The Lesser-Known Vehicles of Batman!
Like a teenager anxious to ditch his first junker for a tricked-out sports car, the Batman of 1939 quickly traded in the nondescript red sedan of his first few adventures for a “specially built high-powered auto” in Detective Comics #30 (1939). A few years later, the “high-powered auto” would give way to the The Batmobile in Batman #5 (1941), though it would take another two years for the legendary roadster to make its cover debut in Batman #20.
As everyone knows, a Bat-Plane and Batboat soon followed.
However, even with land, air and sea covered, some adventures called for even more specialized modes of transportation…which spawned a dizzying array of Bat-vehicles many of you have never heard of.
Until now, that is.
First up, snowy climates demanded the creation of a Bat-Sled, seen here on the cover of Batman #26 (1944). It’s unclear weather their butler Alfred is riding along with the Dynamic Duo, or frantically trying to hand the barelegged Robin some snow pants.
Detective Comics #161 (1950) featured a modest, early-model
Bat-Cycle….perfect for blowing the minds of criminal onlookers!
When the Bat-Plane wasn’t practical (or in the repair shop), Batman took to the skies with a variety of flying harnesses. With no visible method of propulsion, the harnesses on this pair of covers appear to be merely Bat-Gliders, a surprisingly passive approach to take when flying into torrents of machine-gun fire.
Perhaps something like a rocket-powered hang glider would’ve been better suited to dodge a hail of bullets. Instead, in his mysterious wisdom, Batman used the maximum speed and aerial maneuverability of the Rocket-Powered Bat-Hang Glider to….chase pigeons?
You might think an elephant breaking both of Batman’s legs would put a serious crimp in his war on crime…but you’d be wrong! With the invention of the Whirly-Bat in Batman #120 (1958), Batman used the mini-helicopter to overcome his temporary handicap…to the shock and dismay of Gotham’s underworld.
Question: How do you stop a ring of classic car thieves? Answer: With your own Bat-Jalopy, of course! Detective Comics #219 (1955) finds Batman and Robin entering a customized Batmobile in the Millville Festival of Classic Cars to bust the scam wide open!
Batman proved to be as adept at designing futuristic vehicles as he was designing vehicles of the past in Batman #59 (1950). After accidentally being sent 100 years into the future by Professor Nichols, Batman and Robin travel the World of Tomorrow in a snazzy Bat-Spaceship. Before returning to 1950, the boys met the Joker’s descendant Rekoj (get it?), ironically the police chief of Gotham City!
If you think “Rekoj” was an odd name, how about naming your kid “Batman”? That’s exactly what a grateful Mr. and Mrs. Jones did after Batman saved them from a car crash. When “Batman Jones” grew to young adulthood, he tried to help out Batman with his own homemade costume and a nifty-looking Bat-Bike! However, Batman Jones (I can’t resist writing it) eventually lost interest in crime fighting and took up stamp collecting instead.
The cover of Detective Comics #314 (1963) featured….well, clearly not the Batboat, but something closer to a Bat-Skiff.
The crime-fighting arms race experienced a sudden escalation in Detective Comics #236 (1956), as an evil scientist’s anti-Batman inventions forced the Caped Crusader to radically upgrade his crime fighting methods and equipment. Topping the list was the Bat-Tank, as rugged and fearsome a machine as you’re likely to find in Batman’s lighthearted 1950’s tales….though it definitely loses a few points with that pinkish-purple color scheme.
Of course, the ultimate expression of Batman’s ingenuity (and bank account) remains the jaw-dropping spectacle of The Flying Bat-Cave, a super-sized helicopter that first took to the skies in Detective Comics #186 (1952).
Tricked out with a crime lab, garage, kitchen, sleeping quarters, and even a mini-trophy room (with its own giant penny!), the Flying Bat-Cave even hosted the Center City police convention during its second and final appearance in Detective Comics #317 (1963).
Our final vehicle from the Obscure Bat-Transit Collection was actually never used in Batman’s war on crime. Instead, as you can see from the cover of World's Finest #34 (1948), the Bat Go-Cart provided hours of well-deserved leisure time for the hard-working superheroes.
As time rolled by and superhero comic books grew in sophistication, Batman’s once-crowded garage of Bat-vehicles gradually emptied out…leaving only the Batboat, the Batplane and, of course, the Batmobile.
However, if you tilt your head and listen carefully, you can sometimes hear the faint, far-off thrumming of the Flying Bat-Cave’s mighty rotors…no doubt still hosting police conventions and chasing down bird-masked felons.