18 July 2008
Check Out Dark Knight's Ride Through The Years
With "The Dark Knight" in theaters this summer, it's not only the return of Batman and the Joker, but of the hero's signature set of wheels, the world-famous Batmobile.
It's also the debut of the brand new Bat-Pod.
When the movie franchise was rebooted in 2005's "Batman Begins," the urban superhero jumped into what is called the Tumbler, a military-based vehicle that could do just about anything on any surface.
"The Tumbler is kind of an armored truck -- and unlike anything we've seen before," said Batmobile superfan Bill Spencer, a graphic artist who lives in Hanna Croix, N.Y. His Web site, BatmobileHistory.com, is a robust database chronicling the history of the fictional vehicle.
"It came from my model building hobby," Spencer said. "I was looking for references for Batmobiles and there weren't any. So I just decided to do it myself."
Spencer, 29, says that from Batman's early days in pre-World War II comics to today, the Batmobile has been an ever-changing tool for billionaire Bruce Wayne's alter-ego. Spencer says he's compiled and posted pictures of about 160 different models over the years. The Batmobiles featured primarily in DC comic books, TV shows, animated series and the movies.
"It's generally agreed that Batman has a huge garage full of Batmobiles," Spencer said. "He'll just pick a different one every day. He's a billionaire, so he can afford to buy all the cool cars."
A Red Batmobile?
So what does all that money buy? Always something snazzy, according to Spencer. In fact, the very first Batmobile, in 1941, was actually a red convertible.
"It looked a lot like a Ford, with a Lincoln nose," Spencer said, noting that the red version only lasted a single issue in the comics. "After that it went to the black fastback sedan with a fin on the roof and the mask on the fenders. It sort of looked like a Ford, depending on what reference photos the artists were looking at."
In the 1950s, the Batmobiles' look shifted gears to mimic the popularity of science fiction. Spencer says the car became huge and had a rolling laboratory in the back. That era eventually gave way to the swinging '60s and the most popular version of all, a Lincoln Futura concept car driven by Adam West in the hit TV series.
"When the 'Batman' TV series came out ... and things were very bright and very vibrant ... the car kind of reflected that," Spencer said. "It had silly features, where everything had to be a Bat-something.
"In the 1970s, things turned into a gritty, urban atmosphere. (Revered Batman comics artist) Neal Adams' design took over and it became a very non-descript sports car."
Modern For Movies
By 1989, when audiences were hungry for Batman to return, movie director Tim Burton and designer Anton Furst came up with arguably the second-most popular design, driven by Michael Keaton.
"They wanted to create something that didn't belong to a certain decade," Spencer said of the 1989 car. "That was a combination of some of the land-speed record cars of the '60s. They also threw in some old designs, and (perhaps) the back end of a Bugatti.
"They wanted to create something that looked like it was modern, but also looked like it came out of the '30s. They did a mishmash of everything."
The next major evolution of the car was seen in 1995's "Batman Forever." Spencer says that version was the most organic of all, with exposed ribs and a moving fin on the roof to make it look like Bats was driving through Gotham City in a moving bat.
As for Spencer's personal favorite, you'll have to dig through copies of Batman comics of the late-'90s.
"My personal favorite is the car used in the 1998 comics," he said. "It was a squat sports car. Instead of traditional fins on the back, it had spines. It was a nice, compact car that could move through the city easily, and it also had a much more aggressive look.
"Today (in the comics) it's kind of a relatively small sports car -- like a mid-'80s Corvette -- but not dated. It has all the modern amenities."
As if there were any doubt. After all, whether in movies or comics, Spencer says the popularity of the Batmobile has always been a matter of dreaming big.
"If we could have a car, we'd want it to do everything," he said. "The Batmobile does everything for us.
"We never have to worry about gas with it. We don't have to worry about road rage with it. It's an armored-plated tank that can go anywhere and do anything. We don't have to worry about details. It's cool. It's great."
preview "The Dark Knight" here: http://www.10news.com/automotive/16781638/detail.html#