We were saddened by the news this weekend of Adam West’s passing. Best known for playing Batman, West got his start on a TV variety show and had parts in such movies as The Young Philadelphians and Mara of the Wilderness. He also played the lead in The Detectives TV series.
But Batman was his big break, even if he didn’t know it at the time. In 1966, John Skow wrote an article for the Saturday Evening Post where he explored the phenomenon of Batman, which ABC had launched in January in a bid to gain ratings.
Skow writes of a conversation with West:
What was your reaction when you heard about Batman? I asked West at lunch. “My reaction was Ecch!” he said. But Batman had turned out to be fun. “You have to take it seriously,” he said. “I want to do it well enough that Batman buffs will watch reruns in a few years and say, ‘Watch the bit he does here, isn’t that great?”
Executives feared the show would be too silly for adults, but their fears were unfounded. According to the article, sales for Batman merchandise were expected to reach $75-$80 million, 50 percent more than the best year for James Bond.
What no one could know at the time is that Batman would spawn an empire of comic books, TV remakes, and blockbuster movies. But it all started with the dead-serious camp of Adam West.