Among the list of all of Batman’s gadgets, the Batmobile is
high in his readers eyes. An armoured tank capable of speeding through the
streets of Gotham, taking out anything in its path. Or is it really a 55’ Lincoln
Futura, with plenty of accessories?
The Batmobile has taken many forms in the 80-year history of
the character. While not named, it made it’s first appearance alongside Batman
in Detective Comics #27 [Kane & Finger.1939]. A plain, unmodified red coupe. Far
from what we would recognise as a Batmobile in the modern day. It appears in
the story that this first car is used publicly by both Batman and Bruce Wayne
as Wayne and Commissioner Gordan are seen using the same model car to get to
the Lambert Residence. But from this first appearance, it’s taken on multiple
incarnations in different forms of media. From comic renderings from different
artists, to the ’66 television series [Semple & Dozier.1966-68], multiple film
franchises such as Christopher Nolan’s The
Dark Knight [Nolan.2008], and video game offerings such as Batman: Arkham Knight [Rocksteady Studios:2015].
With such a rich history, spanning 80-years. Artists and writers
have payed homage and referenced this history through intertextuality.
Originally introduced by Julia Kristeva in her 1966 essay, Words, Dialogue and Novel [Kristeva.1980], intertextuality is the practice of
one text referencing another. For example, the parody genre is built very heavily
on intertextuality as it directly references outside sources to make their
jokes. Intertextuality itself can be broken down even further into three main
categories. Obligatory, optional and accidental [Miola.2004]. Obligatory are the reference that
need to be made to get across what you want. For example, Spaceballs uses obligatory intertextuality to Star Wars. It “involves
the use of deliberate referencing, the writer will invoke texts consciously,
and the reader will usually require some form of knowledge towards the original
texts, in order to appreciate the new material created” [Laird.2017:05] [Fritzsimmons.2013].
Optional intertextuality is just that, an optional reference the author has
included that doesn’t necessarily impact the story they are telling. They are
used to “pay homage to the
‘original’ writers, or to reward those who have read the [text]. However, the
reading of this [text] is not necessary to the understanding of the [new text]”
[Ivanic.1998]. Accidental intertextuality then, is a reference that was
unintentionally included, or one the reader recognises due to their own
knowledge but wasn’t intended by the creator. When we are discussing the
intertextuality of the Batmobile, we are discussing specific models and their
appearance in a medium that is not their original, or in a separate continuity.
The first car explicitly labelled as the “Batmobile”, was in
Detective Comics #48 [Kane & Finger.1941]. However, this car still does not
resemble what we think of when the idea of a Batmobile is conjured. Instead, it’s
similar to the car from Detective Comics
#27, with the addition of a bat shaped hood ornament. The first car that we
consider to be a traditional Batmobile based on design, comes from Batman #5, designed by Jerry Robinson. As
noted on the blog, Batmobile History, “the design
was created nearly whole cloth, with only a passing resemblance to real cars of
the time. The result was a combination of speed, style, and brute force that
continues to influence Batmobile designs today” [Spencer.2017]. The most noticeable piece of iconography here is on the front
of the car. An image almost resembling the cowl of Batman, complete with piercing
eyes. Physically tying the design of the car to Batman’s own iconography. The car
also features a fin running off the back that mimics the look of Batman’s cape
From here, the most notable models of the Batmobile are
those that appear in the 1966 Television series, Batman, the 1989 film, Batman
[Burton.1989], and the 2005 film, Batman Begins [Nolan.2005]. The reason for choosing these
as notable models are due to the material’s place in pop culture, and the wider
Due to a tight budget, the Batmobile for the 66 Television show,
was based on a 55 Lincoln Futura. A perfect match as it included the fins on
the back, much like the comic counterpart [Spencer.2017]. The nose was then shaped into a bat
motif, again, much like the comic counterpart. Noticeable, on the sides and wheels
of the car are little red bats. The shape of these Bats is reminiscent of the
hood ornament on the Batmobile introduced in Detective Comics #48. If this was intentional, then it is likely an
optional reference. Given that the much earlier design would have been little
known. However, if it is unintentional, then it is a case of accidental
intertextuality, as it is up to the reader to notice that reference.
Some of the most impressive uses of intertextuality are in Batman: Hush [Loeb & Lee.2002], and Batman: White Knight [Murphy.2018]. While written and drawn 16 years
apart. Both stories feature very impressively done, 2-page spreads featuring a
part of the Batcave. What makes these pages so notable, is the inclusion of
several incarnations of Batmobiles. If these were all strictly kept to comic
incarnations, then it could be stated as just an interesting image. But the
inclusion of Batmobiles from outside of the comic book media, makes this a good
use of optional intertextuality. Hush noticeably
including the Batmobiles from Batman: The
Animated Series [Timm
& Dini.1992 – 95], Batman [Burton.1989], Batman the television series [Semple & Dozier.1966 – 68],
Batman Forever [Schumacher.1995], and others just out of shot. In Batman White Knight, the shot includes slightly
fewer models, but is modernised by including the ‘Tumbler’ model from
Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins [Nolan.2005]
In the interactive landscape, such as Batman: Arkham Knight [Rocksteady Studios.2015]. The
player has a level of input when it comes to the Batmobile. The final game in
the Arkham series, allows the player to use the Batmobile during gameplay. This
also gives the user the option to use ‘skins’ to customise the look of said
Batmobile. This could be used in two ways, either as a new colour scheme for
the in story Batmobile. Or, fill models of various Batmobiles in racing mode [IGN.2016]. This could be considered
the ultimate version of optional intertextuality. Not only in the eyes of the
developers, but in the choice of the players as well.
The Batmobile is far from the only use of intertextuality across the Batman franchise and media. Even outside of DC properties, the Batmobile has been referenced in media such as Ready Player One [Spielberg.2018]and The Simpsons [Groening, Brooks & Simon.1989 – Present].Particularly when you include interactive forms of media and allow things such as modding and bonus content. But the various incarnations of the Batmobile, and their prominence within both the fan base, and pop culture as a whole, make it a prime candidate for intertextual call outs.
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