Adam West, whose 1960s portrayal of Batman made him a TV icon, died of leukemia Friday night in Los Angeles. He was 88.
Produced in two-part cliffhanger episodes, packed with guest-star villains and fight scenes overlaid with comic book "POW" and "BAM" balloons, Batman -- which aired for three seasons on ABC -- was played for laughs and occasional campy innuendo in the dialogue with Robin (Burt Ward).
Born William West Anderson in Washington state, West was a dramatic actor and onetime disc jockey who became typecast by the role. He once told The Hollywood Reporter, "The tone of our first show... was one of absurdity and tongue-in-cheek to the point that I found it irresistible... 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."
Airing twice-weekly, it quickly shot to the top of the ratings -- but the craze began to fade after a year or so. And West paid the price for his gimmicky fame -- he never landed steady TV work after the cartoonish action series left the air in 1968.
After struggling in vain to break away from the character, West embraced it and became a regular on the fanfest and autographed circuit, as well as spoofing himself on TV series such as The Big Bang Theory and Family Guy.