HOLY FLASHBACK, Batman! "I remember reading the Batman comics when I was a kid," says Adam West, the actor who played the Caped Crusader in the popular mid-'60s television series. "And as a kid you always imagine what it would be like to be a superhero. But I never thought I would wind up being Batman."
For three seasons on ABC, West was half of the Dynamic Duo, delivering his lines in a hysterically earnest deadpan. Derived from Bob Kane's original 1939 comic books, the "Batman" series starred West as millionaire Bruce Wayne, alias Batman, and Burt Ward as his sidekick Robin, the Boy Wonder. Together they defended the mythic Gotham City from a stellar array of overacting supercriminals (the Joker, Catwoman, the Penguin, among others) with a high-tech arsenal of Bat-tools crammed in their Bat-belts, with the action punctuated by animated BIFFS! POWS! and BANGS!
"That show was a terrible hindrance to my career," says West, now 48. "After 'Batman,' things never were the same. It was pretty much my fault, maybe a sense of desperation because I was trying to put 'Batman' behind me, to show that I could be someone else, but I let myself be rushed into some really bad films. I have sacrificed a lot to 'Batman,' not that he hasn't been very good to me."
Despite the fact that the campy crime fighters are in daily syndication in more than 108 countries, West says he is not rolling in big Bat-bucks. "Back when I signed my contract, we were only signing to receive residuals from six runs of the series," he grumbles. And West claims he doesn't receive any money for merchandising of the numerous Batman products -- costumes, cars, flashlights, lunchboxes -- many of which are still on the market.
West is also disturbed by reports that he will be excluded from the big-budget "Batman" movie, planned by PolyGram Pictures and Warner Bros. for early 1983. "I read somewhere that Tom Mankiewicz, who wrote the screenplay for 'Superman,' is working on his third script for 'Batman,' " West says. "And he made the statement that I would not be used in the production. I submitted a scenario to PolyGram, which they ignored. They say they're going to do it all new, discover an unknown 22- 23-year-old, for cheap. They're handing down that 'talent hunt' garbage."
Would West take the part if it were offered? "My answer is, yes, I would love to play Batman if it would be a quality production. With all the fantastic special effects available now, it could be something spectacular, he could really be the world's greatest detective."
These days, West lives with wife Marcelle and their two children, ages 3 and 6, at stately West manor in Pacific Palisades, Calif. -- "Reagan country," West says. There are also four other children -- two in college and two working in Santa Monica.
West's TV sidekick, Burt Ward, found that his role as Robin consisted mainly of some of television's most painful puns. Ward, who was plucked from UCLA drama school, has said he also found it difficult to find work because "the stereotyping was just too great." West says he stays in touch with Ward, 36, now heading his own merchandising and television production firm in Santa Monica, Calif.
West says he has made hundreds of appearances as Batman at shopping centers and comic-book conventions. "Playing Batman and trying to keep the thing alive for the last 10 or 12 years, it helps to stay in shape."
And he still works as an actor, doing TV movies, commercials and the obligatory "Love Boat"-type shows "to put food on the table and keep myself out there." He just wrapped up a TV movie called "Surprise, Surprise," a "contemporary, hopefully socially relevant comedy about a marriage and its imminent breakup. I play Susan St. James' fantasy husband." And he'll be on a TV special called "Celebrity Daredevils" this fall. "I jump a car across the parking lot of Caesar's Palace, through the back of a van and over some more cars," says West, who did quite a bit of his own stunt-driving in the Batmobile.