Golden Age of Comic Books Rotating Header Image

The Origin of the Bat Cave

A while back I posted about Dick Sprang’s “Secrets of the Batcave” lithograph.  While I was looking at my print, I realized that I did not know the exact origin of the Batcave in comics.  Of course, there is a memorable cover devoted to the “1,000 Secrets of the Batcave” (Batman #48, August-September 1948), but I was curious about when the Batcave first appeared in comics, how it was introduced, etc.

Batman #48 (August-September 1948)

Batman #48 (August-September 1948)

 As I started looking into this, I realized that this was really an evolutionary process, as it appeared that Batman first had a secret lab in Wayne Manor and also used an old barn to garage the Batmobile and the Batplane.  While this got me on the right path, it didn’t tell me where the idea of an underground “cave” for Batman’s cool stuff first came into being in the Golden Age.

After a little bit of research, it appears that the first mention of an underground nerve center for Batman and Robin to use as their headquarters was in the pages of the second story in Batman #12 (August-September 1942), “The Wizard of Words” (a Joker story).  In the fourth page of this story, Batman and Robin are about to take off in the Batplane to track down the Joker, when we are treated to a complete view of the underground area by Kane, Robinson and Roussos, as written by Finger.

Batman 12 (August-September 1942)

Batman 12 (August-September 1942)

First View of Batman's Underground HQ from Batman #12

First View of Batman's Underground HQ from Batman #12

It is interesting to me that this drawing of what would come to be known as the “Bat Cave” is almost exactly the same as the cover of Batman #48 that was published six years later (Note that in Batman #48 it is now clearly a “cavern” as opposed to a man-made structure, and the trophies are also present).  It’s also interesting that this underground bunker was not given a name at that time, whereas clearly we had a “Bat Plane” and a “Batmobile”.  Eighteen months later, writer Don Cameron  finally gave us the name “Bat Cave” in the pages of Detective Comics #83 (January 1944) in the story “Accidentally on Purpose!”

Detective Comics #83 (January 1944)

Detective Comics #83 (January 1944)

In this story, Bruce and Dick are in Wayne Manor when an alarm sounds warning them of an intruder.  As Bruce and Dick rush to the Cave to find Alfred in the Gym trying to work out, Dick exclaims, “The alarm from the Bat Cave! Someone must be down there!”.  Thus, the name “Bat Cave” was coined by Dick Grayson!  Of note, Alfred starts this story in his original overweight style, but by the end of the story he is the traditional and more well known “skinny” Alfred, but that’s the topic of another post!

First use of term "Bat Cave" from Detective Comics #83

First use of term "Bat Cave" from Detective Comics #83

As I read these early stories about the Bat Cave, I wondered about one of the most well known aspects of this place, the Trophy Room.  It did not appear in either story, and the Bat Cave is really only used as a hangar,  garage, workshop and laboratory.

As it turns out, the Trophy Room actually appeared slightly before the first full drawing of the Bat Cave in Batman #12.  In the first story in that issue, “Brothers in Crime”, Don Cameron tells us about Batman’s “Hall of Trophies”.  Curiously, this room is not below Wayne Manor, but appears to be a room in the main house.  This room was later combined with the Bat Cave, but in 1942, it was already a “symbol of his thousand and one victories over crime!”  Jerry Robinson fills the entire second page of this story with images of the “Hall of Trophies”.  How would you like to have that large Joker mask over your mantle!

Batman's First Trophy Room from Batman #12

Batman's First Trophy Room from Batman #12

The Bat Cave continued to evolve over time in the pages of Batman, World’s Finest Comics and Detective Comics, and continues to be one of the mainstays of the Batman mythos.  I sure wish I had a cool place like that for all of my toys!

Share

11 Comments

  1. J. L. Bell says:

    You can dig even deeper into the origin of the Bat Cave by looking at the first Batman movie serial. That cinematic masterpiece was also the source of the skinny Alfred. The fact that the same comic-book story both thinned down Alfred and introduced the Bat Cave into print shows the feedback-loop influence of the movie on the comics.

  2. Pat Curley says:

    I have read (but don’t know if it’s true) that the Batcave was actually introduced in the Batman serial in 1943. I know that there’s a scene in that movie where a crook is left tied up in the Batcave and the experience so frightens him that he gives Batman and Robin the information they are looking for. It’s also claimed that Alfred was given his slender form to make him look more like the Alfred of the film. Of course, this would not be the first time that characters in the comics were changed to be more in line with their adventures in other media; Clark Kent’s newspaper of the comics, the Daily Star, was renamed the Daily Planet to match the radio show and his boss became Perry White instead of George Taylor.

  3. Michael Bartz says:

    At the beginning of the first Batman serial, “Batman and Robin”, 1943, Batman is seen sitting in a room, with a giant bat sign in the background. When Robin comes in, the room is revealed to be a cave.
    During the episodes, the both of them refer to “the Bat’s cave”, which also contains a lab, if I remember right.
    Because of that, the cave was introduced to the comics, as “the Batcave”.
    And, yes, Alfred was skinned down to resemble the actor.
    Hope, I could help.

  4. [...] Right off the bat (no pun intended), you’ll read the origin and first appearance of Two-Face (known as “Harvey Kent”) from Detective Comics #66, to be followed by his second appearance in Detective Comics #68.  Classic Joker stories abound from Batman #s 12, 13 and Detective Comics #69 (one of my favorite Golden Age Joker Covers by Robinson).  You’ll also get to read a classic Penguin story from Detective Comics #67.   One of my favorite non-super villain stories is “Around the Clock with the Batman” from Batman #12, featuring a “day in the life” of our heroes, starting with Gotham City celebrating “Batman Day”.  “The North Pole Crimes” from World’s Finest Comics #7 is another favorite, and features the first time Batman and Robin wear alternate costumes to fight crime.  You’ll even get to see the first view of the precursor to the Batcave in Batman #12. [...]

  5. [...] in the 1940s, the Batman movie serial introduced the bat-cave before the comic books or comic strip went that deep. A few years before that, the Superman radio [...]

  6. O says:

    I was re reading Batman Fugitive the other day and either Grayson or Drake discovered an intruder accessed the cave via a barn. A nod to the golden age perhaps?

  7. [...] The Origin of the Bat Cave [Bill Jourdain / The Golden Age of Comic Books] [...]

  8. Thank you for this enlightening post and comments. I was researching the topic of the Batcave for a story on my blog. I am linking to your blog for my readers who might want to know more.

    Geoff

  9. Bill Eggert says:

    Hi Bill,
    Enjoyed your discussion of the Batcave & the rest of your blog,
    which I just discovered. Any idea where I can purchase that
    Dick Sprang lithograph you referenced? Many thanks in advance…

    Best Bat-Wishes,
    Bill Eggert

  10. Bill – The Sprang litho has long been out of print. I purchased mine on eBay several years ago. That’s probably your best bet.

Leave a Reply