Threads of Justice: Batman’s Top 7 Comic Book Costumes

Another year another reboot, eh?

As someone who never completely warmed to DC’s New 52 back in 2011 (as an aging crank anything that attempts to make things I enjoy younger and trendier gives me the hives), I’m quietly optimistic about the comic titan’s upcoming “Rebirth”.

For the unaware Rebirth is a DC universe spanning crossover that will not so much reboot the DC Universe as reincorporate some of the much missed elements that were ret-conned out of existence by the “Flashpoint” saga and the subsequent re-shaping of the DCU.

Many fans share my enthusiasm after the decidedly mixed bag that was the New 52. Ironically, it’s changes made to the New 52’s most consistent success- Batman that have rubbed some fans up the wrong way. Whatever changes have been wrought for the likes of Superman, Wally West and Green Arrow Batman has enjoyed a fair amount of consistency with very little changing from pre to post Flashpoint. “Rebirth” seems unlikely to rupture the Dark Knight’s status quo in any ways other than the purely aesthetic.

The new batsuit has met with some criticism after following on from the universally loved New 52 iteration, but I for one love it and it inspired me to count down 7 of Batman’s best crime fighting duds in comics.

So, let’s begin with…

Rebirth

5190056-batman+rebirth+variant+cover+by+howard+porterI really don’t get what the fuss is about. As comic book movies have surged sporadically in popularity it’s not uncommon for the books themselves which spawned them to adopt aesthetic changes wrought by the films in order to entice new readers with the familiarity of what they’ve seen on screen. Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly’s run on “New X-Men”, for example, eschewed the gaudy trappings of the mutant team’s superhero costumes in favour of the more monochromatic uniform seen in Bryan Singer’s films. This costume clearly owes a debt to the batsuit worn by Ben Affleck in Batman V Superman .  The grooves in the forearms of the gloves and the robust glove fins are a dead giveaway as is the chunky grey utility belt. The suit bears the wide bat-logo which has been en-vogue for over a decade in the comics now, rather than the yellow disc which the character had worn from the mid 1960s to the early 2000s although perhaps the thin yellow outline surrounding the bat is an homage to the yellow oval. Some fans have complained about the purple on the reverse side of the cape but I think it’s both a cool flourish and an homage to the character’s original 1939 design, which boasted short purple gloves, and the cape from Batman: The Animated Series which was black with royal blue highlights and underside.

For my money it’s a very strong look that makes some cool and subtle nods to batsuits of yesteryear.

New 52

Batman9It’s not my all time favourite but I can see why it resonates so strongly with fans. If the Rebirth suit was influenced by Batman V Superman then there’s a lot of the Dark Knight trilogy in the New 52 costume. Continuing with the grey and black palate that the character has worn for some years now, the suit is more explicity armoured than  previous versions (which looked ostensibly like tights with the assumption that there was a layer of armour beneath the fabric).  It’s detailed without looking busy and robust without looking chunky. The ridges and contours of the armour look functional unlike the New 52 Superman suit which is way too ornate for my tastes. The grey is broken up by the yellow of the utility belt which looks sleek but formidable as do the boots and gauntlets. The bat logo itself is broad which isn’t to my personal taste although when Batman is leaping with his arms raised it does lend the logo a sense of the image of a bat in flight. While the suit was designed by Jim Lee, it has to my mind never looked better than when drawn by Greg Capullo.

Zero Year

zero yearOne of the few changes wrought in the Batman continuity was that Frank Miller’s Batman Year One was nixed in favour of a different origin which pitted a wet-behind-the-ears Batman against The Riddler. As you can see from Greg Capullo’s beautiful approximation of the cover of Detective Comics #27 there are respectful nods to Batman’s first appearance in 1939 as well as elements that define it as a prototype for the New 52 costume. I love the long ears and the short purple gloves, contrasting with the thick black ribbing on the arms, knees and sides. It’s a beautiful concoction of the old and new that I wish had stuck around for longer.

Flashpoint

The “Flashpoint” story saw Barry Allen travelling through time to prevent the murder of his mother. In doing so, however The Flash returned to find the present a very different place. A place where Superman never knew the loving embrace of the Kents and spent a lifetime in captivity and where it was Bruce Wayne, not Thomas and Martha that was gunned down on a fateful night in Crime Alley.

