When we think of the Batsuit, what immediately comes to mind? Cape, cowl, giant bat logo emblazoned on the chest, and that striking yellow utility belt filled with all sorts of wonderful gadgets. It’s so iconic an image that if it were silhouetted, most people in the world would still recognize it. But like Batman himself, the Batsuit has undergone countless interpretations and re-interpretations over time. Just look at the handful of Bat movies.
In the 60s Adam West movie and tv show, it radiated a colourful reassurance and the severe eyebrows on the cowl gave it that slyly comedic touch. In Burton’s first two Batman flicks, the black armoured leather and eyeshadow heralded a return to the character’s mysterious origins. Nolan emphasized utility and realism. And Zack Snyder brought us the fiercest and most comic book accurate interpretation yet, as it was like a Jim Lee illustration that sprung to life. Not to mention what countless cartoonists have brought to the table over the years. With its own storied history, both on and off the page, there are bound to be some things fans aren’t aware of. Here are 20 Facts Only True Fans Know About the Batsuit.
20 The Purpose of the Yellow Insignia
We all that Batman is always ten steps ahead. If there’s something to the Batsuit that seems superfluous or head-scratching, you can bet that there’s ingenious reasoning behind the design. So it figures that the eye-catching splash of yellow on the torso of his costume isn’t merely for highlighting that fabulous bat logo; it’s in fact specifically designed to be a target, to draw gunfire away from other vulnerable parts of his body onto where his bulletproof armour is strongest.
This was detailed in Frank Miller’s seminal comic book series The Dark Knight Returns, which pitched an ageing Batman against a dystopian Gotham City, some truly twisted foes, and a super powered government stooge who used to be Superman. As one of the earliest superhero comic books to bring crime fighters a bit closer to the real world, it’s fitting that the splash of odd yellow on caped crusader’s costume would get an explanation.
19 Batman’s Earth One Suit Deliberately Emphasizes Batman’s Vulnerability
Aside from aiding him in his war on crime, Batman’s costume is designed to instill fear in his enemies. However, Geoff Johns’ Batman Earth One graphic novel, a contemporary reinterpretation of Batman’s early days as a crime fighter, went for a different approach entirely. When appraising Batman’s cool factor, look to his eyes. The slits of reflective white enhance Batman’s mystique. In Batman Earth One, while the Batsuit looks recognizable, the crude eye holes in the mask deliberately forgoes mystique in favour of humanization.
This is a neat touch because a Batman without the years of experience or refined gadgets would probably come across as a jerk in tights, which he certainly does in Batman Earth One. The artistic choice to highlight Batman’s humanity makes this suit a unique one in the character’s long history.
18 The Cape in Batman: Arkham Asylum Was Refined For Over For Two Years
Batman: Arkham Asylum raised the bar for superhero video games, much like The Dark Knight raised the bar for superhero films. Prior to Arkham Asylum, superhero games were quickly made cash-grabs, usually coinciding with the release of a movie in order to capitalize on the hype. Usually they’re quickly forgotten about a month after the movie of the same name comes out.
But Rocksteady Studios took their time in crafting an action/adventure game worthy of the Dark Knight. The proof of their craft is obvious, but the sheer amount of work that went into certain areas of the game nearly defies belief. For example, Batman’s gorgeously animated cape isn’t gorgeous by happenstance. It was slaved over for two years by one animator and it includes a staggering 700 plus animations and sound clips.
17 The Batsuit Sent Michael Keaton Into A Panic
It’s a silly if pleasantly diverting enough romp by current standards, but at the time Tim Burton’s Batman was groundbreaking. It was the first Batman movie to rescue the character from the clutches of camp and define him to the general public as the mysterious creature of the night, as creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger originally intended for him to be in 1939.
Michael Keaton was initially deemed too comedic and too slight to be able to fill out Batman’s boots. However, he proved to fit right in with Burton’s darker take. It wasn’t the smoothest of sailings however, as the suit triggered Keaton’s claustrophobia. Being the pro he is, Keaton found a way to harness those frightening feels and grant the Dark Knight more credibility than what was on the page.
