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Image:Batmobiles.jpg

Back to Batman *DC Comics

Nothing says Batman like the Batmobile. The Batmobile really became popular with the 1966 TV show version created by by George Barris, but there have been many versions before and since in the comics.


Contents

Technical description

For more details on this topic, see Equipment of the Batmobile.

The Batmobile has changed frequently over the decades. In the early stages of Batman's career, the Batmobile was a modified sedan with armor but it has evolved into a technologically advanced custom-built automobile.

The Batmobile has sometimes been described as being powered by nuclear generation of electricity. It was part of the launch checklist from the 1966 television show ("Atomic batteries to power. Turbines to speed!"). And, in Batman Returns, one of the Penguin’s schemes to kill Batman is to turn the Batmobile into "a H-bomb on wheels."

In addition to riding in the Batmobile, Batman's partners Robin (Tim Drake) and Nightwing (Dick Grayson) have had their own customised cars, the Redbird and Nightbird, respectively.


History

Before the Batmobile - 1939

Batman’s “high-powered auto.” (Detective Comics No. 30)
Batman’s “high-powered auto.” (Detective Comics No. 30)

Batman made his very first appearance in Detective Comics No. 27 May 1939. Although the Batplane was introduced only four issues later, in Detective Comics No. 31, the strip's creators didn't seem to realize the need for a comparable ground vehicle until a year and a half later. Initially, Batman simply drove around in several ordinary cars. Detective Comics No. 30 August 1939 is the first instance of Batman's automobile being identified as anything other than a standard product of Detroit, . Readers learn that the Batman drives a "specially built high-powered auto". Except for the unusually long hood, it looks very much like a 1937 Ford Coupe (especially in the grill treatment).

The classic Batmobile - 1941

The first appearance of a recognizable “Batmobile.” (Batman No. 5)
The first appearance of a recognizable “Batmobile.” (Batman No. 5)

Batman No. 5 (Spring 1941 introduced the form of the Batmobile that would become standard until the early 1960s. The new Batmobile was a long, powerful, streamlined automobile with a tall scalloped fin and a bat head on the front. Three pages after it was introduced, the new Batmobile was forced off a cliff by the Joker to crash in the ravine below. This did not end the Batmobile's career, however. Another, identical Batmobile was streaking through the panels of the very next story in the same issue.

The “Batmobile of 1950”

The new Batmobile of 1950. (Detective Comics No. 156)
The new Batmobile of 1950. (Detective Comics No. 156)

It took Detroit, a few years after World War II to switch from wartime production back to turning out new cars. But, by 1950, new, sleeker designs were hitting the streets and the Batmobile of the 1940s was starting to look a little old-fashioned. So it probably wasn't a big surprise that the February 1950 issue of Detective Comics told the story of the creation of a brand new Batmobile.History of the Batmobile: 1950

Batman and Robin constructed the new Batmobile themselves in the Batcave. Later stories established the Batmobile as having been built by a mechanic who owed his life to Batman but, in 1950, they did not appear to need outside help. The new Batmobile was sleek and modern-looking (by the standards of the time), and was equipped with a large array of crime fighting equipment, including rocket tubes in the rear for super-acceleration and speed, a radar antenna in the fin, radar and television screens in the dash, a complete crime laboratory in the rear, a search light that projected a Bat-signal or a special infrared beam, and a razor sharp blade in the bat head on the front of the car to cut through barriers. As Batman said, "It's ten years ahead of anything else on wheels."

The “new look,” 1964

The “New Look” Batmobile. (Detective Comics No. 341)
The “New Look” Batmobile. (Detective Comics No. 341)

By 1964, the sales of Batman comics had fallen drastically and DC considered canceling the title. But editor Julius Schwartz, who had produced hits by modernizing and updating old characters like the Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman and Atom, was given the task of doing the same with Batman. Detective Comics No. 327 May 1964 announced a "New Look" for DC's second oldest superhero. Gone were the aliens and science fiction themed stories, as were most of the large supporting cast of characters like Batwoman and Bat-Mite. The "New Look" focused stories on crime and mysteries. The Batmobile was revamped into a sports car and Batman's costume was refreshed with a yellow oval behind the bat symbol.History of the Batmobile: 1964 The image of the “New Look” Batmobile presented here is from Detective Comics No. 341 July 1965.

