While the cars appearing in fantasy and science fiction films are often rooted in a literary tradition, Batman’s “Batmobile,” with origins in a graphic tradition, is perhaps the ultimate example of an automobile playing a crucial role across a multimedia universe. After 80 years of fighting crime in an increasingly dark and dystopic Gotham City, Batman and his iconic car can now be found in comic books, movies, television, video games, toys, trading cards, and more. And although Batman has had a car at his disposal since his very first appearance, it was not until George Barris transformed an obsolete Ford dream car into the first operational Batmobile in 1966 that the vehicle became a three-dimensional reality.

The Batmobile’s transformation from an imaginary car into a physical reality was the beginning of a divergence in the car’s design, with subsequent Batmobiles in print, film and other media evolving separately in parallel. While the comedic 1960s television series took its cues from comic books’ 4-color printing process, it spawned a reaction that led to much darker depictions of Gotham and the “Dark Knight,” particularly in film, beginning with Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989 and continuing to this day.