By Marty Mulrooney
Batmobile: The Complete History offers a detailed account of the iconic Batmobile, from its first appearance within the pages of Detective Comics, to its latest appearance on the big screen in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. The book has been lovingly written and put together by New York Times bestselling author Mark Cotta Vaz, and features ‘stunning photographs, detailed specs, blueprints, concept artwork, and original interviews.’
“There’s something primal about the relationship of man and machine, and the Batmobile fits into this powerful place in the psyche.”
– Christopher Nolan, director, the Dark Knight trilogy
Batmobile: The Complete History opens with a Q&A moderated by Mark Cotta Vaz, featuring Paul Levitz, who recently finished a thirty-eight-year-run at DC comics as the company’s president and publisher, and Nathan Crowley, production designer for director Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of Batman films. It’s a great way to open the book, offering some interesting background information on the various Batmobiles that were featured in the comics, 1960s TV show and subsequent films. Both interviewees also offer their own thoughts on what makes the Batmobile so iconic.
The rest of the book is split into eight chapters, starting with Batman’s first appearance in Detective Comics #27 (1939) and working its way towards the present day Batman films. Some wider information about Batman’s origins are offered, but from the outset the focus is squarely on the iconic vehicle that he drives. It certainly raises a smile to see some of the earlier Batmobile appearances in the comics, especially when the caption reads as follows: “The Batman, having lost his way on a lonely by-road, stops before a lone house to ask directions.”
It’s fascinating as the book continues and the TV show and films are discussed to look at the stunning photography featured throughout and read quotes direct from the people involved with each vehicle’s design. For example, one production designer explains how he went for the most brutal expression of a car, an image which also suggests sex and violence. The blueprint designs in particular reveal just how much effort goes into making each Batmobile not only look fantastic, but also remain fairly realistic and believable on a practical level.
The book also delves into the special effects of each car and how they were made to look like they were doing things that were not actually possible in-camera. The exception of course is Christopher Nolan’s ‘Tumbler’, which was built to do everything in-camera with one exception – whenever you saw inside the cockpit, it was filmed in the studio. The real vehicle is very cramped inside and rather noisy! The book does dedicate a decent amount of page space to each Batmobile (even the Freezemobile gets a mention), but Nolan’s Tumbler gets a solid two chapters dedicated to it. To be fair this isn’t a criticism – in terms of functionality, this latest take on Batman’s car is an elegant beast that deserves to be fully dissected and explored.
As fun as the book is to read through and look at (the gatefolds in particular are gorgeous to behold), the real enjoyment comes from gaining an understanding of how the Batmobile means something different to each and every Batman fan. Each fan has their own personal favourite version of the Batmobile and it’s amazing how what is essentially a movie prop can take on a life of its own and bring such joy to people’s lives. One story involving a little boy and the Make-A-Wish Foundation is truly heart-warming, with the child’s dreams coming true as ‘Batman’ drives him around the studio lot.
Batmobile: The Complete History avoids becoming boring to none petrol-heads by adding a human element to each chapter. The people who make the cars are like excited children with the coolest job in the world and their enthusiasm shines through. Batman fans should definitely check this book out – even those readers with only a passing interest in movie vehicles should find something to enjoy here. A well-researched book that matches detailed analysis with accomplished design and beautiful photography.
9 OUT OF 10