DC Comics’ Batman is one of the most popular superheroes in the world. Right from its creation in the late 1930s and early 1940s, in the early days of American comics, the superhero has been a huge part of global pop culture.
Adam West’s Batman was not the first live-action Batman — that honour goes to Lewis Wilson. But it was West’s portrayal that turned Batman into such a phenomenon. Since then, the character has been reinvented into a dark and brooding superhero, but somehow, West’s campy and cheery Batman, with his deadpan humour, bright coloured costumes and Batusi (seriously, look it up, it’s the coolest thing), has not just survived, but thrived in collective memory.
With modern takes on the character being borderline fascist (Ben Affleck paraphrases Dick Cheney as the Caped Crusader in Batman v Superman), more and more people are looking at that 60s’ Batman fondly for he represented an era in which it was not difficult to differentiate between superheroes and supervillains.
It is similar to what is happening with Henry Cavill’s Superman. Zack Snyder’s version of the Last Son of Krypton was a particularly ill-tempered god who will seemingly destroy the entire world if somebody puts too much sugar in his tea (or something like that). Many Superman fans are now revisiting and re-appreciating Christopher Reeve’s Superman, a heroic, good-hearted, approachable and sunny superhero who people can actually love.
Adam West’s Batman was not afraid to laugh, crack jokes and make puns, and together with his ward/sidekick Robin, he fought criminals. Not beat them to a pulp, mind you, just fight them and deliver them to the police. To an unaware modern Batman fan, this series would seem like a parody, and in a way, it was. The suit was ill-fitting, and West would not be anybody’s idea of a ripped Dark Knight. But who cares about such trivial matters when he spoke lines like “Some days, you just can’t get rid of a bomb,” while clutching a huge black ball of explosives with a lit fuse.
Perhaps it was less gritty and certainly way less realistic. But then do we watch superhero movies to just watch a different and maybe even more miserable version of our world where superheroes and supervillains will keep fighting until our planet is nothing but a wreck? Or by way of superhero cinema, we wish to escape into a more pleasant world in which kind and good people always prevail? Perhaps there is no clear answer. But one thing is certain, despite how the real-world works, superheroes should be symbols of hope and not just costumed vigilantes doing anything it takes to achieve their ends.
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