Batman is one of the oldest super-heroes around. His back-story has remained timeless and almost everyone knows about Bruce Wayne and his war on crime. Batman has become such a cultural icon that future civilizations might think we worshiped characters like Batman and Superman as mythical figures.
To keep Batman relevant he has of course had to undergo some changes. This has spun off into “alternate reality” takes on the character, as well as undergoing changes to have his stories told in other mediums like film and television. With these changes in story there almost always comes a change in costume.
Zack Snyder recently released an image of his take on the character from the upcoming Superman Vs. Batman film due out in 2016. With a lot of people weighing in with their opinions on the new suit, let’s back away from the frenzy and take a look at ten other incarnations of the famous costume.
10. The Dark Knight Returns – Old Man Wayne
Many fans of Batman seem to like this design from Frank Miller with it’s simple gray and black color scheme, short ears, and bulky utility belt. It was worn by a Batman from a future time where he and many other staple DC heroes had gone into retirement. Of course Bruce Wayne had the hardest time with this. Wayne’s reasons for waging a war on crime didn’t come from a Boy Scout inspired directive to good. The motivations of Bruce Wayne were personal; it was his way of avenging the death of his parents at the hands of street criminals. At age 55, Wayne comes out of retirement to fight crime in a world that doesn’t have the respect for him it once did.
This design seems to be a heavy inspiration for the Batman featured in Zack Snyder’s upcoming Superman Vs. Batman film.
9. Red Son – That Anti-Stalin Terrorist
This suit was never worn by the Batman we’ve all come to know in the comic books. This take on the character may not have even been Bruce Wayne from the information given to us in Red Son.
This Russian version of the Caped Crusader was part of a mini-series in which the rocket ship carrying an infant Superman landed in a collective farm in Stalin’s Soviet Union instead of the Smallville farm of Jonathan and Martha Kent. To fill this alternate reality with other recognizable DC comics characters, many others had their own alternate takes. The Batman of this world is an anti-Stalinist who’s parents were gunned down by Stalin’s police force instead of American street criminals.
8. Flashpoint – Thomas Wayne
Here is yet another alternate take on the traditional character. This Batman is definitely not Bruce Wayne. On that day in the alley, Bruce Wayne walks with his parents when he and his family are robbed at gunpoint. In this timeline it is not Thomas and Martha that are killed, but Bruce instead.
Martha totally loses it and Thomas takes up the mantle of Batman. He is much more violent and imposing than his son in another timeline, and Thomas Wayne was even willing to kill a criminal if he had to.
This alternate timeline was created when The Flash made an attempt to save his mother’s life in the past and unknowingly changes the future.
7. Elseworlds: Detective Comics Annual #7 -Arrrrrr! Leatherwing, he be!
This suit is from an Elseworlds story that puts the recognizable Batman cast of characters into a pirate setting. Several things are changed in addition to giving the costume a classic pirate look. Leatherwing (Batman) is a ship Captain pillaging for King James, but keeping a cut for his crew. A character named Robin Redblade stows away on Leatherwing’s ship, The Flying Fox, and alerts Leatherwing about talks of mutiny that he overhears. He is then made buccaneer, regardless of stowing away, and stands beside Leatherwing with Alfredo.
Their pirate adversary? The Laughing Man. Take a wild guess which Batman character inspired this rival Captain.
6. Batman Beyond – Terry McGinnis
This costume was donned by teenager Terry McGinnis, a Batman of the future, trained and selected by a much older Bruce Wayne. This suit is much more sleek and darker than the suit we’re used to. It has a lot of technologically advanced gadgets built right into the suit and also looks a bit scarier than the original. It’s biggest contender for “fright factor” would be the Thomas Wayne suit from the Flashpoint timeline.
Batman Beyond was an animated children’s series that did extremely well with Batman fans. The character and suit were carried over into the comics and the character even gained his own comic book series in the DC Universe proper that started publication in 2011.
5. Knightfall – Mask of Tengu
Back in the 90s comics were prone to some wild publicity stunts to sell issues. The most notable events were the Death of Superman and a villain known as Bane breaking Batman’s back. This forced Bruce Wayne to pass the mantle of Batman on to a man named Jean-Paul Valley. Valley ended up going a little crazy. He did not adhere to Batman’s rule of “no killing” and made a lot of deadly modifications to the Batsuit. When Wayne got word of Valley’s methods and Bane’s crime-spree, he went on a spirit journey similar to his first quest to become Batman.
When Wayne felt he didn’t deserve to wear the Batman cowl until his body was ready, Lady Shiva still insisted he wear the totem of the Bat. This gave Bruce the look of a rather terrifying Bat-headed ninja.
4. Detective Comics #27: Created By Bob Kane (But Probably Not)
This costume is the one that started it all. It’s given credit to Bob Kane who first came up with the concept of Batman but over time fans have decided this is a bit of a misnomer.
When Kane created Batman it was originally a man in a red suit with black trunks and a pair of bat wings. Due to a veritable plethora of evidence, most Batman fans agree that writer Bill Finger shaped Batman into the character we know today. We only see “created by Bob Kane” for a number legal and contractual reasons.
This design managed to look imposing when a lot of characters wore silly, brightly colored costumes. It’s also one of the few Batman costumes that didn’t look strange with the long ears. The cape that looks like actual bat wings is a very cool touch.
3. Hush – A New Take On An Old Classic
Hush, done by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee, took the “two sides” of Batman and made one heck of a mini-series that had a little bit of everything.
In the world of DC, there were really two Batmen if you think about it. One as “the world’s greatest detective” who typically fought other non-powered street-level characters like the Joker. The other was a man who defied all odds as a human, and went toe-to-toe with super-powered villains and cosmic threats alongside the Justice League. Loeb and Lee balanced this duality into one series and did the same with the Batsuit as well. It’s almost a combination of the classic blue and gray suit we know best from the Adam West series, mixed with a little bit of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns suit. The result is a colorful suit that looks at home in the dark alley’s of Gotham.
2. Tim Burton’s Batman – A Practical Trend-Setter
Even after Nolan’s highly realistic take on the character was a huge success, a lot of people still prefer Keaton’s Batman in Tim Burton’s two Batman films.
The films themselves may not stand-up to the test of time, but there is no denying there was something spot on about Keaton’s portrayal. Keaton wasn’t the only thing about these movies that was spot on; the Batsuit in this film was darn near perfect.
The Burton suit was almost completely black. This made a lot more sense for a character that’s using darkness to his advantage. The Bat logo encircled in yellow hearkened back to classic costumes of the past. This suit also set a trend in films by making costumes out of more armor-like materials rather than spandex. Let’s be real; spandex looks a little silly on screen.
1. Alex Ross – Comics Come Alive
Alex Ross is one of the best things to ever happen to art in comics. His fully painted portrayals of characters have the look of spandex and other fabric store materials, but takes just enough liberties with reality to keep them from looking silly. His images of characters like Superman, Spider-Man, and Batman are some of the greatest all-time artistic portrayals of these characters.
His Batman looks like a guy wearing a leather cowl and a fabric jump-suit. Somehow he does this without the character looking like an old-timey circus performer. Ross has made a guy in spandex look like someone criminals should fear. There are no bells and whistles here. Just a nice and clean take on a classic look.