Sunday, June 11, 2017

RIP Adam West (What A Way to Go Go)

RIP Adam West, age 88, the only real Batman of all the Batmen, and one of the very few American actors I can think of who could give both a genuine performance and a surrealist wink at the same time. Who could wear both a Bat-suit AND a pair of clown-colored baggies in a surfing competition with the Joker, or awkward with a sexy lady, or be up to his cowled neck in a giant Frosty Freeze sno-cone and still walk away with his dignity intact. He caught my attention even before BATMAN, playing Captain Quick in a series of TV commercials for the chocolatey milk supplement, as astronauts in ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS and the OUTER LIMITS episode "Invisible Enemy" and as the dashing young hero of a Three Stooges feature, THE OUTLAWS IS COMING - and he shone in later roles as well (THE MARRIAGE OF A YOUNG STOCKBROKER is one of his more unfairly overlooked performances) - but few of my childhood icons were as completely and originally realized as his Batman. His resourcefulness was played for laughs, but his intelligence never was, and he was the first crime fighter in my experience to tap into the outré to solve crimes - meditation, mysticism, that side of himself that knew that nothing awakened such fright in the criminal element as the shadow of a bat. I suppose my childhood will never be dealt a bigger ZOWIE! of a death blow till the Big One comes along.

I'm so glad he was able to make his final bow in his definitive role, alongside once-youthful ward Burt Ward's Robin, as the voice of Batman in THE RETURN OF THE CAPED CRUSADERS - and with a BATMAN '66 comic doing well wherever fine comics are sold. 

Speaking of comics, Adam's loss - reportedly due to a short battle with leukemia - brought back some potent memories of that time of life when he loomed largest.As a nine year-old, I had some DC Comics in 1966 (I've recently been feeling a strong pull toward re-acquiring some of those 80-Page Giants) but I was a Marvel kid from roughly 1963 on. However, when the BATMAN show premiered on ABC-TV in January 1966, I had to start adding BATMAN and DETECTIVE comics to my monthly pile. This was the first issue I bought, #178, January 1966. Cover art by Gil Kane. As I recall, the art inside was attributed to "Bob Kane" - bland, stiff, not half as exciting. But the next issue had The Riddler on the cover, art by Carmine Infantino. Those Infantino covers would have been worth the 12 cents without ANYTHING inside.

For reasons unknown to me, when the series first went on the air, 20th Century Fox was caught short in terms of releasing an authorized soundtrack album - so the breech was filled by a lot of cover albums, including one by an anonymous outfit calling themselves The Bat Boys. (Does anyone know their story? Any moonlighting jazz legends in this ramshackle combo? I'm told it was a product created for Pickwick, so it's not impossible that Lou Reed or John Cale were involved. Hey, I wouldn't admit it either. ) Anyway, I remember playing this one a lot before the Neal Hefti and Nelson Riddle albums came along to replace it. One thing that endeared it to me was a noticeably wrong chord on the electric organ - an honest-to-God mistake - around the 1:32 mark... which the uploader of this track has apparently taken the time to fix after all these years. Or was it exclusive to the mono version? Or was a bum take accidentally released on the first pressing?

(c) 2017 by Tim Lucas. All rights reserved.