An early depiction of the Batmobile.
|First appearance||Detective Comics #27 (May 1939)|
|In story information|
|Element of stories featuring||Batman|
The Batmobile is the automobile of DC Comics superhero Batman. The car has evolved along with the character from comic books to television and films. Kept in the Batcave, which it accesses through a hidden entrance, the Batmobile is a gadget-laden vehicle used by Batman in his crime-fighting activities.
Batman first drove in Detective Comics #27 (May, 1939). A sedan, the vehicle was simply referred to as "his car". It soon began featuring an increasingly prominent bat motif, typically including distinctive wing-shaped tailfins. In the early stages of Batman's career, he modified it with armor and technologically-advanced automotive customization and turned the Batmobile into a sleek street machine. The Batmobile has gone through numerous incarnations, and as state-of-the-art technology has continued to advance, the vehicle has had to change to stay a step ahead of real-life cutting edge advances.
The vehicle that became the Batmobile was introduced in Detective Comics #27, the first Batman story. Originally, the vehicle was a simple red convertible with nothing special in its functions. Although the Batplane was introduced in Detective Comics No. 31, the name "Batmobile" was not applied to Batman and Robin's automobile until Detective Comics No. 48 (February 1941). Other bat-vehicles soon followed, including the Batcycle, Batboat and Robin's Redbird.
The car's design gradually evolved. It became a "specially built high-powered auto" by Detective Comics #30, and in Batman #5, it began featuring an ever-larger bat hood ornament and an ever-darker paint job. Eventually, the predominant designs included a large, dark-colored body and bat-like accessories, including large tailfins scalloped to resemble a bat's wings.
Batman No. 5 (Spring 1941) introduced a long, powerful, streamlined Batmobile with a tall scalloped fin and an intimidating bat head on the front. Three pages after it was introduced, it was forced off a cliff by the Joker to crash in the ravine below. However, an identical Batmobile appeared in the next story in the same issue.
The live action television series was so popular that its campy humor and its Batmobile (a superficially modified concept car, the decade old Lincoln Futura, owned by George Barris whose shop did the work) were quickly introduced into the Batman comic books. But the high camp and general silliness 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. This Batmobile still appears from time to time in the comic books, most recently in Detective Comics #850 and the issues of Batman Confidential.
In mid-1985, a special variation of the Super Powers toyline Batmobile appeared in both Batman and Detective Comics. This design had a full set of front and rear canopies, "Coke-bottle" sides, integrated fins, and generally rounder features, just like the toy. The only difference between this car and its toy counterpart is the nose, which was occasionally drawn to appear longer and more pointed.
In Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, the Batmobile has been modified into a tank-like armored riot control vehicle, complete with machine guns shooting rubber bullets, a large cannon mounted on the front, and large tank treads in place of tires. According to Batman's narration, the only thing that can penetrate its armor "isn't from this planet." Batman also mentions that it was Dick Grayson who came up with the name. This Batmobile reappeared in All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder #4, which shows its construction by robots in the Batcave.
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 in so many different books, there was naturally a corresponding diversity of designs for the Batmobile. This has continued with designs for the Batmobile ranging from conservative and practical to highly stylized to outlandish.
During the Cataclysm storyline, it is revealed that Batman has hidden a number of spare vehicles across the city just in case. A HUMVEE serves as a primary mean of transportation to across the earthquake-ravaged city during the Aftershock storyline, as most of the Batmobiles are wrecked by the quake. These vehicles are not as sophisticated as the Batmobiles, but some of them are armored to withstand weaponry mounted on military automobiles.
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. 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.
In Frank Miller's All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, the car can morph into a harrier jet and a submarine. Dick Grayson comments that the name Batmobile is "totally queer". However, in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, which exists in the same continuity, Grayson was stated as the one who invented the name.
The metafictional Batmobile Owner's Manual, released in 2008, gives theoretical specifications of the car as if it were real. The book states that the Batmobile's five cylinder engine is more powerful than turbine jet engines, and capable of achieving up to 1700 horsepower.
In the new series Batman and Robin, a new Batmobile is unveiled. This model is capable of flight, although is not as maneuverable as the Batwing. It can fire 19 types of projectiles, one of which is a flame retardant non-toxic foam, and features a concussive sonic blast device.
In the 1943 serial film Batman, a black Cadillac was used by Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, as well as their secret identities Batman and Robin. Alfred chauffeured the Dynamic Duo in both identities. Eventually a limousine replaced the Cadillac.
