As I’ve documented before, I have conflicting feelings about Batman and his various outfits. I grew up on the blue-and-gray costume with the yellow oval, but I’ve come to realize that outfit isn’t particularly menacing.
In an attempt to make sense of it all, I give you Poe’s Top Five Batman costumes (as represented in action figure form).
I had a hard time coming up with this one. The other four were easy, but Batman hasn’t had that many different looks over the years. I wasn’t going with the Azbats costume because it’s an abomination.
So in the end I decided to cheat a little and go with the Batman Beyond outfit. I suppose you could argue it’s technically an all-black costume like the next item on the list, but due to the red bat symbol, the lack of a cape, and the iconic red wings, and the fact that I need one more costume to complete my list of five, I’m counting it as a separate suit.
I haven’t actually watched Batman Beyond yet (it’s in my Netflix queue), so I can’t comment too much on the features of the suit. I was disappointed the DCUC figure didn’t come with the wings, but there is a certain practicality to a Batman suit without the cape to catch on things. I like the lack of an open mouth mask as well.
If the current “Batman: R.I.P.” storyline does end with Bruce Wayne stepping down as Batman and either Dick Grayson or Tim Drake taking his place, DC could do worse than to give his replacement this outfit.
There are many versions of the all-black Batman suit, from the late-1990s outfit to the various film incarnations to Mattel’s “Knight Shadow Batman” (seen here). All of them are pretty cool, and let’s face it: this is probably the most practical outfit in a real-world situation–from both a tactical and psychological standpoint. Being all-black, it makes it easy to hide in shadows, especially at night. It makes it harder to shoot you in any particular place because the black all runs together. And I imagine most people would be more scared of a dark black shape swooping down toward them than what is clearly a guy in a gray bodysuit.
However, as practical as this look may be, I have a hard time thinking of it as Batman. It works for the movies, but in the comics it makes for a pretty washed-out, uninspired look, and it’s not exactly iconic. The all-black outfit works best in comics when matched with the yellow oval, which helps identify the character.
3.) Blue and gray, yellow oval, capsule belt
This is the look Batman wore from the mid-1960s to the mid-1990s. It’s the one most Baby Boomers and children of the eighties remember, the one featured in the Superfriends cartoon and the Super Powers toy line. Technically, the 1989 film’s outfit, while dark blue/black, was based on this look.
In the very first Batman comics, his bodysuit was gray and his cowl, cape, gloves, boots, and briefs were black. At the time, however, it was conventional to use blue to highlight black, so the figure didn’t get washed out by the more primitive coloring process of the time (why they couldn’t use gray, I don’t know). Over time, the blue highlights spread out, probably due to a combination of being more attractive to young readers and to maybe to just save on ink. Eventually, more of the outfit was blue than black.
I’m still very fond of this look. This was Batman to young Poe. When Kenner’s Batman Returns figures came out, the only one I wanted was the blue-and-gray Batman because he was more like the comics.
The yellow belt, adorned with little capsules, was the standard look for Batman’s belt from his first appearance in 1939 until the “No Man’s Land” storyline of 1999, when he switched to a more practical (if less futuristic) workman’s-belt style (with a few appearances in stories such as Batman: Year One). It’s interesting to note that the belts used in the Christopher Nolan films, which attempt to depict Batman as realistically as possible, actually look more like the capsule belt than the pouch belt. While the pouch belt makes sense in that it allows Batman to carry more and larger gadgets, it doesn’t look as sleek or sexy as the capsule belt.
Of course, the more discriminating writers, artists, and fans of today realize this is a silly outfit for someone who purports to be a creature of the night and wants to scare criminals. And thus we come to…
I think this represents the best compromise for comics–black highlights over a gray bodysuit, with the plain bat symbol and the pouch belt. This is more or less what Bats looked like in his earliest appearances.
While this look has appeared often in the comics, it has curiously never been the “default” look for Batman. He’s often drawn with the black in team books (to offset any similarity to Superman) or in miniseries like Year One, but this has never been the “official” look (regardless of the belt type).
This is a very gritty, down-to-earth Batman–Batman as he might have looked if Batman Begins had been made in the 1930s. The figure depicted here–from Mattel’s DC Super Heroes wave eight–has a strong Frank Miller vibe to it, with the coloring and belt of Batman: Year One and the bulk of The Dark Knight Returns. It’s my current favorite Batman action figure.
This is my preferred look for Batman. It’s a good combination of the blue tones I’m so familiar with, but the dark colors and plain bat symbol I prefer. The idea with the dark blue is you can think of it as highlighted black, which is how Batman is often depicted in comics.
The closest Mattel has come to this figure is Attack Armor Batman, but unfortunately, that figure had a cloth cape and doesn’t quite hold up alongside the current DCUC figures. (The figure to the right is the DC Direct “Batman and Son” Batman.) What I would love is a repaint of the DCUC wave one Batman with a light gray bodysuit, dark blue on the cape, cowl, gloves and boots, a plain bat symbol and a pouch belt–something like the pic below. Come on, Mattel–make my dreams come true.