The "discreet" Batmobile, 1971

The “discreet” Batmobile. (Batman No. 234)
The “discreet” Batmobile. (Batman No. 234)

The Batman live action television series was so popular that its campy humor and the sleek Batmobile designed by George Barris were quickly introduced into the Batman comic books. But the high camp of the television show did not sit well with long-time Batman comic book fans. So, when the series was canceled in 1968 the comic books reacted by becoming darker and more serious. They abandoned many of the character's traditional accouterments and emphasized Batman's role as a detective. He no longer operated out of Wayne Manor or the Batcave. He and Alfred moved to a penthouse in Gotham. Robin, the "Boy Wonder", was also gone, as Dick Grayson had grown up and left for college. Part of the change was a complete redesign of the Batmobile. Instead of flashing lights and scalloped fins, the new Batmobile was a discreet roadster with little to distinguish it from any other street vehicle except for the subdued bat-head on the hood.History of the Batmobile: 1970 This version was typical of the decade and representative of the strong desire of the creative teams producing the series to re-establish it as a "serious" title. As seen in the panel at left (from Batman #234, 1971, the roadster is not a real automobile, but does combine the major design elements from two well known cars of the late 1960s, the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Corvette.

The Batmobile of the 1980s was clearly recognizable as such. (Untold Legends of the Batman, September 1980
The Batmobile of the 1980s was clearly recognizable as such. (Untold Legends of the Batman, September 1980

A return to style, 1980

This Batmobile, used throughout the 1980's, represented a return to a more traditional style after the nondescript roadster of the 1970s.History of the Batmobile: 1978-1987 The twin bubble windshields and the fins on the rear fenders were reminiscent of the 1966 in television TV Batmobile, as was the rather small turbine exhaust nozzle in the rear of the car. The open cockpit was also like the TV Batmobile, but it was also similar to the sports car Batmobile from the early 1960s.

Batmobile lifted overhead by alternate Superman in Superman/Batman series. Obviously drawn to look like the Adam West TV Batmobile.
Batmobile lifted overhead by alternate Superman in Superman/Batman series. Obviously drawn to look like the Adam West TV Batmobile.

A multiplicity of styles, 1990s to the present

Beginning in the 1990s, the number of comics featuring Batman mushroomed with spin-off titles, limited series, and graphic novels. At the same time, there was considerable experimentation with styles of illustration. With different illustration styles appearing in so many different books, there was naturally a corresponding diversity of designs for the Batmobile. In Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns for example, the Batmobile appears as a tank, a look that Chris Nolan adopted for his movie franchise.

In the Batman: Hush storyline, a splash page by Jim Lee shows all the previous Batmobiles (from comics, movies, and all TV series) in storage in the Batcave. A sample of dialogue between Batman and Nightwing supports this point: Batman: "We'll take the car." Nightwing: "O.K. Which one?" In addition, some incarnations of the character, such as Batman: The Animated Series, establish that Batman has a large ground vehicle fleet of various makes and models as well as utility vehicles to use when the Batmobile would be too conspicuous.

During the Cataclysm storyline, in which Gotham City's infrastructure was destroyed by a major earthquake, Batman took to the rubble-strewn streets in the "Bat-High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle|Humvee". The Bat-Humvee has a 6.5-Litre engine raised suspension and variable-pressure all-terrain tires.

In other media

Movie serials, 1943 and 1949

The Batmobile as seen in the 1949 Batman and Robin serial.
The Batmobile as seen in the 1949 Batman and Robin serial.

Before television, movie serials were very popular and many comic book characters also made it into the serials. The first Batman serial was produced in 1943. History of the Batmobile: 1943 The second, Batman and Robin, was produced in 1949.History of the Batmobile: 1949 Both suffered from low budgets and the “Batmobile” in each was simply a regular civilian automobile.

TV Batmobile, 1966

The Batmobile used in the 1960s Batman television series.
The Batmobile used in the 1960s Batman television series.
The Batmobile coming out of the Batcave animated gif.
The Batmobile coming out of the Batcave animated gif.

Perhaps the most famous Batmobile History of the Batmobile: 1966-1979, the one from the Batman (TV series)|1966-1968 live action television show, began life as a Ford concept car called the Lincoln Futura, built over a decade earlier in 1955. The body of the Futura was fabricated by Ghia of Italy, whose artisans hammered the car's panels over logs and tree stumps carved as forms to create the sleek manta ray-like car. In 1959 the Futura was featured sporting a fresh red paint job in the film It Started with a Kiss, starring Debbie Reynolds and Glenn Ford. In 1965, ABC-TV chose famed Hollywood customizer George Barris to design a "Batmobile" for their soon-to-go-into production BATMAN show. With only three weeks, Barris decided that rather than build a car from scratch, it would be best to transform the Lincoln Futura into the famous crime-fighting vehicle of TV's caped crusader. Barris hired Dean Jeffries to do the metal modifications to the car. When filming for the series began, several problems arose due to the age of the car: It overheated, the battery went dead, and the expensive Indy type tires provided by Mickey Thompson kept blowing. By midseason the drive train and chassis including a new 428 C.I.D. engine from a 1966 Ford Galaxie was installed replacing the original Lincoln Mark two units.