The TV Batmobile was based on the Lincoln Futura Show Car, originally created by William M. Schmidt and his design team at the Lincoln Styling Department; its rakish lines are said to have been inspired by the mako shark and the manta ray. In 1954 the Futura prototype was built entirely by hand by the Ghia Body Works in Turin, Italy at a reported cost of US$250,000; it was unveiled in its original pearlescent Frost-Blue white paint finish on 8 January 1955 at the Chicago Auto Show. In 1959, sporting a fresh red paint job, the Futura was featured in the film It Started with a Kiss, starring Debbie Reynolds and Glenn Ford.
In late 1965 20th Century Fox Television and William Dozier's Greenway Productions contracted renowned Hollywood car customizer Dean Jeffries to design and build a "Batmobile" for their upcoming Batman TV series. He started customizing a 1959 Cadillac, but when the studio wanted the program on the air in January 1966, and therefore filming sooner than he could provide the car, Jeffries was paid off, and the project went to Barris. Barris had somehow already come into possession of the Futura, which had been parked behind his Hollywood shop for several years. With only three weeks to finish the Batmobile (although in recent years Jeffries says that his car was dropped because he was told it was needed in "a week and a half", he was quoted in 1988 as saying "three weeks" as well), Barris decided that, rather than building a car from scratch, it would be relatively easy to transform the distinctive Futura into the famous crime-fighting vehicle. Design work was conducted by Herb Grasse, working as an associate designer for Barris.
Barris hired Bill Cushenberry to do the metal modifications to the car and its conversion into the Batmobile was completed in just three weeks, at a reported cost of US$30,000. Barris retained ownership of the car and leased it back to 20th Century Fox and Greenway Productions for use in the series. The estimated 1966 value of the Barris Batmobile was about $125,000, but today it is estimated to be worth at least US$2 million.
In December 1965 Ford sold the Futura to Barris; despite its huge original production cost—the equivalent of approximately US$2 million in 2009 -- Barris was able to purchase the vehicle for the nominal sum of $1.00 and "other valuable consideration".
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 Mickey Thompson tires kept blowing. By mid season, the engine and transmission were replaced with a Ford Galaxie's. The most frequent visual influence of this car is that later Batmobiles usually have a rear rocket thruster that fires as the car makes a fast start.
This Batmobile's gadgets include a nose-mounted aluminium chain slicer, lasers, rockets, an on-board telephone, radar, dash monitor, on-board computer, and police beacon. If needed, the Batmobile is capable of a quick 180° "bat-turn" thanks to two rear-mounted ten-foot parachutes, and it is equipped with a smoke emitter and a nail spreader to discourage pursuit. Some changes were made during the run of the series, including different license plates, a change in steering wheel, and the addition of extra gadgets such as the rear-facing camera and battering ram. Other devices included:
The Batmobile as seen in the early episodes of Super Friends was based on the Lincoln Futura design as seen on the live-action TV series starring Adam West. The main difference with the Super Friends version was that the lines of the car were modified substantially for use in animation. The most obvious change was to the nose of the car, where the hood received a "V" depression that echoed the lower fascia. This was also the first Batmobile (of any medium) to feature yellow bat emblems on the doors. This particular feature would be quickly adapted by the comics.
Beginning with the Challenge of the Super Friends in 1978, the Batmobile got revamped. This new version was developed to have a more aerodynamic hard-edged style. In addition, this Batmobile was smaller than its predecessor. It contained a sloped nose and flying buttress B-pillars. Features that were carried over from the original Super Friends Batmobile were the Bat-mask, low horizontal fins, twin bubble windshields, and blue coloring scheme.
In 1984, Super Friends revamped its format (first as Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show and then as The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians) to serve as a tie-in to Kenner's Super Powers Collection.
The Batmobile made appearances in the various series of the DC animated universe, including Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, The New Batman Adventures, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited. The Batmobile for the series 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 that could have been from any time from the 1930s to the 1990s. This version of the Batmobile also vaguely resembled the Batmobile from the first two Tim Burton movies. Despite the obvious presence of the jet exhaust, the show frequently used sound effects from a reciprocating engine for the Batmobile's driving scenes. This, plus direct views of the engine (as seen in the episode "The Mechanic"), suggest that the car used a large piston engine for primary power and an auxiliary jet for high-speed acceleration. Among the features of the Batmobile of The Animated Series 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 an armoured stationary mode to prevent people from tampering with the car when it was left unattended, though it was not as overt as the "shields" used in the 1989 movie Batmobile. The original Batmobile design had many design variants that are seen throughout other DCAU shows, the most notable examples being the Batmobile 'truck' seen in the Superman: The Animated Series episode "Stolen Memories" and an aging Bruce Wayne's limosine, seen in Batman Beyond, which is referred to by the producers as 'an upside-down Batmobile'.
