The vehicle that became the Batmobile was introduced in Detective Comics #27, the first Batman story. Originally, the vehicle was a simple red convertible with nothing special in its functions. Although the Batplane was introduced in Detective Comics No. 31, the name "Batmobile" was not applied to Batman and Robin's automobile until Detective Comics No. 48 (February 1941). Other bat-vehicles soon followed, including the Batcycle, Batboat and Robin's Redbird.
The car's design gradually evolved. It became a "specially built high-powered auto" by Detective Comics #30, and in Batman #5, it began featuring an ever-larger bat hood ornament and an ever-darker paint job. Eventually, the predominant designs included a large, dark-colored body and bat-like accessories, including large tailfins scalloped to resemble a bat's wings.
Batman No. 5 (Spring 1941) introduced a long, powerful, streamlined Batmobile with a tall scalloped fin and an intimidating bat head on the front. Three pages after it was introduced, it was forced off a cliff by the Joker to crash in the ravine below. However, an identical Batmobile appeared in the next story in the same issue.
The live action television series was so popular that its campy humor and its Batmobile (a superficially modified concept car, the decade-old Lincoln Futura, owned by George Barris whose shop did the work) were quickly introduced into the Batman comic books. But the high camp and general silliness of the television show did not sit well with long-time Batman comic book fans. So, when the series was canceled in 1968, the comic books reacted by becoming darker and more serious, including having Batman abandon that Batmobile. Its replacement for a number of years was a much simpler model with a stylized bat's head silhouette decal on the hood being the only decoration of note. The 1960s TV style Batmobile still appears from time to time in the comic books, most recently in Detective Comics #850 and the issues of Batman Confidential.
In mid-1985, a special variation of the Super Powers toyline Batmobile appeared in both Batman and Detective Comics. This design had a full set of front and rear canopies, "Coke-bottle" sides, integrated fins, and generally rounder features, just like the toy. The only difference between this car and its toy counterpart is the nose, which was occasionally drawn to appear longer and more pointed.
In Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, the Batmobile has been modified into a tank-like armored riot control vehicle, complete with machine guns shooting rubber bullets, a large cannon mounted on the front, and large tank treads in place of tires. According to Batman's narration, the only thing that can penetrate its armor "isn't from this planet." Batman also mentions that it was Dick Grayson who came up with the name. The tank-like vehicle appears to take up two lanes of traffic on a normal road, evidenced when returning from Batman's initial fight with the leader of the Mutants, and thus is too big for normal land travel around Gotham. In the scenes prior to Batman's last stand with the Joker, Batman uses a motorcycle to traverse the city, using the tank again after the attempted nuclear strike and fires in Gotham. This Batmobile reappeared in All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder #4, which shows its construction by robots in the Batcave.
Beginning in the 1990s, the number of comics featuring Batman mushroomed with spin-off titles, limited series, and graphic novels. At the same time, there was considerable experimentation with styles of illustration. With different illustration styles in so many different books, there was naturally a corresponding diversity of designs for the Batmobile. This has continued with designs for the Batmobile ranging from conservative and practical to highly stylized to outlandish.
During the Cataclysm storyline, it is revealed that Batman has hidden a number of spare vehicles across the city just in case. A Humvee serves as a primary mean of transportation to cross the earthquake-ravaged city during the Aftershock storyline, as most of the Batmobiles are wrecked by the quake. These vehicles are not as sophisticated as the Batmobiles, but some of them are armored to withstand weaponry mounted on military automobiles.
In the Batman: Hush storyline, a splash page by Jim Lee shows all the previous Batmobiles (from comics, movies, and all TV series) in storage in the Batcave. In addition, some incarnations of the character, such as Batman: The Animated Series, establish that Batman has a large ground vehicle fleet of various makes and models as well as utility vehicles to use when the Batmobile would be too conspicuous. In issue 9 of the third volume of Teen Titans, Robin and his friends use a Batmobile that he shipped out to San Francisco, hiding the expense "in the Batarang budget".
In Frank Miller's All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, the car can morph into a harrier jet and a submarine. Dick Grayson comments that the name Batmobile is "totally queer". However, in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, which exists in the same continuity, Grayson was stated as the one who invented the name.
The metafictional Batmobile Owner's Manual, released in 2008, gives theoretical specifications of the car as if it were real. The book states that the Batmobile's five cylinder engine is more powerful than turbine jet engines, and capable of achieving up to 1,700 horsepower (1,300 kW).
In the new series Batman and Robin, a new Batmobile is unveiled. This model is capable of flight, although is not as maneuverable as the Batwing. It can fire 19 types of projectiles, one of which is a flame retardant non-toxic foam, and features a concussive sonic blast device. The new Batmobile was designed and constructed by Bruce Wayne; however, its construction was the source of great frustration to him, as mentioned by Alfred. In Batman and Robin #1 it is revealed that Bruce's son, Damian Wayne, solved the problem of its inability to fly.
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