Batman fans everywhere will have to shine the bat signal tonight in honor of Adam West, who has died at age 88. The Hollywood Reporter, one of the first news outlets to break the news, reported that West died after a short battle with leukemia on Friday night in Los Angeles. The actor will forever be remembered as television's first Batman.
While Batman was no stranger to comics and a handful of feature-length films, it was the 1996 Batman television series that helped launched him full-force into the pop culture zeitgeist. In West's capable hands, Bruce Wayne was introduced to a whole generation of viewers, a generation raised on the new medium of TV, who clamored for adventure to come to life the way it did on movie screens and even in the pages of comic books.
In an instant, West became synonymous with the character of Batman. The show made Batman a campy yet heroic figure in pop culture. This, as the THR report on West's death indicates, pigeonholed the star very quickly; he was Batman and Batman was West. Despite attempts to break free of his Batman alter-ego, West remained typecast in the Batman mold for years, even briefly reprising his role in a 1977 television series, The New Adventures of Batman.
Of course, he did eventually find success later in life and maintained a steady stream of work until his death. is later career would be defined by the roles that were quite meta about his work as Batman and that ensuing celebrity. This included voicing Mayor West on Family Guy, a guest role on The Simpsons as Batman, and voicing the young Mermaid Man, Spongebob Squarepants' own version of the campy '60s Batman character.
There's no doubt fans will always love Batman and West, too. He will be greatly missed.