Barris built three fiberglass copies of the original Batmobile for exhibition on the car show circuit (one of which was used for exhibition drag racing). Eventually, the three copies were covered with a black velvet "fuzz" paint, presumably to hide stress cracks in the fiberglass bodies. Later, all three were restored to their gloss black paint job. The 3 replicas are all based on a 1965-1966 Ford Galaxie. Barris has retained ownership of the original TV car, which is currently on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, California. The three Barris copies all reside in private collections.

Super Friends Batman and Batmobile
Super Friends Batman and Batmobile

Cartoons, 1968 - 1986

From the late 1960s through the 1980s, several Saturday morning cartoon series featured DC’s superheroes, including Batman. These shows were The Batman/Superman Hour 1968 – 1969 in The New Adventures of Batman 1977, and Super Friends 1973 – 1986 . Each show had a different design for the Batmobile, some taking influence from the popular 1960s television program.

Batmobile 89 movie
Batmobile 89 movie
Batmobile 89 movie
Batmobile 89 movie

The movies, 1989 - 1994

The next live-action depiction of Batman was a radical departure from the campy style of the 1960s TV series. In the 1989 Batman film, director Tim Burton created a dark, and dangerous Gotham. The Batmobile that roamed the streets of this Art Deco city reflected its environment.History of the Batmobile: 1989-1992 It was long, low, and sleek. It combined design elements from 1930s coupes like the Bugatti Type 57 and modern racing cars such as the Porsche 962, and was built on a Chevy Impala chassis.

Gadgetry included twin retractable machine guns, and small bombs ejected from the wheels. To prevent tampering, the Tim Burton Batmobile featured an armored "cocoon" mode, a hard layered shell that would cover every inch of the vehicle, including the wheels. In Batman Returns, the Batmobile (by Jay Ohrberg) also had a secondary mode referred to as the "Batmissile", where the wheels would retract inward and the sides of the vehicle would break off, converting the car into a thin bullet train-like form capable of squeezing through tight alleyways, at the cost of destroying most of the car. Reputedly, every gadget seen on the Batmobile used in these films was fully functional, including the jet engine, which consumed fuel at such a high rate that there was only enough fuel capacity to run it for the approximately fifteen seconds of the longest shot in which it could be seen operating. This version of the Batmobile was later seen in the Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman episode called "Don't Tug on Superman's Cape", an episode in which the car was stolen by a group of collectors.

Batman: The Animated Series, 1992-1995

The Batmobile as seen on Batman: The Animated Series.
The Batmobile as seen on Batman: The Animated Series.

The same year that the second Batman movie, Batman Returns, was released, a new television series began. Batman: The Animated Series used a distinctive visual combination of film noir imagery and Art Deco designs with a dark color scheme. The show created an "otherworldly timelessness" by combining vintage design elements like police blimps and pre-World War II vehicle styles with modern components like jet propulsion and computers.

The Batmobile for the series also combined style elements from various eras to produce a long, low vehicle with square lines, long fins, and a blunt nose with a massive chrome grill.History of the Batmobile: 1992 Among its features were smoke and oil dispensers, wheel slasher hubs, a missile rack, tear gas dispensers, ejection seats, titanium alloy wheels and body panels, and reversible jet exhausts. It also had a "shield" mode to prevent people from tampering with the car when it was left unattended, though it was not as overt as the "cocoon" used on the 1989 movie Batmobile. Despite the obvious presence of the jet exhaust, the show frequently used sound effects from a reciprocating engine for the Batmobile's driving scenes. While the Batmobile in the series has two seats inside, it is shown having only one seat in the film, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.

Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, 1995 and 1997

As the 1990s Batman films were handed over to director Joel Schumacher, decorative lighting was added to the vehicle's rims, sides and front edge, and the wing-shaped fins were heightened. In order to accentuate its intricate lines, the filmmakers indirectly lit the engine panels, wheels, and the undercarriage so that they appeared to glow blue Chicks Dig the Car! Dashboard. The Batman Forever car also had a split cockpit canopy, separate fenders, and jet exhaust Kilmer Car - Batmobile Dashboard. The roof fin could be opened into a "V" shape for a more contemporary look. The wheels used a counter-rotating gear assembly to keep the bat-emblem hubcaps upright when the wheels were in motion.

