The Batmobile is perhaps the coolest car ever in the history of television (and of course comics as well). The General Lee. K.I.T.T. The Black Beauty. Grampa Munster’s Dragula. Speed Racer’s Mach 5. Even that car from the short-lived “Automan” that could make turns at ninety-degree angles. None of them live up to Batman’s ride. The line from Batman Forever is “The car, chicks dig the car.” There is so much truth in that statement and yet, it is not precisely true. Everyone digs the car. Meet me after the jump, and we’ll talk about some of the coolest Batmobiles over the ages.
Perhaps my earliest memory is of my brother trying to make me stop crying by showing me a toy or model Batmobile, probably some time in 1966. Yeah, that was the year of the Bat on television. I love that show. It was my gateway drug into comic books, and from that moment on, whenever I played with my Hot Wheels or Johnny Lightnings on the floor, it was always the coolest car that I pretended was the Batmobile. It was, and still is, the coolest car on Earth.
For the 1966 “Batman” TV series, auto designer and customizer George Barris took a 1955 Lincoln Futura and turned it into the most recognizable Batmobile of all. Re-inflating tires, bulletproof windshield, on-board computer and phone, remote control, parachute braking, firework security, the bat-beam, a variety of weapons and crime-fighting gadgets – it was the perfect vehicle for the caped crusaders. And it was cool, every kid in America, no matter the age, wanted to cruise the streets in this car. Including me, at age two, and still nearly five decades later.
Electric and Eccentric
The first Batmobile I saw in the comics was nothing like the TV Batmobile, but still, it stole my heart with its simplicity. Much like the very first car the caped crusader drove in the 1930s, this looked for the most part normal. It was a Neal Adams designed sleek sports car, black of course like all Batmobiles except the first, which was red. The only thing that distinguished itself from other vehicles was it was electric-powered, decades before that was cool, and there was the shadow of a bat on the hood, headlights marking the eyes. I dug it.
As my comics habit became more intense and I devoured reprints as well as new comics, I discovered that Batman had a thing for cars. He was a millionaire, then later billionaire, after all. He liked his toys a lot. Sometimes it seemed like Batman changed cars like the Wasp changed costumes. There are literally dozens of Batmobiles. I doubt the Batcave has room for all of them.
The Batmobile of 1950
In the 100-Page Super-Spectaculars of the 1970s, where DC Comics showed off their five decade history of comics they either created or acquired, I found my favorite Batmobile, second only to the George Barris miracle. Famously known as the Batmobile of 1950, from a story of the same name (Detective Comics #156), this was the car Batman drove ironically enough throughout the forties and fifties.
The Batmobile of 1950 was the big black domed beauty with the single giant bat-fin in the back and the sinister-looking bat-head battering ram in the front. Reputedly designed by Jerry Robinson in 1941, this basic concept of the front and fin would last for twenty years on models ranging from Cadillacs to Studebakers to Hudsons. I love it.
In the forties and fifties the models and base vehicles changed, but the main visual was that of the Batmobile of 1950. In the late sixties and seventies we saw many variations on the George Barris car both in the comics and cartoons. Much of the seventies also featured different cars as the Adams electric sportster. For the most part the Batmobile pretty much always looked something like one if those three.
In the 1980s artist Norm Breyfogle began to experiment with drastically different Batmobiles. Over the course of time he featured various concepts in low flat futuristic vehicles, with untraditional highlights of yellow or gold. These cars were close to the designs of the racers that regular broke land speed records. I liked these a lot. By this time however, consistency seemed to get out of hand, and remain so to this day. Now almost every bat-artist will try his hand at designing his own Batmobile. Remember what I said about having room in the Batcave?
Rockets and Tanks
I have also thought the Batmobile should be a big car, like a Hudson or a Cadillac, or the long job like the one in “Batman The Animated Series,” but it should not be a tank. Frank Miller first did the tank in his The Dark Knight Returns, and then a year later Berni Wrightson did the monster truck in The Cult, and the Batmobile was never the same again. It was no longer about speed and grace, now the Batmobile drove over or through obstacles.
This brings us the Batmobiles of the movies. The Tim Burton cars were rolling rocket engines. Where’s the fun in that? And the Tumbler in the Nolan trilogy? That thing was kinda neat, I admit, but it was no Batmobile. It was more a Bat-Tank to park next to the Batcycle and the Batplane than a traditional Batmobile. How much longer before they put a turret on top of it? My mind always goes back to playing on the floor with my Hot Wheels, and the Tumbler would never be the coolest car.
Yeah, I’m old, and old fashioned. I like what I like, so get off my lawn. I dig the George Barris car, the Adams electric, the low Breyfogles, and the Batmobile of 1950. The only other car that made me sit up and take notice was fairly recent, believe it or not, but Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely.
Relating the adventures of Dick Grayson as Batman and Damian Wayne as Robin, a new Batmobile was introduced that could fly. I liked this a lot, the idea of adding some new tech and superhero science to comics’ coolest car. Not that the Batmobile wasn’t always a pinnacle of high tech, this just brought it to the next level.