In The New Batman Adventures, the Batmobile was redesigned, with its jet engine being most notably absent (save one episode). This Batmobile design is re-used in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. In Batman Beyond, there was a flying car referred to as the Batmobile (in the show's future era, flying cars had become commonplace).
In the animated series The Batman, the Batmobile resembled a sports coupe with multiple jet exhaust slits protruding from the back bumper. 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. At the end of the episode, Batman remarks that due to the Batmobile EXP's success, it is a "keeper". In the fourth season, the episode Artifacts explores 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.
In the straight-to-DVD animated shorts collection Gotham Knight, the Batmobile makes an appearance in the feature entitled "Field Test". While set in the same continuity as Christopher Nolan's films, it is visually a pastiche of the Batmobile as it has appeared in various films. Also, the Batmobile appears in the feature entitled "Working Through Pain"; wherein Alfred arrives to pick up Batman. The Batmobile appearing in this scene seems to be inspired by its appearance in the 1989 live-action film.
The Batmobile in Batman: The Brave and the Bold takes design elements from the Golden Age Batmobiles and the Lincoln Futura. This Batmobile has the ability to morph into other vehicles. The tie in toyline's Batmobile shares this feature, transforming from car to jet. On at least one occasion, it has converted into a mecha similar to the Bat-Bots seen in Kingdom Come.
In the episode "Game Over for Owlman" Batman is forced to use a back-up Batmobile which resembles a Studebaker.
Tim Burton's live-action films Batman and Batman Returns presented a different version of the Batmobile. It reflected the environment of Burton's Art Deco Gotham City. It was long, low and sleek, and was built on a Chevy Impala chassis.
For quick maneuvers, this Batmobile had side-mounted grappling hook launchers and a central "foot" capable of lifting the car and rotating it 180°.
Reputedly, every gadget seen on the Batmobile used in these films was fully functional, including the gas turbine powering the vehicle, 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 the viewer can see it operating. Spherical bombs could be deployed from its sides. An afterburner was housed in the back. Two Browning machine guns were hidden behind flaps in each fender. Its Grappling hook, once hooked on a structure, serves as an anchor to allow the batmobile to make an extremely sharp turn at high speed that its pursuers typically cannot duplicate. It had superhydraulics for course changes, and a batdisc ejector (side-mounted) that could fire precisely 15 Batdiscs in the 1-second pulse. Other gadgets included chassis-mounted shinbreakers, oil slick dispensers and smoke emitters. Inside, the two-seat cockpit featured aircraft-like instrumentation, a passengers' side monitor, self-diagnostics system, CD recorder, and voice-command recognition system. In Batman Returns it is shown to have 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. Although this secondary mode would require the car to be reassembled and significantly repaired.
The Batmobile's shields are made up of ceramic fractal armor panels. They explode outward when struck by projectiles, deflecting injurious force away from the car and its occupants. If Batman has to exit the Batmobile for an extended period of time, he can, through a voice command, (specifically, the phrase "shields") activate the Batmobile's shielding system. This prevents people from tampering with the car while it is left unattended. Bulletproof and fireproof steel plates envelop the body and cockpit entirely. While this armor is in place, the vehicle cannot be driven. In Batman the shields were not fully functioning. In reality, a life-size model was built and the animation was provided by stop motion technology. In Batman Returns, the shields had the same characteristics. However, the design was slimmer and the special effects were provided by computer-generated imagery. In shield mode, a small but powerful bomb can be deployed.
As the Batman films were handed over to director Joel Schumacher from Tim Burton, the design for the Batmobile became increasingly fanciful. Decorative lighting was added to the vehicle's rims, sides and front edge, and the wing-shaped fins reached further into the air. New abilities included a grappling hook allowing the Batmobile to drive up walls, as well as the speed to perform large jumps from surface to surface during chases across Gotham City's elevated freeways and gigantic statues.
The Batman Forever Batmobile's ability to drive up walls was displayed as Batman eludes a dead-end provided by Two-Face and his henchmen. Later in the film, Dick Grayson takes the Batmobile for a joy ride without Batman's permission or awareness. Ultimately, it was destroyed when the Riddler deposited a sack full of explosives in the cockpit. Batman Forever is also notable for the phrase uttered by Batman to Dr. Chase Meridian "It's the car, right? Chicks love the car."
