If you watched any newscast last week you learned that Batman passed away. Adam West played the caped crusader back in the 60s for several television seasons. The role defined his acting career that spanned 66 years.
Now, to be honest, I watched it on occasions, but it was not one of my favorite television shows. I guess the show’s complex dialog was a little too sophisticated for me. “Golly Gee Batman” or “Follow Me Boy Wonder.” Or even more annoying was the on screen cartoon words: “Wham, Boom, Pow!”
Nevertheless, the show lasted several seasons and even was made into a full length movie in 1966. I doubt there is a person who was alive during the show’s run on television that did not watch at least one episode.
Adam West had the good fortune, or bad, depending on how you look at it, to be identified with a television character for the rest of his life. His early career in the 50s, West played parts in westerns. Sugarfoot, Colt 45 and The Lawman. He even played the part of Wild Bill Hickok in an episode of “West Bound Stage.”
He was offered the role of Batman when the show’s producers saw West play the part of a spy in a television commercial for a chocolate drink. He was even offered the part of James Bond at one point in his career which he turned down. He played many other roles, but will always be remembered as Batman.
Why am I telling you about Adam West and his campy roll as Batman? Well, I guess he was part of a time in my life when I knew who the good guys were and the bad guys were. Do you remember Superman, The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet, Commando Cody, Captain Video and his Video Rangers, Super Boy and Wonder Woman? They were all heroes that entertained us. Looking back at those shows, I wonder how people found them entertaining. These days those shows seem sowell I’ll just say it, unreal and corny.
Saturday morning TV was a prime time for some super hero shows. Others were played on the big screen. Wherever they were shown, they had thousands of kids who followed each episode. I am guessing about every kid, at one time or another, had a secret decoder ring or a mask to play the part of their favorite hero. Some even tried to fly. I’m betting that did not work out too well, except for a trip to the emergency room.
It was a time in our history when men in tights was an okay thing. And if that super hero was in a mask and stopped a speeding train or falling rocks from injuring some kid or damsel in distress, he was praised by the audience as a hero, even if it was make believe. I know each of you watched as Superman save a bus load of kids from going over a cliff back in the 50s. Then cheered as if he were a real hero. Today if a super hero appeared and tried to save someone, it is possible they would take him away as some kind of weirdo in spandex.
In recent years, super heroes have made a comeback on the big screen. Superman, Green Lantern, The Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four, Thor, Wolverine and Wonder Woman are just a few. The list goes on with so many new super heroes it is almost impossible for me to keep track of them all. We need our super heroes, if for nothing else, to still defeat the bad guys. Captain America will always receive cheers when he saves our country from Red Skull’s villainy. But, have you noticed how the bad guys have changed today?
The Lone Ranger and Cisco Kid mostly fought off Indians and banditos from south of the border. Today they would be from some country in the Middle East. If the Lone Ranger made a reference to Tonto being an Indian, he would be called insensitive. And if the Cisco Kid made some remark about Poncho’s family’s Mexican heritage, he also would be labeled insensitive. I didn’t know when I watched their shows they were demeaning their sidekicks by being stereo typed. We are more politically correct today.
For me, losing another super hero from the time when I was a kid is kind of sad. When Adam West died the world did not stop turning, and the sun still rose the next morning. But, somehow with his passing, we have lost a little bit of our cultural history. We all knew Batman really didn’t exist, but there was a time when he entertained us as he said, “Too the Bat Cave!” We knew there was no real Bat Cave and that was okay.
The next time you hear the theme from the 60s Batman series, maybe you will think of Adam West and how he’s out there saving Gotham City from the Riddler and the Penguin as we watched Through the Lens.