Batman's first appearance on the big screen was part of the 15-chapter serial film released by Columbia Pictures. Like most serials, the film was produced with a very low budget, resulting in a bat suit that while inspired by the comics, was largely criticized for being too baggy, with the bat ears being equated to devil horns.
Columbia once again released a 15-chapter serial as a sequel, and once again the studio didn't place a lot of money into the production, resulting in baggy, cheap costumes which got a lot of criticism. Some of the main complaints concerned Batman's ill-fitting cowl and the fact that both him and Robin donned pink tights to cover their hairy legs.
The success of the previous serials led to the well known TV series starring Adam West as Batman, which soon led into the first full-length theater adaptation of the dark knight. Largely considered a parody of the comic, it almost seems suiting that the Batsuit was still in the form of a cheap-looking costume, yet they added some contrast with different fabrics and were sure to shorten those "devil horns" that had previously been criticized.
Batman's popularity waned in the '70s, and (despite many efforts) it took a long time for a reboot to finally happen. When Tim Burton got on board, he added his unique style to the comic to help elevate it from its previously campy adaptations. Costume designer Bob Ringwood studied over 200 comics for inspiration, and spent nearly $250,000 on over 25 possible designs. Burton wanted an all-black look with no spandex or tights, while Ringwood wanted to create a costume to would help the average build Michael Keaton appear like the 6'4" hunk in the comics.
Considering the amount of work it took to update the Batsuit for the 1989 reboot, not much work was needed for the 1992 sequel. While they did scale back on the built-in abs, the main changes concerned the materials used, as they opted for a thinner, slightly more flexible foam rubber material to make it a bit easier to move around.
Although "Batman Returns" was a financial success, Warner Bros. felt that the film should have made more money and wanted to make the Batman series more mainstream. Besides replacing director Tim Burton (who did stay on as producer), the Batsuit was redesigned with the goal of a more "MTV organic, and edgier feel." Apparently that meant adding nipples.
Yet this time around one costume was not enough (and the whole nipple concept was still up in the air). Another Batsuit was created, the second one ridding itself of the iconic yellow and black bat logo and making it have a more armour-like feel.
Thanks to the success of "Batman Returns," the studio fast-tracked a sequel, with director Joel Schumacher this time paying homage to the more campy version of Batman seen in the '60s. Again, two new Batsuits were commissioned, and again the nipple debate came up. The first matted black suit featured the heavily muscle-molded design while scaling back on the cap a bit.
The second look (sans nipples) featured a major departure from any previous Batsuit. With more of an armour look and feel, the second suit added a lot of pizzazz with the addition of silver details. While the edgier look paid off before, the more campy feel did not, with "Batman & Robin" becoming the least commercially successful live-action Batman film ever.
Giving Batman a completely new feel, Christopher Nolan turned to the cult classic "Blade Runner" for inspiration to "Batman Begins." Besides scaling back on the overdesign of the suit, one of the main goals was to create a more mobile costume that would be much easier to move and fight in. In addition, Nolan was adamant about a flowy cap to mimic the comics, as well as creating a cowl which costume effects supervisor Graham Churchyard explained was designed to show "a man who has angst." Yep, sounds about right.
Costume designers wanted to improve the Batsuit from "Batman Begins," making it both more functional for Christian Bale to move in, as well as upping the technological advancements. The resulting suit was constructed from 200 individual pieces of rubber, fiberglass, metallic mesh, and nylon with a cowl that was modeled after a motorcycle helmet. Besides being easier to move the head around, the white lenses over the eyes paid tribute to the comics and animated versions of Batman.
While the look of the suit remained unchanged from "The Dark Knight," the construction was adapted to make it even more flexible to move in. This time the suit was made from 110 separate pieces, each one having to be replicated multiple times over the course of production. The interior was made from military grade polyester mesh known for its breathability and moisture-wicking properties, while the cowl was modeled to perfectly fit Bale's head.
The costume designer from "Man of Steel," Michael Wilkinson, returned to work on both Superman and Batman's costume. Wilkinson did an incredible amount of research before designing the Batsuit, giving it a complete 180-degree turn from its previous incarnations. The main goal was to show that Batman's power comes from his incredible physical strength and fighting abilities and not his armour, which speaks to this muscular looking design. Yet director Zack Snyder also wanted him to look as much like the comic book version as possible to be respectful to the source material.
Batman gets a second, much different look in "Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice" that is also quite unique from anything we have seen before. The heavily armoured suit may look like it offers some incredible powers or technology, yet according to Zack Snyder, it is simply just some hardcore protection for when he is being "pummeled like a piñata" during his showdown with Kal-El.
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