The news of Adam West’s passing hit me harder than expected, and to be honest, I expected it to hit me pretty hard. I have some fairly vivid memories as a three year old watching the show when it was first broadcast in 1966.
I recall one day in the summer of ’66 stopping at a gas station near our home in Northeast Philly, and suddenly without warning, I’ became temporarily immobilized – as if by some villainous, super freezing ray, at the sight of the Batmobile, just the Batmobile. No Batman. No Robin – Just the Batmobile – fueling up next to us.
My dad and I leapt out of our Volkswagen Beetle, and inspected the apparently abandoned vehicle. (Well I definitely leapt, I’m assuming my father was playing it a bit cooler, but I could tell he was pretty excited about seeing it too. He was 26 years old and a bit of a car junkie.)
The old man concluded the car must be on loan for an event somewhere in Philadelphia and anticipating my obvious follow-up question, he deduced the heroes were probably not even in our immediate vicinity, but rather battling bad guys in the city of Gotham.
I didn’t want to believe him, though his logic seemed airtight. Still, selfishly, I’d hoped against hope that since the Riddler, Joker, and Penguin were all already locked up in the state penn, the noble citizens of Gotham would be safe enough if they only had to concern themselves with the likes of lesser villains like Egghead, False Face and Marsha, Queen of Diamonds for a day.
Fixated on the the most famous car in all of the world, my formative eyeballs grew by a factor of five when suddenly, to my innocent delight, the Caped Crusaders themselves came bounding toward the renowned black-finned roadster.
Or was it them?
Since it was established beyond all doubt that Batman was indeed the “World’s Greatest Detective,” and Robin, (by virtue of his envious tutelage under the Bright Knight) was most likely the second greatest sleuth, it seemed obvious to me, as the world’s biggest fan of the show, I would have to rank humbly somewhere in the top ten, if not (deservedly) at the number three slot.
I’d been a pretty ardent fan of the show, and even at that young age I could discern that Robin’s hairline looked a bit more mature in his fight scenes than it did during his close-ups. I didn’t know about stand-ins or stunt-doubles at that point in time, but I did suspect I was somehow being duped, and no self-respecting toddler who considered himself a more-than-fair replacement for the Boy Wonder (should he ever meet an untimely death in a giant man-eating flower or somesuch) enjoys feeling duped.
The closer this Duplicitous Duo got toward us, the more I inspected this particular Robin’s hairline. Batman could very well have been the real Batman, I quickly surmised. That costume actually does a surprisingly good job at keeping a secret identity secret, but the guy in the Robin suit didn’t look like anyone’s “youthful” ward. That guy was old. I mean really old. Maybe even thirty years old.
Sensing my skepticism, the possibly fraudulent crimefighters leapt into action and defeated my distrust with the greatest weapon in their utility belts. Free Bat stuff.
I was handed a king’s ransom in comic books, bubble gum, Batman balloons, and best of all, a thin cardboard cut-out mask of Batman himself, complete with a rubber band to wrap around my tiny head. Suddenly my tiny head was no longer trying to wrap itself around the mystery of “Robin” looking older than my own father, I had bought in – 100 percent. I had met the “real” Batman and the “real” Robin, and I had the swag to prove it.
Now the only dilemma for me to wrap my tiny head around on the ride back to our row home on Aldine Street was how to talk my father out of making me share my new found riches with my little brother.
My latest illustration. “Robin Mourns.”