The Mystery of the Batplane's Propulsion
During the 1940's


One of the most distinctive features of the Batplane of the '40s was the large "bat-mask" that covered it's nose. This was not a particularly aerodynamic feature, but it wasn't noticably different than the blunt noses of the radial-engined ships of the day. It was not difficult to imagine a radial engine cowl modified to look like a bat-mask (though how proper air flow was maitained for the air-cooled engine was still a mystery). And, initially, the Batplane had a propeller plainly visible attached to the front of the bat-mask. Examples of the Batplane with a propeller in flight can be found in Detective Comics No. 61. Even clearer evidence is provided in Detective Comics No. 54, where the Batplane converts into a boat and it's motionless propeller is clearly visible in a number of panels. And the cover of Detective Comics No. 64 features a Batplane with it's propeller prominently displayed.
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But, at some point, the propeller disappeared. In Batman No. 9 there is no sign of the spinning propeller that was visible in the examples given above. But, someone might argue, a spinning propeller is nearly invisible so that's not absolute proof of the disappearance of the propeller. Okay, check the splash page of Batman No. 10. It shows two Batplanes setting motionless in their hangar with not a sign of a propeller. The propellerless Batplane became the norm until it was replaced by a jet-powered aircraft.
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As an aircraft buff, this missing propeller always bothered me and, apparently, I was not the only one who wondered how the Batplane could fly with no visible means of propulsion. When Dave Cockrum and Dan Adkins were drawing a 1980 issue of The Brave and the Bold that teamed Batman with the flying Blackhawks, Dave (also an aircraft buff) was uncomfortable with the traditional bat-masked, propellerless Batplane of the '40s. He decided to base his interpretation of the Batplane on a real aircraft, instead.
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A decade later, John Byrne came up with a different solution in his Batman/Captain America cross-over story. He retained the bat-mask on the nose by making the Batplane a twin-engined ship.
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Worrying about the lack of a propeller on the Batplane is, in the final analysis, only an exercise for we nit-pickers. After all, it is no more mysterious than the Batplane's ability to hover at will or to fly itself after both Batman and Robin have bailed out. It certainly was the most marvelous aircraft of its time.




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The character of Batman, the emblems and the comic book panels on these pages are the property of DC Comics. All text and photographs are 2002-2007 Dan Thompson, except where otherwise noted. This website is not intended to infringe on the copyright of DC Comics to its characters, but was created out of gratitude to all the wonderful writers, artists, and editors who created the Batman.