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.
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.
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!”
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!
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!
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!