SS210’s ‘A Look Back: The Batmobile’

 

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Very rarely does a vehicle equally match the popularity and fandom of a popular franchise character. There’s the iconic Aston Martin DB5 from the James Bondfranchise, Han Solo’s Millenium Falcon from Star Wars, just to cherry pick a few from the short list of iconic media vehicles. However, none have truly had the longevity as Batman’s Batmobile. Literally spanning over seven plus decades of being reintroduced to new generations of fans that has taken just about as much spot light as the driver, Batman himself. With many DC fans eagerly awaiting the 2015 Batman Vs Superman blockbuster, many are wondering if we will get a new silver screen Batmobile? Your guess is as good as mine, I certainly hope so. That being said, I thought it would be fun to stroll down Gotham’s memory lane and take a in depth “look back” from cartoons, toys, movies, and the comics of the iconic Batmobile. Feel free to let us know which version you think was the best and worst or just enjoy the ride like the Dark Knight himself cruising the streets of Gotham in his super hero ride of all super hero rides…the Batmobile.

Like most kids from the 1980’s, my knowledge of the Batmobile was quite small. I knew Batman had a cool car that he drove on the Scooby Doo Batman episode, and of course the toy from the 1980s Super Hero’s line and that was it. I didn’t get introduced to the 1960’s Batmobile until I caught Bat fever after watching the 1989 live action Batman blockbuster…but we will get to that soon enough, for now let’s take a look at the world first introduction to the Batmobile…which was also Batman’s first ever introduction as well, 1939’s Detective Comics Issue 27.

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I think I can safely speak for us all when I say the Batmobile has come a long way. According to some good old fashioned web research, it wasn’t even called the “Batmobile” until February 1941 in issue No. 48 of Detective Comics. Over the next two decades, the Batmobile continued to evolve, however it wasn’t until the 1966 premier of the live action ABC Batman television series that truly catupulted the iconic car to stardom. I am sure most of you have heard this story before, but I will give a quick recap for those not familiar courtesy of Wiki.

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In 1966 Barris was requested to design a theme car for the Batman television series.[4] Originally the auto stylist Dean Jeffries was contracted to build the car for the show in late 1965, but when the studio wanted the car faster than he could deliver, the project was handed to Barris.[5] With the short notice, Barris thought the Futura might work well, and using Jeffries initial car, decided that its unusual winged shape would be an ideal starting point for the Batmobile. Barris hired Bill Cushenberry to do the metal modifications to the car. Barris went on to build three fiberglass replicas using the frames and running gear from 1966 Ford Galaxie cars for the show circuit, three of which were covered with a felt-like flocking finish in the 1970s. Barris later acquired a fourth replica, a metal car built on a 1958 Thunderbird.

After its conversion to the Batmobile, Barris continued to retain ownership of the car, leasing it to the TV studio for filming. After production of the TV series ended, Barris continued to own the car, which was displayed in Barris’ own museum in California. It has been displayed in the Cayman Motor Museum on Grand Cayman Island.

Barris sold the Batmobile to Rick Champagne at the Barrett-Jackson collector car auction on Saturday, January 19, 2013 in Scottsdale, Arizona for US4.62 million dollars



If I could ever ask Mr. Champagne one question , it would be how the hell did he break the news to his wife that he wanted to spend 4.62 million dollars on a toy and get away with it!? Now that is one smooth operator. Respect, I know I could never pull that off.

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To this day, this sucker continues to get “ooohs and awes” at various annual comic conventions, and rightly so. I saw this bad boy at my first C2E2 in 2008, and it truly was a sight to see in person.

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How cool is that car Bat phone!? Here is my question, If Batman used the phone to talk…then what did he use the t.v for? I mean seriously, it was a small 6-9 in black and white t.v. with no satelite cable and the V.C.R wasn’t even close to being invented. Still looks cool though. Not sure if this is my #1 favorite Batmobile, definetly oozes the word “classic”, but for me personally I would have to go with the 1989 Batmobile as my all time bad ass Batmobile.
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1989 was the year. I was 12 years old and a bunch of my friends came along with me on opening day to watch Batman. The summer weeks leading up to the world box office premier were flooded with magazine covers and interviews. McDonalds Happy Meals and movie trailer commercials were playing around the clock. Excitement was at a all time high for me on the eve before the national premier. The movie plex was packed! The line was a hour long, theatre employee’s were handing out Batman catalogs to movie goer’s that advertised the 1989 Batman movie line figures, the theatre handed out Bat mugs with the Bat logo for anyone who bought a beverage….I had never seen anything like it. I was in awe of Batman and I hadn’t even seen the opening credits! I KNEW I was going to love Batman, what I didn’t know was how much the Batmobile was going to kick ass. That scene when the cacoon covered up the Batmobile made the entire audience gasp in awe. Not sure if many recall, but there was a scene near the end when the Batmobile has a scene all to itself as it stormed the Joker’s Axis Chemicals Plantdestroying everything in it’s path with mini guns and missiles…the final scene has the Batmobile pull up to Batman with explosions burning in the background andJoker’s helicopter escaping in the air hovering above Batman….easily one of my favorite scenes of the movie and just might be one of my favorite Batmobile scenes as well. After that day it was official, I was a die hard Batman fan for life. I collected and read the comics each month and the 89 Batman toy line was my new favorite toys in the toy box, phasing out G.I. Joe and Transformers. I fondly remember one dark and stormy night that my mother randomly stopped at a Toys R Us on the way home one day, she told me to wait in the car. I had no clue what she was there for or why I could not come in. Maybe it was because of the thunderstorm I thought. When she walked out the store I saw her holding a large bag, my heart raced and I looked in and saw the 1989 movie line BATMOBILE with CACOON!! From that day on, it was one of my favorite toys that to this day I still smile over. I actually got to see the 89 Batmobile on display in 1991 at the Mirage Hotel/Casino while visiting my sister in Las Vegas….I must of stared at the sucker from every angle for a good hour while my sister played the slot machines, good times. The following year the sequel, Batman Returns would hit theatres and I was happy to see that Batman was still riding in that same iconic Batmobile, until thePenguins hench men got a hold of it anyway, little did we know that Batman Returns would be the last time we saw this amazing Batmobile on the big screen.

