27 January 2011

"Back to the Batcave" by Adam West with Jeff Rovin

Back to the Batcave
Adam West with Jeff Rovin
Date of Publication: 1 September 1994
Date of Purchase: 28 December 2010 ($4.78 at Half Price Books)
Cover Price: $12.00
ISBN: 0-425-14370-8
257 Pages

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In his introduction, Adam West makes clear that Back to the Batcave is "about the show, the phenomenon, the legacy, the stars and the spectacular highs and difficult lows" that accompanied being Batman from 1966 until 1968.  This isn't a full-on autobiography; West only explores other facets of his life as they pertain to providing a larger context for the meaning of the series in his life.

Fans have decried for years that the TV show was "camp," a point that West refutes throughout this book.  He makes a good case, and fans may well be surprised by how well West knows his comic books.  West's insights into the character--not the licensable property, but the actual fictitious individual Bruce Wayne/Batman--makes for particularly interesting reading.  I've read and heard quite a lot about the character over the years, and was surprised to discover something here that's more than a synthesis of previously espoused positions.

Perhaps the most interesting remark is a knock on Tim Burton's 1989 film, which bothered West because, "in the film, he destroyed those first two hoods but did nothing for the people they'd mugged."  In West's world, Batman should place the victim ahead of the perpetrator.  It's a sensibility that informed his take on the character, and is really the heart of the book.  It's a recurring theme in Back to the Batcave; West reconciling his off-screen life and choices with the values personified by his on-screen persona.  West isn't Bruce Wayne and falls short of the ideal, of course, but it's telling that he clearly wants to be as respectable as the Caped Crusader.

Those looking for a tell-all may be disappointed; he has a few harsh words for Otto Preminger but mostly the book is reverential for the cast and crew of Batman.  Allusions are made to his notorious swinging lifestyle but only occasionally and rarely in much detail.  What comes across, ultimately, is a grateful man saying thanks to a role and the impact it had on his life.

I’d highly recommend the book if for nothing else than West’s observations and studies of the character, including the elasticity of the mythos, placing the TV show on the spectrum from camp to grittiness and even some genuinely fascinating ideas he had for returning to the role later in life. Seriously, you just haven’t contemplated Batman until Adam West convinces you–citing Frank Miller, no less–that him playing an aged Batman may well have been the cat’s pajamas.

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