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Adam West, who defined Batman for a generation, has died at 88

2016 New York Comic Con - Day 1 Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images
Constance Grady is a senior correspondent on the Culture team for Vox, where since 2016 she has covered books, publishing, gender, celebrity analysis, and theater.

Adam West, the actor who defined Batman for a generation, has died at age 88.

West was an army veteran whose acting career took off when he appeared in the 1959 movie The Young Philadelphians with Paul Newman. But to his fans, he would always be Batman.

West’s Batman, which ran from 1966 through 1968, was a campy, color-saturated, pop-art inflected frolic, a light-hearted look at a superhero who’s usually celebrated for his darkness. West’s Batman wasn’t the Dark Knight of the Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale era: he was archer and funnier, a Batman who took himself completely seriously in a world that was utterly ridiculous. West was self-aware, but his Batman wasn’t, which made his Batman someone who could simultaneously awe children and make adults laugh.

Reportedly, West was not a fan of the darker turn the Batman franchise took after his own tenure under the cowl. Although his iconic turn as Batman trapped him in typecasting for years, eventually he began to embrace it.

“I decided that since so many people love Batman, I might as well love it too,” he told Variety. “Why not?” He took self-referential turns on shows like The Big Bang Theory and Family Guy, and he reprised his role as Batman in animated shows like SuperFriends: The Legendary Super Powers Show.

Variety reports that West’s death comes after a short battle with leukemia. In a statement, his family said, “Our dad 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.”