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By the time 1995’s Batman Forever was hitting theatres I was in High School and my interest were moving on to music and girls,but that didn’t stop me from going to see the latest summer Batman blockbuster. This time it was a all new director, cast, and well… a all new Batmobile too. I did not like the new Batmobile at the time, but by the film’s final credits, the car warmed up to me. Was probably the scene where Two Face and his goons were giving chase and had Batman cornered in a alley when Batman flipped a switch and two bat cables launched from the front hood all the way up to a tall building roof and the next thing the audience was watching was a awesome scene of the Batmobile driving straight up on the building….pretty cool. Just wasn’t sure how I felt about the see through neon lighted engine. I remember reading a Rolling Stone Magazine Joel Shumacher interview where the director mentioned that the reason behind the design was to give the illusion that the Batmobile was living breathing beast. As a adult I have actually grown to really appreciate that version of the Batmobile, I would maybe put it in my top 3.

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In 1997, director Joel Shumacher gave the world his sophmore sequel to the Batman franchise and what would become the worst critic reviewed Batman film of all time. The neon light stick bad guys, the Bat nipples, the Bat cheeks, the Bat ice skating boots, it was just too much. I have always said that Shumacher actually nailed the Batman universe in that film, it’s just he researched the wrong era, he clearly must of been aiming for the 1960-70’s era. You have to be a die hard Batman film to endure this film, that being said, I think the Batmobile just might of been one of the best pro’s about this film.

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If Tim Burton’s 1989 Batmobile is my favorite, then I would have to say that Christopher Nolan’s Batmobile would be #1 on my most feared list. That version was downright scary and awesome at the same time. It almost reminded me of the Batmobile from the 1986 “tank” Batmobile from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel. I think the scene in Batman Begins when we first see the Batmobile in action during the high way police chase would definetly be my #1 all time favorite Batmobile scene ever in any Batman film. Love the line when Batman hands Detective Gordon Rachel and Gordon says “My car is in the back” and Batman simply replies “No need, I brought mine” to a confused Gordon who could only muster the words “You brought YOUR car?”. Hilarious scene.

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Over the past 70 plus years of Batman, we have seen many era’s and versions of the Batmobile in the comics ,video games, toys, and cartoons. I think my favorite comic scene with the Batmobile would be the first time Batman caught Jason (The 2nd Robin) stealing the rims off the Batmobile. That was pretty funny. Also theBatman: The Animated Series had a pretty awesome version for the animation of the early 1990’s. For any collector out there who doesn’t want to break the bank, I would suggest the Hot Wheels 1/18th line. Both Tim Burtons 1989 Batmobile and Christopher Nolans Tumbler/Batmobile are available now. The 1995 Batman Forever Batmobile preorder is available as well and they are pretty awesome and well worth the cash for a DC collector.

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It has been a astounding 74 years since the world first laid eyes on Batmans awesome ride. In that time , I can’t think of any single vehicle in any comic universe, or Hollywood franchises that has had the success, longevity and popularity of multiple generations than the Batmobile. It just might be the most iconic vehicle in any media including the James Bond, Star Trek, and Star Wars franchises. Go to any bar, restaurant, school yard, or comic convention and say the word “Batmobile” and I would bet 100% would simply reply “Batman”. I am not so sure you could say the same if one was to say “Enterprise, Falcon, or Aston Martin DB5”. I look forward to sitting in a cold theatre sipping a cold cherry coke in the next few years as I watch the summer live action blockbusters Batman Vs Superman and the Justice League films and IF we do see a new Batmobile on the silver screen again, my inner 12 year old childhood would surely be cracking a smile as I’m sure every other Batman fan will be across the country

 

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