Adam West, TV’s Batman, Loses Brief Battle with Leukemia

By ABC Television (eBay front release back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Adam West, TV’s Batman, Loses Brief Battle with Leukemia
Bernadine Racoma

K-klakt! Klasht! For fans of Batman during the 60s, these were familiar written sound effects (onomatopoeia), on both the comic strips and live action TV series of the caped crusader and his trusty sidekick. Alas, Adam West, who played the role of Bruce Wayne’s alter ego, Batman from 1966 to 1968, has left this world on June 9, 2017. He fought his last real life battle – leukemia. He was 88.

Adam West

His full name is William West Anderson. He was born in Walla Walla, Washington on September 19, 1928. He became very popular when he starred as Bruce Wayne aka Batman in the ABC TV series from 1966.

Adam West graduated from Whitman College, with a bachelor’s degree in literature, minor in psychology. He was active on his school’s debate and speech team. Anderson was drafted into the U.S. Army where he served as an announcer in the TV station of the American Forces Network. West worked as a milkman for a time following his discharge. He later moved to Hawaii because he wanted to pursue a TV career.

He was involved in various films and TV shows before he became the star in the TV series, Batman. It was the TV commercial for Nestle Quik, where he played a Bond-type character, Captain Quik that was instrumental in West’s getting the role as Batman.


The TV series premiered on January 12, 1966 and was an instant success. It was a top-rated show that had an instant cult following. It ran for three seasons, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.

Adam West played Batman with a tongue-in-cheek approach. In an interview, he said he took on the show for laughs, but he said that he had to think that it was not funny. He said that he just had to put on the costume and think that he would not be recognized. The success of the show came from its creative and witty writers, who he said, saw the comedy and the craziness in the story.

At that time, when most shows were in black and white, Batman was filmed in bright colors. He and his sidekick Robin, played by Burt Ward, had to fight a number of villains in revolving roles – Riddler, Penguin, Joker and Catwoman. Followers of Batman became very familiar with the onscreen fight-scene graphics of Pow! Wham! Zok! Biff!

Adam West also starred in the film Batman: The Movie in 1966. The movie introduced three new vehicles, the Batcycle, Batboat and Batcopter.

Zany Gadgets

For all the villains of Gotham City, Batman came up with a variety of gadgets. Do you still remember the yellow utility belt with the square buckle in gold etched with the Batman insignia? How about the batarangs? The Batsign and everything else that start with Bat – recollection cycle bat restorer, bat-sound analyzer, batradarscope, emergency bat callbox, and others that were inside the Batcave. Lest we forget, he also had a shark spray (Batman: The Movie, 1966). Batman actually had several spray repellents – for sharks, manta rays, whales and barracudas.

Life After Batman

Adam West struggled to find work after the Batman TV series ended due to typecasting. Throughout his career though, he played in about 60 films, including Nevada Smith, An American Vampire Story and Drop Dead Gorgeous. He also lent his voice to the animated versions of Batman. West likewise had appearances in quite a number of TV shows from 1958 until 2017.

In 2014, during the Comic-Con, Adam West shared that after Batman was cancelled, he thought that it would also be the end of his career. But he later realized that he was a very lucky actor because he was able to meet and mingle with people who grew up idolizing Gotham City’s superhero, Batman.

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