Dark Knight Discussion: Batman’s Costumes Through the Ages (Part 2 of 2)

Batman’s costume for battling superstitious and cowardly criminals has come along way since the hero first fatally fought two-bit thugs in Detective Comics #27. While every artist has brought a unique take on the look of the hero, the Batsuit has been an important ever-evolving elements of The Dark Knight since the very beginning. Meant to terrify his enemies and provide him with the tools he needs to fight overwhelming odds, the Batsuit is one of Batman’s most vital elements and something that sets him apart from the rest of DC Comics’ heroes.

As shown in Part 1, the Batsuit first started as a clunky mix of spandex and Da Vinci wings, but soon took on a sleek and familiar shape. After detouring into some strange and multi-colored designs during the 1950s, the costume would continue to be shaped into what is known and loved today. But through yellow ovals and pitch black armor, the Batuit has never stopped changing shape. Even in the past decade, the look of the hero has consistently shifted to suit both story and aesthetics. Here in Part 2, we look at what has happened to the Batsuit in the modern era.

For costumes ranging from Batman’s first appearance to his mid-90s revamp, read Part 1. Visit the Dark Knight Discussion page for more on The Caped Crusader.

The Jim Lee Overhaul

After little changes for almost a decade and the continued use of the yellow oval bat symbol, Jim Lee’s look for The Caped Crusader in the “Hush” storyline gave a revamped yet classic look for the hero. While there is no in-story explanation for Batman’s change to this new appearance, it’s a helpful piece of the overall tone of the story. While the suit has the physique of being a thin spandex material that shows Bruce Wayne’s physique, it’s shown to be a high tech and highly armored piece of equipment.

Among the technology shown embedded in the Batsuit, the costume employs knockout gas that shoots out of the side of the cowl should someone try and remove it without permission, a sling supporting heels for shock protection, and body armor for bullets. They all get put to the test in a mystery that pushes Batman to his limits. With grey body, big black Bat Symbol, yellow pouch belt, and dark blue cowl and cape, it’s a darker but classic look for The Dark Knight.

Biggest Addition: Getting rid of the yellow oval Bat Symbol. Tossing out the bright accent was a long time coming, and getting rid of it helped show that Batman was getting an overhaul. Except for a minor relapse, Batman has stayed dark ever since.

The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh

While the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh was first seen in the 1960s in a trippy tale that saw Batman meet a counterpart from an alien world, this long forgotten idea was resurrected in Grant Morrison’s Batman saga. Here, Batman’s mind is shut down by an enemy’s subconscious trigger, however, this only causes a backup personality created long ago by Wayne to surface The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh. He’s a violent and delusional version of Batman who makes his costume out of some old clothe that he is given by a homeless friend (or hallucination).

This costume has little to it beyond its bold and strange color scheme. This Batman does not even have real weapons, but uses a baseball bat to attack criminals instead. The red, purple, and yellow color scheme is not only a retake on the old Batman story, but shows the crazed personality underneath it all, complete with ragged cape and pointy shoulders. He may look ridiculous, but he shouldn’t be underestimated.

Biggest Addition: Showing that Batman could take on a strange bright color scheme and pull something from his zany ‘50s past and still make it work. This is what Batman is like when completely unhinged. If you thought The Dark Knight was intimidating before, just see him in purple and yellow!

Dick Grayson

When Dick Grayson took up the mantle of Batman after the supposed death of Bruce Wayne, the former Robin and Nightwing brought subtle but noticeable changes to The Dark Knight’s appearance. Designed by Frank Quitely, here’s something simpler and sleeker about Grayson’s version of the Batsuit, with a classic black and grey tone used, with the gold belt cutting a nice line through it. Additionally, the ears on the cowl are smaller and thinner than most other versions, trimming down the overall look further. This is also the first time that Batman’s belt buckle is in the shape of a fat bat, which surprisingly doesn’t seem repetitive underneath the Bat Symbol only a few feet above.

Other changes include points on the tops of the boots and a cape that naturally drapes down in front of the shoulders, instead of flowing back behind them. It’s minor, but it also plays into the idea of this being a leaner and smaller version of Batman, compared to the hulking Bruce Wayne. Finally, the scallops on the gloves are pared down to two instead of the traditional three, with thick segmented supports beneath them. It’s one of the few armored areas on this far lighter and thinner Batsuit. Even when Wayne returned, Grayson continued as the Batman of Gotham for a brief time as the classic hero focused on worldwide exploits.

Biggest Addition: This costume is the sum total of many minor changes, but most importantly, it creates a leaner and sparser look that leaves a subtle impression that this is a different man under the cowl. Dick Grayson would not last long as Batman, but he would take part in many memorable stories with his own unique take on the hero.

Batman, Inc.

Following Bruce Wayne’s time travelling journeys, his return to being Batman also brought a bigger and bolder look to his superhero crusade. Altogether, this is a more heavily armored take on the Batsuit in general. Lines running throughout and various accents show that this is a thick suit compared to the others that came before. While Wayne’s physique is still noticeable, it doesn’t stand out in as much details as was shown in previous versions, but this can often be attributed to artistic interpretation. The gloves also have much shorter scallops and feature think pads showing how these gauntlets absorb impact during fighting.

Perhaps most strikingly, this is the Batsuit’s return to the yellow oval Bat Symbol, which helps separate Bruce Wayne’s look from Dick Grayson’s then-concurrent take. However, this version actually glows like a spotlight, standing out in the darkness. Of course, it can be turned off for stealth purposed. Strangley, the symbol is almost exactly replicated on the belt, minus the black features. It somewhat clashes and was an odd choice by designer David Finch. Of note, this is one of the few Batsuits to not feature the trunks that have defined Batman’s look for decades, along with many other heroes. Others include the all black Batsuit discussed in Part 1, all movie versions thus farm, and the next entry on this list.

