Batmobiles and Me . . .


TV Batmobile

Today’s sale of the original TV-show Batmobile reminded me of my slight brush with the history of the various versions of the car.

A kid in the 1950s and ’60s could be a fan of both Superman and Batman, and I was, but Batman had a couple of extra things going for him: he had a cave and he had a cool car. The primary Batmobile of the 1940s was a good-looking unit, and no other comic-book character had anything remotely as cool as this:

1940s Batmobile

In 1950, the editors of the Batman comics decided it was time to update the Batmobile, and this one was born:

1950 Batmobile b

This 1950 Batmobile had a crime lab built into the back seat and still had the spooky and amazing front bat-face thingie and the neat swooping rear fin. Not a thing wrong with this baby:

1950 Batmobile a

But by the mid-1960s, even I had to admit that 1950s Batmobile, still used in the comic books, was dated-looking.

We had just moved down to Marathon, Florida, and I had time on my hands. So, I decided to create a more modern Batmobile. I chose the front end of a Pontiac of the era and the back end of a Chrysler; combining those was easy; then I added a couple of canopy bubbles like fighter planes had. And, to top it all off, I added a couple of hood and side scoops like Corvettes had. I made sure it had a bat face on the front and two bat-fins on the back!

I drew a really clean version of the design and sent it to Mr. Julius Schwartz, an editor at DC Comics who seemed to encourage kids to become involved in the books.

I promptly forgot about the whole thing until a few months later, when a postcard came from Mr. Schwartz; he always wrote on postcards. He was going to use my Batmobile in the comic books! And– WOW– I would get a free one-year subscription to all the comics he edited. He edited a bunch of good ones, too: Batman, Atom, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Flash, Justice League of America!

Here’s what my version of the Batmobile looked like when it appeared in the comic books:

JBP Batmobile b

JBP Batmobile c

JBP Batmobile a

I was so proud! Then the TV show came out, and the Batmobile on the show made mine look like crap.

Here are a couple of photos of the TV-show Batmobile taken before it even had its glossy paint job; it’s still wearing its flat-black primer:

Original Primered TV Show Batmobile

Rear, Primered Batmobile

I was devastated at first, but then figured, “Okay; they have pro guys designing TV-show cars and I’m just a kid! No wonder their’s looks so much better!!!”

One problem was that I could no longer tell my pals I had designed the Batmobile, because the first thing they’d say would be, “THE TV-SHOW ONE?!?!?!” And I’d have to reply, “No; the lame one they use in the comic books and comic strip.”

Eventually– and we’re talking over a year; maybe more– I grew sick of seeing my Batmobile in the books and strips and wrote to Mr. Schwartz again: “Why do you keep using my Batmobile design when the TV-show one is ten times better looking?!?!?!” And a few weeks later, a DC Comics postcard came with his response: “Yours is easier to draw.”

Oh, well. They’ve come out with a 1:43-scale Corgi die-cast version of my Batmobile, which is one of the rarest and costliest Batmobile die-cast models because it is lame-looking compared to the TV-show one and not much sought after. A very generous Batmobile historian and enthusiast in England was nice enough to send me one a couple of years ago; I darn sure wasn’t going to spend over $250 for it on eBay!!! Too bad they used a baby-blue paint for the color:

JBP Batmobile Corgi Die-Cast

Yes; I’m proud of my lame creation, but, to me, there is only one Batmobile, and it isn’t the one I dreamed up sitting on the side of my bed in Marathon, Florida, and it isn’t the ones in the comic books and strips and it sure isn’t any of the recent Batman movie Batmobiles; it’s this:

Batmobile On Set

The Monkees Were Cool Then and Still Are Today!


Many folks in the late 1960s slammed the Monkees because the band was formed for a TV show, obviously patterned after the Hard Day’s Night-era Beatles. They were snidely called The Pre-Fab Four and worse. Be that as it may, I loved the songs they did, even though studio musicians played the instruments on their first couple of albums.

Davy Jones, Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith

I can remember on my 15th birthday, Saturday, January 14, 1967, getting my dad to accompany me as I drove, on my learner’s permit, to a music store in Marathon, Florida, where we then lived.

I spent my hard-earned $12 on the first two Monkees singles (Last Train to Clarksville/Take a Giant Step and I’m a Believer/(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone and albums (The Monkees and More of the Monkees). I even had enough left over to buy my first guitar capo; one of those stretchy elastic ones.

I was so excited that I accidentally locked the keys in the car and my dad had to break one of the the little side-vent windows that cars had back in those days to get us back in.

Of course, I spent the next few weeks sitting on the side of my bed trying to learn to play the songs on my Silvertone guitar and never getting close.

It wasn’t long before the Monkees (Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones, Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork) asserted themselves and began writing and playing the music on their TV show and records. When they toured in 1967, they got Jimi Hendrix to be their opening act, at least for a couple of weeks before he bailed, and when they made a movie, called Head, they had Frank Zappa and Jack Nicholson assist. So these young men weren’t as uncool as some insisted. They were fun, and they didn’t take themselves too seriously.

One major thing they had going for them on their show was a great-looking car, based on a ’66 Pontiac GTO, called the Monkeemobile:

After the show ended in 1968, the group fractured as far as playing live was concerned. Mike Nesmith’s mom, Bette Nesmith Graham, had made a fortune after inventing the typewriter-correction fluid Liquid Paper or White Out, and he had no financial incentive to join Dolenz, Jones and Turk (real name Peter Thorkelson) on tours. Last February, at age 66, Davy Jones died of a heart attack.

Peter Tork, Mike Nesmith, Mickey Dolenz

Strangely enough, after getting together at a tribute show to honor Jones, the three remaining Monkees decided to do a full-blown tour, and they’ve done it in style. Rather than try to sing the hit song most associated with Davy Jones (Daydream Believer), they’ve chosen to ask an audience member to come on stage and sing the lead vocal. There are several videos on YouTube of the various folks doing this; here are a couple:

From a concert in Cupertino, California; these two young ladies do what I consider a great job:

Here’s a rehearsal concert in Escondido, California, with audience member Mike Ackerman filling in for Davy; he does fine:

It’s a nice, fitting and fun idea and even though some of the audience members sing wildly off-key, one has to respect their courage to get up on stage in front of thousands and have a go.

So The Monkees are still making music and having fun, and that’s pretty cool, isn’t it?