With the upcoming reimagining of the iconic character for The Batman, we’re going to be treated to yet another interpretation of his trademark suit. Starting in the comics as a simple-yet-effective gray-and-black outfit, Batman’s outifit has had quite a number of reinterpretations.
Most of them amount to variations on a theme, but as the line between comics and film gets blurred we see some shared inspirations there as well. For the purposes of this exercise, however, I am going to stick with onscreen interpretations.
I’m also going to stick with Polonius’ advice here that brevity is the soul of wit. I feel no need to flex any sort of nerd credibility muscle here and pontificate on the where, when, why, or how of the suits. That material is all out there for your consumption if you’re interested, cataloged by people who were either paid to do so, or more inclined to try to become an Alpha Nerd.
Fortunately for me, someone already compiled almost all of them into one easy-to-view graphic, so I’m just pulling it in here. The original image is over on Reddit (of course). It’ll also help keep the blog a touch shorter so I don’t have to embed every suit, though a few will make their way into the course of things.
So keep this compilation in mind and then bear with me later as I bring in some additional ones that this compilation leaves out.
I’m not really going to waste time on the pajamas of the early years through 1966. They were of their time, and while I think the 1966 suit is actually pretty neat for what it is…they’re never going to be in a real conversation for my “favorite.”
Of course, 1989 ushered in the era of armor for the Batsuit, to account for the fact we lived in a different world than the one which gave birth to Batman. They could not hope to anchor Batman in “reality” and not put him in something that would take handguns into account.
This is something worth pondering to me because it’s not that guns were all that hard to come by in the 1930s, so you’d think that there’d have been a consideration of some sort of “armor” back then, too, even if it was just a simple plate a la Clint Eastwood’s trick that inspired Marty McFly in 1885.
The suit game was upped in Batman Returns, for my money. Instead of trying to mold a physique onto Michael Keaton, they went with a more armored approach. This one has tremendous appeal, and was in the top spot for quite awhile, because I liked the suit more in the sequel even if I think Batman Returns is lacking in some key regards.
Then along came nipples in Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. Here’s where we get to the deficiency in the compilation image, though, and it seems to be a gap for some when recollecting the onscreen Batsuits.
The first one that image compilation forgot is Batman’s costume change at the end of Batman Forever, where he appears in the “Sonar Batsuit.” This is the suit that Batman would wear when he finally defeats The Riddler. It’s silvery sheen may announce his presence, and the abdominal pattern gets a bit more armor-like, but it also subtracts something in the process.
Do you notice what’s missing?
The other one they forgot is Batman’s costume change at the end of Batman & Robin, where he appears in the…IDK, “Thermal Underwear Batsuit”? This is the suit worn when he defeats not just Mr. Freeze but any remaining dignity the audience had left.
They’re STILL missing!
What’s fascinating about these third-act costumes is that they are both missing nipples. Even beyond the codpieces, the nipples were the most reviled addition to the Batsuits for Schumacher’s films. It’s a weird thing to note that, at the end of the ordeals, the one sure sign Batman was done toying with his enemies was to ditch the nips.
Weird, isn’t it?
The Animated Series
Of course, since I’m talking about onscreen suits, I have to mention The Animated Series, which included two movies, Mask of the Phantasm and Batman / Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero.
While I LOVE the series and I LOVE the art direction, I’m always going to lean toward the live-action suits.
And no, I’m not going to entertain the idea of the suit from Superfriends or when Scooby-Doo met Batman. Those are just animated versions of the 1966 outfit, which disqualifies them.
I also know that if I don’t at least mention them I’ll leave myself open to some doddering savant who’d feel the need to challenge whether I was actually aware of them. Gatekeeper, I say to this Straw Man! Gatekeeper!
Then Along Came Christopher Nolan
Christopher Nolan seemed to embrace the straightforward armor aspect of the Batsuit that was first introduced in Batman Returns. The suit was a great success, although Batman still couldn’t really turn his head. I remember commenting on it at the time. If anything, they made his neck thicker and it was just a marvelous thing Batman could survive so well with such restricted head movement.
This lingering problem never got solved until The Dark Knight, when Bruce Wayne makes a point to request a more agile suit design from Lucius Fox. And here we get to my favorite onscreen Batsuit.
It’s armor, it’s agile, and it even builds in a sonar tech later in the film without the need to be spray painted silver! I think it’s a terrific, modern treatment to the age-old dilemma of how to present Batman in a believable outfit that seems practical and effective.
I know there is some slight variance with the suit he dons in The Dark Knight Rises, but they’re very minor and I think mainly have to do with resculpting for how Bale’s physique changed between films. I could be wrong about that.
And Then There was Zack Snyder
I’ll just make this brief. The costume might have looked like a great homage to the comic books, but the molded wrinkles on the Batsuit in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Thesaurus Marketing Title and in Justice League: Joss Whedon’s Legacy just sort of ruin it for me.
The “wrinkles” in the comics like The Dark Knight Returns are stylistic flair to make it seem like the fabric is straining against Batman’s physique. It conveys a kinetic power that he’s working to contain and channel. With wrinkles “molded” into permanence on a suit, it just looks weird. Those wrinkles are even there when no one’s in the thing.
I will give it this: I enjoyed the short ears, utility belt, and forearms. Hard to really call them gauntlets, but they did look cool.
The Winner: The Dark Knight/The Dark Knight Rises Suit
My judgment is anything but final. I can go back and forth on this a fair amount, I just always liked the “armor” look all the way back to 1992 so it’s kind of inevitable I wound up here.
Also, I guess I put a ton of pics in here despite my thought that I wouldn’t. Oh well.
So which one is your favorite?