13 QUICK THOUGHTS on the Glorious SECRETS OF THE BATCAVE — 1968

A BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE: Late artist Frank Springer was born 92 years ago…

Late artist Frank Springer — born 92 years ago on Dec. 6, 1929 — had a lengthy, varied career but to me he will always be, first and foremost, the man who illustrated the greatest detailed look at Batman’s headquarters and equipment: Secrets of the Batcave — 1968, from Batman #203.

Neal Adams cover (with Springer’s contribution front and center). This is a riff on the cover of Batman #48. (Click here.)

These four pages, which have been reprinted numerous times in the decades since, has been my mental blueprint for the Batcave since early childhood and is still the quintessential cutaway of the cavernous command post under Stately Wayne Manor.

So, in honor of Springer’s birthday, we present 13 QUICK THOUGHTS ON THE GLORIOUS SECRETS OF THE BATCAVE — 1968:

1. If you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with the feature, but to recap, Secrets of the Batcave — 1968 is four pages, including a two-page splash of Wayne Manor and the Batcave, a page the explains the intracacies of Batman and Robin’s utility belts and a page on various other equipment, including the Batarang and Batplane. Batman #203 was an issue filled with reprints spotlighting various aspects of Batman’s arsenal.

2. I love that it’s detailed and still so low-tech that it’s out of scale. Just compare the size of the Batcomputer to Wayne Manor. The computer itself would take up an entire wing of the mansion!

3. I would stare and stare at the utility belt page, especially Batman’s. It was fantastic to see each capsule accounted for — a bold move when you consider that Batman could pull a kitchen sink out of there if the situation warranted it. The little detail that one of the capsules is a mini-power source for the rest of the gadgets is ingenious. I don’t recall whether that had ever been noted before but I dig it.

4. I also really appreciated seeing how Robin’s belt worked — the pouches were on the inside. It was the perfect answer for why the outward side was so smooth and clean.

5. As noted above, it’s not the first time DC did this. There were cutaways going back years — Batman #203 included one from 1948’s Batman #48, for example — but none offered this level of detail or demanded so much space.

1,000 Secrets of the Batcave!, from 1948’s Batman #48. Reprinted in Batman #203. Script by Bill Finger, pencils by Jim Mooney, inks by Charles Paris.

6. Before we go any further, I want to point you to this post’s sister feature. For our annual TOYHEM series, 13th Dimension contributor Chris Franklin has put together THE TOP 13 BATCAVE PLAYSETS — RANKED. Click here to check it out. You’ll love it, I promise.

7. The first time Secrets of the Batcave — 1968 was reprinted (though I admit it may have been earlier) was in 1975’s Limited Collectors’ Edition #C-27 — the classic Batman treasury edition that spotlighted the Darknight Detective’s rogues gallery. The beauty, naturally, is that the four pages were blown up to roughly 10″ x 13.5″ and you could lay it before you on the floor while you soaked it in — or compared it to the Mego Batcave.

8. Among my favorites parts was tracing how Bruce and Dick could move about the cave — and out of it. The most exciting part to me is fairly mundane: It’s not the T-Rex or the giant penny (which are obviously groovy) but the tunnel leading out of the cavern. This is where the action begins — Batman and Robin on the way to another adventure!

9. The second time this was reprinted was in Michael L. Fleisher‘s seminal Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes Vol. 1: Batman in 1976, but it was in black and white. I believe only the Batcave layout was included.

10. I love the floating Batman gas-mask head, which may have been illustrated by Murphy Anderson. (Sure looks like it.) I dig how the gas mask is right out of the Batman ’66 premiere episode. (And you can actually buy these masks for your Mego-size figures.)

11. The Batboat mooring is suspiciously similar to what popped up later in Mego’s Batcave.

12. The third time this was reprinted was in 1999’s Batman in the Sixties, part of a series of decade-highlight trade paperbacks that were pretty damn good. Batman in the Fifties was recently reprinted, so I’d love to see a new edition of this one. (The final time “Secrets ’68” was reprinted was in 2007’s trade paperback Secrets of the Batcave. It’s also available digitally from the DC Universe Infinite app.)

13. The Batmobile — clearly based on the iconic George Barris design — was Batman’s comics ride for a while in the late ’60s. Even as the show was fading out, Batman still hustled around in the comics on these wheels.

By the end of 1969, though, he’d picked out a more discreet sportscar designed by Neal Adams — and moved away from Wayne Manor entirely. Years later, Bruce Wayne opened a new Batcave under the Wayne Foundation — but that’s a story for another time.

Terry Austin

MORE

— The TOP 13 BATCAVE PLAYSETS Ever – RANKED. Click here.

— THE MEGO BATCAVE AND ME: A Holiday Story. Click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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3 Comments

  1. There was a poster in the 1970’s that may have been included in that giant size issue, but I think it was a Hostess or similar mailaway. I have a German version of the poster on real poster stock, complete with the German colors of Batman’s costume (more lavender tights). I staired at that Batman 203 cover for years until that giant Sized Batman issue was released, and then the German Batcave. The also put out a giant Fortress of Solitude poster as well.

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  2. “… still so low-tech that its out of scale. Just compare the size of the Batcomputer to Wayne Manor. The computer itself would take up an entire wing of the mansion!”

    Back in 1968, a real computer would probably have taken up the entire wing of the mansion. Back in 1968, companies and organizations that had computers usually had special, air conditioned rooms for them and they contained rows & rows of large data banks & processing machines.

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