn’t suit the “idea” of Batman. He’s supposed to be gritty, broken, and edgy, as seen with Nolan and Snyder’s takes on the Caped Crusader, right? So why are we so in love with West’s goofy as hell Batman?Well for starters, it is just plain fun. West’s Batman is so easy to watch and thoroughly enjoyable. His Batman doesn’t require a heavy reflection on humanity’s shortcomings, or a sense of fear or dread. It simply asks that you know this is a hero, with a trusty sidekick, and that he can solve any crime thanks to his trusty utility belt. It was a Batman anyone could watch, and anyone could have a right good laugh at.
The 60’s era is also fantastically represented in Batman. Just look at the Bat-dance scene, it’s nuts. But for the time, this was completely normal, and Holy Boogie Wonderland Batman isn’t it great! Not to mention the literal look of series. You can so tell that the bomb (which some days, he just couldn’t get rid of) is just Papier Mache and a flare painted black, or that “running in the street” scene is just an enthusiastic West and Ward frantically running in front of a screen. This aesthetic is iconic because it’s just so bad that it’s actually brilliant.So what can modern Batmen learn from West’s 60’s bonanza? A sense of acknowledgement for this era is of the utmost importance. The Lego Batman Movie is probably the only modern incarnation of the Caped Crusader to actually do this perfectly, marking West’s Batman as “that weird one in 1966”. That being said, Ben Affleck’s Batman is unlikely to be able to do this, because he is so intense and dark. Some wit and humorous retorts are probably the best nods to Batman’s past that we can hope for.
As a huge Batman fan, I am happy to keep West’s version as the only zany incarnation of the Dark Knight. If we try to recreate that magic, I don’t think many will be able to get it right. Adam West deserves acknowledgement and respect for bringing so many people a Batman that we can laugh at, watch in awe, or just turn off and enjoy ourselves.
Much like Get Smart, or The Avengers, Batman is a television classic, full of good humour and universal fun. West was key to its success, embodying this fun in every episode, and went all in when it came to the campy aesthetic. We may never see anything like West and his Batman again, but he’ll live on forever in reruns.