The Batmobile is the fictional personal automobile of comic book superhero Batman. The car has followed the evolution of the character from comic books to television to films.
In Detective Comics No. 48 (February 1941) the name "Batmobile" was first applied to Batman and Robin's automobile. But it was not the distinctive black car with the tall scalloped fin and the intimidating bathead on the front that for decades was instantly recognized as "the" Batmobile. Instead, it is a bright red convertible whose only distinguishing mark is a small bat-shaped hood ornament. It is, however, so fast that bystanders cannot believe their eyes.
Batman No. 5 (Spring 1941) introduced the form of the Batmobile that would become standard until the early 1960s. The new Batmobile was a long, powerful, streamlined automobile with a tall scalloped fin and an bat head on the front. Three pages after it was introduced, the new Batmobile was forced off a cliff by the Joker to crash in the ravine below. This did not end the Batmobile's career, however. Another, identical Batmobile was streaking through the panels of the very next story in the same issue.
By 1964, the sales of Batman comics had fallen drastically and DC considered canceling the title. But editor Julius Schwartz, who had produced hits by modernizing and updating old characters like the Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman and the Atom, was given the task of doing the same with Batman. Detective Comics No. 327 (May 1964) announced a "New Look" for DC's second oldest superhero. Gone were the aliens and science fiction themed stories, as were most of the large supporting cast of characters like Batwoman and Bat-Mite. The "New Look" focused stories on crime and mysteries. The Batmobile was revamped into a sports car and Batman's costume was refreshed with a yellow oval behind the bat symbol. The image of the “New Look” Batmobile presented here is from Detective Comics No. 341 (July 1965).
The live action television series was so popular that its campy humor and the sleek Batmobile designed by George Barris were quickly introduced into the Batman comic books. But the high camp 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. They abandoned many of the character's traditional accouterments and emphasized Batman's role as a detective. He no longer operated out of Wayne Manor or the Batcave. He and Alfred moved to a penthouse in Gotham. Robin, the "Boy Wonder", was also gone, as Dick Grayson had grown up and left for college. Part of the change was a complete redesign of the Batmobile. Instead of flashing lights and scalloped fins, the new Batmobile was a discreet roadster with little to distinguish it from any other street vehicle except for the subdued bat-head on the hood. This version was typical of the decade and representative of the strong desire of the creative teams producing the series to re-establish it as a "serious" title. As seen in the panel at left (from Batman #234, 1971), the roadster is not a real automobile, but does combine the major design elements from two well known cars of the late 1960s, the Mustang and Corvette.