And now, a special guest blog about the world’s greatest detective. –Logan
While heroes are avatars for the human condition; exemplars of what we could be with the right conditions, it is their suits that form their iconography, something tangible for us to associate with the name and power. Certain suits can be distilled down to a few colors or a flashing shape; red and yellow to most means the Flash, to a few it’s Iron Man. But few suits define the hero more than Bruce Wayne, or he’d prefer you call him Batman.
Born of the minds of Bob Kane and Bill Finger, Batman is a caped vigilante living his life in the pursuit of justice his slain parents were denied. But in keeping his identity a secret, Bruce Wayne formed an identity revolving around the clothing he wore, his Batsuit. This iconic piece of fabric and machinery has become as defining as the character himself, each phase of development leading to new story opportunities and even more daring escapes from tenacious pursuers. Batman is many things, a fighter, a detective, but above all, he’s a man in one kick-ass suit.
While the initial suit was simple fabric with a utility belt, it developed over time to incorporate more assistive measures. Some would argue this takes away from the true essence of what it is to be the Bat, but these measures added into the mythos, making the character great in power and mystique. Now he could dodge bullets and bend steel, through the application of technology. He was more than a man in a suit, he was a myth.
The key parts of the suit fall into two main categories: those to ensure Batman’s hidden identity and those to enable him to fight crime. The former is facilitated primarily by his cowl, fused to his cape and keeping his identifying features well concealed. It is this aspect of the Batsuit that generates the greatest compulsion amongst readers – the revelation of the identity of Batman being one of the ultimately negative fates that can befall Bruce Wayne, second only perhaps to death. This mask can hold technology and in it’s various incarnations it has held sensors and data outputs. But above all, above the cape and beyond the armor, the cowl is what makes the Bat in the man.
Beyond the darkness and shadow, the costume held color. Typically in one of two variations, the original blue and grey, or all black. The Blue and grey came from the original series in the ’40’s, where the darkness of the series was not typified, ditched in favor of a form of camp action. It wasn’t until much later in the series that the suit changed color and the series grew up, becoming something more than a man in tights. Many argue this changed with the ’80’s. This was due to two main influences; the introduction of the movies and variation in writing staff including the influence of Frank Miller – author of The Dark Knight Returns. This change made Batman a darker hero, but also brought the costume into greater consideration, the movies introducing the idea of a black bat suit; an idea that has stuck throughout the movie depictions of the world’s greatest detective.
The other change introduced mainly by the movie franchises is the addition of armor plates and Kevlar. Keaton’s Batman had body armor to accentuate his physique and intimidate the criminals. This was a departure from the tradition of the Batman, in that his suit only hid his identity, not his physical ability. With this change, Batman became more than his skills, he was contained within his suit and as such it became as much the hero as he. This continued through the subsequent movies including the latest releases by Nolan, where the Batsuit has become a technological marvel, with power accentuation and memory fabrics fuelled with high current electricity. This is as far as you can get from the original inception of Batman. However, Batman cannot be discussed without his gadgets.
From Batarangs to cable guns, Batman uses and is as much defined by his toys. Though the cable gun is a more recent addition to the arsenal, Batman has generally been assisted in his quest against crime by his utility belt. Best explained within the Nolan films, the belt is well equipped with a variety of canisters of materials to assist Batman in taking down the bad guy. Though it has varied throughout the narrative, it has generally been yellow, with or without the bat symbol. This piece of the costume gives batman his firepower. What has changed over time is the serious nature of the pieces within the belt. Initially a more comical object, producing various sprays and pellets that could make more costumes (including more utility belts), the ’80’s again produced a darker version of the tools, matching the changing mood of the book.
When talking of Batman, it is easy to speak of how the comic books have brought about the movies, but a more important consideration is how the movies have affected the books. While with a superhero film like Superman, the costume is written and done, with Batman the description and actuality of the suit is more fluid; the symbolism remains the same while execution varies. Nipples on the chest in the fourth Batman film may have been a faux pas that never made it to the page, but the all black appearance of the latest iteration of the print Batman owes its lineage to the late ’80’s Burton Batman.
The Batman costume has changed over time, but what it represents has stayed the same. It has always been about a vigilante who seeks vengeance against the criminals he could never stop – those who had slain his parents. In doing this, Bruce Wayne chose a hidden identity, an avatar to become. Some may say Bruce Wayne is Batman. In truth, Batman is Bruce Wayne. The man is now the vigilante, who wears a disguise during the day to hide in plain sight. In doing so, the costume becomes as much the character as the man himself. -Bretzke
Bretzke is a writer for PDXComicGeek.com, a blog for comic geeks by comic geeks, with daily reviews and news. Thanks for reading!