He has two primary modes of transportation: swinging from gothic clock towers on his Batline, and cruising around Gotham in the Batmobile. Sure, he’s got a Batwing and a Batjet and a Batcopter and even a Bat-Segway, but mostly Batman relies on his ride to get from point A to point B.
Now, the Batmobile is a seriously tricked-out car, and you can’t blame the guy for wanting to drive it, but it must be a serious pain in the ass dealing with the Batmobile every night.
As anyone who lives in or near a big North American city knows, urban driving can be a maddening experience. Heavy traffic, one-way streets, swerving buses, crazy-ass taxi drivers, potholes, inadequate signage, kamikaze bike messengers, oblivious pedestrians – don’t even get me going about parking. The shit is hard enough to deal with in a normal city in a normal car. Now just imagine trying to navigate Gotham City’s rat nest of streets and alleys in an extra-wide custom hot rod with a wonky torque converter and limited visibility.
Okay, the actual driving itself would probably not be an issue, as Batman probably has advanced defensive driving skills and an intimate knowledge of the street layout of Gotham. Plus, people would get the hell out of the Batmobile’s way. If Batman wants to change lanes, you will let him into your lane.
But what about parking? Can that thing even fit into a standard parking spot? Have you ever tried to parallel park a car that has huge scalloped bat wings on the back while wearing a rubber cowl that prevents you from moving your neck more than five degrees in any direction? I want to see a director’s cut of Tim Burton’s Batman where Michael Keaton tries to slide that beast into a parking spot without scraping the curb or bumping into another car. Now that would be some amazing shit.
For the sake of argument, let’s say the Batmobile has a self-parking system like the Lexus LS460 and Batman doesn’t need to sweat the details. But where do you park something like that?
How do you keep a low profile when you’re driving the most conspicuously bad-ass car on the planet? I mean, Batman wants to keep a low profile, right? There'd always be some asshole at a red light who wants to race:
Say you’re a frat boy out for a Friday night of drinking in Gotham Square. You get a text message from your buddy that says he just spotted the Batmobile headed south on Grand Avenue. You quickly down a final shot of Jaegermeister with your buddies Chet and Steven, throw the waitress a $20 (stiffing her on the tip) and haul ass two blocks west to Grand Avenue. Chet stops to puke. Fuck him, he can catch up.
A news helicopter is thrumming overhead – you must be close. You hear it before you see it – a deep rattling in your chest. Then, for a brief second it flashes past on Grand. Camera flashbulbs go off and people cheer. Out of breath, you make it to Grand just in time to see the big bat winged rear end of the Batmobile swing around a corner, followed by an SUV of screaming girls and a couple of paparazzi on scooters.
Steven wants to stop for another drink, but you keep jogging in the wake of the Batmobile. You can still smell the high-octane exhaust.
Your buddy texts you again – the Batmobile is parked in an alley between Grand and 14th. That’s like two blocks from here. Come on Steven, you pussy, keep up!
Then you do something that you’re never supposed to do in Gotham – you take a short cut through an alley. Steven doesn’t want to follow you, but you insult his manhood with colorful drunken slurs and he reluctantly gives chase.
Holy shit, dude! There it is, parked under a fire escape in the alley. Twenty feet of black muscle car with obsidian tinted windows and a matte finish. The engine is still hot. Fucking unbelievable! You make some guy take a picture of you and Steven with the Batmobile in the background.
So Batman parks his ride in as inconspicuous a spot as possible and takes to the rooftops to fight crime. Does he worry about people fucking with his car? I suppose he’s learned his lesson ever since that punk Jason Todd tried to jack his tires in Batman #408 and has implemented some security procedures. He’d have a number of redundant anti-tampering features built into the Batmobile, like the “armadillo armor” from the first Batman movie (minus the hubcap bomb – FYI Tim Burton, Batman doesn’t blow people up), an electro-shock feature like Bond’s BMW in Tomorrow Never Dies, an off-the-shelf car alarm from Car Toys, and maybe The Club for his steering wheel. I imagine the Batmobile would be coated in a graffiti-proof finish as well – you’d be surprised how many times Batman comes back from a night of crime fighting to find “PENDEJO*” painted on the side of his car. Punks.
Every night he’d be on the way home to Wayne Manor and there’d be a news chopper flying overhead and a car or two full of idiots with the same idea. “Let’s follow Batman and see where he goes!”
So he gets outside of town and heads up into the hills, then promptly disappears into the side of a cliff. Sure, you’ve got a hologram covering your garage door up, but what if the guys in the news helicopter see you disappear into a hillside right next to Wayne Manor? You’re busted, Batman.
For argument’s sake, let’s say the Batmobile has a Romulan cloaking device and a sound-deadening “whisper mode” like in Blue Thunder. Big deal, the Batmobile still disappears on one of six roads every night. You could narrow it down. All it takes is an enterprising photographer with a sleeping bag and some time on his hands hiding in the right bush on the side of the road when the Batmobile rumbles by and vanishes into solid rock. I'm telling ya, Batman doesn't need to worry about The Penguin or Two-Face blowing his cover, he needs to worry about some scuzzy shutterbug who makes a living selling candid shots of heroes to tabloids.
Another hassle would be cops. Batman has an on-again, off-again relationship with the GCPD. Sometimes he can do no wrong, other times he's hunted by corrupt or overzealous police. Sure, he's pals with Commissioner Gordon, but there would always be some rookie cop fresh out of the Academy looking to make a name for himself by pulling over Batman.
I like to think that the veteran cops would just look the other way when the Batmobile rolls by, but there’s always that one cop with the stick up his ass. Technically, the Batmobile is not street legal. No license plates, no vehicle tabs, unsanctioned rocket afterburners, no proof of insurance, high-performance fuel... the list goes on. I can’t see Batman waiting in line to get an emissions test for his car or even getting a driver’s license. The guy breaks the law every time he slips behind the steering wheel.
So what's the solution? Ditch the Batmobile, man.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but for a while there didn't Batman have a private underground rapid transit system that his hunchback mechanic Harold set up for him? He could be downtown in 5 minutes on his Batsubway and wouldn't have to worry about parking, gawkers, or ozone emissions. That seems like a good choice if you're heading out for a night on the town.
Another option would be to just have an anonymous black town car or a van with tinted windows. You could soup it up with all your Bat shit, but it would be a much lower profile ride. Matt Wagner had the right idea in his excellent Batman and the Monster Men series. Here Jim Gordon and a detective discuss Batman's impounded pre-Batmobile car:
Now that makes sense. If you're a creature of the night, would you drive around in a really distinctive car with loud pipes or would you keep it on the down-low? You're supposed to be a Living Shadow, dude. You are the night, etc.
I hate to say this, but what would make the most sense for Batman is to have a series of black Ford mini-vans stashed in monthly parking lots all around Gotham. He could change in the back or stitch up his wounds without drawing any attention to himself. Most of the time he could just take his private subway into town, but if he needed a ride, he'd have a van parked within blocks.
There: problem solved, Batman. Swallow your pride and park the Batmobile and get yourself a fleet of mini-vans. It might not be as glamorous as driving around in a black penis surrogate of an auto, but it would certainly be much less of a pain in the ass.
*I had to re-spell the Spanish word pendejo three times. I am so ashamed of my monolingualism.