Batman's Aerial Evolution: From Hokey Copter To Nolan's Batwing

Christian Bale's incarnation of Batman had hardly been confined to the gritty streets of Gotham City in "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight." His Caped Crusader perched high atop skyscrapers, spun aerial pirouettes through the night sky with a pair of retractable wings, and plucked a corrupt businessman into the air thanks to some nifty black-ops technology and a white cargo plane.

But never before has Bale's hero had his very own aircraft, a super-slick Batwing perhaps to park in the Batcave next to his Batpod, which resides within his Batmobile. That's about to change, as photos from the Pittsburgh set of "The Dark Knight Rises" make clear. Director Christopher Nolan has given the craft an entirely new spin, updating what was once an undeniably hokey comic-book creation into the latest, greatest way for Batman to shoot through the air and bust bad-guy butt. Here's a look at the aircraft's evolution.

The Original Batplane

The Caped Crusader's first aircraft appeared in 1939, the very same year the superhero himself was introduced to the public in the pages of Detective Comics. The plane maintained a batlike appearance, with webbed wings and pointy ears. And — hey, why not? — it doubled as a helicopter, allowing Batman to dub the invention with a rather fun-house moniker: the Batgyro.

The Spacecraft

In the 1940s, the Batplane gained a Batface, rocket propulsion, and the ability to launch itself into space, because apparently sometimes a superhero and his sidekick like to get the heck out of Gotham and fight crime in the cosmos. Batman and Robin could helpfully be summoned back to Earth when the Bat-Signal was flashed upon the moon.

Batplane II

Created in the aftermath of World War II, when a whole new generation of U.S. fighter jets took to the sky, this new Batplane featured doohickeys like human ejector tubes, a magnesium-fired laser beam, and pontoon landing gear for water-based touchdowns. Two Bat-thumbs up for Bond-style creativity.

An Animated Look

By the 1970s, years after Adam West's TV series had been canned, "The New Adventures of Batman" delivered a red-and-black fighter jet with logos on the wings and a ho-hum overall design. At least West (or his voice-acting abilities) finally got to take flight.

Burton's Batwing

Tim Burton gave the aircraft not only a whole new look but a new badass name: the Batwing. In 1989's "Batman," Michael Keaton's plane had a stealth feel to it, while also maintaining batlike wings. The craft got a further update in Joel Schumacher's "Batman Forever," but much like the hero's nipple-adorned suit, let's just forget about that.

An Animated Batwing

"Batman: The Animated Series" stuck close to Burton's design: curved wings surrounding earlike protrusions. That's not exactly outside-the-box thinking on the part of this Fox series, if you ask us.

Nolan's Reinvention

Just as the director did for other Batman vehicles (note how Bale's Batpod didn't, thankfully, sport a sidecar), Nolan has thrown out the Batplane playbook for his take on the Batwing. It's got a very military feel to it, just as the tumbler does. Its body is comprised of a number of interlocking plates, what appears to be at least part fan propulsion, and a front-row seat for Batman himself.

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