When he was initially thinking about the design for his new creation, Batman, Bob Kane thought of a fairly colorful costume, something that would not be all too dissimilar to the strongman-inspired looks of other superheroes of that era (like, most famously, Superman). However, when he then brought writer Bill Finger into the fold, Finger effectively threw out everything from Kane’s design besides the name. Finger thought that if they were going to do something called “Batman,” they should really lean into the dark aspects of that name. Out went the colorful suit and in its place came one of the most iconic costumes in comic book history.
However, even a great costume like Batman’s has had some weird aspects to it over the year, especially during the years when Batman’s solo series had multiple stories in each issue, leading to the creators having to come up with the occasional outlandish idea involving the trusty old Batsuit. So here, we will explain some of the weirdest secrets about Batman’s costume over the years, including some rather gross parts of Batman’s costume history (some of them involve Batman’s own body, as well).
SNUCK COSTUME INTO PRISON…SOMEHOW
In “A Parole for Christmas” in Batman #45 (by Bill Finger and Charles Paris), Batman runs into one of the many exact doubles of him that are running around the DC Universe. This one was a prisoner on Christmas parole, who was on his way to his girlfriend’s home for Christmas dinner. He was attacked and Batman took his place to see why bad guys would want to eliminate a prisoner.
He realized that whatever the issue was, it involved keeping the guy out of his cell, so Batman got himself re-arrested and hid a miniaturized version of his costume on his person when he went back in. Batman explained that he would sneak it into prison by “holding it in his hand,” but obviously that makes no sense. If he was going to sneak it in, the costume would have to be somewhere… in his body.
COSTUME HIDDEN IN SECRET LAYER OF SKIN
Bill Finger must have realized that his whole “hiding the costume in the palm of his hand when he went into prison” idea did not make any sense, so when he repeated the concept two issues later in “The Chain Gang Crimes” (art by Bob Kane, Lew Schwartz and Charles Paris), this time Batman used a different approach when he went undercover as a member of a chain gang.
This time, the costume was hidden under a secret piece of tape that makes it look like it is part of his skin.
So, when he opens it up, it grossly looks like he is tearing open his own skin. It doesn’t help that the coloring makes the package underneath the skin still look flesh-colored, so it really looks like he is simply tearing away at his own skin.
THE COSTUME WAS ONCE SOILED
Batman has gotten into a number of fights over the years, so his costume has certainly gotten bloodied up a bit on occasion. However, that is nothing compared to what happened to his costume early on in his career, as he related to a new superhero, Baphoment, during the miniseries Batman: The Widening Gyre (by Kevin Smith, Walter Flanagan and Art Thibert).
Batman is trying to relate to the new hero, so he tells him a story set during Batman: Year One, a famous moment where Batman broke into a society gathering to threaten the corrupt politicians there that he was going to make things difficult for them from now on. The explosions he used, as it turned out, were so intense that he actually relieved himself inside his costume!
ONCE MADE OUT OF ASBESTOS
If you look back on the stories of the past, one of the things you would find is that people felt that the future would be filled with flying cars and personal jetpacks. However, the past was not just off base about what the future would look like, they were also off base about what was acceptable to keep around your body back then!
Asbestos, a silicate mineral that is heavily fire resistant, was used to fireproof things well into the 20th Century. Therefore, Batman having a suit made out of asbestos makes sense. However, in the years since, we have learned that there is a grave danger to inhaling the dust that is created by the use of asbestos, so Batman’s fireproof costume was like a walking death trap.
THE WHOLE CONCEPT IS ODD
One of the things that you will find about famous superhero stories is that they are so ingrained into the public consciousness that you grow up simply accepting them as normal, despite whether it actually makes sense or not. For instance, we all love the Fantastic Four, so we’re willing to overlook the fact that Reed Richards stole a rocket ship and crashed it, while bringing along his civilian girlfriend and her teenage brother.
Similarly, Bruce Wayne is brooding when a bat flies through his window… and we just accept that it is normal to suddenly decided to start dressing up in a bat costume based on it? There’s a great Grant Morrison comic book where Alfred theorizes of all the different animals that might have flown through that window and how different the world would be.
BATMAN FORGOT WHO INSPIRED THE COSTUME
As weird (and pretty gross) as it is that Bruce Wayne would say, “Oh yeah, the flying rodent — that’s the perfect guy to base my costume on!” it is at least a straightforward concept. He was thinking of ways to scare criminals. A bat came through his window, so he figures, “Hey, criminals are scared of bats” and voila.
It might be nuts, but it is straightforward.
However, Bill Finger couldn’t leave well enough alone, so in Detective Comics #235 (with art by Sheldon Moldoff and Stan Kaye), he revealed that, oops, actually, Batman based his costume on a Bat-like costume his father wore to a costume party when Bruce was a kid. That just totally slipped his memory until he found the costume in a box years later.
USED TO BE BULLETPROOF
Costumes inherently go through a series of adjustments over the years, as you can’t expect artists to nail a costume design right off the bat (no pun intended). Of course, that is what makes Steve Ditko’s Spider-Man design so amazing; 56 years later and it looks basically the same. However, these changes are usually cosmetic ones, like how Superman’s costume went from looking like a cheap costume worn by a strongman in the circus to a sharp, spandex looking outfit.
In the case of Batman, however, his costume has somehow lost functionality since he began, as it was originally bulletproof! However, after a few issues, he decide that the bulletproof vest wasn’t comfortable enough for him to wear. It probably did constrain his acrobatic ability a little bit, but it seems like a major drop off to go from bulletproof to not.
ODD PLACE FOR A BATSUIT
Another area where Batman has evolved dramatically is his set-up and headquarters. Nowadays, he works and operates out of a high tech Bat-Cave, hidden underneath Wayne Manor. However, those ideas were only later additions to the Bat-Mythos. Initially, Batman has access to none of these things. Heck, his car wasn’t even really anything fancy!