The second Shumacher-era Batmobile used in Batman and Robin (film) did not feature a passenger seat or a canopy, and was covered in neon blue lights. Batman Forever was originally supposed to have a Batmobile designed by famed designer H. R. Giger, but Giger backed out of the project when Warner Bros. rejected his design. As well as the stylish look of the newly designed batmobile of the eighties, the vehicle was rumored to have run on a type of fuel far different than that of a regular automobile. This fuel was designed particularly for the batmobile in order for higher speed velocity.

The New Batman Adventures, 1997-1999

The Batmobile as seen on The New Batman Adventures television series.
The Batmobile as seen on The New Batman Adventures television series.

This sequel to Batman: The Animated Series depicted the Batmobile as a sleek, two passenger coupe. Like the earlier cartoon, the only traditional Batmobile features it retained were the fins and split windshield.History of the Batmobile: 1997 Like other Batmobiles, it also had jet thrusters, although they were now a pair of long, thin slits on the rear bumper.

Though The New Batman Adventures ended its TV run in 1999, this car design would be used throughout the comics based on the series and was the car used in the later Justice League series.

In the episode "Legends of the Dark Knight", in which three children tell versions of what they imagine Batman to be like, one child's version is very reminiscent of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, and the sequence features a large, very tank-like Batmobile.

Inside Batmobile from Batman Beyond
Inside Batmobile from Batman Beyond

Batman Beyond, 1999

The animated series Batman Beyond is set in a future in which flying cars have become commonplace, and such, Batman used a flying vehicle referred to as the Batmobile.History of the Batmobile: Batman Beyond It is believed that the hovercar that the elderly Bruce Wayne drives around in is designed in homage to the original animated series. Its long slender front resembles the original show's Batmobile and even has a silver grill in front that runs down to underneath the car.

The Batman, 2004

In the animated series The Batman, the Batmobile resembled a sports coupe with multiple jet exhaust slits protruding from the back bumper.History of the Batmobile: 2004 In the third season episode "RPM", this Batmobile was wrecked beyond repair, and Batman completed a prototype design that included a Wayne Industries 'EXP' power generator. This Batmobile was longer and had a lower profile with only one triangular jet exhaust coming from the rear of the car.History of the Batmobile: 2005-2006 At the end of the episode, Batman remarks that due to the Batmobile EXP's success, it's a "keeper." In the fourth season, an episode explored Gotham City in the year 2027, complete with a new tank-like Batmobile reminiscent of Frank Miller's design for the Batmobile in The Dark Knight Returns with the Batman Begins Batmobile mixed in as well. The same Batmobile could also be considered an earlier version of the Batman Beyond Batmobile, as the exterior and interior shared the same red theme, with more similar to the interior.

Batman Begins, 2005

The Batmobile used in Batman Begins.
The Batmobile used in Batman Begins.

The Batmobile depicted in the 2005 film Batman Begins owes more to the tank-like vehicle from Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns than to the sleek automobiles seen in previous movies.History of the Batmobile: 2005 “Tumbler” This is mentioned in the DVD commentary of the film, in which the film's production designer described the machine as being a cross between a Lamborghini and a Hummer. In the film, Bruce Wayne modifies a military vehicle known as the “Tumbler.” The vehicle that he creates is never referred to as the "Batmobile". In the various interior sequences of the Batmobile/Tumbler being driven, it appears to drive like a boat, based on throttle placement, use, and construction. Four individual Batmobiles were built for filming in the movie, each with a special purpose to meet the various stunt needs of the film: two regular, full-size driving Batmobiles for exterior shots; one full-size model with hydraulics for the jump sequences; one full-size functional vehicle with propane tanks to fuel the rocket blast out of the rear nozzle and a 1/3-scale radio-controlled electric model for the most involved stunts in the film (e.g. the roof-top chase sequence). The scale model scenes were filmed on a massive set built on a stage at Shepperton Studios over the course of nine weeks. The full-sized vehicles were driven and filmed on the streets of Chicago, Illinois. The Tumbler would appear again in the sequel The Dark Knight.

Batmobiles on display

A Batmobile replica on display at Six Flags Great America, in front of Batman: The Ride.
A Batmobile replica on display at Six Flags Great America, in front of Batman: The Ride.

A replica of the Batman returns Batmobile is currently located at Cars of the Stars Motor Museum in Keswick, northern England. Another version can also been seen on the Warner Bros. VIP Studio Tour. Replicas of the Tim Burton-era Batmobiles are on display in front of several Batman: The Ride roller coasters.

The Batmobile from the second Batman movie is on display at the Chick-fil-A Corporate Offices in Atlanta, GA.


Internal Links Toy Batmobiles

List of Batmobiles in other media

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