Book Review: Batmobile: The Complete History by Mark Cotta Vaz

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Insight Editions has released what can perhaps be called the bible of the Batmobile with Batmobile: The Complete History. Fans of the Dark Knight should be thrilled with this 142-page hardcover coffee table book. Mark Cotta Vaz has delivered just what his book’s title promises. Beginning with the early days of Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s comic book creation, this classy volume traces the evolution of the vehicle through the ‘60s television series and its various motion picture incarnations.

Right off the bat (no pun intended), the great thing about this book is that it holds equal appeal for the casual fan as well as the hardcore completist. Lavish illustrations and photographs provide plenty of visual flash to keep the reader interested. I particularly enjoyed seeing close-up shots of the dashboards of some of the vehicles used in live-action productions. The Batmobile from the ’66 TV series is predictably hokey, but even the controls for Tim Burton’s once-cutting edge 1989 Batman film are now quite dated. Many pages are given over to discussion and depiction of the “Tumbler” Batmobile from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, including a series of shot showing how the design evolved.

Batmobile test (350x137).jpg

Speaking of the Batman films, Batmobile: The Complete History does spend more time detailing the Batmobiles from film and TV than it does on the illustrated versions from the comic books. And the scope of the book does not extend to a detailed account of the merchandising, such as the various toys that have been produced over the decades (though there is some content about this late in the book). Given that this is a new publication, The Dark Knight Rises is not covered extensively but it is included despite how recent the new film is.

Batmobile inside the book (350x137).jpg

Lest it seem as though I’m glossing over Vaz’s text, beyond all the cool images there is plenty to read. The book begins with a foreward in the form of a Q&A between Paul Levitz, DC Comics’ president from 2002-09, and Nathan Crowley, production designer on the Nolan films. Though only two pages long, this is an informative way to kick off Vaz’s historical account. Vaz gives a great deal of deserved credit to the groundbreaking design of the Batmobile from Tim Burton’s films, emphasizing how far the visual conception had progressed from the campy days of the Adam West series. Perhaps the most informed of Batman experts will nitpick at omissions, but overall Batmobile: The Complete History is a terrific document for fans of the venerable Caped Crusader.

Batmobile Keaton cropped (250x153).jpg

Author Mark Cotta Vaz is no stranger to this type of book, with lots of similar film-related historical volumes to his credit. He is a veteran chronicler of the Batman universe with The Art of Batman Begins (2005) and Tales of the Dark Knight: Batman's First Fifty Years 1939-1989 (1989). Vaz has also written numerous books about the Twilight series as well as movies such as Star Trek, The Incredibles, and Finding Nemo.

Of certain additional interest to Batman fans, Insight Editions has also recently published The Dark Knight Manual, which includes information and illustrations about tools, weapons, vehicles, and documents from the Batcave. For more information about this and additional Insight Editions titles, please visit their official website.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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