From mech-suit to Batnipples: the best and worst Batman suits of all time

Ben Child

Guardian

16th September 2016

Batman has always been defined by his Batwear. Tim Burton ushered in a new era for Gotham’s dark knight by jettisoning the familiar colour scheme sported by Adam West in the 1960s show in favour of typically gothic black and an armored, musclebound look. George Clooney’s awful Batnipples, intended as a paean to classical visions of the gods, came to define the floundering Joel Schumacher years.

With Ben Affleck sporting a new goggled look in the upcoming Justice League, we look back at Batman’s classiest capes and darkest sartorial disasters. The camp tone of the show and its 1966 movie heavily inspired West’s outfit, featuring a short cape because the actor’s kept stepping on it in action scenes, and eyebrows (serving to give the dark knight an eternally surprised expression) presumably to avoid the expense of moulding the caped crusader’s into the famous cowl. To be fair to West and the show’s writers, it is hard to look menacing when you’re wearing your underpants over a pair of tights, so a comic approach was probably advisable.

And at least Batman’s bargain bin gold utility belt always seemed to contain exactly the right weapon of choice to take down the relevant member of the caped crusader’s rogues’ gallery. Keaton might not have been the obvious choice to play Gotham’s terrifying defender in the Tim Burton films, but who needs endless trips to the gym and a diet of raw eggs and protein powder when moulded rubber muscles and a fearsomely beaky cowl can serve just as well? Nevertheless, with the new black Batsuit featuring a design based on unyielding foam rubber that extended to his skull, the actor was faced with a whole new set of problems. Legend has it that the caped crusader’s famous “hero turn” in 1989’s Batman and its 1991 sequel Batman Returns came about because Keaton simply had no alternative.

The rigid suit meant he was physically incapable of turning his head. Gorgeous George might be best known for ruining the dark knight for a generation with those superimposed nipples in 1997’s execrable Batman Robin, but Kilmer had them first (if not quite so pronounced) in 1995’s almost equally hideous Batman Forever. Clooney definitely wins the prize for worst Batman suit of all time, however, in the shape of the silver and blue outfit worn by our hero and his Batpals in the denouement of Joel Schumacher’s final turn in the director’s chair.

This time there are not just nipples on show, but an enormous sculpted, excruciatingly outlined Batcodpiece. We should also mention that a different version of the suit features ice skates, essential for taking on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr Freeze, or simply terrifying small children at your local rink. A welcome return to sanity arrived in the shape of Christopher Nolan’s Batsuits for the Dark Knight trilogy, supposedly based on a discontinued Wayne Enterprises design for an armored military bodysuit that Bruce Wayne initially just paints black and sticks a Batsymbol on in 2005’s Batman Begins.

But the most sensible revolution, after close to two decades of caped crusaders who are unable to really turn their heads, came with 2008’s The Dark Knight. Apparently at the behest of Christian Bale, who found the costume uncomfortable, Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox simply develops a cowl that’s only loosely connected to the rest of the suit. Yes, it only took 19 years for Batman and his team to work out the importance of flexibility and actual peripheral vision when risking one’s life every night on the grim and bloody streets of Gotham.

If West’s suit, which has often been retained for the comics, makes the actor look slightly pudgy when compared to the statuesque physicality of some of his successors, Affleck was preposterously accused of being fat when he first pulled on his new Dark Knight costume, supposedly made from a mix of kevlar and titanium but still with a appearance, for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The truth is that a return to the woven look of Bill Bats required the new dark knight to be in ridiculously impressive shape. A rather easier pitch was the movie’s inspired by the armor worn by Batman for his battle with Superman in Frank Miller’s seminal 1986 graphic novel.

And now here’s a third suit for Batfleck, which really is approaching Edna Mode levels of sartorial superhero extravagance. This one will be rolled out for Snyder’s Justice League and reminds us of the begoggled look sported by Patrick Wilson’s Nite Owl in Snyder’s splendid 2009 superhero epic Watchmen. Rumour has it that it features additional metal plating to allow Batman to take more of a pounding from his enemies, which sounds like a good idea after one of those Gotham scumbags managed to plunge a knife straight through the dark knight’s costume and into his arm last time out.

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