I have loved Batman my whole life. There are pictures of me as a small child dressed in Batman PJs, I played with tons of Batman toys. As an adult, I have a bat-symbol on my wedding ring and frequently wear Batman t-shirts. My love of the character is a defining characteristic, something anyone who knows me will list in a "top ten facts about Matt" list. And all that started with Adam West.
My father, who is now 60, was a young boy himself when Batman first debuted on TV in 1966. My father isn't now, nor was ever, a geek, but as a kid he loved Batman and, when he had me, he loved to share it with me. I have a lot of great memories of watching Batman with my dad on Nick at Nite and TV Land, or watching one of the episodes we had videotaped (man, I'm getting old). At that young age, the show was deadly serious to me, a full out action adventure with high stakes, and MAN was Batman cool on that show! Adam West's portrayal of the Caped Crusader was so serious and so captivating that I hung on his every word and relished in his fighting capability and couldn't wait to see how he would get himself and Robin out of the death trap each time. He made me love the character of Batman, and it's carried through my whole life.
Like most people who fall deep into the geek-sphere, once I discovered Tim Burton's Batman film and comics and grew up, I rejected the TV Batman for a while. That show was "silly" and "wasn't really Batman." Looking back, it's a sad time in my life because I didn't know what I was missing out on. But I'm also not really sure I could have appreciated the show as a teenager the way I do now.
A few years ago, I rediscovered my love of Batman the TV show. As an adult, I can appreciate that the show is incredibly smart, amazingly funny and, the best part, everyone is in on the joke. They knew they were making a comedy only adults can understand, and it's pretty clear no one understood that better than Adam West himself. His absolute deadpan delivery of the most insane stuff is pitch perfect and no matter how hard I try, I can't imagine anyone else delivering those lines the way he did in a manner that is both wicked serious business to a kid but also uproariously funny to an adult all while not coming off as terrible. It was a magic act and he was the master magician.
For most of his career, West was Batman. It's something he never quite managed to get away from. I'm sure I've read somewhere it initially frustrated him a bit (as it does with most actors who become forever tied to an iconic role) but he eventually embraced it and loved it and became a great ambassador for the role and an icon for generations beyond those who saw the initial run of the show.
Then, later in his life, he did something that was both brilliant and beautiful: he embraced being Adam West and turned into a character in and of himself, perfectly happy to self parody as Mayor Adam West on Family Guy or voice a different character that was still an obvious parody of himself and Batman on The Fairly Oddparents. He joined the ranks of actors like William Shatner and George Takei who are perfectly happy being living caricatures of themselves and he did it in a way that made anyone who saw him on TV or at a con or heard his voice in something animated smile and laugh and fill with joy and nostalgia. He was, by all accounts, a pleasure to be around. Every interview I ever heard with man, right up to the last, was sharp and funny. There was no one like him.
I, and countless others, owe so much to Adam West. He gave me a lot of good times with my dad and brought life to something that would become a huge part of who I am. He was talented and funny and a true great. The world is absolutely a lesser place without him in it.