Holy self-referential pop art, Batman!
Literally hundreds of artists have taken a crack at capturing DC Comics’ iconic Dark Knight on paper – from creator Bob Kane’s four-color original to Frank Miller’s grim-and-gritty 80s take to the current, darkly cartoony take of Frank Quitely – but the latest is none other than actor Adam West, star of the 60s “Batman” TV show.
West recently debuted his own collection of colorful watercolors depicting impressionistic pop art interpretations of his high camp version of the Caped Crusader, as well as many of the dastardly villains he dallied with: Julie Newmar (Catwoman), Ceasar Romero (The Joker), Frank Gorshin (The Riddler), Burgess Meredith (The Penguin), Vincent Price (Egghead), Liberace (Chandel) and many more.
West rolled up in a Batmobile to his first gallery showing at the David Streets Fine Art Gallery in Beverly Hills (no kidding: he was chauffeured in Batman’s famous ride by Hollywood car customizer and Batmobile creator George Barris), and told PopcornBiz he’s been painting for decades and only recently committed his own alter ego to canvas.
“I guess it's been about 45 years that I've done this,” said West. “When you do a character like Batman and it's that kind of regimen in life, you get a little restless and I think that maybe you feel that you're being somehow neglected in other areas of the art world or other acting situations. So I just turned to painting and then I said, 'Hey, I love Batman, too, because people like it so much.' So I thought that I would try to give my – I don't know – impression.”
West, who also appears frequently on the animated series “Family Guy,” said he particularly enjoyed trying to capture the essences of some of his former co-stars, many of whom became close friends. “If I get serious, what I'm going to say is that what I do is try to capture that moment in my memory or dream or whatever in which I somehow bring their personality to live in the picture.”
A favorite subject, apparently, is the still-sinuous Julie Newmar, whom he paints in and out of catsuit as Catwoman in some seriously erotic exchanges with the cowled crimefighter. “Well, of course,” West grinned. “She's wonderful.”
“Adam is a fabulous artist,” said a none-too-embarrassed Newmar. “He's a natural. He just takes out a pen and he draws on the tablecloth, and everything is good that he does. These are marvelous. He's just insanely gifted.”
When I picked up the phone and I heard this voice, 'Good afternoon, David Streets. This is Adam West,' I was like an eight year old,” said gallery owner Streets, who met West through Newmar. “It's been the most fun experience to mount a show of his work, of his remembrances, his experience as Batman. It's the happiest time of life. It's good versus evil and good always wins and it's something that we all need in this time.”
While always aware of the longevity of the Batman character, West admits he never expected his own TV take to be so fondly remembered 45 years after it was a pop cultural sensation. “I really never thought about it,” he says. “I really was just too busy doing it, bringing what I could in, as fresh as I could and doing my thing, my way. That's all."