Batman is known for having cool gadgets and equipment to fight crime, but one of his greatest tools is the Batcave. Hidden in ancient caverns beneath Wayne Manor, the Batcave is his headquarters, research facility, garage, hangar, sanctuary and storage closet, all in one. It’s been a part of Batman lore since the Golden Age of the ’40s and ’50s, and it was showcased as recently as 2016’s “Batman v Superman.”
While everyone who knows about Batman knows about the Batcave, not everyone knows all the hidden details and history behind this famous hideout. With Batman taking center stage in “Justice League” in 2017, CBR decided to go over 16 things that only hardcore Batman enthusiasts would know. Let’s start with the origin of the Batcave, which started with a barn.
16. THE BAT-BARN
It’s hard to imagine Batman without his iconic Batcave to keep his vehicles and equipment. After all, every bat has to have a cave, right? Well, in Batman’s debut, there was no Batcave. In 1939’s “Detective Comics” #29 (with art by Bob Kane, and written by Gardner Fox), Bruce Wayne kept his costume in a small chest in his bedroom, and his “crime lab” was just a room hidden in a wall inside Wayne Manor.
When Batman started using his vehicles like the Batmobile and the Batplane, they obviously couldn’t go into his regular mansion’s garage. That’s when Batman started using the Batcave, right? Wrong. In 1940’s “Batman” #3 (Bob Kane, Bill Finger), Batman rushed to get his Batplane by traveling in an underground tunnel to an old and beaten-up barn where he kept his vehicles. Not exactly the peak of crime-fighting technology, but it made sense at the time.
15. THE FIRST BATCAVE
The first time the Batcave made its debut wasn’t in the comics at all. It was in the 1943 theatrical serial called (obviously) “Batman.” In the first episode, audiences were first treated to the sight of an underground cave where Batman kept all his crime-fighting equipment. In the second episode, called “The Bat’s Cave,” Batman took a criminal into the lair to frighten him. It had just a desk, a filing cabinet and lots of bats, but it made an impression.
Kane was on the movie set and decided to put the Batcave into official lore, and told his partner Bill Finger, who scripted the daily newspaper of Batman. With help from a Popular Mechanics clipping of a cross section of underground hangars, Kane created an illustration of the Batcave with a study, crime lab, workshop, hangar and garage that appeared in the Batman strip entitled “The Bat Cave!” In 1944, the Batcave made its debut in the comic book universe in “Detective Comics” #83 (Don Cameron, Jack Burnley).
14. THE CAVE’S ORIGIN
The cave itself isn’t just a hole in the ground. Over the years, it’s been fleshed out with a deep and compelling backstory, rich in history. The first mention of the Batcave’s history came in 1954’s “Detective Comics” #205 (Bill Finger, Sheldon Moldoff), when Batman finds a 300-year old piece of pottery with a mysterious message. Batman and Robin went back in time to meet Jeremy Coe, a 17th century frontiersman who used the cave as a hideout from Native Americans.
More details came in 2010’s six-issue miniseries “Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne,” where the hero traveled through history, centered around the historical Gotham and the caves that would become the Batcave. The series started with Bruce Wayne in the prehistoric era, where he met a tribe led by Vandal Savage, who came to worship him when he put on the pelt of a giant bat. Centuries later, Wayne discovered the tribe had placed his old cape and cowl inside the cave that would become the Batcave. In the Old West, after meeting him, Wayne’s ancestors built Wayne Manor over the same caves, taking it full circle.
13. FINDING THE CAVE
The cave had been around for centuries before Batman ever started using it to fight crime, but the question of when he found it has changed over the years. In early stories, the building that would become Wayne Manor was bought by Wayne from someone else. In “Detective Comics” #205 (titled “The Origin of the Batcave”), Bruce Wayne first told Robin that he didn’t even know the cave existed when he bought the property. As late as 1985’s “Who’s Who” #2, Batman’s entry said he discovered the cave while converting an old barn into his base.
Later stories set up Wayne Manor as being owned by the Wayne family for generations, and the cave came with it. In 1992, “Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight” #27 (Dennis O’Neill, Chris Sprouse) told the story of Solomon Wayne, who used the caves to smuggle escaped slaves through the Underground Railroad. Wayne rediscovered the cave as a child, and adopted it as his base of operations when he decided to become Batman.
12. POINT OF ENTRY
Once Batman began using his Batcave, the immediate question became “how does he get into it?” It’s no good having a door in the bedroom of Wayne Manor that says “Batcave.” The point of entry for the cave started in the old movie serials with Batman and Robin climbing out of a hatch in a grandfather clock in the main study, and that method has stuck. Many of the comics have shown Batman using a grandfather clock to enter the Batcave. Some versions have made the secret trigger setting the clock to the time when Wayne’s parents were murdered: 10:47 PM.
