What's the Batcave?

What's This? Batman's home under his home.
The facts: Batman's famous lair was first introduced in Batman #12 (September 1942) and has been a feature of the franchise ever since, with only a brief window in the late 70s when Batman moved to the Wayne Foundation Building (and correspondingly built a "cave" there as well). The trophies - the giant penny, the mechanical dinosaur, the big Joker card, and eventually the case with Jason Todd's costume in it - have become as iconic as the space itself.
How you could have heard of it: You were born on Earth in the 20th or 21st Centuries.
Example story: Detective Comics #205 (March 1954) "The Origin of the Bat-Cave" by Bill Finger, Sheldon Moldoff and Charles Paris
The layman is probably most familiar with the story from the movies where young Bruce Wayne falls into a hole on the Wayne Manor grounds and finds himself in a vast cave. When he comes of age, he remembers that bat habitat and makes it his costumed identity's home. Sounds like an insurance nightmare. But let's go back in time to 1954 and almost certainly racist FIRST origin of the Bat-Cave...

Batman and Robin have maxed out the power in the Bat-Cave with the new-fangled "electronic" equipment, so they're installing new wiring in the ground when they find a 300-year-old piece of Native pottery. Conclusion: The cave is at least that old. (Batman's not up on his geology, is he? Nor is Robin who is AMAZED at how old the cave might be.) Like the great colonizers of history, for Batman the cave doesn't exist until he accidentally discovers it after purchasing the estate (Wayne Manor had yet to be canonized a family home) and falling through the floor of its old barn.
We came real close to having a Bat-Barn, guys. The barn is still the exit for the Batmobile and... Batplane? I'm not sure the physics check out...
Batman goes on to talk about how they rigged a sensor so that a bulb would light up down there when the police lit the Bat-Signal, and how they had to rig a special antenna so they could get television in the cave and never miss an episode of Adventures of Superman or American Bandstand (presumably). But as we now know, the cave was there BEFORE that fateful day when Bruce Wayne fell through rotten floor boards. An expert translates the inscription on the shard of pottery and it says "Death to the man of two identities", which kind of sounds like a bad omen. There's only one thing to do, of course, and that's time travel back to the 17th Century to find out more.
Batman's preferred time travel method in this era is hypnosis. You'll notice all sequences in the past are in fluffy panels just like the flashbacks, so... are they just a dream? Batman historians will debate this for decades (and maybe have to be put under hypnosis so they can return to the 1950s and talk to Bill Finger, I dunno). Some confusing action later, in which Robin falls off a cliff while a Native warrior rolls the Raiders of the Lost Ark boulder at him while Batman punches everything in sight (the Boy Wonder is saved by a bat-line), the life of a white frontiersman is saved and Batman declares the defeated braves will "probably be outlawed from the tribe for disgracing it". The white man is Jeremy Coe, ambushed by Natives while on his way to his secret headquarters (a perfectly natural thing to have on the American Frontier). Access is gained through a door in a tree and guess what, it's the Bat-Cave. He even CALLS it that.
Dude disguises himself as a Native to spy on them. And now for a flashback told inside a hypnotic time travel dream, and there's no real difference in panel borders, so try to keep up. He tells of putting on red-face make-up and catching the Gotham Indians allying with Huron and Algonquin tribes (which would seem to situate Gotham on the Great Lakes rather than the Atlantic, wouldn't it?) and reporting back to Fort George (there have been too many of these to help us pinpoint the location of Gotham City, though there have been several in New York State's history - is Gotham actually Buffalo?), only getting ambushed while returning to his cave. Batman sees to his wounds and offers to take his place in the next spy mission. The Dynamic Duo also make improvements to the cave, like a winch system to lower Coe's horse down into it so no one spots his horse tied to a suspicious tree.
Oh and a periscope too, so he knows when it's safe to come out. And a makeshift lab to make medicines and chemicals. And a trophy collection, because it's gotta be exactly like the one they have an home. A disguise wardrobe! A giant penny! (No wait, that hasn't happened yet.) Anyway, off Bruce goes, insensitively made up as a Native, hiding his uniform in his quiver (oh, it's going to get wrinkled) and the whole mission falls apart when it starts to rain and his skin color begins to run. Him too.
That criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot is an iconic Batman phrase. When applied to Native peoples, that's a big NOPE. They do freak out, but they're not running for the hills. It forces Batman to use local color to call for help.
Call the Mythbusters guys, I've got a challenge for them. With warriors on their heels, the heroes have just enough time to go get Coe and ride to Fort George. The cabin where they installed the horse winch is burned to the ground (all that work) and it seems unlikely Coe will ever return. And that's when Bruce and Dick wake up from their hypnotic sleep. When they get home, Dick does ask if it was all a dream, but the proof is in the shovels.
And that was the totally unnecessary origin of the Bat-Cave. In a way, we're lucky Jeremy Coe wasn't a frontier Bat-Man too.

But wait, how does any of this explain how the pottery shard got down there?

Who's Next? A costumed librarian.



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