bat-, -mobile, and -man

It started with the Batmobile, Batman’s astounding car (which first appeared in 1966). Batmobile looks like a portmanteau of Batman and automobile, but both parts are more complex than that.

A collection of Batmobile models over the years:


Let’s start with Batman (at first, the Bat-Man). This is a straightforward compound of bat and man, referring to a man who has some of the properties of a bat. The compound has primary accent on its first element, with a lesser accent on the second, a pattern that it shares with Superman, Starman, and some other proper names, including the invention Jockstrap Man of a recent posting of mine. The pattern contrasts with other one that has an unaccented second element, as in Frenchman and salesman.

Batmobile has the second element -mobile, last discussed on this blog in connection with the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile:

Wienermobile is a portmanteau of wiener and automobile, formally similar to Oldsmobile. The element -mobile is on its way to becoming a libfix, in that it can now be attached to virtually any personal name, to jocularly denote a car belonging to that person: Zwickymobile, Arnoldmobile, etc.

(and the Popemobile, of course).

Now, back to Batmobile. Its first element isn’t just bat, referring to the creature, but is an allusion to Batman, the superhero — another libfix, this time prefixed (like bro-) rather that postfixed.

From the Batman article in Wikipedia:

In proper practice, the “bat” prefix (as in batmobile or batarang) is rarely used by Batman himself when referring to his equipment, particularly after some portrayals (primarily the 1960s Batman live-action television show and the Super Friends animated series) stretched the practice to campy proportions. The 1960s television series Batman has an arsenal that includes such “bat-” names as the bat-computer, bat-scanner, bat-radar, bat-cuffs, bat-pontoons, bat-drinking water dispenser, bat-camera with polarized bat-filter, bat-shark repellent bat-spray, and bat-rope.

… When Batman is needed, the Gotham City police activate a searchlight with a bat-shaped insignia over the lens called the Bat-Signal, which shines into the night sky, creating a bat-symbol on a passing cloud which can be seen from any point in Gotham. The origin of the signal varies, depending on the continuity and medium.

In various incarnations, most notably the 1960s Batman TV series, Commissioner Gordon also has a dedicated phone line, dubbed the Bat-Phone, connected to a bright red telephone (in the TV series) which sits on a wooden base and has a transparent cake cover on top. The line connects directly to Batman’s residence

… The Batcave is Batman’s secret headquarters, consisting of a series of subterranean caves beneath his mansion, Wayne Manor. It serves as his command center for both local and global surveillance, as well as housing his vehicles and equipment for his war on crime. It also is a storeroom for Batman’s memorabilia.

(And Batman wears a batsuit.)

On the Batmobile:

The car has evolved along with the character from comic books to television and films reflecting evolving car technologies. Kept in the Batcave accessed through a hidden entrance, the gadget-laden car is used by Batman in his crime-fighting activities. (Wikipedia link)

And the Batplane:

The Batplane, later known as the Batwing, is the fictional aircraft for the comic book superhero Batman. The vehicle was introduced in “Batman Versus The Vampire, I”, published in Detective Comics #31 in 1939, a story which saw Batman travel to continental Europe.  In this issue it was referred to as the “Batgyro”, and according to Les Daniels was “apparently inspired by Igor Sikorsky’s first successful helicopter flight” of the same year. Initially based upon either an autogyro or helicopter, with a rotor, the Batgyro featured a bat motif at the front. The writers gave the Batgyro the ability to be “parked” in the air by Batman, hovering in such a way as to maintain its position and allow Batman to return.

The Batgyro was soon replaced by the Batplane, which debuted in Batman #1, and initially featured a machine gun. The vehicle was now based on a fixed wing airplane rather than a helicopter, with a propeller at the front, although a bat motif was still attached to the nose-cone. (Wikipedia link)

In addition, there’s a Batboat, a Batcopter, a Batcycle, and a Bat-sub.

And the other Bat-people:

Batgirl is the name of several fictional characters appearing in comic books published by DC Comics, depicted as female counterparts to the superhero Batman. (Wikipedia link)

Batwoman is a fictional character, a superheroine who appears in comic books published by DC Comics. In all incarnations, Batwoman is a wealthy heiress who—inspired by the notorious superhero Batman—chooses, like him, to put her wealth and resources towards funding a war on crime in her home of Gotham City.

… The modern Batwoman is written as being of Jewish descent and as a lesbian in an effort by DC editorial staff to diversify its publications and better connect to modern-day readership. (Wikipedia link)

there was one instance in continuity when Bruce Wayne adopted the Robin persona. In Batboy & Robin, a tie-in special to the DC Comics storyline Sins of Youth, Bruce and Tim Drake, the third Robin, had their ages magically switched. In an effort to keep up the illusion of Batman, Bruce had Tim adopt the Batman identity while he is forced to be Robin. (Wikipedia link for Robin)

Outside of the Batman world, there’s another, more entertaining, Bat Boy:

Bat Boy is a fictional creature who made several appearances in the defunct American supermarket tabloid Weekly World News. The Weekly World News published patently fabricated stories which were purported to be factual. Within the pages of the paper, Bat Boy is described as a creature who is ‘half human and half bat’. His pursuers, according to Weekly World News, are scientists and United States government officials; he is frequently captured, then later makes a daring escape. The original scientist who found him was named Dr. Bob Dillon. Matthew Daemon, S.O.S. (Seeker of Obscure Supernaturals) crossed paths with him on several occasions.

Bat Boy was created by former Weekly World News Editor Dick Kulpa. He debuted as a cover story on June 23, 1992. The original front-page photo of Bat Boy, showing his grotesque screaming face, was the second-best selling issue in the tabloid’s history, and he has since evolved into a pop-culture icon. He became the tabloid’s de facto mascot of sorts. The story of Bat Boy was turned into an Off-Broadway musical, Bat Boy: The Musical. (Wikipedia link)


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