Adam West, a leading man who became a pop culture and comedy legend, has died.
West, who was 88, first became famous as the cartoonish TV version of Batman in the 1960s. While he sometimes struggled to find work after the series ended, West never retired, finding a second life playing an eccentric and hilarious version of himself as the mayor of fictional Quahog, Rhode Island on Family Guy.
The Hollywood Reporter broke the news of West’s passing. The actor was reportedly surrounded by loved ones when he died Friday night in Los Angeles, having endured a brief battle with leukemia.
THR quoted a moving statement from West’s family in which they said he “always saw himself as The Bright Knight and aspired to make a positive impact on his fans’ lives. He was and always will be our hero.”
The family also tweeted from West’s verified account:
A native of Washington, West’s career in film and television began in the late 1950s. He was featured in several TV Westerns and cop dramas before Batman premiered in 1966. When that series was canceled two years later he had to hustle for new work, but a look at West’s filmography shows incredible variety and longevity.
As funny as West’s voice over turn playing himself on Family Guy was, it was ultimately the actor’s run as the lead in the live-action cartoon that was Batman which sealed his fame. No matter who played the superhero in films from the 1980s through the 2000s, a certain generation heard “Batman” and thought of West first.
The Hollywood Reporter‘s obituary of West quoted him regarding the show and it was clear he was always in on the joke:
“The tone of our first show, by Lorenzo Semple Jr., was one of absurdity and tongue in cheek to the point that I found it irresistible,” West said. “I think they recognized that in me from what they’d seen me do before. I understood the material and brought something to it.
“You can’t play Batman in a serious, square-jawed, straight-ahead way without giving the audience the sense that there’s something behind that mask waiting to get out, that he’s a little crazed, he’s strange.”
Reactions to West’s death came quickly on social media.
West’s family posted a longer statement about his death on Facebook as well.
Here’s to the first—and to many the best—Batman ever. Rest in peace, Adam West, you will be missed.