Thus, in Detective Comics #29 (by Gardner Fox and Bob Kane), we see that Batman just keeps his Batman costume in a chest at the foot of his bed. You have to love the idea of the Batsuit just laying around Bruce Wayne’s bedroom like a used tennis outfit. It is a good thing that we never see any wait staff at Wayne Manor. “Master Bruce, your secret identity Batman costume is hanging in the hall closet”.
WEARS TWO COSTUMES AT ONCE
Another aspect of superhero fiction that we just accepted as making sense despite it really doesn’t make all that much sense is the idea that superheroes simply wear their costumes underneath their everyday clothes. That really doesn’t make sense, especially during hot months. Forget how hot it would get, what about the fact that you would be walking around in long sleeves while everyone else is in tank tops!
However, Batman actually compounds that problem by bizarrely going into battle with two suits!
He says this strategy comes in handy quite often, like when he uses a disguise on a suit of armor in “The Forbidden Cellar!” in Batman #59 (art by Jim Mooney). If wearing one costume could get too hot for you, imagine running around in layers of superhero costumes!
COSTUME JUST BLEW OFF HIS HEAD ONE DAY
One of Batman’s most absurd stories occurred in Batman #101 “The Great Bat-Cape Hunt” (by Bill Finger, Sheldon Moldoff and Charles Paris). You see, someone on the outside figures out Batman’s secret identity and sent Bruce Wayne a version of Batman’s cape and cowl with Batman’s secret identity sewn into it (don’t worry, the guy died soon after sending it). Batman, naturally, told Alfred to get rid of it. Alfred instead accidentally put it into Batman’s costume rotation.
While wearing it (not knowing the secrets that it concealed), a windy day saw it blow right off of Batman’s hand! It traveled around Gotham City before luckily, Superman was in town and he erased Batman’s secret identity from the cape with his heat vision before anyone could learn the truth.
SECRET IDENTITY DISC? SERIOUSLY?
As foolish as it was to go on patrol of Gotham City with your secret identity sewn into your cape and cowl, Batman was even more foolish a little earlier on in Detective Comics #185 (by David Vern Reed, Dick Sprang and Charles Paris), where he revealed the existence of his secret identity disc. Batman, apparently, has decided that if is ever in a situation where it looked like he was going to die, he would activate a special disc he carries with him that reveals his secret identity.
He then, of course, activated it one day, when it looked like he was finished. He survived, naturally, but then lost the belt along with the secret identity disc! Luckily, after the belt brought luck to a variety of Gotham City residents, Batman got his secret identity disc back.
PURPLE’S NOT YOUR COLOR, BATMAN
In the early days of comic book publishing, coloring was extremely rudimentary. Heck, in the first issue of Action Comics, a number of stories were not even colored at all! However, even when colors did happen, the coloring process was controlled entirely by the company and not the artists who drew the comic book. This remained the case for decades. It was a Marvel Comics colorist who determined that, say, Doctor Doom wore green.
Similarly, it was a colorist who bizarrely gave Batman purple gloves in his very first appearance. It appears as though Bob Kane just drew Batman without gloves of any kind and the colorist just assumed that he was both wearing gloves and that it would look nice if the gloves were purple. Kane then quickly gave him newer, better-looking gloves and the purple gloves became a secret again.
THE GREAT RAINBOW COSTUMES OF BATMAN
Colors were the issue in another Batman story, when Batman became “The Rainbow Batman” in Detective Comics #241 (by Edmond Hamilton, Sheldon Moldoff and Stan Kaye). Batman seemingly just abruptly began wearing a different colored costume every day and then paraded in front of Gotham City each time. The costumes got more and more elaborate until Batman and Robin discovered the villains.
You see, Dick Grayson had been hit by a car driven by some crooks and he needed to see them to identify them. They had TV cameras in their getaway car, so Batman knew that their plan was going to pretend to be filming the parades Batman was throwing. However, if Robin was seen with an injured arm in the same spot that Dick Grayson was injured, people might get suspicious. Thus, Batman wore outlandish costumes to keep all eyes on him and not what Robin was doing.
NEVER KNOW WHEN YOU’LL NEED A GOLD COSTUME
The problem with ridiculous plans like Batman’s “wear a bunch of different costumes so that people don’t notice that Robin’s arm is broken in the same place as Dick Grayson” is that, well, they work! It is frustrating to see a terrible idea like that occur and then have it work out for Batman in the end, with no repercussions over how bad his idea was.
That is a similar situation with Detective Comics #165 (by Edmund Hamilton, Dick Sprang and Charles Paris), when we learn of a very specific situation that led to Batman coming up with a specific costume to fit the situation. Despite the whole idea seeming foolhardy, it actually worked. For instance, when Batman faced off against a guy who obsessed with gold, Batman dressed as a gold statute to convince him otherwise.
COSTUME THAT DEFEATS ITS OWN PURPOSE
The same issue that introduced us to Batman’s gold-painted suit and his asbestos suit (Detective Comics #165) would also introduce us to one of Batman’s most unusual costumes, the very purpose of which was defeated by the costume itself. You see, Batman ended up heavily injured in a fight with the bad guys in the issue. The fight was visible enough that the citizens of Gotham City were beginning to think Batman was out of it (perhaps even dead).
Then Batman showed up all fine and dandy, only now he has a little Robin symbol on his chest (that no one seemed to notice). He returned home and revealed that it was a sort of exo-skeleton that Robin wore to make people think that the injured Batman was still around. If that was its purpose, why did it specifically look different than a typical Batman costume? Wouldn’t you want it to look the same to not draw any undue attention to it?
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