Before Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale and Ben Affleck donned Batman's cape in a stream of Hollywood blockbusters, there was Adam West.

West's deadpan portrayal of the comic hero in a campy 1960s TV series brought the Caped Crusader into the national consciousness with a "bang!" The Dark Knight had been a brooding presence on the pages of comic books since 1939 and on the big screen in 1940s-era movie serials.

West died Friday night after "a short but brave battle with leukemia," his publicist, Molly Schoneveld, said Saturday in a statement. He was 88.

"Our dad always saw himself as The Bright Knight, and aspired to make a positive impact on his fans' lives," West's children said in a statement. "He was and always will be our hero."

On West's Twitter page, the family wrote: "He was the greatest. We'll miss him like crazy."

West played the superhero straight for kids and funny for adults. His sidekick, Robin, was played by Burt Ward. The actors also voiced their characters in 1989 in an animated film, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders.

West was so closely identified with his tongue-in-cheek portrayal of the cartoon superhero that he had trouble landing other roles when the show ended.

He initially chaffed at being typecast after Batman went off the air after three seasons, but in later years, he admitted he was pleased to have had a role in kicking off a big-budget film franchise by showing the character's wide appeal.

"You get terribly typecast playing a character like that," he said in a 2014 interview. 

"But in the overall, I'm delighted because my character became iconic and has opened a lot of doors in other ways, too."

The Simpsons and Family Guy

West returned to the role of Batman in an episode of the animated show The Simpsons.

More recently, he did the voice of nutty Mayor Adam West in the long-running Family Guy series. 

In April 2012, West received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Film Batman

West, left, is shown with his Batman sidekick Robin, played by Burt Ward, in 1989. The actors voiced their characters in an animated film, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders. (Mark Elias/The Associated Press)

Born William West Anderson in Walla Walla, Wash., he moved to Seattle at age 15 with his mother after his parents divorced.

He graduated from Whitman College, a private liberal arts school, in Walla Walla.

After serving in the army, he went to Hollywood and changed his name to Adam West, and began appearing on a number of television series, including BonanzaPerry Mason and Bewitched

Married three times, he had six children.

West had homes in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, Calif., but he and his wife, Marcelle, spent most of their time at their ranch near Sun Valley, Idaho.

Batman was among the most popular shows in 1966, the year of its debut, and some of the era's top actors signed on to play villains. Burgess Meredith squawked as the Penguin. Eartha Kitt purred as Catwoman. And Cesar Romero cackled as the Joker.

Batman's cast of characters

While West's character drove Batman, the show's various memorable villains — Cesar Romero as the Joker, Frank Gorshin as the Riddler, Burgess Meredith as the Penguin and Julie Newmar as Catwoman — were allowed to chew the 
scenery.

Numerous Hollywood luminaries stepped in to play Batman's demented adversaries in the show's 120 episodes.
 
"He was bright, witty and fun to work with," Newmar said on Saturday in a statement. "I will miss him in the physical world and savour him always in the world of imagination and creativity."

Mark Hamill, who voiced the character of the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series, paid tribute to West on Twitter Saturday.


      

With files from CBC News, Reuters