16 Batman’s Suit Gets Progressively More Monstrous As The Dark Knight Returns Gets Darker
The Dark Knight Returns is designed as an alternate tale – and as a lampooning of a dystopian 1980s America – but the influence of the story in the Batman canon is incalculable. Unsurprisingly, it’s a comic book story that’s been dissected every which way.
However, there is an interesting detail that isn’t discussed often. When Batman first makes his return after a long retirement, he’s the classic version: splashy black and yellow Bat symbol, cheerful blue and gray tights. A Batman from an innocent era. As the story darkens, the Batsuit changes too. The colours are desaturated, the yellow is done away with entirely, and the Bat symbol loses definition. In the final chapter, Batman ditches the traditional tights and dons an ugly suit of armour to battle his former friend, signalling a final, tragic devolution.
15 Joel Schumacher’s Batsuits Were Inspired By Greek Statues
Following Tim Burton’s successful Batman film and his bizarre and macabre second film that traumatized a generation of young Bat fans, Joel Schumacher was hired to bring the caped crusader back on track as family-friendly entertainment. While he was successful in a sense – his two films are probably more enjoyable for a young kid to view. However, there were other adult themes, as the openings of his films include close-up shots of Batman’s new costumes – the shots especially linger on his nipples and comically sized codpiece.
Although Schumacher doesn’t account for the cringeworthy dialogue and the Mardi Gras aesthetic, he does have a stated reason for the Batsuit having nipples: He wanted the costume to be anatomically correct. Well, okay.
14 The Batsuit Initially Had Purple Gloves
In the countless iterations of the Batsuit, one of the more consistently striking design elements are the long black gloves which extend to the forearm and include three short blades. Sometimes the blades serve a function, sometimes it’s just an aesthetic choice. However, they’re nearly as essential to Batman’s look as the pointy ears and cape.
But in the Bob Kane and Bill Finger years, when Batman was first introduced in 1939, Batman’s gloves were not only short, they merely extended to his wrist, but they were purple and unadorned. The capes and ears were present, crude as they were, but the gloves were clearly not yet figured out. As for the reasoning behind the purple colouring, no one can really say. It could be that purple ink was much cheaper in those days than black ink.
13 If The Bat Armour is Scarier, Bruce Wayne is Usually Weaker
Aside from just being thrilling adaptations of the Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan demonstrated early on that he just understood Batman to the core in Batman Begins with the simple line: “Theatricality and deception are powerful agents”. Because Batman is just one man, it’s not enough to outgun and outmanoeuvre his foes; he has to spook them. It’s not only an idea ripe for visual re-invention, it’s also an interesting psychological aspect.
It’s especially interesting in stories where Bruce Wayne is either badly injured or too old, and to compensate the suit has to project an even greater aura of menace. Like in Kingdom Come when an aged and physically tired Bruce Wayne suits up in an austere exo-skeleton. Consider also in Batman Beyond when an elderly and retired Wayne wears a similar power suit to battle the shapeshifter Inque.
12 Ben Affleck’s Batsuit cost $100,000
Ben Affleck’s ambivalence toward the Batman role has become a recycled meme at this point. He’s most likely never going to star in his own solo Batman film, which is a real shame considering he showed potential in Batman v Superman.
So let’s go back to a simpler time, the year 2014. Affleck asked the studio if he could keep the Batsuit, because, honestly, it’s the best ever live-action rendition of the costume and any Bat fan would want that beautiful costume in their home. The studio was going to allow it, for a price of $100,000. Affleck quickly changed his mind and took a photo with the costume instead.
11 Christian Bale Auditioned in Val Kilmer’s Suit
One year after The Dark Knight trilogy wrapped up, footage was released of Christian Bale’s audition as Batman. Eagle eyed fans noticed that Bale was auditioning in Val Kilmer’s Batman Forever suit. Not the first black suit, but the second hi-tech silver suit that was spray-painted black. It also demonstrates that Bale’s raspy Bat voice, a controversial choice among fans, works surprisingly well when it hasn’t been endlessly tinkered with and overcooked in post-production. It works as a disguise for Bruce Wayne, it’s intimidating, but also has the cool, even-keeled quality that evokes Michael Keaton’s Batman. It’s regretful that well enough wasn’t left alone.
