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What a bat wears: evolution of the storied suit

The Incredible Hulk may have super-human strength, Superman may be faster than a speeding bullet, but Batman has the suit. The fan favorite superhero without super powers relies on his martial arts prowess, intelligence and a multifunctional belt that holds a magnetic grapple and climbing line, periscope and encrypted cell. Then there's the suit itself, which deflects bullets and has turned the caped crusader into a muscle-clad sex symbol. A quick look at the suit's bat-tastic history.

I believe I can fly: Artist Bob Kane , creator of Batman, drew inspiration for the Dark Knight's signature look from an illustration of Leonardo da Vinci's ornithopter, a flying machine with batlike wings. To create the free-flowing cape that swirled around Christian Bale in Batman Begins, the costume department invented a fabric made from superfine parachute silk with hairs woven through to give it a velvetlike appearance.

Highly symbolic: The bat becomes even more iconic under editor Julius Schwartz and artist Carmine Infatino . The new chest plate featuring a bright yellow oval debuts in May 1964.

Masked men: Zorro, a wealthy do-gooder who wears a mask while crusading for justice (sound familiar?), was another inspiration for Batman's creators. Zorro's mask turned into the superhero's cowl, complete with triangular, pointed ears. The cowl can look silly (Adam West's painted-on white eyebrows for the TV series) or intimidating (Batman Begins' sinister creases). And for The Dark Knight, the cowl got a much needed update. Designed like a motorcycle helmet, the cowl is detached from the suit, allowing Christian Bale to actually move his head.

Faux abs of steel: When director Tim Burton (Batman, Batman Returns) creatively cast Michael Keaton as Batman in the first big-screen adaptation of 50 years of comic book lore, he must have made extra work for the costume department. Keaton easily donned Bruce Wayne's duds, but he lacked the caped crusader's toned musculature. The costume department added rippling biceps and abs into the suit's armor to offset Keaton's less-than-buff build.

Holy nipples, Batman! Director Joel Schumacher (Batman & Robin, Batman Forever) added rubber nipples to the bat suit, not his only misstep as he turned out two high-camp cinematic duds.

All suited up: George Clooney's industrial-looking suit in Batman & Robin pays homage to the character's most well-known color scheme: blue and gray. In print comics, black objects had to be highlighted with blue tones. Through the years, artists turned the character's cape and cowl from black to a deep blue.

Sources: Batman: The Complete History by Les Daniels,,, The Journey Begins featurette and DVD extras from Batman Begins.

What a bat wears: evolution of the storied suit 07/16/08 [Last modified: Monday, July 21, 2008 12:49pm]
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