Fashion Of The Bat: An Extremely Thorough Examination Of Batman’s New Costume
This week saw the release of Batman #50, and as you might expect from that big round number, it's a pretty big deal. It's the final act of Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Danny Miki and FCO Plascencia's "Superheavy," in which former Gotham City Police Commissioner Jim Gordon took over the role of Batman with the help of a robotic bat-suit, and --- perhaps unsurprisingly --- it marks the return of Bruce Wayne to the cape and cowl. A slightly different cape and cowl.
Yes, he might still be Batman, but this issue features the debut of a new costume for the Caped Crusader, and that means that it's time once again to go deep with an extremely thorough review of Batman's new costume.
If you haven't read the issue yet --- and don't worry, I'm planning to avoid any spoilers that are not related to the new suit --- then here it is, in all its glory:
And I have to say right here at the start that I like this costume a lot. If you've been reading ComicsAlliance for a while, then you probably remember that my main problem with the "New 52" era Bat-Suit was that --- aside from all the faux-"realistic" seams everywhere --- it was just black and grey. It's a look that certainly works for Batman, but a costume that ranges from black to grey without much in the way of color to draw the eye and define the figure against the background runs the risk of looking drab. There are certainly plenty of artists who can draw that costume and make it look dynamic, but when you're drawing a dark costume in a dark city at night, you're kind of fighting an uphill battle.
That is not really a problem this costume has. It's still dark, it's still primarily grey and black, but there's just enough color there --- and just enough color put in the right places --- to make it pop. So let's get into specifics.
Obviously, the biggest change here, and the one that catches the eye almost immediately, is the new take on the bat-symbol. The "head" has been flattened out to just the two points of the ears, but more importantly, there's a yellow outline around it. It's an obvious callback to the classic "New Look" emblem that put the black bat against a yellow oval, but in a way that keeps the large black bat that Batman's been wearing for the past 16 years. The thing is, it doesn't feel like a half-measure between those two ideas, even though that's exactly what it is.
What's most striking about it is that it's a version that I don't recall seeing before --- at least, not in this form. Jim Gordon's Batman costume had a very similar emblem...
...but since it was a black bat outlined in yellow on a black costume, rather than a grey one, it doesn't really have the same effect. On Bruce Wayne, it feels new.
And it also feels a more than a little toyetic, although I suspect that might be at least partially because the yellow outline bears a passing resemblance to the emblem from Batman Unlimited, the weird little toy line that became a series of direct-to-video movies where Batman fought and then befriended a robot wolf that was also a motorcycle:
And seriously, as much as I like this costume, I'd like it a whole lot more if it came with a robo-wolfcycle. Maybe in another 50 issues.
Moving past the emblem, the next major element of the costume is, of course, the cape. There are a couple of changes there, but the most obvious by far is that the interior seems to have a pearlescent purple color to it, as opposed to the usual black. It's an interesting choice, but a good one --- it allows for the grey costume to have a brighter background when the cape is thrown back (as it is in the image above), separating Batman from his environment while still giving him a contrasting color for the grey costume.
It's not the first time this trick has been used --- when Batman's costume was redesigned in 1995 for the all-black suit that he'd wear up through No Man's Land, the dark exterior was complimented with a midnight-blue interior for the cape --- but it's certainly the brightest. That in itself is a recurring motif of Snyder, Capullo, Miki and Plascencia's work on the character. There are bright colors --- especially purple --- all over their run. Zero Year, for instance, involved a modernized take on Batman's original 1939 getup, which included a pair of purple gloves:
The one drawback here is that in giving Batman a purple element to his costume, it creates a visual link to his arch-nemesis, the Joker, who usually wears a purple suit. You don't really want to see Lex Luthor running around in a red-and-blue costume with a red-and-yellow logo on his chest, right? Same thing here, albeit on a much more subtle scale.
As for the exterior color, while Plascencia mostly presents it as a black cape, there are scenes in this issue where he gives it highlights that show that it might actually be a dark blue:
It's not quite the classic blue-and-grey of the Jim Aparo/Neal Adams years --- which was in the comics I read when I was six and is therefore objectively the best costume --- but it still gives Batman that pop of color while letting him have a darker costume.
As for the shape, I've always been a sucker for artists who draw Batman's cape as a cloak that fits over his shoulders, so it's nice to see that motif built in here. It's not quite like we've seen it before, though --- look at how the cape works in Bruce Timm's redesign for the New Batman/Superman Adventures cartoon, for instance --- and that dramatic point on the chest gives it a distinctly superheroic edge that I'm a fan of, as well.
The utility belt's different, too. Rather than the bulky Year One-style belt that's been part of the regular costume since the "New Gotham" era in 2000, Capullo, Miki and Plascencia seem to be going back to a sleeker, more capsule-oriented belt. But while the obvious inspiration here would seem to be the belt Batman wears in the Christoper Nolan films, with its rectangular cartridges, it struck me as looking like something Simon Bisley would draw:
Beyond that, the gloves are pretty notable as well, if only because they are huge. It took me a minute to realize it, but I think they're drawn from the massive gauntlets that Batman wears in the Arkham video games, and I have to admit that I'm a little torn on that.
On the one hand --- so to speak --- they add a little bit of the busy detail that I was hoping the design would avoid, but on the other, the gauntlets are probably my favorite part of the Arkham design. Giving Batman those massive hands makes him look like a guy who punches people a lot, and, well, Batman is a dude who punches people a lot. If there has to be an element of armor to the costume to serve as a visual reminder that he's vulnerable, I'd rather have it be in the form of something that protects his forearms so that he can block punches and hit your right back than pretty much anywhere else --- even if my ideal version is just giving him those massive Jim Aparo frying pans in regular ol' superhero gloves.
Those, I believe, are all the major changes, although there are a couple of minor one as well. Most of the piping and stitching seems to be gone --- although Batman's Batman-shaped kneepads, which have grown on me over the past five years, are right there where they should be. Overall, it's an interesting redesign, and I'm hoping it sticks around for a while.
So what's your favorite part?