Amusingly though, Bale stated that he felt “like an idiot” in Kilmer’s suit and that the voice was adopted in order to sell the role of a Bat themed masked crusader to himself.
10 Batman’s Cape Was Inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci Sketches
When he was introduced, Batman was just another urban pulp hero, much like Zorro and The Shadow. He wasn’t Batman yet, he was The “Bat”-Man.
However a key design demonstrated an unlikely influence: specifically, the cape. Before it was the long flowing shadow, the cape was originally textured with lines inspired by the great Leonardo Da Vinci’s drawings of an ornithopter – an aircraft that flies by “flapping its wings”. The wings were too cumbersome to draw every month, so they were eventually replaced with a cape. However the germ of the design found its way to Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, where Batman’s cloth cape could be electrified with his gloves to become as rigid as Da Vinci’s wing illustrations, allowing him to traverse through Gotham City like a Bat.
9 George Clooney’s Batsuit Weighed 90 pounds
Of all the original four films, George Clooney was granted not only the worst Batman film of all time but possibly the ugliest Batsuit. Where to start with this monstrosity? The silver-blue polish that made the rubber material of the suit completely obvious? The lack of colour to grant the suit a little definition? The cape appearing to be cheaply clipped to the shoulders instead of blending in with the cowl?
The suit was more cumbersome than ever too, weighing 90 pounds, and with 40 of those pounds reserved for the cape alone. Clooney said of the suit, “They put you on a flat board and bolt you into this thing, and then they pull the board out and leave you standing. Joel Schumacher says “Action!” I say I’m Batman, and then cut.”
8 Much of the Cape In That Warehouse Fight Was CGI
It’s no secret that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is absolutely stuffed to the gills with computer generated imagery. The strange marriage of a dreary grim ‘n’ gritty aesthetic and cartoonish, overwrought CGI is one of the many oddball aspects to Batman v Superman. It’s perhaps why, though the film has its vicious detractors, it also has its passionate defenders.
What all can agree on, however, is that the warehouse fight scene was the bomb. The fluidity of Batman’s merciless fighting style recalled the great Arkham video games and the cinematography flawlessly translated Frank Miller’s and Lynn Varley’s work in The Dark Knight Returns. Even the CGI was on point, as you couldn’t tell, unless someone pointed it out, that Batman’s cape was entirely CGI, allowing for the stuntman to execute an array of awesome looking fight scenes.
7 Terry McGinnis’ Batsuit is The Most Advanced One
Batman Beyond, set in a cyber punkish Gotham City in the year 2039, follows young Terry McGinnis, a high schooler who is mentored by a retired Bruce Wayne. It might’ve been the first portrayal of Batman as a kid, but the heavy sci-fi themes and body horror elements ensured this was a Batman cartoon that was pushing the boundaries.
Although the idea of a futuristic Cyberpunk Batman seems like such a simple slam dunk, Batman Beyond was bursting with originality and new iconography. Take the Batsuit, originally designed to help an ailing Bruce Wayne continue his war on crime; no cape, entirely black save for a bold red Bat emblem. It looks cool, sure, but it’s also the most sophisticated Batsuit – as light and formfitting as spandex but as powerful as a gnarly exo-skeleton.
6 Batman 89 Boots Were Made By Nike
The 1989 Batman movie wasn’t just a hit with casual movie fans and hardcore Bat fans – it was a merchandising juggernaut. Never forget that Prince released a 9-track album to coincide with the movie. Not to mention the video games, cereal, toys, costumes, and bumper stickers that came along too. Batmania truly gripped all in the summer of 1989.
