28 June 2012

Batmobile History Part II: The Golden Age (1941-1949)

It's 1941 and Pulp fiction is making way for the new kid on the block.

In my last installment I mentioned how writer Bill Finger and artist Bob Kane had originally devised for the mysterious Bat Man to fly over Gotham in a large "Bat Gyro".  While that made for a great visual, it probably was hard to contrive ways for him to get down to the scene of the crime.

Eventually, he was gonna need wheels.

The original Batmobile, circa Detective Comics #48 (1941)
The Golden Age of the Batmobile started in 1941 when Bob Kane and Bill Finger first coin the name "The Batmobile", with a red sedan with a bat-shaped Hood ornament.  Batman and Robin are all smiles  as they two-fist their way through thugs and The Joker.  Design-wise, the car appears based on a 812 Cord with an extended nose.  Perhaps Batman meant to reinforce the front end as a battering ram?

Plenty of space for a Bat-cape to blow in the wind...

Shortly thereafter, artist Jerry Robinson steps it up and designs the first Batmobile of note.  Remarkably, he jettisons most everything from the Batmobile Mark I and starts anew, using a sedan as the base car, with a scalloped dorsal fin and menacing bat shield on the hood as a proper method for bursting through garage doors.

The Batmobile as of BATMAN #5 (1941)
 Mr. Robinson's design influences 70+ years of Batman art.  It stays as the feature Batmobile, with only slight alterations, for 9 years.

The last time red is used in a Batmobile design until 1966
In the Golden Age of comicbooks, Batman flourished.  The Batman legend became established: While occasionally fantasy-oriented, Batman and Robin were crime fighters, taking on the mob and an outlandish rogues gallery.  The Batmobile was a solid fixture in their arsenal of justice, including the Batarang, Batcave, Batsignal, and Batplane.

BATMAN comics expanded into several comic publications including BATMAN, DETECTIVE COMICS, and WORLD'S FINEST.  He also enjoyed a daily newspaper comic.  Whereas Bob Kane took sole credit for all of the art produced for these publications, it was becoming increasingly clear that a number of artists contributed significantly to this work.

1949: The beginning of something different from artist Dick Sprang 

In 1949 artist Dick Sprang introduced a slight variation to the Batmobile.  Possibly inspired by the Hudson Commodore, the new Batmobile emerged as a sleek and powerful sedan with rear wheel skirts.
Over the last decade, the Mark II Batmobile was often drawn without the red pinstripes.  Here, Mr. Sprang returns to the two-tone concept with a bright blue highlight.  For the first (and last) time, the Batmobile was depicted as having amphibious abilitles.  Perhaps that fastback was hiding some real horsepower?

The Batmobile Mark III, as it appeared in Detective Comics #142 (December, 1948)

A design feature that was played with during the Golden Age was a "Bat-head" emblem, most notably on various Batplanes.  This was invariably short-lived, as most folks could figure out it was Batman's car or plane without it.

The Batmobile Mark III lasted about 6 issues.  Artist Lew Sayre Schwartz filled in on an issue or two and went back to the traditional Batmobile.   It was short lived, but a herald of what was to come.

In the span of a decade, Batman went from vigilante pulp hero to super-lawman.

In the early months of 1950, Dick Sprang would define the next era of Batman facing a bright future.

The first 10 years of Batmobiles!

COMING SOON: Batmobile History Part III: The Atomic Age (1950-1963).


  1. Hanging out in that garage would have been a ton of fun, but that's a whole lotta oil changes!

  2. Do you own the rights for all of these images? I am looking to make an infographic about the evolution of the batmobile.

    Please email me at pcho,pcd@gmail.com