In Batman & Robin as Batman and Robin were in pursuit, Mr. Freeze shoots the underside of the car for several seconds with his freeze-gun, before the car crash-lands. However, in the next scene in the Batcave, the Batmobile is sitting back on its pedestal appearing to be in perfect condition.
The Batman Forever Batmobile had a Chevrolet 350 ZZ3 high-performance motor. It had high compression, 345 horsepower (257 kW), aluminum heads, angled plugs and a good valve grind. The body is made from a high-temperature epoxy fiberglass laminate. All of the air was extracted though vacuum bagging. The wheelbase is 118 inches (3.0 m), the average car wheelbase measures around 103 (USDOT Data 1980–2000) inches. In all, its size was 7.62 m long and 3.20 m in height. Carbon fiber was used to build the body of this particular Batmobile. Carbon fiber is the same material that is normally used for Formula One racing cars and F-16 jet fighters. The specifications for the Batmobile in this film are:
In Batman & Robin, the aerodynamic chassis design and "T" axis wheelbase provided the Batmobile counter-balance gyrometric stability, allowing for high velocity 90-degree turns at speeds greater than 70 mph without losing momentum. Initial plans had the Batmobile being able to transform into the "Bathammer" vehicle seen in this film,[A] but were abandoned. The specifications for the Batmobile in this film are as follows:
The Batman Forever Batmobile sought to accentuate its intricate lines. To do this, the filmmakers equipped it with engine panels, wheels, and undercarriage were indirectly lit so that they appeared to glow blue. The Batman Forever car also had a split cockpit canopy, separate fenders, and jet exhaust. The roof fin could be opened into a "V" shape for a more contemporary look, though the only time this was shown is during the scene when Dick Grayson is taking the car out for a joyride through the city. The wheels were made to keep the bat emblems upright when the wheels are turning. The bat-emblem hubcaps was a counter-rotating gear that transferred into a stationary point. The two-seat cockpit featured a rear-view monitor, system diagnostics display, and custom gauge cluster. H. R. Giger was chosen to design the Batmobile in the very early stages of production. He left due to creative differences. His designs are on his official website in illustrated and 3D Graphic Art form. There were two primary avoidance/defense features on the Batman Forever version. First, it had the ability to lock all four wheels perpendicular to its centerline, to allow for quick sideways movement. Second, for more dire circumstances, the Batmobile could reroute the jet exhaust to under its front end and launch grappling cables at overhead anchors. With the nose up and the lines in place, the car could climb sheer vertical surfaces like building walls as if it were driving on flat ground.
The second Schumacher era Batmobile (as seen in the 1997 film Batman & Robin) featured neither a passenger seat nor a canopy. Like the Batman Forever car, this Batmobile (which was designed by Harald Belker) featured light-up wheels and engine panels. The displays were much more involved with this car, however, with red, orange, yellow, and blue lights, as well as special pulsating lights in the counterrotating turbine intake. The nozzles were canted away from the centerline of the car slightly, so the final effect was that the six exhausts made a "V" pattern to keep the car pointed straight ahead. A bat mask was incorporated in the nose of the car, though the sculpted lines made it somewhat difficult to make out at first. The fins were unmistakable, though, and remain as the largest set ever built into a real-world Batmobile. On the Batman & Robin version the arsenal of weaponry and gadgets is controlled by an onboard voice-activated computer which surrounds the single-seat cockpit. From behind the wheel, the driver has access to a multifunctioning key command response system which delivers immediate weapon activation during attack and defensive procedures. The Batman & Robin Batmobile was equipped with dual-mount, subcarriage rocket launchers, front and rear grappling hooks, multipoint infrared and laser scan tracking units, anterior/posterior wheel-based axle bombs, catapult ejection seat, and disguised central carriage, which detaches to become an emergency road vehicle. The single-seat cockpit featured a two-way videoconferencing screen, radar unit, and Redbird communication switch.
The Batmobile depicted in the Christopher Nolan directed films Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008) owes more to the tank-like vehicle from Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and has a much more 'workhorse' appearance than the sleek automobiles seen in previous incarnations. The vehicle does not have a front axle, a design that was influenced by the spinners featured in Director Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. The film's production designer described the machine as a cross between a Lamborghini and a Tank on the Batman Begins special features DVD. It is said to resemble a crouching bat, but in some ways resembles the F-117 Nighthawk.
