The late Adam West wasn't just a pioneering actor in the world of comic book adaptations and camp cult TV shows. West, who died Saturday at the age of 88, was also one of the first and longest-serving celebrities on the now-billion-dollar convention circuit.
His legendary stint as the star of ABC's late '60s adaptation of Batman made him one of the convention world's first and most storied stars. His stoic presence and fan-pleasing performance as the billionaire bachelor crime-fighter, as well as in his daily life, left a lot of bright memories in the minds of the fans who met him during the last 50 years.
"The Adam West we saw on the Batman TV series, that was just Adam West," says Mark Walters, founder of bigfanboy.com and promoter of the Dallas Comic Show. Walters met West several times over the years while hosting and covering local conventions and festivals.
Walters' first meeting with West happened at the now-defunct Dallas Fantasy Fair in 1993. Walters was helping out at the fair when he saw a fan bothering West. Walters says the meeting gave him his first big break on the convention circuit.
"It was one of the moments where it was
James Wallace, the creative director of Alamo Drafthouse, also had his first meeting with West at the '93 Dallas Fantasy Fair. Conventions at the time were about comic books and not general pop culture. Wallace says that West's performance as the Caped Crusader not only introduced him to comic books but also encouraged him to pursue a career in the movie and TV industry.
"It felt as if I was meeting Batman himself," Wallace says. "I walked away feeling that I had. Even to this day, I vividly remember Adam West being every bit Bruce Wayne: clever, charming, debonair. And so super nice to me as a kid. He took his time with me."
West was also one of the first celebrities to appear at fan conventions. It wasn't yet a popular way for stars to earn an extra paycheck. Wallace says West could have written a primer on how to treat fans on the convention circuit.
"Everything I've heard about him and everything I ever saw myself at conventions
Both Walters and Wallace recall the love West showed for each of his fans, whether young or old. West insisted on personalizing every autograph for each person who waited in line to greet him. He posed for thousands of pictures with his costumed fans. He even had an uncanny knack for guessing his youngest fans' names just by looking at them.
"A little boy or girl would come up and [West] would say, 'Your name is James,' or, 'Your name is Kathy,' and I asked him how he was able to do that," Walters says, recalling his time with West during a convention in Austin. "And he'd say, 'I don't know. I'm just able to do it.' That's gotta be one of the coolest, most completely useless superpowers I've ever seen in my life."
West continued to appear at conventions, even as he grew older and as his schedule became more hectic. (Most recently, West was a regular voice presence on Fox's animated sitcom Family Guy.) Just last year, West appeared with Batman co-star Burt Ward at Fan Expo Dallas.
Walters recalls seeing West for the last time at the
2016 2015 Fan Expo, where Walters introduced him for a crowded Q&A
"It was a little bittersweet because it was great to see him and talk to him and he was nice, but I could tell the recognition wasn't there the way it used to be, and just like a lot of people do, he was just getting old," Walters says.
However, the West whom Walters grew to know over the years still shone through.
"It sort of made me think that — and maybe this is me just projecting — but maybe he remembered me because I handed [the box set] to his agent, and the agent said, 'What's the name that you want on it?' and I said, 'Mark,'" Walters says. "When he wrote 'To Mark,' he put my name on it, and when I said thank you and he walked away, I remembered that Adam was always particular about names and asking how you spell it. The fact that he didn't ask how to spell it, I thought, 'Maybe he does remember me.'"