Quote from Jack Nicholson’s Joker in the “Batman” movie of 30 years ago: “Where does he get those wonderful toys.”
You may be seeing one of those wonderful toys — the Batmobile — on the streets of Tulsa.
The Batmobile is as old as the character itself.
Batman cruised around in a red car when he debuted in Detective Comics No. 27, published in 1939. It apparently got a paint job soon after and the vehicle was called the Batmobile for the first time in 1941.
Changing with the times, the “look” of the Batmobile continues to evolve. But the soon-to-be unveiled Tulsa Batmobile is a vehicle that is being built to replicate the Batmobile that appeared in a 1989 blockbuster film starring Michael Keaton.
Where can you see it?
The Tulsa Batmobile will be on display along with more than 20 other “celebrity” cars at the Tulsa Pop Culture Expo, a third-year pop culture convention scheduled Nov. 2-3 at the former Sears store inside Woodland Hills Mall.
Drawing cards will include Superman (Dean Cain), the Bionic Woman (Lindsay Wagner), Shazam’s youthful alter ego (Asher Angel), a homegrown hero (Bill Goldberg) and an additional homegrown “hero” if you count the Tulsa Batmobile.
Why does Tulsa have a Batmobile?
The simple answer is because Arthur Greeno, a local Chick-fil-A franchise owner/operator wanted one.
During an interview about the Tulsa Batmobile, Greeno said Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy bought one of the original 1989 Batmobiles and it’s housed at the corporate office.
One of Greeno’s friends recalled they were at the corporate office last year and Greeno, after laying eyes on the Batmobile, said, “I’m going to have one of these.”
Greeno doesn’t remember that happening. “But I can absolutely see myself saying that,” he said.
What can you do with a Batmobile?
Greeno didn’t want a Batmobile just so he could, once in a while, drive it to work and attract gawkers.
“It’s 21 feet long,” he said. “It’s not something I’m going to be cruising around comfortably in. And then what am I going to do with it? Go to car shows and sit? Arthur doesn’t do sit very well. That’s just not how I’m wired. So if we’re going to do this, who’s going to benefit from it? How am I impacting the community?”
Greeno is on the board of trustees for Tulsa Pop Kids, a charitable organization with a focus to advance children’s literacy through pop culture and entertainment. Tulsa Pop Kids dispatches costumed superheroes to visit kids at hospitals, schools, housing projects and community events.
If Batman is showing up, why not show up in style? Why not have Batman show up in his signature vehicle?
The Tulsa Pop Culture Expo is an outreach event for Tulsa Pop Kids. Upon completion and after obligations are fulfilled, the Tulsa Batmobile will be donated to Tulsa Pop Kids for use.
How do you get a Batmobile?
In this case, you schedule a road trip to Gotham Cruisers in Dayton, Ohio. It’s a company that sells classic “cruiser kits,” including the the 1989 version of you-know-what and the 1966 TV series version.
Don Alam and Lori Squyres of Nerd Alert Customs joined Greeno on a trip to pick up the vehicle shell. Here’s what was learned about the bouncing-and-gyrating trailer they pulled. It stabilizes if you can drive 72 miles per hour, but not so much if you drive 71 or 73 mph.
Greeno said they used no less than 25 straps to secure the shell on the trailer “because it was kind of wiggling all over. And every time we would pull over on the side of the road to strap it down, I kid you not, somebody would pull over because they wanted to take a picture with the shell. It just got hilarious after a while.”
But it was affirmation the Tulsa Batmobile is going to be a selfie-magnet, which is the whole point.
Is the Tulsa Batmobile a functional vehicle yet?
The original goal was to have the Tulsa Batmobile up and running in time for the Tulsa Pop Culture Expo.
“At this point right now it’s a shell — a really good-looking shell,” Greeno said. “It has all the components of a car, but it is missing a motor and a transmission.”
Work was paused for a new priority: Get the vehicle presentable so it can be displayed at the expo.
Once the expo is over, the car will go back to Trav’s Auto Lab so vital organs can be added. “Build” days were held at Trav’s Auto Lab and Christian Brothers Automotive to get the Tulsa Batmobile to its present state. Painting took place this week at Carstar Tulsa.
Volunteers were sought for the build days. Individuals with different skill sets responded to the summons.
“It seems like every time we tell someone ‘would you like to work on the Batmobile?,’ the answer is yes,” Greeno said. “Everyone wants to work on the Batmobile.”
Greeno, who knows next to nothing about cars, said he likes to surround himself with people smarter than himself. The ongoing joke during this project is Greeno is in charge of lunch, period.
Many people and businesses (Shamrock Tires provided bigger-than-usual wheels; Retrobuilt Motors in Nixa, Mo., provided guidance) chipped in with contributions other than lunch to help make the Tulsa Batmobile possible.
Greeno indicated the price tag would be in six figures if a person bought a completed Batmobile.
Has anyone told the owner how crazy it is to build a Batmobile?
“No one has actually said that because anyone who knows me knows that this is right up my alley,” Greeno said. “(What) I get told a lot of times is ‘If I know anyone that would own a Batmobile, it would be you.”
According to a bio on arthurgreeno.com, Greeno is the owner of two Guinness World Records, including one for a 1,140-gallon, 9-foot tall cup of sweet tea. Greeno said he still doesn’t know how to build a giant cup. “But I know how to find the person that does,” he said.
Greeno used the same approach in creating other Tulsa Pop Kids attention-getters, including a giant Iron Man “Hulkbuster” armor that was a centerpiece attraction at the 2018 Tulsa Pop Culture Expo.
It’s your turn, Tulsa Batmobile.
“The reason we want to make sure it’s ready there is every kid — every big kid, everyone that comes there — everyone likes magical things,” Greeno said, adding that the sight of a Batmobile can transport people to a “magical” place.
“For us to be able to present this in a way that kids get to take a picture with it and say ‘I saw the Batmobile,’ that’s cool and that’s engaging. And that’s what we want.”
Last question: Will Greeno find a reason to get behind the wheel of the Tulsa Batmobile before turning it over to Tulsa Pop Kids?
“Oh. of course,” he said. “Just because I have to test it, you know?”