Everybody knows Batman. He has been around since the 1940’s. Although he originates in comic books, most people are probably more familiar with him from movies. It seems like there’s a new reboot of Batman movies every decade or so, with the upcoming film starring Ben Affleck as the caped crusader. With every new Batman comes a new Batsuit to go with him. Each generation’s Batsuit has specific features that showcase the state of the television and film industry at the time.
To the left is the first ever depiction of Batman on television in 1943. This is how Batman appeared in the 15-episode television series, played by actor Lewis Wilson. His Batsuit was thin, flimsy, and even had poorly made uneven bat ears on the mask. Consider that in 1943, television was still an emerging medium trying to find its footing in the entertainment industry. Nobody really knew if television was going to last or if it would never be able to catch up to the established medium of radio. Therefore, it didn’t make sense to put a lot of time and money into a costume if a radio show would do better. This Batsuit, and its sloppiness represents that.
Then the groovy 1960’s came, and it brought with it the glorious Adam West Batsuit. It may not be bulletproof or high tech, but it did have the shining yellow utility belt and beautifully tight spandex. In this television Batman television series, West would fight crime with ridiculous slow-motion fighting and odd bat based weapons (In one episode, West attacks a shark with his “Bat-Antishark-Repellent Spray”). Batman also never shies away from busting a funky move in this series, celebrating his victories against criminals with some disco.
Then in 1990, director Tim Burton completely redesigned the entire concept of the Batsuit. This suit is the first one made of solid rubber. See, towards the end of the eighties people decided they didn’t want funny guys with catchphrases anymore. Everything had to be dark and gritty from now on. This sensation of depressing realism is what created hit movies of the time like The Breakfast Club and Pulp Fiction. Tim Burton helped spark this craze with the first ever Batman movie where Bruce Wayne was a real human character with problems and a personality instead of just a rich guy who put on spandex sometimes. His Batsuit showed this as well. It was solid black and appeared to be buff and powerful with hints of the classic bat symbol on it in bright yellow. It really tried to take itself seriously… for the most part. Even though the movie took a very dark and realistic direction, Burton didn’t fully abandon the silliness of the Joker, and he let Jack Nicholson mix the seriousness of a real mobster with the clownishness of the character.
Then in 1997, George Clooney made his big debut as the Batman. This suit was heavily inspired by Burton’s suit, except it was a dark blue rather than black. The movie’s formula was very similar to Burton’s as well, except it threw in characters like Robin and Batgirl to make sure this blockbuster movie appealed to every demographic out there! Yeah, this suit didn’t really add much to the table… except for nipples. For some odd reason, Clooney’s Batsuit has two bulging nipples placed right on the chest. These nipples are such an odd inclusion. They take attention away from the important bat symbol, and they truly seem to serve no purpose at all. These nipples aren’t the only odd choice made by the producers of this film. Even the bat-mask is slightly worse than Burton’s. Burton’s mask hid the eyes behind a layer of dark black, but Clooney’s eyes seem to be creepily popping out of his mask. The entire film is a mesh of confusing plot and bad puns. Clooney even delivered an interview on the Graham Norton show where he personally apologized for “ruining Batman.” He actually felt he had ruined any chance of Batman ever successfully returning to the big screen.
It wasn’t until the mid-2000’s that director Christopher Nolan managed to create a successful reboot of Batman with Batman Begins and its even more popular sequel The Dark Knight. This version of Batman, played by Christian Bale, wears a solid black, thick suit. This suit, with it’s thick jet black armor and threatening mask and arm braces creates an image of power. Not only is it intimidating, but it is technologically advanced as well. In the movies, Batman utilizes modern drone and sonar technology attached to the suit. The movies are intensely dark and raise the question of what it means to be a hero in the modern world. In this story of the hero’s quest for justice, even the villain and his motifs change, taking away the humor of Nicholson’s joker and replacing him with the psychopathic maniac played by Heath Ledger who “just wants to watch the world burn.” Nolan’s trilogy took on a modern and dark twist to the Batman formula that was interesting enough to allow the caped crusader to make his way back into the forefront of the DC universe.
The hero will soon be rebooted again, this time portrayed by Ben Affleck. The suit has the color scheme of some of the earlier Batsuits, but retains some of the bulkiness and simplicity of The Dark Knight’s design as well. Will this suit return the hero to his punchline-spouting Adam West personality, or will it keep him a complicated human hero like we’ve seen from Burton and Nolan? So far, the trailers show that the movie will revolve around a battle between him and superman. Perhaps this film will portray Batman as an incredibly human character somehow standing up to a seemingly omnipowerful god. In any case, Batman V. Superman is an incredibly anticipated sequel in the DC Universe.