The movies and TV shows have been a little different. Probably the most famous entrance came from the “Batman” TV show of the 1960s, where Wayne would open a bust of William Shakespeare to reveal a switch to open a nearby bookcase. Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy showed Wayne playing a tune on a grand piano that would open a secret door. Either way, it’s always cool.
As we mentioned earlier, the first depiction of the Batcave was a cutaway diagram of the Batcave’s layout, but the layout of the cave has never really been laid down in stone (pun intended). It varies from artist to artist and writer to writer. The layout has even changed within the same issue.
In the first layout by Kane, we saw a handful of rooms, all on top of each other, which isn’t how we saw the cave in the comics. In 1995, Dick Sprang created a detailed lithograph called “Secrets of the Batcave” (seen above) of the Golden and Silver Age. It’s great to look at, but doesn’t match what we usually see in the Batcave. Sprang’s version is a labyrinth of multiple levels and staircases. In the actual comics, Batman would just walk over to whatever room he needed, which would usually be conveniently right next to him. Also, it seems like the iconic giant penny and dinosaur change positions so they can be seen from any angle in the cave. Most readers won’t care, but it does make defining the cave’s contents tricky.
10. THE BAT-COMPUTER
One of the most commonly used items in the Batcave is a sophisticated computer, usually known as the Bat-computer. In the early 1940s, the Batcave didn’t have a computer, but neither did anyone else since they hadn’t been invented yet. In those days, Batman had a huge collection of microfiche (for the youngsters, those are miniaturized photographs of magazines and newspapers), which served as his research files. The Batcomputer was much better, though, and it changed everything.
Since the beginning, Batman’s computer has been said to be one of the most powerful computers in the world. It has access to pretty much any database he needs, including government and law enforcement, so he can just put in someone’s name, photo and fingerprints and find out all about them. The computer can also analyze any chemical or physical trace, making detective work a breeze. Really, it lets Batman spend less time on analysis and more time punching faces.
As we said earlier, the Batcave started out as just a place for Batman to keep all his vehicles, and he needs it. Batman has a lot of vehicles, starting with his Batmobile, which first appeared in “Detective Comics” #27 in 1939. Since then, he’s added a plane, a helicopter, a rocket and a submarine, among others. Once again, the location of all the vehicles has varied, but somehow he fits them all in there.
More than storing the vehicles, the Batcave also gives Batman a way to hide whenever they go in or out of the facility. For his Batmobile, the Batcave has access to a road that’s hidden behind a camouflaged door, a waterfall or a hologram, depending on the version. For his aerial vehicles like the Batwing or Batcopter, there’s a hatch that opens, out of which smoke billows to hide the vehicle entering or exiting the cave.
Another thing the Batcave is crammed with is costumes. Lots and lots of costumes. There’s the traditional Batsuit, of course, that he keeps hidden in the Batcave so no one finds his identity. Much more secure than a box in his bedroom. Batman also has a wide assortment of other costumes for different cases and situations. For instance, he has a Batsuit for cold weather or facing Mr. Freeze, armored Batsuits for when he’s faced a super-strong villain or Superman (again with the paranoia), and a stealth Batsuit for when he needs to go invisible, just to name a few.
The Batcave also stores costumes for other members of the Bat-Family. Robin, of course, keeps his costume in the Batcave, and that goes for all the different versions. Of course, the most famous Robin costume kept there is the costume of Jason Todd, who was beaten to death by the Joker. It’s a memorial and a reminder never to underestimate his enemies.
Batman isn’t the most trusting superhero, always planning for the time when one of his friends will try to stab him in the back. That includes his occasional partner, Superman. That’s why one item that Batman doesn’t display in his collection is a secret cache of kryptonite. Batman keeps a hidden safe in the Batcave that contains varying amounts of kryptonite, always as insurance against Superman.
In John Byrne’s reboot of the Superman mythology, Lex Luthor began wearing a kryptonite ring to keep Superman from attacking him. In 1990’s “Action Comics” #654 (Bob McLeod and Roger Stern), Superman gave the ring to Batman for safekeeping. Something similar happened in 2008’s “Superman/Batman” #49 (Michael Green, Mike Johnson, Shane Davis), where Superman tried to destroy all the world’s kryptonite except for a small amount he entrusted to Batman. When Batman opened the vault, he revealed tons more kryptonite he secretly kept in storage. Batman’s ready for his fight with Superman.
Another thing the Batcave has a lot of is bats, which makes sense because it’s literally (and figuratively) a batcave. Batman didn’t bring the bats in, though. The bat colony has been there since before Batman ever thought of putting on pointy ears, and will probably be there long after he’s ended his mission. The bats do more than just provide atmosphere, because Batman’s also made them available as a weapon of last resort.
