The history of the Batmobile

JonathanMay 21, 2014

With Ben Affleck's Batmobile just being unveiled, we thought we'd take a look at one of the most iconic comic-book-based cars of all time. So strap in, as we take you through the cool, the not-so cool, and the downright shameful.

Batman first appeared 75 years ago – May 1939 to be precise – but the Batmobile didn't turn up for another two years. Although the car was a late arrival (Batman issue #5), it has become one of the most iconic features of the Dark Knight and one of his best weapons in the fight for justice.

Appearing for the first time on the front cover on Batman issue #20, the car has had a number of facelifts as different artists take on their own interpretation. Indeed, the size, shape and capabilities of the Batmobile have significantly changed over the past eight decades, including one model that had actual Batman masks on the front grille.

Origins in comics
Its first appearance was in Detective Comics in February 1941 as a red convertible – a giant leap from the model that we've seen in today's Dark Knight franchise. The design was based on a Cord 812 but carried none of the fun gadgets that we now know and love, not even any shields.

In its comic life, the Batmobile would have a number of facelifts and even change to blue. However, it wasn't until the 1960s that Batman's car began to become a part of pop culture. Its first on-screen appearance would come in the shape of a serial that ran once a week in the 1940s. There was little mystery involved, as Bruce Wayne and Batman operated in the same vehicle. With the roof up it was the billionaire's car, but with the roof down no one recognised it as Batman's weapon for justice.

TV series
The 1960's TV series, starring the one and only Adam West, saw the Batmobile become an essential, if cheesy, part of Batman's fight against crime in Gotham, as well as the Batcomputer and Batphone of course.

Adam West's Batmobile was on the shell of a 6.4-litre Ford V8 and sold last year for more than £2.6 million, indicating that the Batmobile had secured itself as a pop-culture favourite.

Tim Burton franchise
Although Tim Burton has always voiced his admiration for the Adam West series, when he took to the helm to direct a new Batman franchise he gave the Batmobile, as well as the man himself, a complete facelift.

Tim Burton's Batmobile is based on some of the darker comics and saw the machine take on a much grittier twist. Built from scratch, set designer Anton Furst constructed the beauty in just 14 weeks.

Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight
When Christopher Nolan started his Dark Knight franchise of films, he carried on the darker vein that Burton had sparked. For the first time, the Batmobile became a realistic but awesome car that any superhero would be proud to drive. Taking military vehicles for inspiration, the British director blended his comic book inspiration with the beauty of Lamborghini. 

The Batmobile was built to meet Nolan's specific design, which was built onto a 5.7-litre Chevy V8.

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