Die Cast News 2004-01 May 10, 2004
The Batmobile Returns!
Attention Batmaniacs! 2004 is shaping up to be a banner year for die cast versions of the Batmobile in all sizes and price ranges. Mattel is introducing the Batmobile into their Hot Wheels line with a series of interesting permutations of Batman's ride, while Playing Mantis gives us their take on the legendary Superhero vehicle in a series of die cast model kits and slot cars. And if you have tons of money, then the Danbury Mint has a large-scale version of the 1960's Comic Book Batmobile on tap. Listen up as we go into detail about all the toys coming up based on the coolest car in comics!
Sadly, none of these are the famous George Barris TV show version of the Batmobile. Despite being the most famous and sought-after incarnation of the Batmobile, this classic car is tied up in a decades-long rights dispute between car designer Barris and DC Comics. However, we will sort of get a die cast version of this car, but we'll save that news for the end of the column.
HOT WHEELS FOR THE BATMAN
Mattel is taking off with at least seven different Batmobile castings in dozens of different packages this year. Already out is a 1:64th scale three pack with a 1989 movie-inspired Batmobile facing off with cars for Bane and The Joker. In addition, there will be two Batmobiles included in the 2004 Hot Wheels First Editions line. Several more Batmobiles have been solicited through various dealers, but here's the cream of the crop.
As part of the deluxe 100% Hot Wheels line, Mattel is offering up the 1:64th 100% Hot Wheels Batman Batmobile, "From the 1989 Warner Bros. blockbuster movie Batman comes the ultimate driving machine for combating crime - the legendary Batmobile! Capturing every detail of the Dark Knight's famous night-stalking cruiser, this mean machine is built for both speed and taking a beating! The Batmobile's rugged design is only matched by it's state-of-the-art technology, outfitted with everything from bullet-deflecting armor to jet-propulsion thrusters. Ready to rumble on the rough streets of Gotham City, there is no doubt Batman drives the hottest wheels in town!"
On the odd side, Mattel has kicked out a three-car-set of sports cars labeled as "Bruce Wayne's Batmobile Collection". File this one under "lame ideas". They'll also bring us a 1:18th scale version of the movie Batmobile that comes with a five-inch tall Batman action figure, which is too big for that scale.
Not content with that bit of oddness, we next have rocketing out of Mattel's Batcave , the 1:18 Scale 100% Hot Wheels Batmobile series. "The ultimate in automotive authenticity! These 1:18 scale cars come fully loaded with realistic details, right down to the steering wheel that turns the front tires! Slick paint jobs and genuine engineering genius make these cars blow the doors off every other car on the road!" Look for a 1960s comic book Batmobile, 1980s comic book Batmobile and a movie Batmobile with transparent parts.
The Batmobile also finds its way into two of Hot Wheels exciting new designer lines. Crooze cars ride so low and run so hot, they melt into the street! These lead sleds don't just drag their tails, either - they burn through the turns and hug the highway with their low-slung bodies. Hardnoze cars are in your face! They've blown up the front ends to give them some serious bite. Both of these lines get a cool, yet bizarre take on Batman's wheels. These should be out soon, if they aren't already.
JOHNNY LIGHTNING GETS IN ON THE ACT
To be precise, Johnny Lightning got in on the act last year, with a cool series of die cast model kit versions of the Batmobile, in various sizes, that raised the bar on how to do the Batmobile right. Through their Polar Lights division, they also released reproductions of the classic Aurora Batmobile model kits. If you can't find these at your local stores any longer, trek on over to http://www.playingmantis.com, where you can purchase the entire collection at a sizable discount.
However, the fact that the die cast Batmobile is now being made under the Hot Wheels umbrella does not mean that Playing Mantis and Johnny Lightning are out of the Bat-picture. Late last year they released a very cool version of the 1960s comic book Batmobile in their Thunderjet 500 Slot Car line. It is truly a wonderful thing to have. This year, they've continued along those lines with new colors and paint schemes, including gold and silver chrome slot car Batmobiles. Not quite die-cast, but cool beyond belief anyway.
SPEND A MINT WITH DANBURY MINT
Danbury Mint almost pulled it off. They almost got the rights to do the George Barris Batmobile. They even got as far as sending out brochures for it. But it was not meant to be. Nobody seems to be able to get both Barris and DC Comics on board for the same project. So Danbury cancelled their TV Batmobile and replaced it with a 1:24th scale version of the 1960s comic book Batmobile, complete with ultra-high detail, hand-painted figures, and an ultra-high price of 150 bucks. I personally can't see paying that much for anything less than the TV version, but if it works for you, you can find it at http://www.danburymint.com .
Danbury is also doing their high-ticket take on the 1940s Batmobile. Again, if you can deal with the price, it's okay, but you can get a pretty darn cool model kit version for eighteen bucks from Playing Mantis.
SPEAKING OF WHICH.
While they can't get the rights to do the George Barris Batmobile, and it looks like their future Batmobile releases will be limited to slot cars and plastic model kits, Johnny Lightning will give us a nice little treat this November, with their tenth-anniversary release of the Lincoln Futura. For those of you who aren't familiar with this car, it was a very cool concept car that Ford created in the late 1950s. It turned up in a few movies, but was never put into production. After they lost interest in it, Ford sold what few cars they had made to George Barris, who let them sit on his lot for a few years until he got the job to design the Batmobile for the then-new Batman TV show. He went after the Futuras, and with surprisingly few modifications, he came up with the classic TV Batmobile.
Later this year, you can see what the original looked like, when you check out the Lincoln Futura!
Next time we look at how the Die Cast world has changed in during these last ten years with Johnny Lightning!