Official Batmobile Image – “Who Pumps The Tires?”

The Batmobile is just awesome to look at, but it also may imply more about Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice than may be apparent at first glance….

After a series of spy photos leaked the new Batmobile’s entire form albeit in fuzzy low resolution and covered in dust, Snyder responded with an official glamor shot of the unveiled Batmobile (which you may recall has already been shown obscured by cloth and fog in previous photos). The photo’s most distinguishing feature is the hood-mounted gun turrets which has- rather irrationally- caused a reaction in some to be skeptical of Batman potentially having lethal force at his disposal.

As many have pointed out since then, Batman across most media and in recent history has routinely afforded himself firearms (and their ilk) as tools… which aren’t necessarily deployed to kill anyone. On top of that, certainly some portrayals of Batman has used firearms to kill. Until we see how they’re used in the film, any strong position on their mere existence is premature.

Firearms are effective tools. Many probably don’t realize that the iconic Bruce Timm Batman from the 90’s Batman: The Animated Series essentially carried a side-arm as part of his standard gear. The T-shaped grapple gun fired a massive metal projectile by way of explosive cartridge… something that qualifies as a firearm in most (if not all) United States jurisdictions and could easily be used as a lethal weapon (and, in fact, Batman did on occasion use it as a weapon).

Rather than project a position on lethal force based on this picture, I’m more interested in the other possibilities the vehicle may possible suggest.  First, it tends to indicate that this is a Batman that puts efficacy and utility above stealth and subtlety (as is, arguably, it should be for a caped and cowled crusader).  Second, it implies that this is a Batman that has had experiences (or anticipates having such experiences) that warrant such a vehicle.  Third, it means that Batman’s access to gadgetry will be practically unlimited… if it is conceivable within the realm of near-future contemporary technology (and beyond, with a little bit of help from Kryptonian technology or comic book tropes) it is potentially within this veteran Batman’s reach.  This is not a Batman scraping by on the bare minimum, but willing to invest in extravagant and highly specialized tools.

Fourth, and I have mixed feelings about this, it may suggest that the filmmakers are relaxing the reins on the hyper-realistic slant of Man of Steel.  Whereas Man of Steel could conceivably take place entirely within the real-world sans everything stemming from Krypton, a flamboyant Batmobile suggests that even the “real-world” of Man of Steel isn’t as mundane as we may have been lead to believe and, possibly, includes more fanciful elements which will lend themselves to some of the more enjoyable tropes of super heroism.  On one hand, I’d be excited for more comic book elements to seep into the DC Cinematic Universe and onto the silver screen… however, on the other hand, the grounded and realistic approach of Man of Steel truly set it apart from many other films in the genre, and that hyper-realistic, completely rationalized approach really gives me more to chew on as a fan of the film than more relaxed fanciful take.

Grant Morrison oft quoted comment in Rolling Stones

Even as Hollywood transforms itself into a superhero-industrial complex, struggling to find “gritty” and “realistic” takes on flying Übermenschen in rubber suits, Morrison revels in the glorious madness of these stories. “People say kids can’t understand the difference between fact and fiction, but that’s bullshit,” he says. “Kids understand that real crabs don’t sing like the ones in The Little Mermaid. But you give an adult fiction, and the adult starts asking really fucking dumb questions like ‘How does Superman fly? How do those eyebeams work? Who pumps the Batmobile’s tires?’ It’s a fucking made-up story, you idiot! Nobody pumps the tires!”

I actually completely agree with Morrison with the caveat that the story isn’t attempting hyper-realism. The vast majority of comics (and related media) will use it as a tool, but ultimately aren’t concerned with fully realized rational worlds, and therefore will not survive such scrutiny nor are they meant to. However, where a story does endeavor to communicate authenticity and veracity beyond character, emotions, humanity, and the sphere of the subjective… but into genuine world-building, mechanics, and how stuff works… it provides a whole second layer of engagement for creators who are guided by such principles and fans who try to uncover and reconcile them. Living up to such constraints is a nearly impossible task, but all the more rewarding the closer one gets for those who enjoy such approaches.

Ben Affleck has recently been quoted as saying the script is “really unique to the genre and really smart” something that I feel is satisfied by a hyper-realistic approach. With a well-executed film, I’ll be happy either way. Both afford the filmmakers all sorts of interesting possibilities, but if only for all the discussion that realistic approaches can generate, I’m hoping for a film where we can plausibly wonder who pumps the tires.

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