In the 2005 movie, Bruce Wayne modifies a prototype military vehicle called "the Tumbler" that was designed as a bridging vehicle for the military. In the Nolan films the vehicle is never referred to as the "Batmobile". Six vehicles were built for the production of the film. Two full-sized, driving versions were used in exterior shots. One full-sized model with hydraulic enhancements was used in jump sequences. One full-sized, functional version carried propane tanks to fuel the rocket blast out of the rear nozzle. A radio-controlled, 1/3-scale electric model also performed stunts in the film (e.g., the roof-top chase sequence). These scenes were filmed over 9 weeks, on a massive set built on a stage at Shepperton Studios.
The Batmobile returns in The Dark Knight, and appears twice in the movie: when Batman captures the Scarecrow and the fake Batmen in the car park, and in the chase where it is damaged beyond repair by a chain 'tumbling' reaction, initiated by a rocket-propelled grenade fired by The Joker; Batman ejects from the Batmobile in the Batpod (a motorcycle formed by the front wheels and struts of the Batmobile). Once ejected, Batman programs the Batmobile to self-destruct. The Batmobile is also seen in the trailers in a deleted scene, getting out of the improvised Batcave.
The Batman Begins Batmobile has a pair of autocannons mounted in the nose of the car between the front wheels. In "Attack" mode, the driver's seat moves to the center of the car, and the driver is repositioned to lay face-down with his head in the center section between the front wheels. This serves two main purposes: first, it provides more substantial protection with the driver shielded by multiple layers of armor plating. Second, the prone position reduces the risk of injury a driver faces when making extreme driving maneuvers. Other devices included:
Nathan Crowley, one of the production designers for Batman Begins, started the process of designing the Tumbler for the film by model bashing. One of the parts that Crowley used to create the vehicle was the nose cone of a P-38 Lightning model to serve as the chassis for the car's jet engine. Six models of the Tumbler were built to 1:12 scale in the course of four months. Following the scale model creation, a crew of over 30 people, including Crowley and engineers Chris Culvert and Annie Smith, carved a full-size replica of the vehicle out of a large block of Styrofoam, which was a process that lasted two months.
The Styrofoam model was used to create a steel "test frame", which had to stand up to several standards: have a speed of over 100 mph, go from 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 5 seconds, possess a steering system to make sharp turns at city corners, and to withstand a self-propelled launch of up to 30 feet (9.1 m). On the very first jump test, the Tumbler's front end collapsed and had to be completely rebuilt. The basic configuration of the newly designed vehicle included a 5.7-liter Chevy V8 engine, a truck axle for the rear axle, front racing tires by Hoosier, rear 4x4 mud tires by Interco., and the suspension system of Baja racing trucks. The design and development process took nine months and cost several million dollars.
With the design process completed, four street-ready cars were constructed, with each vehicle possessing 65 carbon fiber panels and costing $250,000 to build. Two of the four cars were specialized versions. One version was the flap version, which had hydraulics and flaps to detail the close-up shots where the vehicle propelled itself through the air. The other version was the jet version, in which an actual jet engine was mounted onto the vehicle, fueled by six propane tanks. Due to the poor visibility inside the vehicle by the driver, monitors were connected to cameras on the vehicle body. The professional drivers for the Tumblers practiced driving the vehicles for six months before they drove on the streets of Chicago for the film's scenes.
The interior was an immobile studio set and not actually the interior of a street-capable version. The cockpit was over-sized to fit cameras for scenes filmed in the Tumbler interior. In addition, another version of the car was a miniature model that was 1:5 scale of the full-sized one. This miniature model had an electric motor and was used to show it flying across ravines and between buildings. However, a full-size car was used for the waterfall sequence. The scale model scenes were filmed on a massive set built on a stage at Shepperton Studios in England over the course of nine weeks. The full-sized vehicles were driven and filmed on the streets of Chicago. In The Dark Knight, the Batpod ejects from the Tumbler, with the Tumbler's front wheels as the Batpod's wheels; this was rendered using computer-generated imagery.
Mego produced the Batmobile for it's World's Greatest Super Hero line in the 1970's. It could seat two 8 inch action figures.
There are two Batmobile levels in the video game adaptation of Batman Begins (2005). Electronic Arts used the Burnout 3: Takedown engine for these levels. Batman has to ram enemy cars off the road which results in a "Take down" while picking up Nitro boosts along the way that float on the road in holographic bubbles. Xbox World Australia called these sequences the highlight of the game. Cheatcc.com called them "by far the best Batmobile levels ever featured in a game".