DC Comics Sues Man Who Builds Custom 'Batmobiles'

Warner Bros. is on the prowl for bad guys driving around in gadget-laden vehicles. DC Comics, a subsidiary of the studio, has filed a copyright and trademark lawsuit against a man who builds custom-made "Batmobiles."

Mark Towle operates a business called "Gotham Garage" and now stands accused of distributing merchandise that infringes what a new lawsuit says is the "high-tech extraordinary automobile identified as the BATMOBILE vehicle."

DC Comics is telling a California District Court that the sale of imitation Batmobiles is likely to confuse the public into believing that the cars are authorized products. It wants a permanent injunction, the destruction of infringing goods, and statutory damages of no less than $750,000 per infringement.

If the Batman owners really intend to get serious on policing "Batmobiles," they've got a lot of work on their hands. Just in the past month, Batmobiles popped up, among other places, at Utah State University, in New York's East Village, at a Ralph Lauren exhibit in Paris, and was also used as the getaway car during a Pennsylvania robbery. Meanwhile, the Batmobile will soon be hitting the live stage in a world-wide theatrical tour and the car's original creator (now 85) is criticizing imitations such as the car used in Green Hornet as just not as cool.

According to the latest lawsuit, the Batman franchise has made at least $1 billion in merchandise revenue since the first film came out in 1989. Batman first appeared in a 1939 issue of "Detective Comics."