Meet Somchai Nitimongkolchai, Bangkok’s biggest Batman fan. The 43-year-old has been investing in Batman memorabilia for the past decade – his vast collection now consists of a whopping 50,000 pieces, including a LEGO Gotham City. And it’s all on display at his very own ‘Batcat Museum & Toys Thailand’.
Somchai, a self-confessed superhero geek, became obsessed with the Dark Knight ever since the 2005 film Batman Begins. He was blown away by Christian Bale’s performance as Batman. “I saw Batman Begins and was really impressed by how smart and brave Bruce Wayne was,” he said. He felt like Batman was an ‘approachable hero’ for the real world. “Anyone could just put on a mask and be Batman.”
Somchai, who ran an event-organising company at the time, had never collected anything until then. But the film inspired him to purchase his first collectible – a ceramic Batman piggy bank – for his office desk. Since then, he has combed every flea market and garage sale in Bangkok, looking for stuff related to his favorite superhero. “I started shopping on eBay and then learned more about how collectibles are marketed,” he said.
As he continued collecting items, he ran out of room at home to store them. So he rented a 400-square meter shop at Lam Salee intersection in 2012, and named it Batcat Museum. The exteriors are decorated with colorful graphics, and the entrance is a towering hydraulic gate. The interiors are filled with his entire 50,000-strong collection.
Somchai only collected Batman models at first, but later expanded his collection to other fictional characters, to cater to all his visitors. “When I decided to open the museum, I started collecting models and toys of other movie and cartoon characters so they’d be more diversity,” he explained. “I want to build a community for everyone where they can come and share their passion.”
His collection is sort of like a congregation of the who’s who of the action-adventure world. There’s Indiana Jones, Superman, Spiderman, James Bond, and all the stars of the Avengers, Star Wars, and The Pirates of the Caribbean. He’s also got models of Disney stars like Shrek, Nemo, Mickey Mouse, and the characters of from Toy Story and Cars.
One of the major attractions in the museum is the replica of Gotham City made of thousands of black LEGO bricks. Inside are laboratories, prisons and the Batcave, complete with helicopters, bikes and, yes, the Batmobile.
There’s also an array of Captain Action Toys from the late 1960s – the Green Hornet, the Phantom and a model of Superman that were sold with their own changes of clothing as well as weapons. And there are about 30 die-cast models of the cars from Thunder Birds, Knight Rider, Ghostbusters, and The Fast and the Furious.
Fans can purchase souvenirs from the Batcat store – T-shirts, stationery, key rings, wallets and wristwatches, and even a few rare figures. The museum café serves coffee, green-tea latte and chocolate smoothies ranging in price from Bt20 to Bt80.
“I plan to keep collecting for many more years,” Somchai said. “Then maybe when I’m about 60 years old I will ship it all to the USA. I’m thinkin that in about 20 years, I can make it the largest Batman collection ever sold at an auction.”
Somchai Nitimongkolchai’s visitors mostly consist of local superhero enthusiasts and collectors, but he does have plenty of tourists come in as well.
Photos: Batcat Museum/Facebook