ADAM WEST: An Appreciation, by MIKE ALLRED

The comics artist best associated with Batman ’66 pays tribute to the late, great Caped Crusader.

For ADAM WEST: A Celebration, a series of interviews and tributes to the greatest Caped Crusader, click here.

No amount of Adam West tribute coverage would be complete without artist Mike Allred, who loves Batman ’66 on a demonstrably visceral, joyful level. He has produced covers for every issue of DC’s Batman ’66 series, as well as two complete issues. (Some of his favorite covers, colored by his wife Laura, are included below.)

Mike’s appreciation speaks to his specific experience and speaks for all of us at the same time. — Dan

 

By MIKE ALLRED

I just woke up from a series of wild, wonderful, surreal and uplifting adventures with Adam West. First thing I see, opening my eyes, is my lovely wife, and I ask her, “Laura, did Adam West die?” And she told me, “Yes. You need to write something for Dan Greenfield.”

You see, Dan and I have two very significant things in common: The Man With the Golden Gun was the first James Bond film we saw in a movie theater, and we both have a completely unhinged passion for all things Adam West Batman.

To further explain, I’m on an unusual series of very tight deadlines and must have just gone to sleep after an all-nighter inking comic-book pages when Laura woke me with a phone call, which I knew had to be serious since she would normally do all she could to let me sleep. It was Dan and he told me the sad news.

I, of course, immediately dropped back to sleep only to dream the Adam West- inspired adventures, now waking up hoping that the news of his passing was also just a dream.

Sadly, no dreaming that.

I hope it’s no secret that one of the greatest thrills of not just my career but my life has been finding myself the official Adam West Batman cover artist. Among the earliest memories of my life are my brother Lee and I running around in Batman costumes yelling out the TV show theme song with the easiest to remember lyrics ever, “NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA! BATMAN!” We actually have 8mm films of us running around in the yard wearing those plastic capes and cowls.

I’ve been extremely blessed to spend time with Adam West, finding him to be every bit as kind and charming as you’d hope a childhood hero and father figure could be. The first time I ever saw him was at San Diego Comic-Con, but I didn’t meet him, I didn’t dare. I couldn’t risk a less than perfect encounter, so I sent Laura to get his autograph. She told me how nice he was. That was good enough for me.

Years later I’d done a cover for my issue of DC’s Solo of an Adam West Batman doing the Batusi. It was used for solicitations, but the actual comic was replaced with Wonder Girl doing the Batusi since DC had yet to secure Adam’s likeness rights. But it had been seen and blew up online.

Soon after, I saw Adam West (I always prefer saying his whole first and last name) sitting alone at a comic con in New York City (how was THAT possible?!). And I mustered up the courage to approach him. He smiled that Adam West smile as I introduced myself as the fella who did that notorious Batusi art, and a long enjoyable conversation about any number of subjects followed. He even walked me over to Julie Newmar who was nearby (crush!) and introduced us. Also the Batmobile, which was on display there.

Micky Dolenz (another hero of mine) was there and I had a great exchange with him, and then ran to get Laura to hang out with all our new legendary pals. At this point I prefer to remember us all running around New York City singing and dancing, throwing paper airplanes off the Empire State Building and touring the Statue of Liberty. But I’m pretty sure we only spent time together in the convention.

A couple years after that, another favorite person, Mark Chiarello, who was the editor of DC’s Solo and Wednesday Comics (another of his brilliant babies), told me they struck a likeness-rights agreement and he wanted to use my original Batusi cover for the fancy schmancy hard cover DC Solo collection. I also got a call from editor Jim Chadwick asking me to do a new Adam West-inspired comic-book series they were calling Batman ’66. I think I was locked in on Marvel’s FF series at the time, but happily agreed to do the covers for it, eventually doing the entire last issue of the regular series with my “big bruddah” Lee Allred, as well as the soon-to-be-released Batman ’66 Meets the Legion of Super Heroes.

Now whenever I ran into Adam West, it was as his “very good friend and official cover artist.” I’ve since done Batman covers with his likeness for a Green Hornet crossover, Man From UNCLE, the John Steed and Emma Peel Avengers, and Wonder Woman ’77. Also, incredibly, I was asked to do a Batman ‘66-inspired cover for all of DC’s main titles in a single month! I’ve even done a few Batman ’66 Meets The Monkees covers just for my own sheer pleasure.

Adam West even personalized several of my original covers to family members (meeting them as well) so they could have my original Batman art signed to them from Adam West.

The whole family was getting crazy excited to see him (and Burt Ward) again since he was to appear at a nearby Portland show in a few weeks. It feels so selfish to now realize that’s not gonna happen.

We all know death is a part of life, but it can be so, so, so painful. For me personally, and I again admit selfishly and with more than enough self-pity, it feels like a cruel wave, having now lost both my parents and my aunt Erna, who was like a mother to me. Also two very dear friends, taken by cancer well before their time: Michael Bloomfield, who was a fellow pop-culture fiend, and fellow artist Darwyn Cooke. Also, cherished icons Davy Jones, Prince and the endlessly inspiring David Bowie.

I especially have to mention Darwyn Cooke here because he really created this whole Batman opportunity. You see, way back when he’d stayed with us at our cabin on the Oregon coast, we sat on the floor like little kids drawing over a coffee table, passing our pencilled sketches to each other to ink the other’s drawing. One of my drawings I’d done was a portrait of an Adam West Batman. Dar took it and magically inked it up.

I loved that drawing! So much that I would copy it again and again, duplicating Dar’s line work as faithfully as I could when I used it for what became the portrait-style back cover of my DC Solo issue, as well as the head for the Batusi cover. I can’t not think of Dar whenever I think of all the Batmania that has followed.

An altered, color version of the Solo back-cover image

We even recently lost another childhood hero, Roger Moore (Laura and I regularly and joyfully marathon his series The Saint), appropriately and ironically mentioned here because the last cover I did for the Batman ’66 Meets Wonder Woman ’77 series was inspired by one of my most favorite possessions — an enormous 6 x 6 foot Man With The Golden Gun poster, with an Adam West Batman striking Roger’s James Bond pose, replacing his Walther PPK with a Batarang.

Pop culture may be frothy distraction most of the time, but it can also be deeply moving, inspiring and comforting. When I was a kid, I took the Batman TV show very, VERY seriously. It thrilled and excited me, sometimes even scaring me. “That giant clam is eating Robin!”  Of course, I grew to realize that it was designed that way. Colorful adventures for the kiddies, nods and winks for the grown-ups.  I love it all.

I’m especially awed by the way both Adam West and Roger Moore lived their lives. They both embraced the characters who made them famous and fully appreciated the folks that loved their efforts. I’d like to think that’s why they lived long, rich lives, and aged so gracefully. I know much younger men who wished they were as youthful as Adam West always appeared to be.

There was great humor and lightness in the way Adam West carried himself. And I could use some of that now. If you also want a nice lift right about now (and witness his tragically untapped comedic potential), I urge you to watch the pilot for Lookwell, created by Robert Smigel and Conan O’Brien.  I’m guessing Dan will provide a link here.

It’s a nice nod, wink and much-needed hug from Adam West.

For ADAM WEST: A Celebration, a series of interviews and tributes to the greatest Caped Crusader, click here.

To hear an episode of The Batcave Podcast featuring Mike Allred, click here.

For a round-up of remembrances by Mike’s fellow comics creators, click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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1 Comment

  1. Batman ’66 Meets the Monkees? DC HAS to pick this one up!!

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