Sure, Superman is faster than a speeding bullet. But Batman, he's got the cars.
Fans of the Caped Crusader lined up outside Brenden Theatres on Thursday for the midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises," the much-anticipated final installment of the new Batman trilogy. To whet their appetite even further for cinematic carnage and crime fighting were three custom-built Bat vehicles on display in front of the theater.
The vehicles a red Batmobile, a black "rumbler" and a still-in-construction Batpod all are the creations of Lodi resident David Dickson.
Dickson runs a pool company, Aquos Pools, in Lathrop. He's been working on his Bat motorcade since before "Batman Begins," the first film in director Christopher Nolan's reboot of the franchise, hit theaters in 2008. Dickson always has liked cars, and after some unsatisfactory work was done at custom shops, he decided to try his hand at it himself in his home garage.
But what kind of car to make?
"I just thought, what's the coolest car I think of, and this was it," he said.
His first custom job was modeled after the 1989 Batmobile from the Tim Burton movie. Dickson's is painted candy-apple red instead of the original black but has all the sleek swoops and sharp fins the eye could want. He calls it the Crimefighter Extreme.
The car was enough to impress passers-by like 6-year-old Lucas Bixby, who yelled as he approached the car, "This really is the Batmobile!"
Kids stopped to gawk. Parents took pictures. Grown-ups became 10-year-olds at the sight of the souped-up supercars.
"It's funny to see the grown men act like kids," Dickson said. "But my favorite is still the kids. It's just satisfying to see people's reactions."
Dickson hasn't built the Bat cars for profit, although he did have posters of them for sale. And he occasionally shows them off at various events and car shows.
Nor does he create any custom vehicles for others. Instead, he said, the Bat cars are a labor of love. The red Batmobile took two years to build; the Bat "rumbler," fashioned after the Tumbler that Batman drives in all three of Nolan's films, took 3½ years.
Dickson said he almost quit while making it, but found outside inspiration that pushed him through.
"I was talking with my minister and said, 'I think I'm going to quit,' and he suggested I make it a tribute vehicle," Dickson said. "So I made it in tribute to the military."
His father was a 28-year Marine Corps veteran and Dickson served in the Navy. His father's American flag from his military service is perched on the back of the car.
The red one is dedicated to first responders. And the in-progress motorcycle will be dedicated to Hawaiian "warriors" in honor of Pearl Harbor.
Dickson estimates the three Bat vehicles cost about $300,000 to build. Both cars are street legal, though Dickson says he rarely drives them because they attract too much attention. He says people have gotten into accidents while staring at them on the road.
Modesto couple Joshua Kloth and Erendira Sevilla her in a Batman logo T-shirt came to the theater to see what kind of hoopla there would be at the première. They planned to go to the midnight screening, but at another theater. Finding the Bat fleet was a pleasant surprise.
"They're really cool, and we're excited to see the movie," Kloth said. "The whole series has been really kick-butt so far."
The cars got superfan 15-year-old Marissa Mora more pumped up. Decked out in Batman shoes, socks, belt, T-shirt, bracelet, watch, lanyard, ballcap and even underwear, Marissa was outside the theater at 5 a.m. to be first in line along with three friends.
Her fervor for the Dark Knight is simple, she said. "He is just a supercool superhero. He has no powers but still goes around and can be awesome and fight crime."
Also, he has those cars.
Dickson will have his Bat fleet on display tonight at the AMC Showplace Theater in Manteca. For more, visit www.batbuilder.com.
Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2284.