Naturally, Nike wanted in on some of that Bat action. Michael Keaton wore a pair of Nike Air trainers, made completely from scratch, as part of his costume. While Keaton and the stuntmen allegedly loved the boots, citing their comfortability, Burton wasn’t a big fan. Bob Ringwood, the costume designer, said “80s sportswear isn’t going to fit in with our 40s look”. Despite a brouhaha erupting over the choice of Nike boots, they returned a few years later in Batman Returns.
5 Batman Once Had A Rainbow Suit
For the man who’s prepared for everything and considers every eventuality, it really can’t be too surprising that he has a rainbow coloured outfit. What kind of eventuality is an utter mystery, but then, that’s not the case for a genius who doubles as the world’s greatest detective.
The rainbow suit first made its appearance in 1957, which was right in the middle of Batman’s zany, B-movie sci-fi era. The reasoning is pure silver-age hokum: Robin had broken his arm and in order to protect Robin’s secret identity he donned a variety of weird and colourful outfits. If this is too confusing, just think of Batman socking a crook to the jaw in the form of a “rainbow of dazzling action”. That is far too good of an idea to abandon.
4 Michael Keaton’s Cowl Ears Were Initially Too Tall For the Batmobile
One can’t blame the team on Batman for initially overlengthening Batman’s stylish pointy ears. In 1989, it was imperative to get as far away from the campy Adam West show as possible, to reintroduce the public to Batman as a credible action hero. Aside from looking like a colourful swashbuckler, Adam West’s Batman also had short, cute ears. More of a kitty cat, really, than a fearsome bat creature. That stylistic choice would surely look quite ridiculous in Tim Burton’s dramatic and dark lighting.
More Neal Adams, less Dick Sprang was obviously the way to go. However, the length of the ears proved to be a stumbling block. The ears were so long that, hilariously, the roof of the Batmobile couldn’t close. The redesign kept Batman’s ears at a good length while allowing him to fit into the Batman.
3 Batman’s Ears Function As Antennas
The ears on Batman’s cowl aren’t merely there for show and intimidation (or, in some cases, comedy); they effectively allow Batman to monitor police and emergency service radio frequencies so that he can be the first to arrive on scene. Through this earpiece, the Bat family can stay in constant contact with each other in a secure radio.
But wait, there’s more! The microphones in his ears are combined with special earpieces to give Batman superior hearing in the field and are also used to broadcast Batman’s voice through a small speaker embedded in the suit, which of course gives Batman that signature growly voice. Incidentally, this is a neat way to head canon Bale’s garbled voice in The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.
2 Batman Once Kept His Costume At The Foot Of His Bed
The Batcave and Batmobile and the name Gotham City are so ingrained in the Bat mythos that not even your great-grandad could possibly recall a time where they weren’t an essential part of Batman. And yet, they didn’t exactly come with the Bruce Wayne package.
For instance, in Detective Comics #29, “The Batman meets Doctor Death”, it’s clearly shown that Bruce Wayne keeps his crime fighting outfit in…a chest at the foot of his bed. The socialite billionaire puts on these tights with all the ceremony of a bored millionaire getting ready for a round of afternoon golf. It’s also important to note the low-tech nature of the suit, with Wayne remarking “These glass pellets of choking gas will come in handy,” and “Likewise these suction gloves and kneepads. The penthouse will require a bit of climbing.”
1 Bob Kane’s Original Batman Design Was Far, Far Different
Readers can look to the 1939 Batman and not be terribly impressed with what they see. However, if Bob Kane got his way, it’s entirely likely that Batman would’ve faded into obscurity along with most of the superheroes made in the Golden Age. Kane drew Batman as a blonde man with red tights and a domino mask. The winged cape was present, but against the Santa Claus-esque suit and domino mask, the cape seemed out of place and strange, in a bad way. There was nothing memorable or striking about this design, perhaps save for the black cape.
Co-creator Bill Finger was the one who suggested a redesign and is considered to be largely responsible for the iconic elements we recognize as Batman, including a gray-and-black colour scheme and mysterious eyes.
Any facts about the Batsuit we missed out? Comment and let us know!