Biggest Addition: With a heavy armor and glowing yellow Bat Symbol, this is the most obviously high tech Batsuit to be used by Batman in his in-continuity history. This is a far cry from the simple spandex costume the hero wore in decades past and marks a leap into greater amounts of future technology in the fight against crime fighting.

The New 52

When the DC Comics Universe was given a line-wide reboot in The New 52, nearly every single character was given a new look, most of them created by artist Jim Lee. Batman was no exception, with an armored costume reflecting the semi-realistic and modern look given to many of the Justice League members. The Batsuit is mostly taken up by a flatter and lighter grey for the body armor while the cape, cowl, boots, and gloves use a simple black. It isn’t the most dynamic color palette used on The Dark Knight, but it works well.

Importantly, everything is given a more armored and heavy duty look, with lines running throughout to indicate a type of plating that is used in this Batsuit. In particular, three lines extending at an angle from both sides of the huge Bat Symbol are present whenever this version is shown in comic books. Other minor changes include more metallic forearms on the gauntlets and a metallic belt that retains a semblance of pouches. Finally, this version gets rid of the trunks, which is an overall statement on costumes used in The New 52. Whether that works or not is personal preference.

Biggest Addition: Thick armor that blends the Batsuit used in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy and the classic comic book style of years past, this design stays in line with many of the highly detailed and armored costumes created for characters in The New 52. Thanks to the use of many beloved elements, this is a far more successful take than what others like Superman were saddled with in the reboot.

Zero Year

With The New 52 reboot came new origins for Batman, which were explored in writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo’s Zero Year storyline for Batman. While the idea of running around in a bat costume while fighting criminals is not exactly realistic, this version of the first Batsuit chases after a sense of practicality while still being theatrical and bold. There is a sense that this Batsuit was put together by using readily available high tech materials, rather than being custom made. The bodysuit has ridged and thick padding that still looks flexible like what you might find on high tech military or sport gear, while giant belt pouches and other items strapped to the costume make this feel more real.

Most obvious, Batman uses short purple gloves and thick combat boots, showing off more of the pieced together look. Finally, the cowl and cape use a thick and glossy black with hints of blue, which the ears are long, thin, and bow out somewhat. Later in this humongous story, Bruce is left with little gear in a gone-wild Gotham, so he uses a T-shirt with a spray painted Bat Symbol, his torn up cowl sans cape, and other cobbled-together materials to fight The Riddler.

Biggest Addition: By bringing the purple gloves first worn by Batman in Detective Comics #27 and mixing in a more detailed armor style, this take on the first Batsuit helps blend 75 years of comic book history with a new origin that makes some bold choices for how Batman began.

Jim Gordon

jim-gordon-as-batmanAt the climax of a conflict with The Joker known as Endgame, both Bruce Wayne and his arch nemesis are presumed dead following a cave-in deep beneath Gotham City. While they both survived, the world believed Batman to be dead. In truth, Bruce had lost all of his memories as Batman, eliminating him from the role for the time being. In the wake of the loss, the Gotham Police Department teamed with the corporation Powers International to create a new Batman. Commissioner Jim Gordon (much younger in this continuity) is chosen to be the new Batman.

Gordon trains for combat and is outfitted with a mech suit to better equip him for fighting Gotham’s super villains. However, he also fights outside of the armor, which has enough artificial intelligence to aid him in combat. Gordon’s batsuit lacks a cape and is much more simplified in its color scheme. It is bullet-resistant and fireproof, but lacks the amount of gadgets and gear that Bruce typically has as Batman.

Biggest Addition: Beyond having a completely new person acting as Batman, there are many minor changes to the batsuit worn by Gordon. In general, it’s a far more streamlined and simplified look to match his military approach and integration with his robot suit. The biggest addition of all is the gun, which fires batarangs and tasers. Gordon is, after all, a cop, and not nearly as proficient with varied forms of combat as Bruce Wayne. Learn about Gordon’s mech suit in Batman’s Many Armors.

Rebirth

batman-rebirth-costumeWhen the villain Mr. Bloom overruns Gotham and nearly kills Gordon as Batman, Bruce (who has remembered that he was Batman) realizes that he must take up the role once again. After submitting himself to a traumatizing machine that reinstalls all his memories and training as Batman, Bruce makes his return as The Dark Knight, but with a brand new costume. While Batman had taken a few different looks since the beginning of The New 52, this is his first brand new full-time Batman costume since the new phase of DC Comics began.

While it isn’t all that different from before, this suit (designed by artist Greg Capullo) is more dynamic than the previous version. A yellow outline highlights the black bat symbol and belt and a new purple underlining contrasts the black outside of the cape. While purple had been featured in his original look and during Zero Year, this is a big shift from the typical Batman colors. Otherwise, it’s a fairly standard batsuit design that lessens the heavy armoring that was focused on for most hero costumes in The New 52. With DC Rebirth redefining DC Comics, this new look is the defining costume for Batman for the foreseeable future.

Biggest Addition: It’s really all about the colors here. Not much else has truly changed, but the brighter design  breaks away from the constantly grim looking Batman that had been in style for the majority of the preceding decade.

Have a favorite Batsuit from comic history? Let me know in the comments section below!

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3 thoughts on “Dark Knight Discussion: Batman’s Costumes Through the Ages (Part 2 of 2)

  1. Pingback: Dark Knight Discussion: Batman’s Costumes Through the Ages (Part 1 of 2) – Crisis on Infinite Thoughts

  2. Pingback: Dark Knight Discussion: Batman’s Many Armors – Crisis on Infinite Thoughts

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