Thomas_Wayne_Flashpoint_0001Driven mad with grief, Thomas Wayne became a darker, more vengeful Batman with no compunctions about firearms or cold blooded murder.

There’s something indefinably attractive and repulsive about this suit. It is a Batman suit, but at the same time it kind of isn’t. This is a Batman who is more about striking fear into the hearts of criminals than inspiring hope in the innocent. As such, the suit has a few rougher edges than the traditional batsuit, not to mention glowing red eye lenses (creepy). The ears are long and tapered and the cape forms jagged arches at the shoulders, giving him a more menacing profile. The red on the utility belt is a subtly unsettling twist as is the red circle behind the bat logo, invoking everything from images of the setting sun (and hence endings) to red bullet holes.

There’s a grim sense of fatality to the suit that reflects Dr Wayne’s clearly self-destructive urges.

Post- Knightfall

As pretty much the biggest Batman (1989) fan you’ll ever meet I was delighted when the comic book batsuit of the mid 90s was changed to better reflect that seen in Tim Burton’s masterpiece.

postknightfallAfter miraculously healing from a broken back caused by arch-villain Bane and wrestling back the mantle of the Bat from the highly unstable Jean Paul Valley / Azreal Bruce retired for a while, leaving Dick Grayson to take up his Dark Knightly duties. Upon returning to Gotham Bruce decided that his costume needed a tweak to ensure that Gotham’s criminals remained fearful of him. As such the more cheerful grey and blue costume that pervaded for much of the modern age was made darker with the grey bordering on black and the blue a much murkier shade. The utility belt became more gold than yellow and very similar in appearance to that of the Burton films. The ears and glove fins became longer and sharper and fins were also added to the boots. For the first time, the blue trunks were also done away with. The yellow oval remained but its presence was used more ominously, usually the only highlight (other than the piercing white eyes) in Batman’s black silhouette.

Earth One

The Earth One books are an opportunity for writers to introduce new spins on existing characters without being beholden to continuity. When J Michael Straczynski and Shane Davies enjoyed great success with “Superman Earth: One” Geoff Johns and Gary Frank weren’t far behind to give Batman the Earth One treatment.batman-earth-one-lithograph-970x545
The Earth One suit is gorgeous and for me straddles the line perfectly between style and function.

While not as overtly armoured as, say, the New 52 version the grey bodysuit looks tough and durable with a slight sheen. While I usually prefer the yellow utility belt I love the audacity of this big, chunky grey one. The gauntlets look similarly tough and the rigid glove fins imply that they might have some offensive capabilities as well. The yellow oval is here as well, but it sits in a chunky grey housing beneath the cowl. The cowl itself is also really cool and it’s one of the few Batman masks that has clearly delineated sections that give a sense of how the cowl was assembled.

There’s a toughness to this suit as well as a DIY quality that looks like it was assembled from re-purposed military paraphernalia.

Batman Incorporated

batman incI have something of a love / hate relationship with Grant Morrison, especially when it comes to his run on Batman. However I have no hesitation in stating that he and artist David Finch created what is by far my favourite Batman costume ever used in comics. It’s only a shame that this look was to be jettisoned forever by the New 52 (unless you count “Convergence”, which I don’t).

The suit is clearly armoured and tough without the design extravagances of the New 52 suit. The gloves are similar to the Batman 1989 gloves with ridges at the knuckles and the utility belt incorporates pouches rather than capsules, clasped by a round bat-logo at the front.

The ears are long and slender and the cape is long and billowing, giving Batman a most formidable silhouette. Not only does the bat logo look cool in its yellow oval with the bevelled edge but for the first time it’s also backlit, giving the logo a soft spectral haze.

It’s a great look that equally encapsulates the intimidating nature and heroism of Batman.

Think I’ve missed out your favourite version of the Batman costume?

Want to question my judgement?

Did you REALLY like Zur-En-Arrh costume?

Sound off in the comments section folks!

EDITOR’S NOTE:

If you enjoyed this article, you might enjoy Danny B’s similar list for Spider-Man’s Top Comicbook Duds!

 

 

 

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