In 1988’s “Batman: Year One” (written by Frank Miller, art by David Mazzucchelli), Batman was trapped in an abandoned tenement surrounded by police. To escape, Batman triggered an ultrasonic device in his boot that called all the bats from his Batcave to fly in as a distraction so he could escape. That scene was recreated in 2005’s “Batman Begins.” In return for their help, Batman takes care of them. He even discovered Alfred has been feeding the bats “free-range corn-fed chicken goujons, gently fried in olive oil. With chives.”
5. POWER SOURCE
The Batcave uses a lot of power, and there’s always a risk that the drain on the city’s electricity might give away the hiding place. There’s also the fear that cutting off the city’s power would leave Batman sitting in the dark. That’s why he has his own power supply for the cave. In the Silver Age stories, Batman was said to have his very own nuclear power plant, which sounded very futuristic at the time. Unfortunately, in later years, it raised a lot of questions. For instance, how did Batman create a miniature nuclear power plant? Where did he get the nuclear material? What does Batman do with all the nuclear waste? What would happen if he had a meltdown?
That’s why modern stories have changed the nuclear power plant into a hydroelectric plant. Almost all versions of the Batcave show a river flowing through it and a waterfall outside, so Batman has harnessed that energy to fuel his crime-fighting equipment. Even Batman’s going green.
4. TROPHY ROOM
Another popular feature of the Batcave is Batman’s Trophy Room. It’s a collection of items from previous cases, and it’s almost always visible in wide shots of the cave. In particular, there’s a giant model of a penny, a giant playing card and a life-size model of a Tyrannosaurus Rex that’s seen in the background while Batman is working on his computer or tuning up the Batmobile. Have you ever wondered where they came from?
It turns out the trophies all have stories behind them. For instance, the giant penny came from 1947’s “World’s Finest” #30 (Don Cameron, Win Mortimer), where Batman fought a villain called the Penny Plunderer who tried to steal a giant penny when it was on display. After beating the Plunderer, Batman kept it for himself. The dinosaur is from 1946’s “Batman” #35 (Bob Kane, Bill Finger) where Batman was trapped in a theme park of animatronic dinosaurs. The playing card came from one of the Joker’s hideouts in 1946’s “Detective Comics” #114 (Don Cameron, Win Mortimer).
3. LOW SECURITY
As much as Batman tries to protect the secret of his Batcave, the security has failed many times and supervillains have gotten inside. When that happens, it’s always a disaster. That’s because the Batcave is where Batman lets his guard down, literally and figuratively. It’s where he takes off his costume and his mask, stitches up his wounds and (most dangerously) heads up into Wayne Manor. It’s also where he keeps his costume and equipment. Anyone who gets into the Batcave can destroy all his stuff, and enter his private home.
One of the most high-profile Batcave invasions came in 1993’s “Knightfall,” where his archenemy Bane arranged to free all the criminals in Arkham Asylum. Batman exhausted himself trying to round them all up, and came home to find Bane standing in Wayne Manor. It turned out he had figured out Batman’s true identity and trashed Batman and the Batcave. He’s not alone, though, as the cave has also been invaded by the Joker and the Court of Owls.
2. THE LAZARUS PIT
The Lazarus Pits are some of the most highly sought-after areas in the world. The pits are pools of unknown chemicals that are formed naturally, and can restore someone’s health, even if they’ve died. They have been used by the supervillain Ra’s al Ghul for decades, keeping him young and vital in his mad schemes. The pits have also been used by his family and others who’ve found out about them.
At one point, Bane and Batman thought they had destroyed all the world’s Lazarus Pits, but in 2005’s “Year One: Batman/Ra’s al Ghul” (Devin Grayson, Paul Gulacy), Batman was told by Ra’s al Ghul that the Lazarus Pits were part of the natural order of the Earth. To prevent the dead from rising up in Gotham City, Batman created a new Lazarus Pit inside the Batcave. The fact that he didn’t put his parents into the pit to bring them back shows he has great self-control.
1. THE OTHER BATCAVES
When trouble strikes, you never know where and when it will be. It was after Bane’s attack in the “Knightfall” storyline that Batman decided to take precautions. Although there’s really only one place that qualifies as the Batcave, there are other places scattered around Gotham City that Batman uses as “satellite” Batcaves where he keeps emergency equipment.
Most of the other “Batcaves” aren’t really caves, but secluded areas. Usually they’re on property owned by Wayne Enterprises. For instance, there’s a bunker hidden underneath the Wayne Foundation building. There are also satellite caves on abandoned property, like the cavern hidden in a four-block stretch of tracks in the Old Gotham prototype subway station, forgotten after it had been sealed in 1896. The satellite caves really came into use during the 1999 “No Man’s Land” storyline, where an earthquake devastated Gotham City. Some of his satellite Batcaves have also been used by Dick Grayson and Batgirl in emergencies or headquarters of their own.
What’s your favorite part of the Batcave? Let us know in the comments!
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