In Appreciation of Adam West

Quote of the Day: “It was inescapable. I'd just about land something substantial, something I like or a good career move. Then some dinosaur would rear up and say, 'But the audience will think of him as Batman.' It was formidable. It was there like a brick wall.” -- Adam West

Every time I hear about a new gig for actor Adam West, I feel like all is right with the world. Today I read the good news at Topless Robot (one of my favorite blogs) that Mr. West would provide the voice for Thomas Wayne in an upcoming episode of the campy but entertaining cartoon Batman: The Brave and the Bold. In a bit of additional stunt casting, Julie Newmar, the sexy, original, and still best Catwoman, will voice Martha Wayne.

Adam West will always be Batman to me -- he was one of my heroes growing up. Before Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, and Christian Bale, there was Adam West.

I had the good fortune of meeting him at my alma mater, Fordham University, years ago, and he came across as such a nice, friendly man. (He was working on a project for Nickelodeon at the time, and he kept calling me "Nick at Nite.")

The iconic role of the Caped Crusader in the 1960s typecast him and kept him from getting other major parts, but it's good to see him embrace his legacy in the history of the Dark Knight. His version was tongue-in-cheek and full of straight-faced humor. Kids took his performance seriously and adults enjoyed the comedy -- everyone, regardless of age, had a good time watching him.

Well, not everyone. Some fans viewed the TV show as a travesty, turning the dark superhero into a joke and straying too far from the comicbook roots. But Batman wasn't always the brooding, depressing vigilante that Frank Miller, Tim Burton, and Christopher Nolen nicely capture (let's ignore the Joel Schumacher versions, shall we?) Yes, Bob Kane's creation started off as a spooky figure of the night who aimed to strike fear in the hearts of criminals in the noirish Gotham City, but many of the comics also took the character to childish levels, with outrageous scenarios that made the "BAM! ZAP! POW!" elements of the hit TV show seem like the most serious drama by comparison.

Adam West is a great actor with an instantly identifiable voice. (It's no wonder he continues to get voice-over work.) His very name stirs visions of a Hollywood Superstar, or even, dare I say, a superhero -- say it out loud with me, boys and girls: "ADAM WEST!"
Born William West Anderson, he appeared in a number of television shows and movies. One of my favorite pre-Batman performances of his is the supporting role in the beginning of the film Robinson Crusoe on Mars. Then Batman came along and his life would be forever changed.

Even though he's getting some nice work recently, such as his voiceover roles as the Mayor in Family Guy and Uncle Art in the movie Meet the Robinsons, and many cameo appearances, I fervently wish that some visionary director, like Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee, or Tim Burton, would cast him in a serious, live-action role, giving him a chance to show off his acting chops and put the typecasting behind him during the twilight (but still golden) days of his career. It would be nice to see him earn some much deserved accolades in Hollywood after all this time, like William Shatner was able to do, overcoming his Captain Kirk ball-and-chain.

Whatever he does, I continue to be a big fan of Adam West, an admirable figure on and off the screen.